Delta Economy Comfort Review: Is It Worth It?

Feb 29, 2012

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This past weekend I went to Dublin (and had a fantastic time) and since I snagged a super-cheap $379 total roundtrip airfare, I knew I’d be stuck in coach since Delta has a super-annoying (read: expensive) international upgrade policy. For anyone unaware, you need to book full fare (Y, B, M class) economy fares, which are often around the same price as discounted business class, and then use 25,000 miles each way to upgrade. They don’t even do upgrades at check-in or with a co-pay. If you book a cheap fare, you need to completely re-price your ticket to the full-fare (which includes a $250 re-ticketing surcharge) and then use 25,000 miles each way to upgrade. It’s one of the biggest issues I have with the SkyMiles program and I think they lag sorely behind their competitors in this department. To contrast, as a top-tier elite on American Airlines, I get 8 one-way systemwide upgrade certificates that are good on any fare class.

However, the JFK to Dublin flight is only 6 hours and as a Diamond Medallion, I got free Economy Comfort seating as my consolation prize. I also booked 4 months in advance, so I snagged seat 19C, which is ostensibly the best seat on the plane because it’s an aisle exit row in the bulkhead with about 6 feet of legroom when the flight attendant isn’t in the jumpseat. It’s also at door 2L, which means you can deplane before just about anyone else, which makes the customs line shorter.

Row 19 bulkhead exit row on Delta’s international 757. My seat was the aisle one to the left, 19C

Economy Comfort seats are the same exact width as normal coach seats, except they have up to 4 inches more of legroom and 50% more recline. Additionally, you get complimentary spirits on international flights (beer and wine are already free) and zone 2 boarding. Delta is installing Economy Comfort on domestic flights, but it will only feature the 4″ more legroom and no free drinks.

Free for Diamond and Platinum Medallions, Flying Blue Platinum and those who purchase Y, B, M (expensive) coach fares.
50% off for Gold Medallion, Flying Blue Gold, SkyTeam Elite Plus, and Alaska Airlines MVP Gold.
25% off for Silver Medallion, Flying Blue Silver, SkyTeam Elite, Alaska Airlines MVP.

My experience:
The legroom was nice, but I found the increased recline to be nominal. Service was brusque and I don’t feel like Economy Comfort was treated any differently than coach, versus many other airlines, like KLM, who treat their Economy Comfort passengers to an elevated level of service and many even have better, wider seats all together. British Airways even gives Premium Economy passengers a bigger seat and Business Class food!

I think my biggest issue was the lack of padding on the seat. After 6 hours my bottom half felt numb and there’s not much room to walk around on a cramped single-aisle 757 (plus the forward coach restroom was out of service for the entire flight).

A view of the legroom from behind my seat. The relatively tall man had a decent amount of space even with my seat reclined

I haven’t flown a lot of Premium Economy products on other airlines, but I do really like KLM’s Economy Comfort, which I’ve flown twice in the past year. The main difference is the completely separate Economy Comfort cabin and 100% increase in recline, which makes a huge difference. I remember thinking, “I could totally be comfortable in this seat going to Asia,” whereas with Delta’s I was maxed out after 6 hours.

My parents who sat two rows behind me liked the extra legroom (my Dad is 6’3″), but weren’t exactly raving about the product. Then again we paid $370 each roundtrip, so I think we were all just happy to be going back to our “homeland” and on the cheap.

Economy comfort on the 747 from my trip to Tokyo last summer
Economy comfort recline. 50% more still doesn’t mean it’s great for sleeping.

Overall, in my opinion it’s certainly better than a regular coach seat, but nothing to get too excited about. I don’t think I’d pay for it as a Gold/Silver/Non-Medallion unless I wasn’t able to secure an exit row, in which case I’d probably shell out the $80 (price for JFK-Dublin upgrade to Economy Comfort) for the sole sake of not going insane in a regular coach seat. Then again, I’m 6’7″ and sitting in a regular coach seat on an international flight with someone reclining into me is my worst nightmare!

Anyone else have opinions on Delta’s Economy Comfort product or any other airlines premium coach seating?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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