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Beware Fake ‘Premium Economy’ on U.S. Flights

Delta and Virgin America are now posting their “stretched” economy service—a few extra inches of legroom but in regular narrow six-across seats—as “premium economy” on search engines that use ITA’s fare-search software, including Google Flights, along with Expedia and others.

[st_content_ad]Fact check: Neither Delta nor Virgin America offers real premium economy on any of their planes except for the one A350 Delta just received from Airbus, which it will use for transpacific flights. Instead, on domestic flights, both lines list their extra-legroom seats as if they were premium economy, which—again—they are not.

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Alaska, American, JetBlue, United, and Virgin America also offer stretched economy comparable to Delta’s Comfort+ product. But so far, only Delta and Virgin America have resorted to the deceptive labeling of stretched economy as premium: Alaska calls its stretched economy “premium,” but does not post fares as “premium economy,” nor do American, JetBlue, and United.

But, as I’ve noted before, in the airline business, nothing catches on as quickly as a bad idea.

Certainly, Delta’s Comfort+ and Virgin America’s Main Cabin Select are better hard products and soft products than the corresponding regular economy: You get more legroom and some other extras. But with those same ultra-narrow six-across seats as regular economy, neither is close to the real premium economy you get on many international airlines.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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