Delta is launching a small premium seating section in the economy cabin on longhaul international flights: Dubbed “Economy Comfort,” the new section of the plane will feature the same physical seats as the rest of economy, but with “up to” four inches of more legroom and 50% increased recline.
The service comes with a promise of more service, too:
In addition to more leg room and recline, customers seated in Economy Comfort will board early and enjoy complimentary spirits throughout the flight. These benefits are in addition to Delta’s standard international Economy class amenities, including complimentary meals, beer, wine, entertainment, blankets and pillows. In-seat power will also be available on aircraft equipped with personal entertainment systems which come with free HBO programming and other for-fee content. The seats will be designated with a specially designed seat cover.
Food, drinks, legroom, and recline? Feels like a throwback to international travel in 1988!
Of course, there’s a velvet rope:
Customers who have purchased an international Economy ticket on Delta will be able to choose Economy Comfort seats for an additional fee of $80-$160 one-way through delta.com, kiosks and Delta reservations beginning in May for travel this summer. Complimentary access to Economy Comfort seats will be available to all SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallions; up to eight companions traveling in the same reservation with Diamond and Platinum Medallions; and customers purchasing full-fare Economy class tickets. Gold and Silver Medallions will enjoy 50 and 25 percent discounts on the Economy Comfort seat fees, respectively.
The key for Delta frequent travelers is the fact that seats in Economy Comfort will be complimentary for SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum level members. But not the entry- and mid-level elites (Silver and Gold), who still have to pay up, albeit at a discount.
The fact that you need to fly at least 75,000 miles before you get extra legroom distinguishes the program from United, which offers its Economy Plus seats to all its elites at no additional cost. UA Economy Plus is a lot easier to attain — only 25,000 miles, not 75,000 — and it’s available on domestic flights as well as international. Sure, Delta throws in some free drinks, but it takes a lot more flying to earn that complimentary cocktail.
Also, remember: This isn’t the same as a true premium economy class, as you find on, say, Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, or JAL. Those products actually have different, wider seats, and not just more legroom.
Air New Zealand is launching new seats in its longhaul economy class, with a section of the plane fitted with “Skycouch” seats designed to create a three-seat wide airborne equivalent of a foldout couch. It’s an effort to create the first lie-flat bed in coach, a worthy goal if ever there was one.
Starting in November 2010, the window seats in the first eleven rows of economy class of newly-delivered Boeing 777-300s will have cushioned extensions (positioned like calf supports when in “seat” mode) which extend up to create a couch-like flat surface.
To reserve a Skycouch, you’ll need to buy three seats, obviously. If you’re traveling as a pair, you can buy your usual two seats and add on the third seat for half the price of the other two.
My first thought, when I saw the design, was that they were making the “ghetto upgrade” — laying down across a row of empty seats — an official booking class. And indeed, that’s the basis of the design, but expanded to be wide enough for two consenting adults.
No curtains, and no undressing, so don’t get any ideas.
The biggest shortcoming at this point appears to be the length of the bed. The width of three airline seats isn’t that big. Average seat width is 17″. Let’s even add a few inches for gaps between cushions, to be generous. (I know, gaps?) Let’s bump it up to 55″ — 4′ 7″ or 1.4 meters — across all three seats. That’s great if you’re short, but if you’re any taller than that, your feet will be hanging out into aisle. Look at the promo photo below. The guy’s head is angled up the wall of the plane:
There’s some romper room risk here, too. I can see families, especially large ones, buying these seats if they can afford them, and keeping the seats in couch mode for the duration. That means higher odds of noise. If traveling in a non-Skycouch economy seat, and looking for rest, try to find a location as far from the couches as possible.
The airline is also changing its premium economy seats and improving some service delivery in the business cabin. And there’s “new oven technology that will cook food from scratch rather than simply reheating,” but the big news is really (deservedly) the couch-in-coach concept.
A short promotional video to give further perspective (and showing the changes to business and premium economy), after the jump:
Starting as early as April 2010, travelers on long-haul Air New Zealand flights may be able to stretch out and sleep in coach, for as little as $150 extra.
To get the “bed,” the adjacent seat would need to be empty (a rare phenomenon in the sky these days), so there would be no guarantee of upgrading the seat before booking. Two adjacent economy seats could be mechanically adjusted to create an angled but flat seat.
Regrettably, there are no photos to show at this point. But here are some details that were provided to analysts:
Curley, head of research at Goldman Sachs JB Were, said the airline’s management was coy about revealing too much before a relaunch of its aircraft interiors ahead of the first arrival of one of several Boeing 777-300ER planes at the end of next year. But he said he believed the seat arrangement would involve a system where both seats could slide forward and the seat rest would come up so the foot room disappeared and the passenger could spread out across both seats.
Unlike the herringbone design used in business class, where the seats fold down flat, the economy class “beds” would still have a slight pitch.
Because this is a world first, the idea also has the potential to earn millions of dollars for Air New Zealand in export revenue. Its aircraft interior design subsidiary Altitude Aerospace Interiors, set up in 2008, plans to sell its new turn-into-a-bed economy seat design to other airlines.
Given the long flights from New Zealand to nearly anywhere else in the world, it makes perfect sense for this particular airline to be spearheading this. And this sounds like a fantastic idea for those looking to travel more comfortably on the cheap.
But it’s no substitute for a reserved seat in a premium cabin. There’s always a big risk that the flight will be full, and that the adjacent seat won’t be available. But this is creative thinking. I’m looking forward to seeing the design.
- Lufthansa considering bunk-bed style sleeper seating in economy class
- Airline seating: Standing, alternating, elevated, and now, sideways
- A step up for economy class seating
- Three people, six arms, four armrests: Can they coexist?
United Airlines will “test [their] U.S. domestic customers’ acceptance of a new economy-class seat” later this month, when a Boeing 757 gets outfitted with a new economy seat design. The plane, with “Slimline Seats” will go into service later this month.
Thanks to an e-mail forwarded to me by a reader of this site, we’ve got UA’s internal-company pitch of the new seats:
New features of the modified B757 include:
* four additional economy-class seats
* leather seat covers in both classes of service, United First and United Economy
* in-seat power available in both classes of service
* life vests installed for all passengers and crew members (given that the seat cushions are not floatable in the new design)
* brand-new seat cushions
The new, slimmer seats have 40 percent fewer parts, making them easier for Maintenance to service, and they are of a lighter weight. In addition, the passenger control units which are typically placed on the tops of the armrests are located on the sides of the seats for a smoother armrest surface.
Literature pockets on the new seats are located above the tray tables, opening up additional personal space surrounding the knees and legs. A smaller, mesh pocket is available lower down on the seat to hold incidentals such as PDAs or eyeglasses.
The test aircraft will enter modification at Timco in Greensboro, N.C., on April 18 and is scheduled to return to service this month. Testing will be conducted for 60 to 90 days to determine customer response.
The aircraft is flying as nose number 5493 today; it will be renumbered 5093 after the modification.
Squeezing four more seats into the 757? I’m trying to figure out how that will work on the seatmap.
Inseat power in both cabins is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t require en EmPower or other adapter.
Reconfiguration of the seatback pocket to provide more room at the knees sounds good, too.
The big risk? Butt and back support. These 757s fly cross-country, and a thinner seat means less padding. (The seat cushions are no longer a floatation device…) Materials science has admittedly come a long way since these planes were last outfitted, so the slimmer seat may be equal to the existing, well-worn seats. But passengers should hope for an upgrade, not a lateral.
And that’s where the phrasing of the announcement worries me. “Testing customers’ acceptance” of the new seats doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you say when there’s an improvement at hand.
Photos of the new seat below (admittedly small pics, but they’re all I can get at the moment.) I enjoy the way the seats are untethered from the confines of an aircraft cabin, and have a backdrop of staircases and shrubbery…
(via Reddit; thanks rcjordan!)
Lufthansa has been surveying some of its customers to gauge interest in all-sleeper seat economy class cabins. It’s in interesting idea, much like sleeper cars in trains can come with more economical couchettes vs. actual beds.
The image above (via FlightGlobal) is apparently one of several designs under consideration, and minimal information is available at this time. Given the dimensions of the pictured cabin, with the flat ceiling, it would appear to be on the lower deck of an Airbus A380.
In principle, a sleeper cabin sounds great, especially for ultra-long haul flights. Somewhat like a premium economy cabin, it offers an intermediate step between regular economy seats and business class. It’s perhaps a bit hard to envision staying flat for a long duration, so I would hope that there is a way to comfortably sit, and not just lie. And that top bunk might be a bit scary during turbulence. But the fact that this is even in discussion is a good sign: Lufthansa is thinking outside the box.
(Hat tip to the FlyerTalk newsletter)