Judging from the torrent of news releases the airlines issue regarding their latest aircraft-seating upgrades, you might be tempted to think that flying had become an altogether posh experience.
But the great majority of the improvements concern first- and business-class seats, which indeed have gotten longer, wider, and more feature-laden.
Meanwhile, coach seating—with the possible exception of the new crop of so-called slim-line seats, which save weight and thus reduce operating costs for the airlines, but do little to advance passenger comfort—has remained in limbo. And coach-class legroom, one of the key determinants of comfort, has actually decreased over the past two decades, from an average of 34 inches to between 30 and 32 inches.
The title of Delta’s news release, “Delta to Improve Passenger Comfort on 225 Domestic Narrowbody Aircraft,” looked at first glance to be more of the same: more for the 1 percent, and nothing for the rest of us.
Sure enough, there are the predictable references to full flat-bed seats. And surely there are at least a few flyers who will be impressed with the new LED cabin lighting and redesigned lavatories.
But, refreshingly, there are some substantive coach upgrades to its narrow-body planes as well.
Here’s what to expect.
A319s and A320s
The interiors of Delta’s 57 A319 and 69 A320 aircraft will be updated, including new seats, in-seat power throughout the aircraft, space-saving galleys, new lavatories, and larger-capacity overhead bins with an average increase of 60 percent more carry-on baggage space.
Most important: All Economy seats on both aircraft types will feature wider seats with an increase from the current 17.2 inches to 18 inches for each seat. Unfortunately, those coach seats will have only 31 inches of legroom.
Fifty-six of Delta’s 757-200s will be fitted with in-seat video, satellite TV and access to power for every passenger, new galleys, updated LED cabin lighting, new lavatory designs, and larger capacity overhead bins with 50 percent more baggage capacity.
There’s no mention of changes, positive or negative, to coach seats or legroom.
The upgrades to 43 of Delta’s 737-800 aircraft will include the addition of in-seat video with satellite TV, new LED cabin lighting and updated lavatories. The aircraft will be configured with 16 First Class seats, 18 Economy Comfort seats and 126 Economy seats.
Again, no mention of upgrades to coach seating.
As little as there is for coach flyers, there is at least the prospect of more power outlets, more advanced inflight entertainment, and bigger overhead bins. The news release might accurately have been titled, “Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Sharp Stick.”
Reader Reality Check
What’s most important to you in making your coach trip a comfortable one?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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