Delta Air Lines has, for years, tried to up sell its extra legroom economy seating as something other than, to the extent that they started selling the seats in a separate fare class. That pitch is now creating a dastardly error, bound to mislead and anger customers flying on Virgin Atlantic.
God Save The Points pointed out a slew of Virgin Atlantic economy fares that are showing up in search results for premium economy seating on Google Flights. The fares are, of course, incredibly low for premium economy seats. Passengers who purchase these fares will likely not be happy when they board their flight and are sent to the back of the airplane.
This is Delta mischief and Delta alone’s mischief.
Sometime around 2016, Delta started publishing its Comfort+ seats (which are, very, very much economy seats) under the ‘W’ fare class. This meant that Comfort+ seating shows up in searches for Premium Economy seating on fare aggregators like Google Flights and Kayak.
I’d argue this practice is deceptive on its own, although at least in the case of domestic U.S. flights there isn’t any regular Premium Economy service to confuse consumers.
Premium Economy is not extra legroom economy seating. Premium Economy seats, on Virgin Atlantic and other long-haul airlines, are big recliner chairs with leg rests and footrests. This type of seating used to be called business class, back in the aughts of last century.
The trickery starts with Delta’s Comfort+ nonsense.
Over the past year, Virgin Atlantic has been further segmenting its economy fares. The top category of economy service is called Economy Delight and includes priority boarding and access to overhead bins and seats with a couple of inches more legroom.
The fare type sounds a lot like Comfort+, and Delta’s website (which sells Virgin Atlantic seats through the airlines’ joint venture) has been dropping these Economy Delight fares in the ‘W’ fare bucket.
The ‘W’ fare class is almost universally used to denote full-fare premium economy seating. Thus, a long-haul economy fare now appears in searches for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. Those who actually want to compare Virgin’s true Premium Economy fares to competitors have to manually search the airline’s website.
Those used to flying across the Atlantic know full well what Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy is and are likely to search for it in search engines like Google Flights and Kayak. The airline has been offering the service for two decades. I reviewed the cabin in January and called it ‘the cushiest seat in the sky’. It is, for many, a highly sought after way to travel.
This could become a major problem for Delta should the wrong bloke get tricked out of Virgin’s hotly advertised Premium Economy digs on a red-eye the night before a major business transaction.
What if someone prone to deep vein thrombosis searches for Premium Economy, ends up confusedly in a cramped economy seat and suffers a stroke attributable to confinement?
Delta’s Comfort+ lipstick-on-a-pig marketing effort has been snake-bit from birth. I was among many furious frequent flyers “upgraded” from an aisle exit row to a middle seat at the gate. It took the airline months to fix that glitch, and return seat selection functionality to the FlyDelta app in case a Silver or Gold Medallion was bumped out of a prime preferred seat and “upgraded” into the totally fake Comfort+ fare class.
For an airline that seems to pride itself on attention to detail — in uniforms, fleet overhauls and airport terminals — this ongoing marketing train wreck is downright lazy at best and fraudulent at worst.
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