Delta Air Lines has made good on its promise to roll out an enhanced economy class product with details emerging today about a new "Economy Comfort" section coming to Delta international flights this summer.
Benefits will include:
- Complimentary alcoholic beverages [beer, wine, and spirits] throughout the flight
- Up to four extra inches of legroom
- Up to 50% more recline
- Early boarding
- Specially-designed seat cover
- Additional complimentary in-flight entertainment options
- In-seat power for electronic devices
The cost for the new seats are quite reasonable and similar to what United Airlines charges for Economy Plus upgrades on their international flights. Depending on flight length, upgrades will cost between US$80.00 and US$160.00. Delta Diamond Medallion and Platinum Medallion SkyMiles members and up to eight of their companions will enjoy free access. Gold Medallion SkyMiles members will receive a 50% discount on these seats, while Silver Medallion SkyMiles members will receive a 25% discount.
Delta has done two interesting things. First, they wisely have added only a limited quantity of "Economy Comfort" seats. American Airlines’ "More Room Throughout Coach" product failed in part because they were unable to make incremental revenue from it–everyone behind the curtain got the extra legroom. United sets aside about a third of its economy cabins for Economy Plus seating and has made a hefty chunk of change hawking Economy Plus upgrades to non-elite passengers (all United elites have free access to Economy Plus on United) either when making flight reservations, checking in, or even at the gate.
Which leads me to my next area of concern: will Delta’s decision to charge Gold and Silver members for access lead to United doing the same? I think Jeff Smisek, UA’s cash-hungry (and I don’t say that necessarily disparagingly) CEO wants to charge for Economy Plus. But I also think he realizes there would be a revolt if he took away free access from those with top-tier status. Unlike on Delta, United Economy Plus only offers extra legroom. IFE is not enhanced, alcohol is not free, and recline is not greater in Economy Plus. But it would not surprise me if United Premiers and maybe even Premier Executives (who cannot even standby for free anymore) might see another benefit go up in smoke, at least on international flights.
More options are a good thing when it comes to air travel and I think Delta will do well with their new "semi-premium" product (I wouldn’t classify it as truly "premium" like the premium economy products on Air New Zealand, Air France, or Thai).