Delta Needs a New Brand Name for “Economy Comfort” Class

Imagine my surprise as I was about to take my seat on a Delta flight yesterday and walked by “Economy Comfort” seats in the first couple of rows in the economy section. The words were spelled out in large letters on the front of each seat back.

My first thought was, is my seat in the “Economy Uncomfortable” section of the plane?

Delta Has a Branding Problem

Delta Economy Comfort

What about my comfort?!

Who on earth thought up this name for seats that give you 4 inches more leg room and 50 percent more recline? Over the years airlines have developed various seat configurations and classes of travel — first class, business and economy — to satisfy customers and rake in more money.

But it sends the wrong signal to the passengers in regular economy that they are headed to a seat for a cramped and uncomfortable ride.

Reader reviews are generally positive about these seats (on Delta and partner KLM), but passengers have an expectation of comfort, without having to pay extra for it.

That’s what Delta CEO Richard H. Anderson said in the inflight video that was shown as the plane took off, “…we want your time with us to be comfortable and enjoyable.” Me too, Mr. Anderson.

Companies in the service business often conduct focus groups to test new concepts. If Delta tested names for the these premium economy seats, I’d love to see the results. That’s the danger of focus groups. People tell you what they like and want but it’s not necessarily what they will buy.

Instead of Economy Comfort

Delta, may I suggest that any of these names would have been better choices:

Delta Premium Economy

Delta Upfront Economy

Delta Upgrade Economy

Come to think of it, why brand these seats in big letters for every other economy passenger to see? While not a frequent flyer, I haven’t noticed any lettering on first class, business class or regular economy seats.

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Comments

  1. Jeannette — You are SO right about this. It’s bad enough trying to navigate your way to the back of the plane while everyone is trying to cram everything they own into the overhead bins. Then, to be reminded that you’ve just passed the COMFORT zone and entered the VERY UNCOMFORTABLE zone isn’t really necessary. After all, once you wedge yourself into an ordinary economy seat without legroom, elbow room or padding to rest your tired tush, you will have all the reminders you need that you are just one among the huddled masses yearning to be free.

    • Mark — glad you agree. I think people who pay extra for these Comfort seats will find that an extra 4 inches of legroom isn’t all that comfortable when what you need is wider seats as people grow bigger and bigger.

  2. I live in Atlanta which is one of Delta’s hub cities. We fly the airline frequently and have friends that do too. The consensus is that the Economy Comfort seats are not worth the extra money even on an international flight. Branding them with big letters seems silly especially when first or business class are not branded similarly. Will this marketing move entice customers to spend more money for the upgrade or will it entice class warfare fueled disgruntled irritability?

    If the customer service is stellar then I’ll be a very happy passenger in my cramped coach seat. Thanks to the on timely arrival of Southwest Airlines here in Atlanta, Delta has actually started paying attention to how they treat their customers emotionally as opposed to physically with more leg room. Hope it lasts.

    • Thanks, Keyuri, for sharing your actual experience in flying Economy Comfort. I’m glad that you find Delta is being more attentive to both the emotional and physical needs of its customers. We rarely discuss the emotional component of traveling but that’s just as important as the physical, in my view. As you know, Atlanta is Delta’s hub and many passengers are changing planes for another destination, as I was, and it can be nerve-wracking wondering if you’ll be late. The airport is huge and I had to find my way from one terminal to another — a long distance. At the gate, there was a Delta rep and a screen showing all the connecting flights. I found that very comforting because the concourse is so intimidating you feel you could never find your connection by yourself.

  3. I had been a road warrior for many years. I can SOOO relate to your post. First I would like to say I am not a fan of Delta. I have never found them to be pro-customer. The sight had to laughable, but I’m sure that’s about the only thing you found funny about your flight.

    • Susan, I don’t envy road warriors now. Back in the day when I did quite a bit of business traveling, I flew first class. We all did. Those were the good old days. Now companies look for the cheapest rates and that’s not in first class, for sure!

  4. Dan — well that would be a novel approach. They’re making money on economy seats. A friend was visiting New York a couple of weeks ago and realized she had accidentally booked her flight back on Sunday instead of Saturday, her planned departure date. She called Delta to ask how much it would cost to change the ticket (which she had bought, not FF miles). Guess how much? $680! Guess what? She stayed another night in New York.

  5. My guess is that many of the people who are in the economy comfort seats are people who travel for business and their tickets are paid for by their company. My husband has recently become a seating snob thanks to getting a job that requires travel. He checks in on the dot so he can get one of the good seats thanks to his “status” points. On some flights, he’ll even get upgraded to first class. His newly acquired obsession with seating drives me crazy, but I’m not complaining about the frequent flyer points!

    • Hi Jeri — well you can’t blame your husband for going after the best seats. You know the cliche – the early bird catches the worm! And, as you point out, he’s collecting all those frequent flyer miles — for use by the two of you, I hope!

  6. Jeannette, it is sad but all too common that some organizations send out the wrong messages, often not by what they say, but instead what they don’t say. In this case, whilst the word “uncomfortable” is not used, it is implied.

    My local airlines here in Australia use the terms “economy” and “premium economy” to differentiate.

    Besides, I think that spltting economy into two classes with subtle differences is just a last attempt at marketing in the hopes of squeezing a bit more money from customers in what is a slowly dying industry.

    • Andrew – yes, Delta sent out the wrong message but as the airline industry continues to consolidate I’m afraid we’ll see prices rising as a handful of airlines rule the airways.

  7. In my opinion Delta Premium Economy is the best option.

    Sometimes I wonder if people handling corporate communications know what they are doing. And sometimes, which may be the case with Delta, they really don’t.

    For some reason people who know nothing about corporate communications are promoted from, say, HR Director to Senior Vice President Communications. That may explain mistakes like this?

    • We’ll never know, Catarina, who the culprit was in choosing the Economy Comfort name. But now I have two votes for Delta Premium!

  8. Thanks Jeannette for the bold post. The only thing I might consider paying extra for on Delta is to leave and arrive ON TIME. I fly Jet Blue and Southwest as often as I can, because: 1: They are affordable 2: They have plenty of room even in coach 3. They depart and arrive on time about 90% of the time!

    • Bea — I think being on time is the one thing we all wish for the most, right up there with seeing our suitcase in the baggage claim area. To Delta’s credit on this last trip my flights were on time and even though I had to change planes and terminals, my suitcase was one of the first to to come off the plane. Just lucky, I guess!

  9. Economy class offers the cheapest on an airline at the expense of comfort while premium economy offers better amenities at higher prices. Comparing the two classes before ticketing can help you select the best value..

    • Crystal, it’s true that we have choices in airline seating. But it felt like Delta was rubbing it in when they implied that passengers sitting in economy would not be sitting in the comfortable seats.

  10. Since 66.5% of adult Americans are considered overweight, ALL the Airlines are now giving preferential treatment to a minority instead of the majority. I am sorry, but I would much rather pay a higher price for an airline ticket than to be squished in between 2 “average” adult Americans. (Average being overweight). We all need to get together and begin demanding the airlines get with the times and offer proper seating for the the majority. Last time I checked, majority ruled!

    • Alina — A friend who is overweight always buys two tickets for herself. But not everyone can afford that luxury.