Delta Takes Airline Seat Shenanigans To New Level With Five-Tiered System

"Basic Economy" sounds pretty bad.

delta planeDelta Airlines is launching a five-tiered seating system on March 1. At the bottom of this mountain of options is “Basic Economy,” which will be the least expensive, but won’t allow for seat selection, seat changes or refunds. Next will be “Main Cabin,” which will offer customers the opportunity to choose a seat and change their flight under certain circumstances. On international flights, it will also include a sleep kit, an alcoholic beverage and a meal.

Next is “Delta Comfort+,” which will offer priority boarding, reserved bin space, more leg room, better snacks and entertainment, and fancy seats.

“First Class” will now be split with “Delta One.” The latter will have flat beds and a chef, for instance, as well as access to Delta Sky Clubs.

All of this is, of course, about money. These “a la carte” travel options are the latest thing in air travel, and it’s making airlines tons of cash. Passenger fees for checked bags and flight changes profited the industry $1.67 billion last year. Delta made the most off of these fees, according to CNN, with $1.67 billion last year.

And while passengers have resigned themselves to being nickel-and-dimed and herded onto and off of uncomfortable flights lacking in what used to be basic amenities, this new system might be so blatant as to backfire.

Or maybe that’s just my personal opinion. Experts on CNN say the introduction of the “Basic Economy” fare is an attempt to compete with Spirit Airlines, but really won’t change too much except for those frequent fliers who will consider the lack of seat selection “a deal breaker.” Prices haven’t yet been announced.

But from this angle, it just seems so blatantly greedy that I can’t imagine this going down easily with many members of the traveling public. There is such a thing as too many options. And when you’re telling someone that they have to pay for the pleasure of a more highfalutin bag of chips or the comfort of circulation in their legs, it feels like the airline really doesn’t care about providing a service. They literally just want to give you enough space to get from point A to point B.

For Spirit Airlines, this is more or less acceptable. This is an airline that’s charging, in some cases, $9 to fly with them. They’ve built a brand on bargain-basement prices alone.

But Delta is supposed to be an airline that provides a bit more. The ad below ran a couple of years ago, touting the fact that the airline wants to “raise the bar” on air travel.

Maybe things have changed in the past couple of years, but this new system doesn’t seem like it’s building on the idea of being and doing better. Maybe a new marketing message for this seating arrangement will redefine what the Delta experience is. But for right now, it just seems like pricing shenanigans that are meant to give the illusion of customization but really just boils down to providing as little as possible for the most profit.