For flights Raleigh to Hong Kong in mid-December of 2015, I paid Delta Airlines for four tickets priced at more than $10,000 on February 15, a full ten months before our trip. I knew I was giving Delta a helluva float, but I was determined to have my pick of the best seats in Economy Comfort.
By buying the tickets so early, I did indeed get the exact seats I wanted on the Delta long-haul flights of almost 16 hours.
Or so I thought.
Delta, however, apparently didn’t get the memo wherein they promised to keep their end of the bargain, which was very simply to honor my seat selections.
You’d think Delta would hold up their end if for no other reason than in appreciation of my 45 year flying record of 5,323,000 miles. No. Didn’t happen,
Instead, Delta’s automated system of adjusting itinerary changes (i.e., change of aircraft and schedules) suddenly, as explained in my preceding post, dropped all my carefully selected seats and assigned new seats at random by computer. This happened not once but repeatedly. Each time I frantically tried to reclaim the preferred seats I’d picked in February, and each time some of the seats were gone.
The chronic nature of these chaotic seat changes finally got to me. Why should Delta have my my money for almost a year, yet not honor my seat selections? I started looking for the first time at alternative airlines to transport my family to and from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok.
That’s when I discovered that not all premium economy seats are alike. In fact, I learned (thanks to a tip from good friend and travel writer Joe Brancatelli) that the offering on Cathay Pacific, the premier air carrier to Asia in my opinion, is far superior to Delta’s Economy Comfort. Cathay’s premium economy is 38 inches of pitch and 20 inches wide (better in both degrees than Delta), with upgraded meals and other very nice perks that Delta EC doesn’t have (see this video for the amazing difference).
Furthermore, I was pleased to compare schedules and see that Cathay is just two flights to get there (RDU/JFK on OneWorld partner AA, then JFK/HKG nonstop) compared to Delta’s three flights (RDU/ATL, ATL/NRT, NRT/HKG). Cathay’s schedule would also get us there at 2:50 in the afternoon rather than after 9:00 that night. We would arrive home sooner, too, on our return legs.
In the end, though, it was the superior Premium Economy service that sold me on Cathay. Comparing Delta’s very good Economy Comfort service to Cathay’s super Premium Economy cabin was not a close call. It’s true that the CX fare was higher than DL, but that didn’t surprise me this close to December (I had purchased the Delta tickets many months earlier). After securing a Cathay itinerary for our dates, I had my Delta tickets refunded (which Delta allowed due to multiple involuntary schedule changes).
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I am very excited now about flying in Premium Economy on Cathay! No, of course it isn’t Business Class, and we’ve set our expectations realistically. But everyone I’ve spoken with who has used Cathay’s PE service raves about how much better it is than Delta, United, and American premium economy offerings. They’ve all said that Cathay PE is their number one choice, hands down, among airlines serving Asia.
I also feel a bit sheepish that I didn’t know the premium economy service on Cathay was so much better than Delta. My complacency, which I attribute to satisfaction with the Delta product, was broken, ironically, by Delta itself. By constantly kicking out my hard-won seat selections on their long-haul legs, Delta forced me to abandon the status quo and look around for other ways to fly to Asia.
So Cathay gets my ten thousand-plus bucks instead of Delta. I am delighted to have chosen Cathay Pacific Airways, and I look eagerly forward to a fine experience flying with them to Asia. I hope it will the first among many more on Cathay to come.