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Is the decision to operate so many Boeing 737-900ERs impacting your choice to fly Delta? #PaxEx is low.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Delta 737-900ER will soon have 130 in the fleet - do you avoid them for PaxEx (1)
Delta 737-900ER in Atlanta

Yesterday in my monthly news roundup the very first story highlighted was the fact that Delta Air Lines will soon fly 130 of the Boeing 737-900ERs. Having had 24 hours to think about this it bothers me more and more. Why?

While I was on the very first ever revenue flight for the 737-900ER on November 1st 2013, and had a positive review at the time, now having flown it so much for 3+ years that initial feeling has truly soured. Why? There are just too many seats crammed onto this jet. 180 means this:

Delta 737-900ER will soon have 130 in the fleet - do you avoid them for PaxEx (2)
Got legs? Avoid row 1

6 of the 20 seats in 1st class are to be avoided. The leg room in row 1 is so bad that it can make coach on other jets feel spacious. Also, row 5 on the CD side you have limited recline into the coat closet wall installed mid aircraft.

Delta 737-900ER will soon have 130 in the fleet - do you avoid them for PaxEx (4)
Two seats with no seat in front of you!

Only 2.5 good seats in coach. Why 2.5? If you are not a 5′ tall person I think leg room in coach matters to you. Thus 21 A and F are the only really good seats on the entire jet in coach and they are window seats. I prefer the aisle. Thus the only “half” good seat is 11 D where you can sorta stretch your feet into the area in front of the coat closet. But this seat also has an unmovable arm rest.

Delta 737-900ER will soon have 130 in the fleet - do you avoid them for PaxEx (3)
The “half” good coach seat

Next we have the lavatories. Ugh. They are so small they make a CJR200 look like a luxury liner. If you have not been in one, just don’t go. I really could go on and on how crews hate the 737-900ER due to lack of space in the galley and pilots are no fans because they are so under powered and “dumbed” down” to make Southwest that only buys 737s happy.

Personally, whenever I book Delta flights, I look at what routes have the 737-900ER and then try to book another flight. I would rather be on just about anything Delta flies over this jet even in 1st class. And I am not the only one. Notice what some Delta flyers are saying in a FlyerTalk thread about the 737-900ER expansion:

I book away from the horrible things for any flights over 90 minutes. If I’m not the only one, that will have an impact on the fares they get.” – FT user Mother

You’re not the only one.” – FT user CW

UGH! DL’s 739 configuration is the WORST! Cramped cabins and F is a total joke. I can’t even get my laptop in a comfortable working position if the person in front of me reclines… Looks like there are more routings I’ll be avoiding.” – FT user SOBE ER DOC

If I were in Delta revenue management I would be frightened about statements like these. We are not talking SkyMiles or other things that weekly high paying customers really don’t care much about. No, we are talking choices that could have a real financial impact on Delta over time.

With 130 jets on the books now it will be very hard to not end up on one of these as it will replace the 757 on routes it has the “legs” to fly. Even the ETOPS rated jets will fly to Hawaii from the west coast. I cannot dream of the “joy” of flying a this jet that far to or from the islands. Could you?

So you tell me. Will this have any impact on your choice to fly Delta? Do you look at what aircraft will be flown on each flight of your itinerary or does this just not matter at all to you? – René


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. I hate the 900er. Sad because the new a321s are really nice – roomy, big overhead bins, bright. Can’t believe delta doesn’t see survey results that match this…

  2. I flew the 737-900 the week they first got it. Never ever again, it is the worst experience ever.

    So yes, I do avoid any flight with this aircraft. (And have purposefully done so several times). And wow to that tiny lav…

    But I don’t just avoid the aircraft. It influenced my decision to actually leave DL all together. The problem is that the aircraft reflects a total lack of regard for the customer experience and a total focus on yield. It’s if the view that PAX will fly regardless of what you do to them. It’s disappointing.

  3. I completely agree. I thought I was the only one who cared that much. Definitely only good for the shortest of flights. Here’s hoping for more Airbus orders (or the rumored Boeing MOM plane). Can’t quite figure out why they continue to top off their order with an inferior plane which will be nearly obsolete by the time they all enter service. I get it, they like a discount, but….

  4. Poor Old Dave Reply

    do the decision makers at Delta actually fly these airplanes?

  5. I can understand all of these comments. I have been on that A/C many times flying from ATL to SAN or return. I ALWAYS buy a first class ticket and sit in row 2 or 3, aisle. If I cannot get what I want I fly another time or A/C. I never ever buy coach anymore if I can help it, purely because of all the BS that goes on back there, regardless of my Diamond status boarding early. With all the pax flying rage, the obesity of America (getting stuck next to a truly overweight person in economy 3 times in a row is what has made me buy !st Class all the time), some nazi FA’s controlling the overheads, and just cattle mentality, I cannot be back there. So while my experience on the 737-900 has generally been good (sitting up front, using the 1st lav, and having more room), I know what you all are talking about. Will Delta listen to all of you? Yes and no. I asked the FA’s once about the lavs and the galley which they also hate and they told me that Delta is reconfiguring them because of so many complaints. Hopefully that is true. I will end on this note. I used to work for Air NZ when they came out with their new premium economy space seat on the 777-300. They had raved about how revolutionary it was for months leading up to the roll out. And the actual seat, was. A few us lucky employees (I was management at the time) got to go on board the 777-300 they had installed them on for a preview, along with some partner big wigs. They had to shut me up forcibly because I started practically screaming how little leg room there was. I was in total shock. I even started asking for every guest on that preview to sit in various seats to see if I was totally insane or right. And I was right. And I mean there was NO legroom. I don’t know what they were thinking. But sure enough, not a few months later, Air NZ announced a total retrofit of the Premium Economy space seats to offer more leg room. They had to remove a couple rows of seats to get this accomplished which meant taking the A/C out of service for a few days and of course all the bad PR surrounding their mistake. So sometimes they listen, but for a non premium product and with so many carriers offering less and less legroom, I don’t see it happening with Delta.

  6. I agree completely. I keep seeing news stories about airlines that are going to fly TATL or other long hauls in 737’s (of any variety) and it makes me run for the hills. They only way this will work for them long term is to remove some seats to increase the let room. Otherwise you might as well fly with a LCC. Heck at least Spirit has plenty of seat room if you pay the minor amount to upgrade.

  7. I’m more concerned with the Skypesos devaluation, the significant premium Delta demands for a marginally better product, inability to upgrade, and many other factors. I’ll take this plane if its the best value which I define as a combination of schedule, price and route. Free agent all the way!

  8. I agree with all of this and would add that these planes don’t seem to handle turbulence well, either. Some of the bumpiest flights I’ve experienced have been on 739s. Has anyone else experience this?

  9. I fly Delta less and less every year. Fortunate to have Air Canada options so close to us here in northern Michigan just across the border in Canada. We can fly most places for much less than Delta, and have more legroom. International flights out of Toronto are sometimes half the price than Detroit.

  10. I was surprised how much I liked the A320s. The seats are “higher” and I could put my large laptop bag under the seat in front of me, whereas I have to put it in the overhead bin on virtually all other equipment. And one bonus is that a window FC seat can enable one to have the laptop angled on the tray during breakfast…

  11. These things are horrid. The (tiny)aisles seem to stretch on forever. While waiting at the gate it seems like there are enough pax for an A380. Simply too many people squeezed(even up front) in for such a small aircraft. I search for 757’s and cross my fingers they don’t get swapped out. It seems that ATL is lousy for these things on all but the heaviest routes to the west coast.

  12. This is interesting. I typically only thing about aircraft type on transcon and transcon-lite journeys, so at the 4-5.5 hour mark. Like JFK to SEA/LAS/LAX etc… but im super easy. It’s the long long flights that really get me. I need a bed!

  13. I agree and avoid like the plague. Paying FC flyer, diamond. I’ve actually flown aa a few times this year to avoid. I like the bulkhead so this plane is worthless to me. Loyalty to delta is worth very little so I fly several carriers now.

  14. Obichang Ongklungel Reply

    Renée, I partly agree with your sentiments about this aircraft. I’ve flown the 739ER a bunch of times – hard not to from HNL – and have only sat in two seats – 1D and 19D. I disagree about the legroom in 1CD – I think it’s fine, perhaps a noticeable inch less than the 757. My first flight I sat in 1A and thought it was okay for a short flight but definitely less space than the other side. I’ve never sat further back in first because I don’t like dealing with recliners so I have no insight.

    As for economy, I considered 21A/K until I realized the screen was a mile away. IFE is very important to me, legroom a close second, and since I never recline anyway, I find row 19 to be the best seats in the house. You can’t recline but neither can the folks in front of you, and legroom is excellent. Last flight I did happen to look back at the folks in row 20 which is often snapped up because it’s a 2-seater. Lord, those knees were pressed into the seat so far. If I had no choice but to fly economy for some reason and I couldn’t get the exit row, I wouldn’t hesitate a second to book on another airline. I would never, ever fly regular economy on this aircraft.

    Now, I am tempted to bitch about the lavatories but I don’t think that’s going to get me anywhere. It is a small, cramped space and I hate using the bathroom in either class. A few months ago I flew an ERJ175 and gave the upgrade to my friend so, seated in the back, I used the restroom and I about near fell over. You could swing a cat around in there (or whatever the saying is). How I wish all lavs were that size!

    Perhaps what Delta would consider a larger restroom in first or an ADA lav in the rear (God knows I don’t know how a WCHR passenger could use the bathroom). I don’t know. Anyway, to answer your question, I tried in the past to book around the 73 but it’s almost too difficult to bother with from HNL so I’ve take to booking day flights only. My first choice is the A330, then the LAX 767, then any 757, then the 73 but my preferences only work out half the time because of flight times, etc.

  15. I don’t understand the Southwest comment. SWA never wanted the 739, nor has it on order.

    • @Steve – I am not a pilot but was told it could be much more advanced than it is due to the general demands of Southwest for the 737 family of planes.

  16. @Rene Thanks, that makes sense. I agree, the 739 is a lot of plane for the existing engines, hence Boeing’s move to the 737 MAX-8 and -9. The 739 is similar in this way to the A320 and A321, which Airbus has responded to the NEO models with significantly more power.

  17. I believe you are giving too much credit to average flyer, or purchaser of air travel. Those tend often to be folks who are simply trying to get from A to B; perhaps with a connection.

    The two greatest factors in their decision are fare cost and schedule. They may later complain about being cramped but may not even bother to make a note (or even find out) about the type of aircraft they are on.

    Elite flyers, however, are more in tune to aircraft configurations and often have their favorite seat (like mine, 1A on a CRJ or Embraer or 2D or 3D on a B767 or B777) in mind when they book and choose a seat through Delta’s seat maps.

    My B737’s experiences are painfully burned into my memory and I actually cringe when I look over a seatmap on a flight I had to book with that aircraft. The B737-900’s comprise more than 43% of Alaska’s current fleet that it is the number one (of very few) negative for that carrier.

    The average (casual) flyer who takes a trip or vacation maybe twice a year will just say ugh and forget about after the trip is over. For elites the journey is so important; for the vacationer it is all about the destination.

  18. just sat in 21F ewr-slc. seat guru said it is the best seat on the plane. Nope, the wall curves in at your feet on all window seats making it awkward for your feet/legs. I changed my return seat to standard isle seat 16d and was much happier. Yes i do get up to pee and feel trapped with window seats.

    And the 3 bathroom doors all opening into each other is laughable. what moron thought that was good design?

  19. I’ve only been on a 739 once from JFK to ATL. I was in 2D, but while i stood in the aisle looking down the plane it just looked incredibly busy. I’m only 5’4, so there was plenty of legroom for me but sometimes its not about the size of people adjacent but the amount of people in your immediate area. Knowing there was 80 people in the rows behind me alone didn’t help.

  20. We flew ATL /LAX/ KOA and return in First in 2016. Never again.For our 2017 trip we booked to AVOID this aircraft. Going forward we will be looking at AA ,HA and VA. I find my self booking the airline that has the best aircraft and product on the routes that I fly. Delta has been getting less of my business every year.

  21. I prefer the 737 FC seat over 320/321 which are to vertical and uncomfortable when upright.

  22. I’m still shocked you gave this plane a glowing review initially. I have hated it from day one. There is no good seat on this plane anywhere. In first, C+ or C-. It is just a bad design from a customer standpoint.

    I try to avoid this plane as much as possible. But getting from SEA/PDX to ATL, pretty much guarantees I will be on one of these beasts. Rarely do I find the 757 anymore on those routes.

  23. I’m only a silver medallion but I am so surprised by all the hate on this aircraft. When searching for flights I will specifically look for a time that uses this plane if at all possible. The in flight entertainment is the best screens of any Delta plane I’ve flown on, there is lots of overhead storage, the bathrooms are very modern and the air quality is the best too. There’s also more first class seats than average making upgrades easier for less frequent fliers like me. I’m only 5′ 8” so legroom is really never a problem for me on any plane. Give this plane a chance!!

  24. Huh. I must be out of my mind. We see these a lot coming from TPA and I tend to book them because it’s the newer equipment vs the standard Mad Dogs we used to see. I have no issues at this point but after reading the less than stellar reviews I will take a serious look at them tomorrow – I’m on two of them plus another on Saturday. Now I feel jinxed.

  25. I also was excited the first time I got on a 737-900 (new equipment)

    Well, I was excited until my knees nearly hit the seat in front of me in FC (and I’m not tall!) Then, when I went into the FC loo and got a massive bout of claustrophobia.

    Been avoiding the plane ever since.

  26. How, then, do you tell what kind of plane delta will be flying on a particular route? I’m trying to book a Slc-atl flight and the plane is listed as 767-300. I know there are a couple of different versions of this plane so how do I choose? There is also an option of a 757 and a 737-900ER. Rene, do you have a rookie post somewhere on your blog so I can better understand how to pick the right plane, not just the right flight?

    • @Sarah – You can look at any flight, as you have done, to see what type of aircraft is scheduled. Now having said that they can swap and such a change is not reason enough to then get a free change (unless you really and I mean REALLY push it). Lastly, there can be a last minute change and you get stuck flying it.

  27. Yes, but, Rene, because the flight isn’t until September, it only says 767-300. So, I look at seat guru and there are five different 767-300ER planes listed. And, the reviews are wildly different, depending on what (76H/76Z), (76L) number you select. I’m assuming those 76 numbers reflect configuration. I looked at the seat map to try to figure out which configuration it is. Why does this have to be so hard (she laughing sighs) . . .

    • @Sarah – All 767 are widebody aircraft and very nice. Have no fear (or very little) they will sub in such a small bird as a 737 😉

  28. I’m not a fan of any of the Airbus’ I have flown with Delta, and I’m not a fan of the 737-900ER for that matter. I’ve found port-johns more comforting than the lavatories in this plane. I try to avoid this plane and all the Airbus varieties as well. Give me the “mad dog” 88 or 90 any day over this. I’m traveling today, and my plane was changed from a 757-300 to a 767-300, so I’m still happy!

    • @ZacharyS: I rather like Delta’s Airbuses — but I’m with you in the 737-900ERs. Call me old fashioned but I love 767s! Enjoy your ride!

  29. I realize this is an ancient post but I’d personally rather be on a -900ER than the new a321s or redone a319s. I’d of course much rather be on a 757 for a longer flight than the others due to mid cabin lav space. The 319 was cramped to the gills, and the lav situation is laughable. I go more so to move around and there is zero space back there. The a321s are oddly configured with all the exit doors and the doors combined with smaller windows make it feel like a dungeon from natural light. The -900ER just feels very long, like it needs a mid cabin breakup. Plus the bins fold out of the way better, although both the -900 and a321 bins are too small to accept upright carryons so any refurb cabin wins in that regard. Both also take forever to board and deplane. I’d go 757>737-900ER>a319>a321


    I know that you don’t really like the 737-900ER, but I would rather be in one of those than on a 737-700 on Southwest Airlines. Southwest has the worst Boeing 737 I have ever been on. I haven’t flown on Delta, but I once flew on a 737-900, on Alaska Airlines, and it was fine. I am fine with most 737 planes, just not on a budget airline, such as Southwest Airlines. I prefer the A320 on Alaska Airlines. I would rather be in an Airbus A32B (A321S) on American Airlines than a 737 on any airline when I go on 3+ hour flights.

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