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A frequent Delta flyer, TPG Contributor Lori Zaino recently tried out the Delta Comfort+ (premium economy) section for the first time, on a flight from New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD). Here’s her review of the experience.
I’ve flown this route on Delta about 15-20 times over the past couple years — on a handful of occasions in business, but typically in economy, so I wanted to try the Delta Comfort+ premium economy section, which was re-branded back in early 2015. Delta Comfort+ fares come with the following: Sky Priority boarding, dedicated overhead bin space, extra legroom, superior snacks, free drinks and complimentary premium entertainment.
Booking My Ticket
I was able to purchase a cheap ticket — $524 round-trip, nonstop between New York-JFK and Madrid (MAD). I upgraded the flight to Delta Comfort+ one-way on the route back to Europe in hopes of getting some sleep in a more comfortable seat. There are specific rules depending on your Medallion status regarding upgrading, and Gold Medallions (my average elite status) have access to the Comfort+ seats if they aren’t full 72 hours prior to departure. I didn’t want to wait because these seats are often full by that time, so I purchased the upgrade instead. It cost $100 for one-way, which seemed like a bit much considering the flight cost just $242 each way in economy, but I wanted to try it.
Delta has no award chart, but by searching online you can supposedly find economy tickets for as low as 30,000 SkyMiles in coach or 62,500 in business. However, I couldn’t find anything even close to this during my travel dates as you can see from the screenshot above.
Thanks to the revenue-based SkyMiles program, I didn’t earn many miles on this cheap ticket. I did receive a bonus 800 SkyMiles for the “upgrade” to Delta Comfort+. I used my Citi ThankYou Premier card to purchase and earned triple points on travel, or you could use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get double points on travel, instead.
Check-In at New York-JFK
After a traffic-filled taxi ride from Manhattan, I arrived at JFK’s Terminal 4 and headed to the Sky Priority check-in area — which is actually pretty sleek. Partially separated from the economy check-in with a very small sitting area to the left and desks to the right, it’s pleasant to get away from the masses and have a slightly calmer check-in experience.
I waited in line for a brief moment before there was a desk agent free to assist me. I was hoping for a smile or other pleasant treatment thanks to my elite status and/or the fact I was flying Delta Comfort+, but I was left hanging. Upon leaving, however, I was dryly thanked for being a Gold Medallion. (You’re welcome, Delta.) At least there were free water bottles sitting on the desk — but I opted not to take one as I would be heading directly to security.
I breezed through security thanks to TSA Precheck (the lines for evening flights to Europe at JFK’s T4 are almost always obscenely long, so having Precheck is a lifesaver) and headed over to my gate where I arrived just in time for what would be an abysmal boarding process.
I already have Sky Priority boarding thanks to my elite status, so the Comfort+ priority boarding wasn’t beneficial to me. In the end, though, it didn’t matter — as boarding was a disaster. The mess started when one of the gate agents announced (shouting, not even on the PA system) that anyone with Delta One, Sky Priority or Zone One boarding should form one line and anyone who had Zone Two boarding should form another. When the boarding started and the gate agents asked those flying Delta One to board, sure enough, everyone in Zone One came forward (we were all in the same line) and then got sent away, making for a longer, disorganized boarding process.
The Cabin and Seat
The layout on Delta’s 767s can vary, but this particular version of the Boeing 767-300ER aircraft had the following breakdown: 26 Delta One flatbed seats, 171 Economy seats and 29 Delta Comfort+ seats. The layout is 2-3-2.
I longingly passed through the Delta One cabin and found my Delta Comfort+ seat, 13B, which was the bulkhead aisle seat of the section.
The seats were stylishly designed with a chic navy leather and red accents, reminding me that yes, I was in the Delta Comfort+ section and not in regular economy.
I find that overhead space isn’t a huge problem on international flights, and I was able to stow all of my bags above my seat without a problem. It’s worth noting that it says that Delta Comfort+ has its own dedicated bin space, but several other people used this space who weren’t sitting in these seats, so it isn’t really true — at least it wasn’t on this particular flight. I didn’t see any flight attendants enforcing this benefit.
I liked that my bulkhead seat had plenty of legroom and two windows, though my seatmate kept the shades closed most of the flight. Our two-seat section came with one shared plug and USB port, and each of our seats had a pillow and blanket, just as in economy.
There isn’t a dedicated cabin just for Delta Comfort+ seats, as they’re mixed with the regular economy seats behind them. Comfort+ passengers can use the two lavatories in the middle of the plane (there are two more at the back), but they aren’t exclusively reserved for Comfort+ passengers. In fact, one of these bathrooms was broken on my flight, with long lines of passengers waiting to use the one working bathroom in the middle section of the plane.
Delta Comfort+ seats supposedly have up to 4 inches of additional legroom compared with Main Cabin, and on most long-haul international flights, up to 50% more recline, making the seat pitch about 35 inches. I did note that my seat reclined slightly further, but as I was sitting in the bulkhead, it was hard to compare the legroom. I tried out one of the other Comfort+ seats that wasn’t a bulkhead, and you could tell there was more legroom space.
In-Flight Entertainment and Amenities
During an international flight, perks such as free drinks, snacks and premium entertainment don’t matter because Delta Comfort+ passengers don’t get anything different than what an economy passenger gets. I suppose this would be a much better perk on domestic flights when economy passengers aren’t also entitled to these benefits.
For both economy and Delta Comfort+ fares, Delta Studio offers touch-screen digital entertainment systems in every seat with more than 300 movies, HBO, SHOWTIME, 2,500+ songs, 18 channels of live satellite TV on select flights and games, including in-flight trivia, which is actually pretty great.
They did hand out small amenity kits, each with an eye mask and earplugs, but these were handed out to both Delta Comfort+ and economy passengers.
Service and Meals
Although it doesn’t state in the Delta Comfort+ benefits that flight attendants should/will give these passengers special treatment of any kind, I can firmly state that they don’t. My flight attendants were downright brusque and weren’t offering up any extra (or really, any) friendly service to those forking over their extra cash for Delta Comfort+.
The food was a huge disappointment. I know that Delta doesn’t offer enhanced meal service or options for its Comfort+ passengers, but since I’ve flown this route several times, I can usually count on having something mildly edible. The two options on my flight were a chicken cordon bleu and lasagna.
I always opt for chicken, but perhaps I made a terrible choice because it was straight up inedible. It seems like the food quality has really gone downhill lately, in contrast to many other airlines bumping up their food standards. I tried a few bites of that off-white blob that was supposedly chicken — and it was absolutely revolting. On my second bite, I bit down on something hard and sharp and didn’t bother to figure out what it was. (I’ve had nightmares about airplane food ever since I read TPG’s crazy airplane food post. I’d rather not even know if I’ve bitten down on broken glass.)
Needless to say, I searched for the cheese and crackers as a reprise, but then realized, sadly, that I didn’t have any. However, I noticed that my neighbor did, meaning Delta had simply forgotten to add the cheese and crackers to my meal. Thank goodness I’d opted for a pre-boarding Shake Shack binge.
I think if Delta wants their Comfort+ to be successful, it might consider some enhanced food options (like you’ll find in British Airways World Traveller Premium Economy) or at least, say, something you can actually eat.
I managed to snag a few hours of shuteye after the meal service, and I suppose I was slightly more comfortable due to the extra seat recline. I awoke as they came around with breakfast, which was a small snack box. It was average but at least edible, and served with a mix of cold, distant customer service. It came with orange juice, cheese and crackers (yay, because I never got them with dinner), yogurt, jam, a roll and a Mentos candy for “dessert.”
As you may note from the photo, the exit rows and bulkhead seats have a tray table that comes out of the armrest and is pinned to a fixed distance. This made it rather uncomfortable to eat because the tray is very close to your body. In fact, anyone a bit larger in size may have problem eating on this tray table, so keep that in mind when selecting your seat.
I don’t think Delta Comfort+ is worth purchasing on international flights. For me, the actual perks just don’t add up to the $100 price tag, especially considering the fact that on international flights (and especially if you’re Sky Priority), Delta Comfort+ won’t get you better snacks, drinks, entertainment or boarding than you’d have already. However, if you’re extremely tall and need the extra legroom (like TPG himself, who is 6’7″) or you can get it for free thanks to Medallion status, by all means, go for it. I would consider paying to try this service on a domestic flight, as perks like free drinks, snacks and entertainment could make it more worthwhile.
Though I haven’t flown premium economy internationally on other airlines, it seems like Delta Comfort+ doesn’t even compare when you consider that British Airways offers enhanced dining options for its premium passengers, ANA offers lounge access, Cathay Pacific offers noise-canceling headphones — and the list goes on.
The service on this flight (both in terms of the main meal and flight attendants) was terrible, but in general, I find Delta’s service to be all over the place — you never know what you’ll get. For instance, on my flight from Madrid to New York, I had a lovely chat with a very nice flight attendant for about 20 minutes about shopping in Europe — so I think it just depends on the day. However, Delta should consider making friendly service a regular thing on its flights and should be upgrading, not downgrading its meal services. You won’t find me handing over $100 for Delta Comfort+ ever again on an international route.
Has anyone flown this route or a similar route in Delta Comfort+? Share your comment and thoughts below. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.