New Delta seats at Hartsfield-Jackson raise hard questions


As Delta Air Lines renovates its gate areas at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, one feature is gaining unexpected attention: Seats that some passengers say are too hard and uncomfortable.

The new seats are made of a solid black polyurethane material, making them durable and easy to clean.

Some travelers say the collateral damage is their behinds.

“I was sitting there for like half an hour, and I just kept feeling more and more uncomfortable,” said flier Shelli Godfrey, who also quipped in a tweet: “Did you want to make plane seats more inviting?” 

Memphis traveler Craig Smither called Delta “a great airline I have flown for years and will continue to fly,” but added, ” I just don’t get those hard plastic seats.”

Delta didn't explain its decision to replace the old padded blue seats with the new model.

A spokeswoman noted that the new seats have armrests and better access to power outlets but, in an e-mailed statement, did not address the type of material or comfort.

Martin Sharp, regional director for seat-maker Zoeftig, said the polyurethane in the new seat is an injection-molded firm foam with a “slight flexibility” that makes it ergonomic, particularly “when someone sits for 10 minutes and their body heat heats it.”

That’s cold comfort to Smither, who wrote in a tweet that “Delta has the most uncomfortable seats at the Atlanta airport,” adding that the airline “should make the senior management use them for desk chairs.”

Traveler Doug Williams calls them “the worst chairs on the east coast.” And Delta traveler Cindy Beresh-Bryant simply tweeted that the seats “terrible - hard, cold and uncomfortable!”

Sharp said some travelers may be influenced by their sense of “perceived comfort,” or how comfortable a seat appears before you sit in it.

“They see the very, very old 1970s-type seating that had very thick padding and big chunks of foam, and think that’s going to be comfortable. And then they see the new style of seating that’s slim… and they kind of make their mind up before they sit in it that it’s not going to be comfortable,” Sharp said.

“Whether it’s a valid point or not, I’m not so sure.”

He offered the example of Herman Miller mesh office chairs that may not appear to be comfortable but are best-sellers.

Sharp also said “there’s a tradeoff, unfortunately,” between comfort and durability.

“While you may have a fraction more comfort from something that is very padded, with a big chunky foam, within six months there will be tears and rips within it because of how soft it is, and that’s a very bad reflection on the airport and the airline. It’s a fine balance,” he said.

Iana Tassada, aviation group vice president at JE Dunn Construction, which is handling the gate renovations for Delta, said the purpose of the gate area is to handle passengers just before boarding.

“I think there’s a lot of focus on the passenger experience and getting passengers out to a lot of the concessions,” Tassada said.

She said “there’s been a lot of effort” on improving concessions and art in the airport, “so people are enjoying the airport and spending less time in the hold room.”

The new seats do come with some improvements. The old seats lacked armrests, while the new ones have double armrests.

Also, the power modules between the seats make USB and plug sockets available at every seat. USB is a universal type of power supply across the world, Sharp said.

And the double armrests reduce the number of unused, empty seats, according to Sharp. That’s because most people don’t want to sit next to a stranger, so they tend to leave an empty seat between themselves and others. Armrests increase the sense of personal space.

Armrests, however, also make it more difficult to sleep across seats. Zoeftig is in talks with Delta about benches that might accommodate families with small children and passengers who get delayed overnight, according to Sharp.

The new seats are modular, allowing the airline to configure them in different seating arrangements.

Delta recently launched a new boarding process at some gates at Hartsfield-Jackson for passengers, aimed in part at preventing spillover of boarding crowds into the concourse walkway.

The project to renovate 85 Delta gates at Hartsfield-Jackson is expected to run through October 2018.

Sharp said the Zoeftig seats, specially-designed for Delta, have also been installed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, and soon will be at Los Angeles International.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Solid growth for Georgia economy, predicts UGA’s Terry College
Solid growth for Georgia economy, predicts UGA’s Terry College

While the risk of a downturn is creeping up, the odds are good that the coming year will bring solid economic growth in the state’s industries, according to the annual forecast by the University of Georgia’s business school. Fewer jobs will be created than in the past few years, said Benjamin Ayers, dean of UGA’s Terry College. Still...
Kempner: Arby’s eats Buffalo wings? Why the chicken wing war is on
Kempner: Arby’s eats Buffalo wings? Why the chicken wing war is on

It used to be that chicken wings didn’t do much good, even when still attached to chickens. Now, it’s the priciest part of our most important bird in Georgia. That’s kind of crazy if you think about it. A wimpy wing with the bone still in costs more than boneless breast meat? But restaurants and grocers have figured it out, which...
‘Call of Duty: WWII,’ rallying the shooter on multiple fronts
‘Call of Duty: WWII,’ rallying the shooter on multiple fronts

“Call of Duty: WWII” Rallying The Shooter On Multiple Fronts Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Style: 1-Player Shooter (18-Player Online) Publisher: Activision Developer: Sledgehammer Games Release: November 3 Rating: M Score: 8.75/10 Concept: Explore a historically rooted campaign, spooky puzzles in zombie mode, and class-based customization...
Twitter doubles length of tweets to 280 characters

When Twitter announced in September it was testing longer tweets, some users praised the change while others feared the site would lose its sense of brevity. Now the San Francisco tech firm has officially doubled the character limit of its tweets to 280 characters. The change applies to all languages except for Japanese, Korean, and Chinese because...
Backup device offers peace of mind, sleek design
Backup device offers peace of mind, sleek design

You might not think of an external hard drive as fun, sexy or cool, but the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini can be any or all of them. I can say first hand you’ll find it useful at home, work, play, and even consider taking it on vacation. And if you wonder why I feel this way, I’ll be happy to tell you. I’ll start by mentioning probably...
More Stories