When booking airline tickets in the past, there were three choices: coach, business or first class. Over the past decade or so, airlines have introduced a few more types of fares that are sometimes confusing for travelers reserving flights.
Some of the newer fares are very basic non-refundable low fares where you pay extra for checked bags, seat assignments and early check-in. These were designed to compete with low-cost carriers that offer cheaper fares because they charge passengers for these extras. Delta introduced these fares in 2013.
While those basic fares are a step below traditional coach fares, another class of fares have also entered the market to bridge the gap between coach and the upper classes. These seats offer more comfort like extra leg room, more recline and other benefits.
In this article we are going to take a closer look at what Delta Air Lines offers with its Comfort+ fare and how it compares to other seating options offered by the carrier.
What is Delta Comfort+
First let’s go over what it isn’t. It is not an extra cabin of service. The carrier still offers only three primary cabins on board aircraft: the main cabin, its Delta One business cabin and the first class cabin. Delta Comfort+ is available on flights that have two cabins of service based on availability, though features vary depending on the aircraft and destination.
This type of fare was first introduced by Delta as Economy Comfort on international flights in 2011 and expanded to domestic flights in 2012. That service was rebranded as Comfort+ in 2015 so it’s been around for a decade in one form or another.
It’s available on flights throughout the US, Canada, Asia Pacific region, Latin American and the Caribbean, as well as most transatlantic markets. It’s also available on flights within the Asia Pacific region; Central and South America including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru; Africa, India and the Middle East; and most intra-European flights including the UK.
Delta Comfort+ vs Main Cabin
It’s important to note that this is not a separate cabin like first class. It’s an experience within the main cabin, according to the airline. There are three experiences for main cabin flyers including basic economy, coach and Comfort+.
If you select a Delta Comfort+ seat in the main cabin, you’ll get up to 3” of extra legroom compared to a coach seat, and you also get dedicated overhead bin space for your carry-on.
You’ll also get to board earlier than coach passengers with Sky Priority boarding because these seats are called earlier than basic economy and main cabin seats, and you’ll get off the plane quicker as well because Delta Comfort+ seats are closer to the front of the plane so passengers seated in this section will deplane sooner.
You’ll also get a seat with more legroom and recline than in the main cabin, and you’ll be served premium snacks on flights over 900 mies and complimentary alcoholic beverages on all flights that offer beverage service in the main cabin. Passengers in coach on long-haul flights do get complimentary beer, wine and spirits, but you have to pay for drinks on shorter flights.
On long-haul international flights, if you book a Comfort+ seat you’ll also get a pillow and blanket, as well as a complimentary headset and amenity kit that includes eyeshades, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Seats on flights over 6.5 hours also recline more than coach.
A transcontinental round-trip flight from JFK to LAX that clocks in at 6 hours and 33 minutes will run you $291 in basic economy, $352 for the main cabin, but will cost $673 if you want to fly in Comfort+. First class is not offered on this route as Delta has replaced it with Delta One service, which was priced at $1,607, way more than twice the cost of Comfort+.
Delta Comfort+ vs First Class
While Delta Comfort+ seats are closer to the first class cabin and they offer amenities that are better than those offered in coach, they cost much less than first class fares. The seating and amenities in Comfort+ are better than coach, but fall short of a first class experience.
Delta First Class offers bigger, more comfortable seats in first class and elevated food and beverage offerings. You also get lounge access with first class seats, but not with Economy+. On some routes like transcontinental ones, Delta has replaced its first class service with Delta One, a premium product that offers lie-flat seats and even more amenities than first class.
For some travelers, Economy+ might be the closest they will get to the first class cabin as it is a much more affordable upgrade that comes with some nice benefits.
On some international flights, Delta One is the top cabin choice. To give you an idea of the price difference, I looked at flights from NYC to Dublin in mid-October. Basic Economy tickets cost $875 at the time of writing, a seat in the main cabin goes for $1,025, Comfort+ costs $1,277 and Premium Select is $1,416. Delta One will cost at least double on that same flight at $3,958.
As you can see on this flight, the fare jumps about $200 for each fare class upgrade, and then skyrockets when it comes to premium seats. You need to determine whether the cost of each of those incremental upgrades is worth that price to you.
Delta Comfort+ vs Premium Select
There’s also another Delta product that sounds similar to Comfort+, but it is different. Delta introduced Premium Select on some international routes on widebody aircraft in 2017.
The seats are wider, have additional recline and adjustable foot and leg rests. Premium Select seats are 19” wide, have 38” of legroom, which is 4” of extra legroom over coach seats but only one inch more than Delta Comfort+, and the recline is steeper at 7”. But so is the price.
Premium Select is only currently available on some flights and it doesn’t really compete with Delta Comfort+ in most markets as Premium Select is only available currently on some flights. And sometimes Comfort+ is a real bargain. Keep in mind that these Delta products are only available on Delta hardware, so if a flight is operated by a partner airline, these products will not be available.
For example, I checked on a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Bangkok (BKK) route in mid-October and the lowest fare was on a flight operated by Korean Air and neither Comfort+ nor Premium Select were offered. There is also no basic economy fare on this flight as it doesn’t compete with low-cost carriers on this route.
But to give you an idea of pricing on that route on a flight operated by Delta with two stopovers, a seat in the main cabin costs $1,111 when I checked, compared to $1,150 for Comfort+. AT $40, that is definitely worth the cost to upgrade.
But watch out for multiple cabins, also referred to as mixed cabins, especially where partner airlines are involved. A flight with mixed cabins means that at least one leg of your flight has a different fare class than another, so you may not be getting the flight experience you are expecting for the whole trip.
What is the Cost to Upgrade
You can buy a Delta Comfort+ fare at the time of ticketing if it’s an option, or you can upgrade to Comfort+ after your ticket is issued. Since it is an add-on product, your ticket does not need to be reissued.
The cost to upgrade to Comfort+ will vary depending on a number of factors like the destination and demand, but it is relative to the cost of the flight in a lot of cases. I did a few quick searches to give you an idea of the price involved. A flight from JFK to San Diego in mid-August that costs $602 in the main cabin, is priced at $932 for Comfort+. A flight from JFK to Honolulu in early September was priced at $879 when I last checked, and it was $1,119 for Comfort+. You can expect to pay about 30-40% more based on my research.
You can also upgrade using miles. In general, Delta charges one cent per mile, so if the upgrade costs $100 then you will need to use 10,000 miles.
It may cost more if you want to upgrade after ticketing, but not necessarily. Delta will offer you the best price available if you choose to upgrade. Fees are charges for each segment of the flight.
You can upgrade up to three hours before your scheduled departure if seats are available. This can be done online by going to My Trips on the Delta site or in the app, or you can call reservations.
Upgrades are not available from Basic Economy seats, even if you are an elite status holder. Complimentary upgrades are also not available after boarding regardless of fare class or status.
Upgrades for Delta SkyMilles Members
SkyMiles members can earn Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) and accrue miles for the upgrades if purchased through a Delta channel including on the airline’s website, app, airport kiosk and select. If you upgrade a Delta flight in Amsterdam (AMS) or Paris (CDG), you will not earn MQDs for the purchase.
SkyMiles Medallion elite status holders and elites from partner airlines have complimentary access to Comfort+ if it is available on their flight. Delta has two categories of membership in its Delta SkyMiles program including general membership and Medallion elite membership. Within Medallion elite membership, there are four tiers including Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond.
Any person with Medallion status is eligible for unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class and Delta Comfort+, but keep in mind that these upgrades are doled out according to status level and other factors so you are not guaranteed an upgrade.
Diamond and Platinum Medallion members can select upgrade certificates as part of their Choice benefits, and those global or regional upgrade certificates can then be used to upgrade to Comfort+.
You can request an upgrade in a specified time period before your flight for yourself and one companion booked on the same reservation. Diamond and Platinum Medallion members can request an upgrade right after they are ticketed. Gold Medallion members can do so 72 hours before departure, and Silver Medallion members have to wait until 24 hours before departure. If the status holder is not traveling on the original reservation, the companion will not have access.
Food and Beverages
In addition to the standard fare available in coach, passengers in Comfort+ seating get complimentary Starbucks coffee, beer, wine and alcoholic drinks on flights with beverage service in the main cabin.
There are also better snacks including fruit and premium snacks on routes over 900 miles with no meal service. For example, on flights from Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL) you’ll be served a Luvo wrap and a frozen Greek yogurt bar.
But don’t expect the free-flowing champagne and chef-inspired meals you would get in first class or Delta One. Those cabins cost much more because you get much more including lounge access and free checked bags..
As with all Delta flights, you will get a free carry-on and personal item included in your fare. Baggage fees for checked bags on Delta vary by route, but in general you pay $30 for your first checked bag on most flights within North America and you get one free bag on flight overseas. A second bag will cost you anywhere from $40 to $100, depending on the flight.
There are some cases where Delta Comfort+ passengers get a free first checked bag like on flights from the US to El Salvador, Ecuador and Panama and Tahiti, but in general having a seat in Delta Comfort+ will not get you an extra baggage allowance.
When it comes to getting free checked bags, having elite status or holding a co-branded credit card is usually your best bet to avoid baggage fees. For example, Medallion members get one free checked bag regardless of the route or class of service. And travelers who have the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card get one free checked bag on any Delta flight.
Is it Worth it?
As with any airfare upgrade, you should ask yourself two questions. Do I need it and can I afford it? In most cases, an upgraded flight experience is a luxury, but Comfort+ seats are not that much more expensive than coach seats and sometimes it is a necessity.
If you’re cramped sitting in a traditional coach seat because of your height, then this upgrade is probably worth it for you to be able to fly more comfortably. If you have trouble sleeping on flights and need to get some rest, then it also might make sense to upgrade.
If you have an important business meeting at your destination and want to land refreshed, Comfort+ is a much more affordable option than first class travel, so you should definitely consider this alternative.
Consider Comfort Plus for Long Flights
The upgrade to Comfort+ also makes a lot of sense on long-haul international flights when comfort and sleep are issues for many flyers. It’s also a good idea if you plan to work or stream movies on your electronic devices, as there are plugs under the seats on most flights so you won’t have to pack a battery charger and you’ll land with your devices fully charged.
Also, if you plan to buy several cocktails and they are not free on your flight, then think about how much that would cost and balance that against the cost of the upgrade. And if you enjoy more premium snacks and getting on and off the plane sooner, this upgrade may be worth it.
On the other hand, if you’re on a budget and you don’t have the money to spare, this is probably an unnecessary splurge. As with anything in life you need to balance the value of something against cost to obtain it.
Before you purchase or upgrade to a Comfort+ seat, do the math to see how much extra it will cost you, and make your own determination about whether the extra cost is worth it to you based on the benefits.
As you can see from the searches we did, the price can vary widely to upgrade from the main cabin to Comfort+. If the cost is negligible like the price difference we saw on the LAX to BKK route we searched, then go for it. A mere $40 to get more comfort and free drinks is a great bargain. Anything under $100 is probably advisable, especially on a long flight.
But when the difference is nearly double, you really need to think twice and check your budget to make sure this upgrade is worth it. And if it’s more than double, it’s probably not worth the upgrade unless you really need the legroom. Maybe you should check your mileage balance to see if you can get a better deal with an award ticket. Or if you don’t have mles, check out current credit card offers if you aspire to travel in style, but can’t afford it.
On the other hand, if you’ve got elite status and the upgrade to Comfort+ or beyond is complimentary, then it’s a no-brainer to get on the upgrade list before you fly to see if you qualify.
The bottom line: If you’re considering flying in business or first class, especially for a domestic flight, Comfort+ is a much more affordable option than Delta One or first class if you are seeking comfort and a few extra benefits to make your trip more enjoyable, but shop around on flights as the rates for upgraded service can vary widely.