The day before I left Atlanta, Georgia to begin a teaching gig in Turin, Italy, I decided to review my flight itinerary. Because I am a seasoned ATL-ian, I naturally fly Delta, so I logged onto the Delta website to check-in online and pray I was assigned my seat of choice: an aisle seat, near a bathroom.
Much to my dismay, the aisle seat is everyone's preferred seat, and alas, acquiring one requires an extra $50 for "Preferred Seating." My assigned seat was the furthest away from the bathroom, smack dab in the middle of the aircraft, in the middle row. No armrests, no outer wall to lean on, no easy bathroom access. Claustrophobia terrorized me already. I pulled out my credit card, certain I could spare an extra $50 on what was already a $1,000 flight, especially if it meant guaranteed bathroom breaks without having to awkwardly crawl over the sleeping strangers beside me.
But before entering my credit card info I noticed "Delta Comfort+" seats for sale, just ahead of the "Preferred Seats." Because I have always been a traveler on a budget, I have never allowed myself to explore the possibility of travelling in the lap of luxury. Curious, I clicked the button to learn more about this deal, which came at an extra $99.
The site boasted all-you-can-drink booze, which for me was convincing enough. Then I learned Delta Comfort+ passengers are awarded an amenity kit and special snacks from the snack cart, special meals, and best of all: a 50 percent greater seat recline and four inches of extra leg room. It sounded like first class luxury in my opinion, but at a price I could actually afford. I chose a seat on the emergency exit row right away to score even more leg room and VIP bathroom access.
The extra leg room and seat recline were major benefits, especially on a long flight. Not once did I experience a leg cramp or a crick in my neck as I had before deemed inevitable on a flight across the Atlantic. However, the width of the seat is no different from regular economy seats, so you will still find yourself elbow-to-elbow with the person next to you and awkwardly shimmying in and out of your seat trying not to invade their space – and often failing. If you are not too large of a person, you might consider the extra money simply for the additional legroom and the close-to-horizontal recline. But do not expect first class pampering otherwise.
If the drinks are your selling point, do not bother. The "all-you-can-drink" booze, in my experience, was exactly one beer and one glass of wine. Granted, I try to drink a glass of water in between drinks to stay hydrated, and who really needs more than two drinks anyway, but it was not as though I was being served shots of Bailey's or Cognac, as I have on regular economy Lufthansa flights in the past. Save the extra $100 and buy off the cart.
We were never served any snacks from the snack cart, either: just the regular pretzels and almonds. I had fantasized about imbibing my childhood guilty pleasures, Cheetos and Oreos, but was half-happy they were not snack options once my stomach puffed up and I became a victim of Traveller's Bloat. And if the meals were "special," I feel really sorry for the regular economy folks. In other words, it was typical flight food; I don't believe we were served anything "extra."
The amenities kit was also nothing to write home about. It provided exactly three items I swear I've gotten on more modern, regular economy flights in the past: a sleeping mask, ear plugs, and a poor quality travel toothbrush with a teeny-tiny travel-sized Crest toothpaste that provided just enough toothpaste for exactly one brush session (maybe two, if you're frugal).
Furthermore, though this could have just been the particular flight I was on, the service was not exceptional. I was hoping that for an extra hundred bucks the flight attendants would come around from time to time, but my row was often neglected since we were in the front of the cabin and away from the kitchen. I had picked the front of the cabin in part because the seating chart showed that the bathrooms were located just ahead of me (the most important feature for me and my tiny bladder). But once I was settled on the plane, I was informed the forward bathrooms were for "first class passengers only" and I had to scoot past aisle-idling passengers and wait patiently for drink carts to finish their rounds to get to the other bathroom each time nature called.
Bottom line: If you can spare an extra $100 for some legroom, Delta Comfort+ might be worth it for you. But for me? I'd rather suffer through a seven-hour flight and put that money toward the actual adventure.