Rumor: Delta Cutting Amenities From Transcon Flights Next Week

In the fall we learned that Delta would start offering day of departure elite upgrades on their premium cross country routes. These are flights where Delta offers – or plans to offer – lie flat seats up front. Currently premium routes aren’t eligible for complimentary elite upgrades at all.

Points, Miles and Martinis writes that at the same time on April 1 Delta will be reducing the service they provide on premium routes in their extra legroom “Comfort+” seats,

According to one Delta flight attendant, starting April 1, Delta will be slashing several amenities from their Transcontinental Delta Comfort Plus product, meaning there won’t be any enhanced offerings over their Main Cabin. We’ll see sleep kits, blankets, and mid-flight frozen yogurt bars and bottle water being discontinued on current transcon flights.

For those in the Main Cabin, Billboard headphones will no longer be free on transcontinental flights, as they’ll start charging $2 for them on these flights.

Comfort+ is a ‘separate cabin’ on Delta. Elites get ‘upgraded’ into those extra legroom seats. And Delta has made efforts beyond United (just extra legroom for economy plus but with plans to do more) and American (free booze and reserved signs on overhead bins) to differentiate the product. Until next week, that is, if that rumor is true.

Delta does offer snacks on longer flights in Comfort+, but in their most premium markets and not just New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco, they do that in coach too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have three thoughts:
    1) Perhaps Delta’s efforts to sell comfort-plus has failed as people realize it’s a gimmick — the exact same seat with the exact same drink and food as economy but with some extra legroom. Still, nobody in their right mind can call a middle-seat in comfort-plus an “upgrade” nor a premium experience.
    2) Perhaps Delta’s monetization of selling first-class has been so successful that folks are just skipping comfort-plus and buying first-class.
    3) Or perhaps Delta is trying to increase paid upgrades into first-class and transcontinental business-class by widening the differences between comfort-plus and the forward-cabin.

  2. I don’t understand why an airline doesn’t develop a clear identity of themselves, their prouduct, and their services–and stick with it. They would distinguish themselves among the Big Bad 3.

    When I think of Southwest I immediately associate the “friendly, two free suitcases and cancel for free airline.” JetBUe is the “cheap price but not low quality airline with comfy leather seats and Terra chips” airline.

    I flew the DCA-JFK Delta flightE+ and I was impressesed. It made me rethink Delta and my travel choices. But now, with this downgrade? I have to put Delta back in the same box with UA and AA.

  3. “mid-flight frozen yogurt bars”

    It’s evidently the end of civilization as we know it.

    Gonna miss those Billboard headphones too, lost count of how many unopened packages of those I have in the amenity cabinet.

  4. This is what happens when a consumer-facing business ceases to be market driven. Note how when we do see or hear airline advertising these days, it is strictly about fares-written by the accountants. No need for branding or market positioning anymore.

    In parallel to the takeover of our transportation services by the green eye shades, note how Amtrak provides the same utilitarian dining car menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner-for every day, on every train. When privately-operated as true competitors, the railroads proudly competed at the highest level of freshly prepared, regional epicurean specialty meals; cooked over presto logs in the galley.

    Up until the mid-1970s, the marketeers in charge of our carriers ran circles around “Madmen,” by expertly differentiating their product by food, seats, services, and schedules. Just between ORD-LAX, we knew American was the businessman’s airline; TWA served the actors and politicians; United was for the family; Continental offered the “Expressway” with a pub and even hot dogs for sale in the stripped down coach section providing mo meals.

    Today, even the Board of Directors of airlines reflect the narrow focus on numbers, willingly accepting whatever they are told in charts and data from the C suite; thus, the consumer cannot count on any check and balance on the leadership of airlines. In the case of Delta in this story, the consistency of their inconsistencies in regards to the customer experience just refortifies in the customer’s mindset the need to forgo any sense of loyalty.Why bother? Who cares anymore?

  5. You always use the same picture of the Delta cabin, and every time, I am amused by the wistful guy sitting in first class.

  6. Delta does not offer extra anything “for free” as the article phrases it. Language is important. They offer something “at no extra charge.” We need to stop thinking of things such as extra water as “free.” Otherwise, we buy into the notion that we are getting something for nothing, which we are not. We pay dearly

  7. Well put @Jon Mayer!

    With Virgin America all but gone, Jetblue hardly the airline it used to be, and Alaska Airlines so far on the periphery in most consumers’ minds on the east coast in general, and especially New York City, that one even wonders if that airline will even offer a year or,two from now anything more than the token service pattern to the Pacific Northwest it had before it bought Virgin America…

    …after all, those take-off and landing slots at JFK and LGA may be more valuable sold/leased to other airlines if Alaska is unable to carve a niche for itself in markets that aren’t sheltered by a perimeter rule such as the one it has at Washington/Reagan National the way Virgin America did, especially on transcons…

    …perhaps these cutbacks, which, if true, are coming mere weeks before the Virgin America brand officially disappears are but one, of several cuts yet to come from Delta, and the others, on transcons now that a carrier known for its premium product (Virgin America) is gone, and the carrier taking its place has yet to prove its service product is strong enough to offset its otherwise extremely limited footprint to succeed on transcon routes as Virgin did.

    If anything, one has to wonder if Southwest will seek to broaden its presence on transcons (especially after it launches service to Hawaii), which if Alaska Airlines is still operating transcons when that happens, would further overshadow, or marginalize Alaska on these routes.

    Maybe Alaska will punch through, and hold its own on transcons. But if Delta is already cutting back, that suggests Delta already has enough information suggesting it can revert back to its core oligopolist business model where competition is defined not by who offers the best service to consumers, but rather is better understood by the few remaining players (with a wink and a nod, of course) as one among each races to the bottom through a succession of product cuts/degradations, and the “winner” is the airline that cuts as much as possible, and gets away with it!

    Then the other two follow along in a near, but just slightly enough varied lockstep, and the next round of the “race” begins to see who can cut what, get away with it, and the the others follow suit, too.

    Sheesh! I guess the boards of directors at Delta (and United with its slow abandonment of Polaris) decided those already obscenely generous tax cuts weren’t enough to feed upcoming rounds of multi-billion dollar stock buybacks after all…

    Oh, well, looks like the brief spasm/burst of competition on transcons over the past year or so is now coming to an end, and it’s back to business as usual among our oligopolist airlines!

    Seriously, did anyone really expect them to change their evil ways anyway?

    After all, we’re talking about airlines, which under the protection of a government sanctioned oligopoly, have in recent years become exceptionally sleazy companies whose every effort is anti-consumer when considering their recent and widely reported agenda to eliminate as many consumer protections as possible, up to, and including implementation of fees to provide wheelchairs and assistance for elderly and disabled passengers.

    If this alone doesn’t demonstrate how sick, pathetic and greedy our airlines have become, then nothing will…

  8. In the end, let’s not forget that all of this behavior is driven by them being under the ever present thumb of Wall Street…..

  9. The amenities in Delta’s Comfort + appear to already be on the way out. Yesterday, on flight DAL/ATL, we were flying through some VERY light chop and the Capt announced that because of the turbulence they wanted the FA’s to keep the carts in and not offer service to anyone but First. So, no complimentary beverages in Comfort +, only water when we were about 40 minutes out. Ditto on the next, connection. Thought it was odd then, now I’m suspicious

  10. Updating comments above:

    CNBC reported early this morning (May 15th) that Alaska Airlines is closing its NYC pilots’ base, and drastically cutting back frequencies of ex-Virgin America transcons between JFK/EWR and LAX/SFO to just 2x daily…

    …pretty much as I predicted nearly two months ago, on March 25th!

    Oh, and the ex-Virgin America LGA (& DCA) to Dallas Love Field slots – they’re going, too, with those puppies leased out to Southwest for at least the next 10 years…

    …EXACTLY as I predicted nearly two months ago, too!

    Just sayin’! 😉

    (btw…a personal note: Yes, it’s nice to see ones’ insights come to pass…who wouldn’t be proud of that?!?! 🙂

    …but this “Tooting of the Horn” really directed at the handful of “Nattering nabobs of negativism” (nb: google that phrase to find out who said it, and what it refers to) who, in the absence of being able to offer a reasoned rebuttal for points of view they disagree with, take cheap shots!

    Yet again (and as noted last week when a leading expert in Anti-Trust at Columbia University law school specifically stated our airline industry is an Oligopoly in an Opinion piece published in The NY Times), I sure do hope y’all are having fun wiping all of those raw egg yolks off of your faces, and enjoying the taste of your feet in your mouths! Bye, Felicia’s! 😉

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