MIAMI — Delta Air Lines today announced a new suite of cabin products it says were created to give passengers more choice in their cabin experience. As part of that effort, the Atlanta-based carrier is now offering the new Comfort+ cabin, which replaces economy comfort.
The Atlanta-Based Carrier has Broken Down its Cabins into Five Different In-Class Products:
- Delta One, formerly BusinessElite, will be featured on long-haul international routes and transcontinental routes from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco;
- First Class, will be available on short-haul international and domestic routes;
- Delta Comfort+ will be on all the carrier’s two-cabin aircraft;
- Main Cabin; and
- Basic Economy.
The new Comfort+ product features the four extra inches of legroom and priority boarding of the current economy comfort product, but now passengers get new features, including new seat covers, free beer, wine and spirits, premium snacks on flights more than 900 miles, premium inflight entertainment and inflight Wi-Fi on domestic flights.
The carrier has also extended its Spirit Airlines-like basic economy product, which offers passengers a lower fare in exchange for no advanced seat selection and no changes or refunds once the ticket is purchased. All the new cabins will be available starting March 1, 2015, and the carrier will install new seat covers on aircraft through mid-2015.
Henry Harteveldt is the founder and travel industry analyst and advisor for Atmosphere Research Group. He notes that Delta’s changes are primarily cosmetic. “Delta is the only network airline that is making the concerted effort to appeal to passengers across the entire spectrum of travelers,” he said. “The introduction of the basic economy product allows Delta to compete for most price-sensitive travelers against the ultra low-cost carriers, and in a way that will hopefully minimize the dilution among flyers who will pay more for a ticket. The restriction on upgrades makes it unappealing to business travelers and Delta SkyMile elites.”
By introducing Comfort+, Delta has a premium economy light-type of product, said Harteveldt. “It’s a product that offers a tangibly better experience than just the extra legroom provided today on American Airlines and United Airlines,” he noted. “However, Delta did stop short of offering a full premium-economy product, because they still charge for checked bags and it does not offer full meals on domestic flights or upgraded meal on international flights. But Delta is clearly looking at Comfort + as a way to generate additional revenue with a tangibly different product.”
There are no other real changes to the premium cabin experience except for new seat covers, said Harteveldt, who called them selfie friendly. “But what’s important is what was not announced — Delta is not creating an economy-minus section,” he said. “And also with the Comfort+ product, gold SkyMiles elite members will no longer have access to it at the time of booking. They now have to do the normal upgrade wait of 72 hours before the flight. That will be a big change for gold elites.”
Harteveldt called Delta’s move smart, because the carrier is putting a business emphasis on trying to appeal more to premium travelers. “These travelers are no doubt responsible for a disproportionate share of its profits,” he said. “They’re not taking away from the main cabin experience, so there’s no shorter leg room or taking snacks off the plane. They’re investing in in-seat power, and approaching this in a smart way.”
It would have been nice for Delta to do more in its first class domestic product, which is far from industry leading, said Harteveldt. “And its international business class is not necessarily the most comfortable. But overall, Delta’s strategy is a smart one because it empowers the traveler with choice and control over what they want their Delta experience to be,” he said. “Some of these changes are cosmetic, but it’s nice to see Delta investing in the passenger experience.”