Delta Comfort+ Changes Coming To International Flights

While United was the first of the “big three” US carriers to introduce extra legroom economy seating (called “Economy Plus”), Delta has done the most to monetize it.

Back in late 2014, Delta rebranded their extra legroom economy seating as Comfort+, and in the process introduced some additional amenities for those passengers, including complimentary alcoholic beverages and snacks. Ultimately it seems smart to differentiate the product a bit, in hopes of convincing more people to pay for it, rather than it primarily being used by elite members who receive it on a complimentary basis.

Delta-One-London - 10

The biggest change to Comfort+ was announced late last year, when Delta introduced Comfort+ as a separate fare class on select flights. This went into effect for flights as of May 16, 2016 (last week). There were a couple of major implications:

  • You can now outright redeem miles or pay in cash for Comfort+, rather than it just being a buy-up option after booking; in other words, it’s now a separate fare class with separate inventory
  • As a Medallion member you now have to request an upgrade to Comfort+ just as you would to first class, rather than just being able to select it directly from the seatmap; fortunately they haven’t added capacity controls to Comfort+ upgrades… yet

Delta-Comfort+-1

The motive here is pretty obvious, as Delta wants passengers to start thinking of Comfort+ as a separate class of service which should be paid for, rather than something elite members are always “entitled” to. It’s similar to what they’ve been doing with first class, and for that matter Delta has made it clear that they want to greatly increase the percentage of Comfort+ seats sold for cash.

While the changes to Comfort+ initially only applied to flights within the United States and Canada, Comfort+ being a separate fare class is now being expanded internationally, per the Medallion Program Updates page:

Effective May 21, 2016 for flights departing on or after September 19, 2016, Delta Comfort+ will be a booking option just like Main Cabin or First Class for flights to and from the Asia Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean regions. This includes travel between the U.S 50 and Canada to the Asia Pacific region or within the Asia Pacific region, excluding China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as well as travel to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and markets in South America where First Class product is available (Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela).

So for flights as of September 19, 2016, Comfort+ will be a separate fare class in the following regions:

  • For flights to/from/within Asia, excluding flights to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
  • For flights to/from the Caribbean/Latin America region, excluding flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and markets in South America where First Class is available (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela)

I don’t know what’s up with the complexity with which they’re implementing this. As you can see, Europe isn’t being included in these changes, and many destinations in Asia and Latin America aren’t being included either.

For Asia I wonder why they’re specifically excluding China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. For Latin America, I understand the distinction between markets with First Class and markets with Delta One (basically markets which are and aren’t eligible for complimentary elite upgrades), but why are they excluding First Class markets, since these changes were first rolled out on domestic flights anyway?

Now if you search for tickets (whether paid or award) as of September 19, you’ll see the option to book Comfort+ for the above mentioned regions. For example, here’s a search between Atlanta and Tokyo Narita:

Delta-Comfort-Plus

The disparity in pricing is fascinating. While the cost of economy and business class awards can vary greatly, historically the cost of Comfort+ upgrades has been fairly consistent. However, in the above examples the cost difference between Main Cabin and Comfort+ is quite different by routing — in one case it’ll cost you an extra 10,000 miles, while in another case it’ll cost you an extra 27,500 miles.

Just as a point of comparison, in the case of a paid ticket, the cost difference between Main Cabin and Comfort+ is consistent:

Delta-Comfort-Plus-1

Bottom line

I’m not surprised to see Delta expand their attempt to differentiate Comfort+, though I am intrigued by the regions they’re implementing this in. Short term there aren’t any huge implications here, though the long term goal from Delta is pretty clear.

(Tip of the hat to laptoptravel)

Comments

  1. I am all for Premium Y, but it should be that, it should not be E+. Free snacks does not get you there.

    In a perfect world Delta would face backlash about their implementation of trying to put the lipstick on their Y pig but in reality I don’t think the average flyer will even realize international carriers have a real Prem Y product. In the long run I think this will hurt DL if they are serious about competing with such an inferior experience. Despite the rap they get in the blog world as they don’t have the most lucrative redemptions (or even a real award chart) they have at least in the past always been fiercely competitive in the cabin. This effort, not so much.

  2. I agree completely. I’m totally nonplussed until one seat is removed per row, and I get to choose from two of the J meals. BA does Y+ totally right.

  3. Ugh. Delta’s bean counters are at it again. How embarrassing when you compare their “comfort+” POS product to real premium economy products…even for carriers who aren’t even the most luxurious in the skies (Air New Zealand, Air France, Qantas). Funny thing is, people WILL pay for this crap and think they’re getting something good because there are a lot of folks who simply don’t know any better.

  4. Delta’s C+ is a joke. I suspect a lot of kettles will be unpleasantly surprised when their difference is 2″ and an extra Biscoff.

  5. I think Taiwan is excluded bc their NRT-TPE-NRT flight is filled with regular tourists and none of them want to pay extra for a 2 hour flight.

  6. The Asia exclusions are bizarre. Is the exclusion based on the relevant segment itself or the final destination?

    A Medallion could get Y+ on SEA-NRT-TPE but not just SEA-NRT? Or does he sit in Y on SEA-NRT and move to Y+ on NRT-TPE?

  7. There goes Delta again trying to make loyalty a joke. I’m surprised they don’t just go full on Spirit. Every time they do anything, it’s worse for the consumer.

  8. Delta’s extra-legroom Y is the best of the bunch. It actually—on bigger jets—actually reclines more than the usual Y torture seats. MCE and UA elY don’t seem to recline any more than any other Y seat. Extra leg room is wasted if you can’t recline into it.

    But it’s nothing like a true Y+. AA has announced that on the incoming 787-9s, it’s going to debut new J seats and a Y+ product. Probably that plane will be going to China, Australia, or Korea to start; those are the big long-distance routes. Then AA will start retrofitting Y+ into other jets. I expect the 777s to start getting some by 2018. That will be a revolutionary improvement in service from the USA. It’s odd that DL hasn’t announced a Y+ product yet. The elY strategy seems sub-par.

  9. @Owen-

    Actually Delta has announced a Premium Economy product to rollout first in their A350’s starting next year.

    After that they have a full Y+ plan. It was announced by CEO Ed Bastian at Delta’s media day (coincidentally schedule to coincide with the Freddie Awards tomeframe) since they knew tgey wouldn’t be picking up any of those.

  10. I’m all for differentiating the products, there are many people (myself included) who cant shell out $5k for a J fare to Asia but would gladly pay an additional $300-$500 for a better, roomier seat and not-awful food.

    Delta C+ still has a long way to go, but i’m amused at how they’re just marketing the heck out of it. I’m flying Wednesday LGA->DCA->LGA and i’ve received 3 separate emails trying to sell me the upgrade for this 40 minute flight.

    As the product is now, unless i’m looking to get HAMMERED on the flight (which is still a reach bc trying to get a 2nd/3rd drink is quite a hassle even in C+) i dont see any reason to pay for the seat on anything short of a 5 hour flight.

  11. @laptoptravel: I read that A350s are delayed until 2018-2020.

    And the exclusions are confusing–does that mean DM/PM can’t get free C+ SideGrade on those routes?

  12. I won’t pay a penny for Comfort+. I can get all snacks in the world before boarding and it will still be cheaper than paying for that crappy seat.

  13. I switched from United MilagePlus (Gold) to Delata Medallion (Gold) program this year. I am underwhelmed by the perks for Delta Medallion members so far, and this recent change was the last “straw”. I would probably going to try AA program next as am unhappy with United overall customer service and in-flight cabin experience (Delta is better on this end).

  14. Can you still buy a regular economy fare and then pay extra for a C+ seat assignment? I think some people do this if their employer for example forces them to buy the cheapest fare.

  15. @Ben-

    As far as we understand, Delta has delayed only four of the new Airbus A350’s and still will take delivery of other A350’s that will be fitted with Premium Economy beginning international service in mid-2017.

  16. @laptoptravel: Ohh cool! Thanks! I hope to get to try A350 soon, in biz class. Maybe with China Airlines’ biz class.

  17. Delta’s timing of the paid C+ rollout isn’t ideal for them. On their legacy aircraft, they’re going to have a very underwhelming product, compared to the likes of Virgin Atlantic and other true international premium economy products, until the A350 rolls out and then interior modifications begin to take place. No separate meal service, no dedicated crew, no enhanced amenities, the seat itself is the same as the rest of economy – what’s there to love about any of this?

  18. typical us hustling and huckstering. the seat is the same as coach. delta has quite a racket for really nothing more than some “extra” chips/cookie and the allure of us bs. why america failed by morris berman is a good primer.

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