Good news for frequent and/or larger fliers: Delta is going to spend $770 million to provide more room for your gluteus maxi on its A319 and A320s, part of a larger program to spruce up some of the older jets in its fleet, including its 25- to 30-year-old 757-200s. In all, the company will overhaul 225 jets through 2016.
The common denominator is the all four jet versions will get upgraded entertainment options, including in-seat video and satellite television. That will also give Delta upgraded revenue enhancement options. The airlines industry’s ability to generate sales beyond the basic fare, anything from extra space to baggage fees to WiFi and satellite television access, has been critical to their rising profitability. Delta earned $1.4 billion on sales of $10.49 billion in its most recent quarter.
Yet the surprise is that in an era when the airlines have literally been squeezing us, Delta’s A319s and A320s will also get wider coach seats. The cheap seats will increase to 18 inches in width from 17.2 inches. Yes, that’s a mere 4.7% more acreage for your um, tush, but your comfort level and ability to sleep increases disproportionately when the seat widens from 17 inches to 18- inches. As TIME reported in November, research conducted for Airbus by the London Sleep Centre showed that sleep quality in an 18-inch seat improved by 53% over a 17-inch model. Test subjects fell asleep 14.7% faster and stayed asleep longer. It was part of Airbus’s effort to persuade its airline customers to give us a break. Instead, new jets such as the 787 Dreamliner and B777 were actually making the way back more crowded.
If you are one of those people who can’t sleep on planes, there’s also some decent news, as the cabins will be getting updated LED lighting so that if books are still being printed by 2016 you’ll have adequate light to read them by. Delta is updating the lavatories, too.
A wider, more comfortable seat seems like an almost remarkable concession for any airline to make these days, but this one won’t come without cost. Like the rest of the industry, Delta is retrofitting its jets with lighter, slim-line seating that typically allows carriers to get more seats into the plane. So call that one a trade-off. More seats of course means that more stuff is going to be dragged onto the plane with those extra passengers. In the A319s and A320s the carrier is installing new larger-capacity overhead bins that have an average 60% more carry-on baggage space. Because we need more baggage on planes, don’t we.