Delta Premium Select: Is It Worth It?
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Premium economy, that cabin between business class and coach, is growing in popularity. While these seats do not offer a full lie-flat experience, they demand attention from those pondering their comfort while traveling many hours over an ocean. Now that Delta’s incarnation — Premium Select — is available on four different aircraft types, it’s time to answer the question: Is it worth it?
International carriers have outfitted jets with premium economy for decades, though legacy US carriers (American, Delta and United) waited around to make sure the business case was sound before planning interior changes. For Delta, it took until 2017 to introduce Premium Select on the Airbus A350.
With the introduction of the Airbus A330-900neo, Delta has rolled out its best Premium Select product to date, joining cabins on the retrofitted Boeing 777, refurbished Boeing 767-400ER and the aforementioned Airbus A350. Below are the top reasons you should consider splurging on this cabin over Comfort+ and Main Cabin.
It’s way less cramped
The most alluring reason to spring for Premium Select — which is typically double the price of a main cabin economy ticket — is the sheer space. Don’t let seat width fool you. While Premium Select seats on Delta’s A330-900neo are 18.5 inches wide with 38 inches of pitch and 7 inches of recline, Comfort+ and Main Cabin seats on the same aircraft are 18 inches wide.
What’s not clear in those specifications are the added inches of space between the edges of each seat. In Comfort+ and Main Cabin, the seat cushions are jammed into one another. Where your seat ends, your neighbor’s seat immediately begins. There’s no breathing room to speak of.
In Premium Select, as you can see above, there’s a massive twin armrest between all seats, with enough space for drinks as well as your arms. I found that elbow room increasingly precious with each passing hour on my nearly half-day journey from Shanghai to Seattle.
Then, there’s legroom. Premium Select on the A339 offers 38 inches of pitch, compared to 34 in Comfort+ and just 31 to 33 inches in Main Cabin. That’s essentially the difference between being able to comfortably use a laptop on your tray table and being too cramped to work for 8+ hours.
Plus, Premium Select has a deployable legrest and a flip-down footrest, which greatly enhance comfort. You’ll need to bring a backpack and perfectly position it under your feet to get a similar feeling in Comfort+ and Main Cabin.
Even consuming entertainment is less cramped. While Premium Select passengers on the A339 get a 13.3-inch seatback entertainment screen, Comfort+ and Main Cabin passengers have a 10.1-inch panel. The Premium Select seating configuration (2-2-2 on the 764, 2-3-2 on the A339 and 2-4-2 on the 777/A350) means more aisle seats. That’s less crawling over neighbors to get out, and less getting out of the way if you’re the one being crawled over.
VIP check-in and boarding
Some of the niceties that come with a Premium Select ticket are also included as perks for being a Delta Medallion (Gold, Platinum or Diamond). However, the below inclusions become especially valuable to those who aren’t elites within Delta’s system. Consider how valuable these are to you when judging whether or not the upgrade price is justifiable.
- Seat selection prior to check-in
- A Tumi amenity kit onboard (eye mask, socks, toothbrush, ear plugs)
- Sky Priority check-in line and boarding line access
- Sky Priority expedited baggage handling and security
The food and service is better
Delta treats Premium Select as its own cabin, for the most part. While you’ll still be asked to use the lavatories in the economy section, I very much appreciated having a dedicated flight attendant.
On my 11+ hour flight from Asia back to the United States, I saw two flight attendants who minded the 28 seats in Premium Select aboard the A339, offering bottomless refills on drinks and snacks. Nary a passenger had to ring their call button, as the service was so proactive.
We were also served two full meals (dinner upon departure and breakfast prior to landing) with an ice cream bar in between. Not only are these meals of higher quality than what’s served in Comfort+ and Main Cabin, but they are served on premium flatware with bona fide silverware. I found both meals to be very satisfactory, whereas I generally skip economy meals (and thus spend money on food at the airport).
It’s better for couples
While it’s possible to find widebody Delta jets with 2-4-2 configurations in economy, the dreaded 3-3-3 layout is more common. Nothing squashes the honeymoon vibe quite like a third wheel en route to your destination.
With a greater concentration of seat pairs, Premium Select gives couples a greater shot at sitting together by themselves. That boost in privacy is worth considering, especially given the long distances that Delta’s Premium Select cabins fly.
These seat pairs are also a godsend if traveling with an infant in arms. Carving out your own little cocoon and having added space for your toddler to stretch could be the difference between a tolerable jaunt across the ocean and an experience you’d like to forget.
You earn more miles
Typically, Delta Premium Select fares are classed as P, A or G. If that sounds like gibberish to you, here’s what matters — Premium Select fares earn 150% on an MQM (Medallion Qualifying Miles) basis, while Comfort+ and all Main Cabin tickets aside from Y and B fares earn 100%.
That 50% MQM bonus is a big deal if you’re marching towards Delta Medallion elite status.
While springing for a Premium Select seat on a longhaul Delta flight is a no-brainer for those with ample disposable income, these are a few granular points to consider before pulling the trigger.
Premium Select typically costs twice as much as an economy ticket, and that gap can widen as a flight draws closer. Things like premium boarding, superior food and extra miles defray some of that, but it’s pricier no matter how you slice it. If you’re a hardened solo traveler or you’re more interested in using your travel budget to fly more places with fewer luxuries, you can pass on Premium Select.
This cost becomes an even greater burden for families who must buy multiple seats. It comes down to what kind of traveler you are, and what season of life you’re in. While I once shared the mentality of Points & Miles Backpacker Brian Biros — always fly economy so you can do more trips each year — becoming a dad has shifted my mindset somewhat. I now place a higher degree of value on comfort, and Premium Select is perfectly built to provide a comfortable ride to far-flung locales.
The gap between Comfort+
In my humble opinion, there’s no question that Premium Select is worth the usual upcharge over Main Cabin (standard economy). 31 inches of pitch is fairly miserable on a transcontinental flight. On international trips of 8+ hours, it’s darn near painful for adults.
On the A330-900neo, for example, Comfort+ (and Main Cabin) are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration. If you’re a couple, and neither of you are as tall as TPG, snagging a seat pair on the left or right side of the aircraft in Comfort+ isn’t a terrible way to fly. 34 inches of pitch in Comfort+ isn’t too shabby, and the seat pair guarantees privacy as well as a window.
If you’re a Delta Medallion elite member and you’re able to slide into Comfort+ for free as a perk of your status (versus paying more over standard Main Cabin if you’re new to Delta), the choice to pay for Premium Select becomes ever tougher. If this describes you, I’d probably only upgrade to Premium Select if the price difference was 30% or less, or it was a very special trip worth going all out for.
The A330-900neo and 767-400ER advantage
Premium Select is at its finest on the brand-new A330-900neo, where seats are equipped with water bottle holders and (crucially) memory foam padding from Aerofoam Industries. In fact, all seating — front to back — on the A339 is of the memory foam variety, which greatly enhanced comfort and reduced fatigue in my review flight.
The A339 also features a unique ceiling light design as you enter into the Premium Select cabin — a nifty element from Airbus dubbed “Airspace.” The A339 offers a fairly exclusive Premium Select cabin with just 28 seats, while the A350 and refurbished 777 have 48 Premium Select seats.
Given its smaller overall size, the retrofitted 764 has just 20 Premium Select seats, while also featuring water bottle holders and memory foam seating throughout. That said, the bones of the 764 are older than the brand-new A339.
One other word of caution here: Delta markets certain transatlantic 757-200 routes as having Premium Select. However, these are aircraft with standard recliner-style domestic First Class seats that Delta rebrands on routes such as New York (JFK) to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF), Ponta Delgada, Portugal (PDL) and Shannon, Ireland (SNN), as well as its service between Boston (BOS) and Lisbon, Portugal (LIS).
Read more on Delta’s Premium Select
- 9 Things to Know About Delta’s New Premium Economy, Premium Select
- Flight Review: Delta (A350) Premium Select From Detroit to Tokyo
- Where to Sit on Delta’s Airbus A350: Premium Select
- Premium Economy Done Right: Delta Premium Select on the Brand-New A330-900neo
- Getting the Kinks Out: Premium Select on Delta’s Newly Retrofitted 777
- Every Delta Air Lines Premium Seat Ranked From Best to Worst
Featured image courtesy of Darren Murph/The Points Guy.
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