For passengers who feel their blood pressure rise every time the seat in front of them plunges back into full recline, Delta Air Lines is coming to the rescue.
Beginning this weekend, the airline is reducing seat recline in economy class from 4 inches to 2 inches on all 62 of its domestic A320 planes. Seat recline will drop from 5½ inches to 3½ inches in business class. It will take about two months to adjust the entire fleet.
“This isn’t about adding seats or taking anything away,” said Savannah Huddleston, a spokeswoman at the airline. “It’s about customer comfort.”
Delta’s A320s are primarily used on popular business routes that fly one or two hours within the United States, and the reduction in seat recline is intended to prevent travelers from abruptly reclining and disturbing the laptops of those in the seat behind them. As many business travelers know, a fully reclined seat can mean the end of the ability to get work done.
The reduced recline, which the airline says it is just testing at this point, is a potentially risky move for Delta. Travelers tend to have strong opinions about reclining seats. Some feel that they paid for the seat and therefore have the right to fully recline. On the other side of the aisle are passengers who see recliners as rude, and feel that a fully reclined seat invades their personal space.
Huddleston said the reduced recline will allow business passengers to multitask, giving them the ability to work, watch seatback entertainment, and enjoy a beverage. The A320 fleet was chosen because those planes are frequented by business travelers who tend not to fully recline or nap.
“There’s long been a debate among frequent travelers [about whether] flyers should have a right to recline or not,” said Scott Mayerowitz, executive editorial director of the travel website the Points Guy. “Delta appears here to try and strike a balance between those of us who want a little space to work and those who want to take a short nap.”
Last week Delta was named the top airline in the country by the Airline Quality Report, an annual survey of the nation’s top airlines, unseating previous top-rated Alaska Airlines.
“Delta has tried to differentiate itself from other airlines with a theory that some frequent passengers will pay more for a slightly better experience,” Mayerowitz said. “That’s why, for instance, it is keeping seatback TVs when other airlines are ripping them out. At first blush, it is hard to see how this could benefit passengers, but given Delta’s recent track record, maybe it will turn out to be an improvement.”Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and on Instagram @Chris_Muther.