MIAMI — On Saturday, Delta Air Lines officially launched a “Delta Comfort+” fare type in its reservation system which makes it the first U.S. legacy airline to sell extra legroom seats as its own fare.
For future travel starting May 16, 2016, customers will have the option to book the Delta Comfort+ fare; customers who purchase this will be able to select Comfort+ seats which offer:
- Customers can take advantage of Sky Priority Boarding instead of boarding in Zone 1
- There is dedicated overhead bin space for Comfort + customers
- Extra leg room
- Free wine, spirits, and regional craft beers for customers 21 and over
- Snacks on all flights with a premium snack basket being offered on flights over 900 miles
- Complimentary access to everything on Delta Studio
Plus, Delta has begun installing curtains between main cabin and Comfort+ seats on some of its MD-88 aircraft; eventually, all of the fleet will have this divider.
Initial Comfort+ Upgrades
The new fare type comes just 11 months after Delta announced many new upgrades to its existing product, including re-branding Economy Comfort to Comfort+. The airline also made upgrades to its First Class and Delta One products as well as expanded a bit more on its Basic Economy and Main Cabin products.
When the announcement was made last December, there was mixed reaction. Many people were happy to hear that Delta would begin enforcing dedicated overhead bin space for those seated in Comfort+ as long as flight attendants actually enforced it, and many were happy with the addition of the free wine, spirits, and regional craft beers for customers 21 and over, complimentary Delta Studio Access, and snack basket on flights over 900 miles. Plus, Delta re-branded the seats with new seat covers that closely matched the new first class seat covers.
But, there were some negative reactions.
Gold Medallion members lost complimentary access to select Comfort+ seats at the time of booking as they now had-and still do-to wait until 72 hours before departure to select seats. Additionally, Delta began to advertise even more to up-sell more of the seats to customers which disappointed some elites as it would become a bit harder to select them at time of booking or just a few days before departure.
The Changes With the New Fare Class
Diamond and Platinum Medallions will be able to continue to select Comfort+ seats at the time of booking for free, unless they book a Basic Economy (E fare) ticket. Gold Medallions will still have access to select Comfort+ seats for free at three days before departure, and Silver Medallions will still be able to select them for free starting at the time of check-in. There are some changes on how Medallions will be able to select the seats at the window they can select them.
Although, many have reported that Delta’s elite services phone line agents are saying that Gold Medallions will receive four certificates each year that would allow them to select Comfort+ seats at the time of booking while Silver Medallions will receive two per year for each year they re-qualify for status. In a way, this is much like how Diamond and Platinum Medallions receive a certain number of global and/or regional upgrade certificates each year.
Upgrading to Delta Comfort+
Over the course of last week, Delta made some changes to their website, especially how it displays Medallion Upgrade Requests to allow the ability for Gold and Silver Medallions to automatically request an upgrade to Comfort+ as long as seats are available at the window that they can select the seats for free; now if there are only middle seats available and customers have selected to be auto-upgraded, they will be upgraded to the middle seat. This part has given some Medallions mixed feelings about the opportunity to upgrade–especially when just middle seats are available–as some say an aisle in the main cabin is much better than a middle in Comfort+.
Selecting Delta Comfort+ Seats for Diamond and Platinum Medallions
Now should a Platinum or Diamond Medallion opt to purchase a Main Cabin fare, they will have to select a regular Main Cabin seat; then, Delta will re-issue the ticket and then they can select a Comfort+ seat for free should they decide to. One phone agent explained that when the ticket is re-issued, they will be in a W fare class which is to help for “better inventory control.”
Another change Delta has made that will be effective May 16, 2016 is that Medallions will only allow one companion to sit with you in Comfort+, and they will receive access to the seats for free at the time that the person with the lowest Medallion status can access the seats.
The companion change is getting a mixed reaction; some are happy that it’ll only be one companion as sometimes an entire party of eight can take up all of the extra legroom seats on a regional jet, but others are not happy as this will mean that some parties will have to split up or not get to select a Comfort+ seat.
Choices, Choices, and More Choices
With the addition of the “Delta Comfort+” fare, customers may have the option to select from four different fare types on some routes, ranging from Basic Economy to First/Delta One, which come all at different prices.
Should a customer select a Main Cabin fare, Delta does offer the option to redeem SkyMiles to upgrade to the Comfort+ fare type.
Additionally, customers can purchase an award ticket for “Delta Comfort+,” and yes, these award levels are a bit more than purchasing a regular Main Cabin award ticket. There is no concrete information on how many more miles it’ll cost you for the new fare as Delta removed its award chart from its website several months ago.
“Everything we do starts with customers, and based on their overwhelmingly positive feedback, we have invested to make Delta Comfort+ even easier to purchase,” said Tim Mapes, Delta Senior Vice President – Marketing. “Today, customers on Delta can choose from a range of flight experiences based on their particular interests, and we’ve updated the way search results display on delta.com to showcase the distinct product features that accompany each product.”
Premium Economy Product?
Now, is “Delta Comfort+” a premium economy product? Not necessarily; they still charge for checked-bags and does not offer complimentary meals domestically. There are definitely some benefits that come along with Comfort+, however, but for now, we could say that this is the U.S. version of a premium economy product.
Could this be just another step in Delta becoming the first U.S. airline to offer a premium economy product? Only time will tell; it has been rumored that more changes will come coinciding with the debut of the A350 in 2017, but for now, we will just have to stay tuned.