Is Flying Economy Comfort Really Worth It?

IMG_20140217_122633Being cramped into uncomfortably tight spaces is a reality of flying – especially for those of us not moneyed enough to afford a first class ticket. I was particularly unexcited about the prospect of the 12-hour flight to and from Japan in coach. While I was booking well enough in advance to reserve an aisle or window seat (how are middle seats not illegal on long flights?), I still worried how my long legs would fare so restricted for 12 hours straight.

So when my parents offered me the use of their precious airline points I decided to go for it – I upgraded from Economy, to Economy Comfort.

According to the Delta website, Economy Comfort entails a seat near the front of the plane, up to 4 extra inches of legroom, and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits. Sounds sweet right? The website advertises economy comfort fares starting at $9 domestically, but had I been paying cash for my seats to and from Japan, the total would have come to almost $1000 extra (it was more than $2000 for an upgrade to first class).

For cash like that, I spent a good amount of time wondering whether this purchase would be worth it. Here’s my report:

The good:

On my flight to Japan I snagged the coveted first row aisle seat. While I had to place all of my carry-ons in the overhead bin as there was no place in front to store my things, I was able to stretch my legs all the way out quite comfortably. I also lucked out in that there was no one sitting in the middle seat, allowing my row-mate and I to spread out very nicely. I marveled at how comfortable the journey was and even felt fresh as we landed in Japan! The excellent touch-screen entertainment options (available in coach as well) definitely helped speed the time.

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The bad:

I was supposed to have that same front aisle seat for the flight back, but we wound up having to rebook after getting stuck outside of Tokyo in some foul weather. I was again assigned an aisle seat, though this time several rows back, and the differences were noteworthy. While my knees did not technically touch the seat in front of me, they didn’t have nearly as much room. And this time, the middle seat was taken. While economy comfort may offer additional leg room, the width of the seats are the same as coach. And while I’m technically slim enough to fit, I find very often that the fellow next to me is not. That was the case for our return trip, and I lost quite a bit of space because of it.

At least there’s free booze right? Well, yeah, except on both my flights to and from Japan, the whole cabin got free drinks. So much for that as a perk.

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Economy Comfort on the left, regular Economy on the right

So is it worth it?

Even though I paid extra for economy comfort for both my long flights to/from Japan, and my shorter domestic connecting flights to/from Denver, I was rebooked on my second flight on the way back to a regular economy seat (a middle seat, to boot). So I can speak to the differences having experienced them on back-to-back flights, and really, I found them to be minimal. While I did have extra room in front of my knees in economy comfort, I still couldn’t really stretch my legs out. Plus, a huge part of my comfort on the way to Japan was the fact that no one was in the seat next to me. Without that stroke of luck, the seats themselves don’t offer enough room to say, not have a fairly average-sized man wedge himself over your armrest.

Based on my experience, I think shelling out the extra cash for economy comfort is only worth it when you can get a seat in the first row (especially with the seat next to you empty). But would I say it was worth the very small amount of extra room afforded in the seats further back, which make up most of the economy comfort section? No, I wouldn’t.

Thanks anyway for the points Dad!

2 thoughts on “Is Flying Economy Comfort Really Worth It?

  1. I feel that airlines have been shrinking passenger space consistently over the last few years and cramming more passengers into their planes. Every time I fly coach, especially on long flights, I can’t help but to feel like cattle. Some days, I want to moo in desperation!

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