I have flown a few flights in Delta’s Economy Comfort the last few weeks so I will review this new product from Delta rather than just one flight. I flew Economy Comfort from SAN – JFK, OKC – ATL, and ATL – SAN. All three flights were on different aircraft (737-800, 757, and MD88) which gives a good reference to any difference in their seats or service (click here see Economy Comfort review of A319, A320, CRJ 700 & CRJ 900 and E175 plus updates on Delta’s Economy Comfort and new Delta Comfort + )
Delta’s Economy Comfort has 3-4 more inches of seat pitch (distance from back of seat to front of seat in front of you – or simply how much leg room you have) than their regular coach seats. In addition, the seats are supposed to have up to 50% more recline. Unlike United’s Economy Plus which takes up the first several rows of coach, Delta’s Economy Comfort is only in the first 3 to 5 rows on all their aircraft (including International wide-bodies). The service and seats are the same as the rest of economy. No free meals or drinks or anything else. On international flights there is complimentary spirits and specialty cocktails in Economy Comfort (beer and wine are free in all Int’l Economy). Also as of May 2nd, on JFK – LAX & SFO flights, there is a complimentary snack served and free beer, wine & spirits). Economy Comfort is free on domestic flights for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold members (50% off for Silver or free at check-in) and full fare coach passengers. All other passengers need to pay a fee (cost depends on route) On International flights it is only free for Diamond & Platinum members of Delta’s Sky Miles program. There is priority boarding (zone 1) when sitting in Economy Comfort, but as most passengers are Elite members that is not a big bonus.
From San Diego to JFK we flew on a 737-800 and I had the bulkhead aisle (10C). Economy Comfort is the first three rows of Economy, Rows 10 thru 12. Of the three flights this was by far the most uncomfortable. Partly because of the flight time and because this aircraft did not have the personalized video screens at each seat that most of Delta’s 737-800 have (and they promoted this flight having, my return flight also did not have it). There was only a small overhead screen that was hard to see the picture clearly (plus it was a movie I did not want to watch). But what made this flight uncomfortable was that the bulkhead seats armrests do not raise. I did have an aisle seat which provided even more leg room then the other Economy Comfort seats, but because the armrests do not raise their is less personal space. Plus there is no seat-back in front of you so there is only a very small seat pocket for the in-flight magazines (and little room for your belongings). While I need to loose a few pounds I am not that big and when the armrest is secured it lessens the seat width by an inch or two. Making to feel you are being squeezed into the seat and leaving no room for my headphones or anything you would want with you while seated. I did purchase the Yogurt & Granola Parfait with Fruit. It was a little expensive at $4.99 (considering Alaska serves a hot breakfast for $6) but was tasty and filled me up enough that I was not hungry even though that was the only thing I had eaten all morning.
The next flight from OKC to ATL was on a MD-88. I was seated in 12C, an aisle on the 3 side (configuration of MD-88 or MD-90 is 3×2). This was the most comfortable flight because the seat next to me was empty. The seat pitch in Economy Comfort is almost the same as first class so with the seat next to me empty I was able to put my belongings in that seat and felt as comfortable or even more so than if I was in First. Plus even though this was a 2 hour flight there was no service in First and economy served the typical snacks for sale or choice of pretzels, Peanuts, or cookies. So the only thing I felt I missed out on was a few Twix bars (which I do miss!!).
The third flight was on a 757 from ATL -SAN. This 757 has 5 rows of Economy Comfort on one side and 4 on the other. Other 757’s have 3 on the left side and 4 on the right. The seat numbers are not consistent either. I was in 21 C which can be a bulkhead on some 757’s, but was not on this flight. I was in the 2nd row of Economy Comfort. Luckily the person sitting next to me was not that big so I felt I had some room. This flight was full but did have personal video screens. So I was happy to finally be on a plane that had it. Of course, it didn’t work. The live TV was not working and I did not want to pay for a movie. They do have some free programing and I watched what is normally shown on flights with overhead entertainment. The seat was the same as the prior two flights. Other than when I tried to sleep I reclined the seat to it’s fullest and I could not feel any difference than a regular economy seat. They say Economy Comfort has up to 50% more recline, but I guess 50% of nothing is still nothing.
I did buy (I used one of my Elite coupons, otherwise cost $6.50) a Travel Treats Snack Box which I guess is better than just getting pretzels or peanuts. They also offer another snack box or a Turkey and Provolone Sandwich for sale. There was enough in there to relieve my hunger.
On all three flights I got up to use the restrooms and as I walked by the exit row I tried to see if they provided more leg room than Economy Comfort (I didn’t think it was appropriate to get down and use a tape measure so I just eye-balled it). Most of the exit row seats had arm rests that could be raised and did seem to have more leg room. I am not sure why they do not include these exit row seats in their Economy Comfort. Of course only the last exit row seats recline. The first exit row seats do not recline.
I discovered two things from these trips. One it is getting much harder to get upgraded on Delta. I am a Million Miler Gold and was # 20 on the upgrade list on a few of the flights. The second is that Economy Comfort is certainly a more comfortable way to fly than regular Economy, however, I can not say that it is that much better. In fact, I will choose the second exit row seat in the future over an Economy Comfort seat. Outside of Economy Comfort being in the front of the cabin the exit row offers even more leg room. Now, this is my opinion on domestic flights. My guess is that with the free spirits on the International flights (and maybe that is where the recline is more noticeable) one would feel that they are getting a little more than just regular Coach Class. That said, please do not think that either Delta Economy Comfort or United’s Economy Plus compares to Air France, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, or other international carriers Premium Economy product. They do not. They simply have a few more inches of leg room and in the case of Delta has some free alcohol on Int’l flights. Otherwise same seat and same service as regular economy.
As an update to this review. Delta announced today (May 2, 2013) that on flights between JFK and SFO & LAX that Economy Comfort passengers will receive free beer, wine, and spirits, a free premium snack, and a complimentary newspaper. These transcontinental flights are usually flown on 757’s and occasionally 767’s, and 737’s. With these new upgrades to Economy Comfort on these two routes I probably would not choose the exit row over Economy Comfort. However, on all other routes I think the exit rows seats have more space and therefore more comfortable. In addition, there is a difference between Economy Comfort and preferred seating with Delta. Outside the exit row (which is considered preferred seating) the only advantage of preferred seats is they are closer to the front of the plane. They have the same seat pitch and width as the rest of economy.
As a further update, I flew from SAN to JFK yesterday (May 6th) on a 737-800 and based on my own advice sat in the exit row and not Economy Comfort. There are two exit rows (17 & 18) on this aircraft and I sat in the second row aisle (18D). Unlike the Airbuses, the armrests on the these exit row seats are immovable (do not raise). Luckily the seat next to me was free so I had space to put some personal items there, otherwise I would have felt cramped. There is, however, plenty of leg room (more than the rest of Economy Comfort – including the bulkhead). This plane, like the one I reviewed earlier did not have personal entertainment or live TV. Just overhead entertainment. The screen was far from row 18 so it was hard to watch. My seat did not recline, but the window seat did (I think mine was just broken). I did not see anyone in row 17 recline their seats, so they may not recline (typical of first exit row). Delta has changed their breakfast yogurt. It is still $4.99, but now instead of a large yogurt it is a bag with Blueberry Greek yogurt, cranberry/almond breakfast bar, and a banana. None of these were particularly good (banana was green). I liked their old yogurt. This aircraft had Wifi and blankets (which are located in the overheads at the exit row). The flight time was just under 5 hours and we landed a few minutes early.
Here is other update, and it is a bit of a bombshell, and honestly one change I can not see sticking, as I believe there will be a revolt with their Elite members. Delta has introduced three levels of Economy. Starting in February or March of 2015 it appears Delta will change the name of Economy Comfort to “Delta Comfort +”. I am not sure if they will add any seats to the current layout of Economy Comfort, but they have increased the service and overhead space with Delta Comfort Plus. Premium snacks (I would think similar snack on LAX/SEA/SFO to JFK flights) will be served on longer flights as well as complimentary beer, wine and spirits on all flights. So this is a very positive change. What isn’t so positive is Delta will also introduce two other levels of Economy; “Main Cabin” and “Basic Economy”. Both are the same seats (non Delta Comfort +) and will receive the same service – Free soft drinks & snack as well as access to Delta’s IFE for a fee, whether it is through Delta Studio or seat-back AVOD. The only difference is with Basic Economy fares (lowest fare) you will not be able to select your seat in advance. They will be issued at check-in (online or at the airport). In addition, Medallion members will only have limited benefits when purchasing a Basic Economy ticket. They will still get priority check-in, free baggage, and priority boarding. However, they will not be eligible to upgrade to First Class nor Delta Economy +. Nor will they be able to select their seat in advance. This applies to all levels. Silver to Diamond. This is a big risk for Delta. I already read where Gold Medallion members no longer received Economy Comfort seats at time of booking and had to wait until 72 hours before departure. This was reason enough to think about leaving Delta, but not to be eligible at all, I don’t see this sitting to well with their core customers. Now, from what I read, these Basic fares will not be in all markets and then the current rules will still apply. Also, if you purchase a Main Cabin fare then you are eligible for the full Medallion benefits. All this falls in line with Delta trying to get people to pay more money for a seat. If it is a few more dollars for Main Cabin over Basic Economy then it may work. If not, I can not see a Diamond Medallion member happy to be in the last row of Economy.
A few additional updates (Feb 2017). It seems that the “Basic Economy” will stick as United and American will also introduce the same Basic Economy fares that will have the same restrictions. But it appears these fares are only on a few routes where they compete with Spirit, Sun Country, or any airline that has the same low-fare model. Also Delta now publishes Comfort + fares. So you don’t need to pay extra for Comfort+ seat. You just purchase it for a price that is higher than the “Main Cabin” fare (I have seen anywhere from $20 more to $100 more depending on route and distance). I could not find these fares on any of Delta’s international flights. Delta has also increased the food offerings for Comfort+. Now most flights will receive an upgraded snack and food option (on longer flights a wrap and frozen yogurt bar. On shorter flights basket service that would be similar to the First Class basket served on non meal flights). Lastly, and a very positive change, Comfort plus, like First Class, used to receive free in-flight entertainment. Now it is free throughout the entire plane. All classes, regardless of fare. Whether it is through seatback IFE or on your personal device through gogo inflight and Delta Studio.