Economy Comfort Seats Are Altering the Cost of Air Travel

Airlines have been facing harsh criticism for added fees. But it turns that out that there is one premium passengers are willing to pay for: extra legroom.

Delta‘s Economy Comfort seating option has proven so popular that the airline plans to install the seats in all 550 of its mainline aircraft, and on 250 regional jets that offer first class.

Seat pitch in Delta’s standard economy ranges from 29 to 33 inches. For the premium seats, it’s 36 inches (comparable to short-haul business class seats, which range from 36 to 38 inches).

Legroom and Airline Seats: Do We Need New Measurements?

This is great news for folks who have been craving some extra legroom. Those who truly are bare-bones budget travelers, however, might feel a pinch on their wallets as fewer standard economy seats become available.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta will be removing a “negligible number of seats” to make way for three to five rows of the Economy Comfort seats, which cost an additional $19 to $99 each way and include 3 extra inches of legroom and priority boarding.

Business Class: When Is It Worth the Cost?

Members of Delta’s elite frequent-flier program – diamond, platinum and gold – will be able to book the seats free of charge. Silver members can get the seats at a discount or free at check-in if any are available.

What Else Do Economy Comfort Seats Offer?
On international flights, Economy Comfort passengers get priority boarding and complimentary beer, wine and spirits. The seats also recline 50 percent further than standard economy seats.

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Passengers on domestic flights will not get the free booze or seats with the extra recline (according to Delta spokeswoman Chris Singely, passengers on shorter flights probably are not sleeping as much and do not need the extra space for their laptops).

Are Other Airlines Following Suit?
Most major U.S. carriers now offer some form of premium economy seating to appeal to customers who want to splurge for a little more comfort but cannot afford pricey first or business class seats. (Read more about what’s available).

Many of these premium seats are seats that have always been available – exit row and bulkhead seats and the like – but airlines are now charging extra for them.

How To Get the Best Airline Seats

Delta’s move to replace standard economy seats with the new Economy Comfort could spur other airlines to follow the dollar – especially if passengers respond positively to the new seats. Long-term, this could mean that more passengers are bidding on the regular economy seats, which might drive up prices.

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Published: November 7, 2011