Let’s start with a simple question…
What’s premium economy? Is it business class? No. Is it economy? No. Is it a separate cabin, with a different service, with different seats and privileges? Yes. Ask Air France, Cathay Pacific, ANA, British Airways, Singapore Air, Air China, Virgin Atlantic or any of the stalwarts of the premium economy game, and they’ll tell you it’s a “product” all of its own. The food is different, the seat is different, the entertainment screen is different and so is the entire ground experience. Premium economy, as defined by decades of airline service is not a seat in the front of the economy cabin with a free beer. Despite this, Delta continues duping customers into booking “Premium” tickets only to find themselves sat in the economy cabin, and to make matters worse – they blame Google.
Delta is rolling out a genuine premium economy, which any airline could and should be proud of, called “Premium Select”. It is a real premium economy, and even has the word “premium” in it to make things easy. As of now, it flies to less than a handful of places, aboard a handful of brand new, Airbus A350 aircraft and perhaps one or two Boeing 777’s which are being modified with the new, “proper” premium economy cabin. There’s no problem there.
The problem is that Delta also offers “Comfort+”, which is NOT, I repeat, NOT a real premium economy cabin, at least not by any traditionally defined measures. It’s simply akin to preferred seating on any other airline, making up the front rows of economy, with a snack wrap thrown in. The seat is identical in width, shape and design to those found in the rest of economy. Let’s take a look. Here’s a picture of Delta’s Comfort+.
You’ll see there’s no divider between it and economy, and the seat behind is exactly the same, which is standard economy. We’ve included a cabin layout screenshot from Delta, which shows it’s the exact same layout as the rest of economy, in case the above wasn’t enough evidence.
Now, let’s take a look at Delta’s Premium Select, a bonafide premium economy seat, and what other airlines define as premium economy. As they say on television: viewer discretion is advised, the results just might shock you…
And how about Singapore Air, the seat most people agree offers the industry standard premium economy experience, for good measure too. Yes, it really is lovely. And because we like to hammer in points, let’s do one final comparison of what Delta sells as “premium economy” against their partner, Virgin Atlantic, with their “real” premium economy seat…
To understand the frustration, put yourself in the mindset of a traveler looking for a great deal, perhaps on Google Flights – where millions of travelers find great deals. As a comfort seeking creature, you say “hey, let’s live a little and glance at the premium economy prices”. You do, and to your astonishment, Delta’s prices are $100’s lower than the competition. Are you some kind of deal genius or what?! It says premium economy, so it must be. There’s just one problem – unless you’re getting a plane to one of these places in this comprehensive list, you’re getting that first sub par economy seat, let alone premium economy seat. Let’s look at examples all over the world, and then also how Delta never actually tells you you’re booking the wrong thing.
How is anyone not working in the travel industry expected to know the difference?
With a round trip flight time of about 16 hours or more, “premium” makes a huge difference. On a simple search attempt, two direct flight choices came up. One with Air France, and one with Delta. You can read about Air France Premium Economy here. Naturally, you’d be beyond excited to see premium economy at a price that easily resembles economy!
BUT THEY DON’T. You’re just buying an economy ticket with a beer thrown in, and overpaying by $288 dollars, compared to Delta’s current lowest economy price, for the same seat mold, in the same “behind the curtain” cabin, on the same flight. You will not be enjoying the following seat from Air France, or anything actually resembling a “premium” cabin…
You’ll just find yourself in the seat below, “behind the curtain” as always, wondering what it’s like in business class, and how they manage to get so many narrow seats into an airplane. You might also be wondering if there’s any remuneration for the fact that you thought you were getting a premium economy experience, and ended up flying economy.
And It’s Not Always The Cheapest Option
Look, this is really simple: if Delta sells you a premium economy ticket on a Boeing 767, Airbus A330 or even many of their Boeing 777’s, you’re sitting in economy. You can polish it all you want with a little blanket and a beer, but it’s economy. It’s not premium economy. Calling this Comfort+ “Premium Economy” is like calling tofu a great red meat. It may be a source of protein, but it’s not red meat. Here’s the same scenario played out for Asia…
If you were on team “well, it’s cheaper, so who cares” – think again. It’s simply not fair! If you booked the option with five star Singapore Air, for roughly $100 less, you’d trade an economy seat on an aging Delta A330 for an actual premium economy seat, like those pictured above! Anyone looking to stay brand loyal, or alliance loyal is being duped, and sometimes for even more more than a bonafide, magnificent premium economy product. This is the simple and important reason Delta should not be allowed to carry on with this deceptive marketing.
And here’s the real problem.
If you actually go through the booking process for a flight (try here), nowhere do you see the words economy. You see premium all the way, and then “Comfort +” once you reach Delta.com. There’s no reasonable way a consumer can be expected to know that this branded name ISN’T actually premium economy. Find the word economy anywhere in the booking process, we dare you. Duped, indeed!
If you’re sitting here saying “you already wrote about this”, you’re not wrong, but you’re not right. We covered how Delta was selling Virgin Atlantic flights as premium economy, even though they weren’t, but not how they were marketing economy on their own planes as premium economy tickets. To be abundantly, extra clear, Delta is the only airline which continuously display fares incorrectly in Google Flights. We were going to put this to bed, but Delta issued a statement to us, which specifically blamed Google. They said, and we quote…
“It’s time for third party displays, including Google Flights, to invest in the technology necessary to display the various products available in a way that ensures customers can view all their options clearly, just as Delta has on Delta.com.”
Essentially Delta believes that Google Flights doesn’t give them enough realistic options to display their sort of, semi, kind of upgraded economy seat, and until they do, they’ll call it premium, and everyone can be the fool. In a perfect world, Delta would likely want Google to create a new category in between economy and premium economy, called something like “better than basic”. Who’s to blame: the one airline that does this, or the greatest tech giant in the history of the world?