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Well, here is a surprise. One thing we can generally rely upon in this industry are disappointing densifications, especially in Economy Class, and especially on long-haul aircraft. Oddly, this has seen the seats found on aircraft operating some of the longest flights in the world becoming smaller than their domestic, short-haul cousins.

Delta joins Virgin Australia in keeping the 9-abreast configuration on the B777. Given the enthusiasm with which other carriers have refurbished their B777s to the 10-abreast arrangement, this is a huge boon for passenger comfort and Delta should be commended for this choice. The passenger comfort gulf between 9- and 10-abreast is startling (check out some analysis done previously here), and you should be wary of which airlines use which layout.

Whilst most aviation pundits do love to pour a liberal amount of vitriol on the North American carriers (some of it, no doubt, merited), recent moves by the big North American three (United, American and Delta) should now encourage the discarding of what was previously considered the most reliable of “sure things” in aviation.

On the B777, Delta has a better Economy Class layout than each of Qatar, Etihad and Emirates airlines.

An here’s the kicker: Delta, the reliable pantomime villain of The Passenger, has a better Economy Class layout than each of Qatar, Etihad and Emirates airlines, all of whom have very-high-density layouts on their Boeing aircraft (the B777 and B787), and all of whom do their fair share of mocking of the North American three.

777 cross section comparison

Credit: Runway Girl Network

Increasing passenger sophistication in their flight purchase decisions has been a blooming trend over the past several years. Whilst price is still a central driver, the days of customers making a carrier choice blindly with blithe disregard for the seating, cabin and extras are quickly disappearing, and an airline’s ability to harness this change in customer sentiment in the future will be determined by the decisions they make now.

Given Delta’s competitor’s decisions to embark on densification programmes for the lion’s share of their fleets (think: American, United and British Airways), this appears to be an astute business decision, and one this author believes will be rewarded with greater loyalty and greater custom.

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Posted by Tom

Tom is a consultant and founder of, the online travel tool that rates, ranks and dissects every facet of in-flight passenger experience. All views expressed are his own.

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