Just how far will Delta and the airlines take cabin segmentation. When will governments step in to stop the silly “you can choose not to sit here” airline argument?

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“We feel our customers will choose to pay more when presented with the ‘choice’ of either flying in our new Main Cabin Plus seats vs. the enhanced standard Main Cabin seats!” – What Delta PR may say one day

I have still, as of this date, never purchased Delta BASIC E fare economy tickets. I have just not had to fly a short enough fight or flights where I did not care where I sat or to miss out on the chance for an upgrade. I guess for a few bucks it is well worth it to me to enjoy my current elite perks and down the road, when I am no longer Diamond, my  lifetime  annual Silver Medallion status that lets me pick an exit row at booking (and a small shot at a 1st class upgrade). Heck, before I retire, I may even push my way to 2 million miles to have lifetime annual Gold Medallion status that includes (for now) Skyteam Elite+ status as well.

But, after learning yesterdays up-sell news, will there ever be a limit as to just what the airline will do when it comes to segmenting an airline cabin? Now I know my example above is going to the extreme. But at the same time, if I were running an airline, I would totally consider installing these type of seats in the section behind Comfort Plus seats. Why? I would be more than happy to pay a bit more to NOT have the row in front of me recline at all and yet have my row fully recline (sorta like an exit row now).

Sure, the idea of no window in the Main Cabin Minus seats is not realistic but my point is the airline could and can continue to make some of the coach experience worse and worse day by day if it wants to. It is a simple step to do and the never ending argument that it is the customer’s fault if they are stuck in a nasty, non-reclining, no frills seat for not paying a few bucks more for say Main Cabin Plus with full recline and a window! 😉

Just look at what American Airlines is doing with their latest modifications – that is, adding even more seats to coach and reducing space. I have flown in the “way back” on AA on one of their new jets just once and will never, EVER, do it again. I cannot dream how much worse they really can make it “back there”!

My point is, at some point, enough is enough! The only possible restraint the airlines seem to have is to be able to point to the fact that in an emergency they can still, in the government mandated amount of time, get folks out of the jet. In other words, the seats have to only provide a life and death amount of space. Is that enough?

I think it is time more than just emergency situations should be considered. After all, with too little space (or like in my illustration above) more than just comfort can come into play. Cram someone into one of those types of seats for too long and it could lead to medical issues and harm the flyer. That is why, at some point and that point is now, the governments of the world should set a limit of how much leg room must exist between seats and a minimum seat width as well (taking the size of the fuselage into account clearly). I see this as the only way to put an end to endless cabin segmentation and the airlines creating an experience so bad that it has real negative impacts on the traveler.

What do you think. Would an airline ever consider the seats I have illustrated above? Will they ever stop making the experience worse and worse? Would you favor laws to prevent them from adding Main Comfort Plus (and Minus) seats? Let me know in the comments below! – Rene



  1. The domestic airlines are completely broken and no relief will happen unless the government steps in. Of course, the government is completely broken as well so there is, in Dante’s words, no hope. I never ever fly US airlines unless absolutely necessary. If the trip is under 600 miles, I drive.

    Next week I am flying to Bali. Can you imagine doing that on Delta, United or American? Neither can I.

  2. It’s called deregulation – which produced fewer airlines, less competition but significantly more routes flown, better on-time service and lower ticket prices. Other than safety, I do not want the government back in the business of regulating airlines. It never works out for the consumer in the long run because everything cost more and service levels go down.

  3. In effort to squeeze more passengers into the main cabin, one day in the near future I envision passengers at the back of the main cabin twisting open the AC nozzles above their seats to release a fine mist of vegetable oil. Sidegraded passengers at the front of the main cabin will twist the same nozzles to release a fine mist of spring water.

    The only difference between main cabin passengers and sardines will be that passengers get to keep their heads.

  4. I am not a big fan of more government regulations when market forces can/should dictate as it can in this issue. I no longer fly CRJs and find alternative equipment for the route needed even if a little more cost and time. While I am not height or size challenged, it is my neighbor that typically is and having to give my roll-aboard to Delta’s baggage thugs.

  5. Deregulation was not intended to produce less competition, but allowing all the airline mergers did that. I’m a free enterprise kind, but at some point when almost monopolistic industrial titans like domestic airlines are allowed to impose their will when there are few if any alternatives, it is time for governmental action. If that means re-regulation & slightly higher price, then so be it. Rene is right: enough is enough!

  6. Despite fewer legacy airlines since deregulation more people are flying than ever and airfares are substantially lower when adjusted for inflation. One of the oft forgotten principles of economics is “excess profit breeds competition” ie; Southwest, Sprint, Allegiant, JetBlue etc… The market since deregulation has segmented itself with airlines providing the value the corresponding targeted consumer wants. I fly Delta mostly because of non-stop service and don’t fly Southwest because of the lack thereof. Another econ principle is markets generally gravitate toward equilibrium. I would rather the airline industry go through internal tweaks and annoy customers in the short term than have more government regulation in the long term. In short, “government” and “slightly higher prices” is an oxymoron 😉

  7. The government already (or still) regulates the airlines. The FAA dictates how/when airplanes must be maintained, approves which replacement parts & supplies can be used, determines and enforces safety standards, etc. Although not a fan of more government intrusion, it is a relatively small step to add minimum seat pitch/width to the FAA criteria. This needs to happen but if Big Brother so much as suggest it, the airlines will roar like an old (pre-hush kit) 727!

  8. Delta, United and American are for-profit businesses. That means they are duty bound to maximize profits above all else (the tyranny of the shareholder and the Wall Street analysts). Maximizing profits requires giving customers as little as possible while charging them as much as possible for what they get. That’s their goal.

    The best cure for the tyranny of the shareholder is competition. Given the structure of the airline industry, don’t hold your breath awaiting the benefits of competition. Government action is the only way to prevent the airlines from further exploiting their customers for the benefit of executives and shareholders.

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