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Delta is following the lead of United and its SkyTeam partner KLM by introducing an "economy with more legroom" premium area of its economy cabin, called Economy Comfort.
It's not a premium economy seat or level of service like transpacific competitors Qantas or V Australia. Economy Comfort passengers get the same seats and meals as those in regular Economy (or, perhaps, "Economy Discomfort") but with four extra inches of legroom and 50% more recline.
Also thrown into the deal is early boarding, in-seat power (using the standard American 110v outlets currently available in the first ten rows of Economy on Delta's 777s flying to Sydney) and free spirits.
The extended legroom is like to be a big draw on Delta's long flights from Sydney to Los Angeles. Delta says that the changes will be made on "all long-haul international flights in summer 2011" -- obviously, that's northern hemisphere summer.
The extra legroom will cost you US$80-160 (that's the same in Australian dollars these days) depending on flight length, although it's free for full-fare economy tickets and for Delta's Diamond and Platinum Medallion tier frequent flyers. Delta's Gold and Silver Medallion members will get 50% and 25% off the cost, respectively.
It'll pay to know someone with high-tier Delta status: the free Economy Comfort access is extended to up to eight "companions" travelling with a Diamond or Platinum Medallion member.
Delta hasn't confirmed exactly how many of the Economy Comfort seats will be installed on its 777-200LRs to Sydney, with the airline's announcement limited to "the first few rows of the Economy cabin". United installs around 10 rows of its similar Economy Plus product on its 777s and 9 rows on its 747s -- the latter serving Australia.
Not has the airline announced its policy on how this will affect upgrading using frequent flyer miles either. SkyTeam alliance cohort (and transatlantic Joint Venture partner) KLM has doubled the price of upgrades for Delta frequent flyers from regular economy to business, by insisting on one upgrade from economy to economy-with-more-legroom, and then another to business class.