Ice cream and eye masks and ear plugs, oh my!

Delta is looking to make long-haul economy class travel just a wee bit more comfortable.  The carrier is now offering sleep kits to coach passengers on long-haul international flights. The kits include an eye mask and ear plugs to help “our customers arrive at their destination rested, entertained and refreshed,” according to Joanne Smith, Delta’s senior vice president – In-flight Service in a statement released yesterday.

Delta’s new mini-amenity kit for coach passengers. Not a ton, but more than the competition.

In addition to the sleep kits a limited number of flights will also realize upgraded meal service. Trans-Atlantic flights shorter than 3,850 miles (essentially JFK-UK/France/Spain) will be the first to have the new service levels in place. They include individual water bottles for each passenger in economy class presented after the dinner service eastbound and upgraded arrival meals. For the westbound flights the upgraded service includes an ice cream offering mid-flight. The rest of Delta’s long-haul operations will see the upgraded meal options later this summer.

The new service moves Delta closer to their European partners and distances them from the US-based competition. Not a huge shift – these aren’t tremendous changes to the offerings – but it is a small nod to the fact that customers want to be a bit more comfortable and that the airlines can help in some ways. And it is definitely a good thing to see an airline adding services back rather than cutting more. Will small changes like these be enough to drive yields higher and sell more seats? Time will tell. If not, expect the benefits to be short-lived.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. DL is certainly going in the opposite direction from UA. Adding amenities. Adding routes and service. Shifting regional flying to mainline flying. And reducing frequently flyer earning.

    1. I love when people bring up Delta’s route growth as a positive. Sure, they have some growth; they even end up operating most of the routes they announce, though just this week another announced route was scuttled without fanfare. And, while United might not be adding routes you like, Carl, they are growing routes, too. That they have better ATI/JV partner networks in both Asia and Europe than Delta does affects things.

      I don’t think United is perfect. Far from it in many ways, really. But to say that they and Delta are heading in completely opposite directions skips a lot of the nuance.

      1. Seth, DL has grown their capacity (ASM) year over year, while UA has shrunk. DL is adding mainline capacity and shrinking RJs. I haven’t seen any similar plans by United. DL has announced several customer service enhancements. I’ve only read about UA cuts.

        DL is growing and investing in improvements with the goal of growing revenues and presumably yields. UA is shrinking domestically and internationally. If you calculate the ASMs of cancelled routes and added routes, either internationally or domestically, UA is shrinking, not growing.

        1. Over what time period?

          Delta cut ASMs in 2012 and is barely above 2010 levels today (numbers are 000s taken from SEC 10-K filings):
          232,740 – 2013
          230,415 – 2012
          234,656 – 2011
          232,684 – 2010
          230,331 – 2009

          Compare to United:
          245,354 – 2013
          248,860 – 2012
          252,528 – 2011
          169,565 – 2010 (doesn’t include sCO)
          140,716 – 2009 (doesn’t include sCO)

          And anyone who expected that UAL ASMs would remain as high as the combined UA/CO operations were independently is quite the fool; one of the main benefits to the airline of the merger was reducing the ASMs and controlling competition better.

          Cutting capacity and cutting routes aren’t the same thing, of course, but that’s not as much fun to talk about. Delta is doing many things right, but they’re making mistakes along the way, too.

  2. UA 2011 – 2013 = -2.85%
    DL 2011 – 2013 = -0.81%

    I believe the 2014 plan is UA to shrink further and DL to grow.
    DL grew every year other than 2012.

    1. Right…like I said, UA is cutting ASMs as expected as part of the after-effects of the merger. DL did the same a few years prior. It was expected by many.

    2. Some more numbers to go back into the NW/DL merger days…

      In 2006 (last full year pre-merger) DL had 147,995 and NW had 92,944. That’s 240,939. They’re still below that number today. They were even higher in 2005.

      AA and US will shrink, too.

  3. The new economy amenity kit is similar to what they hand out on TK and CX, minus socks. Something is still better than nothing.

  4. Seth, let me tell you, this change is tremendous! Small things, yes, but big impact.
    I flew CDG-EWR last week and my wife, who doesn’t fly much, was really happy with the ice cream. The amenity kit pleased her a lot as well. Add the fantastic service, great IFE, and our economy comfort seats (excellent value) and she declared DL to be her new favorite airline.
    I myself am regretting that our flight back Sunday is with AF and not DL.

Comments are closed.