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Delta First Class vs Comfort Plus | Which Upgrade is Worth it

On most domestic Delta flights, there are two upgrades to consider: Comfort Plus and First Class. These are two very different flight experiences, but both offer a few perks that improve upon the Main Cabin experience. If you’re considering one of these upgrades, you’ll want to keep reading.

In this post, we’ll explain the key differences between Delta First Class and Delta Comfort Plus at each phase of the experience. We have flown each of these products multiple times, so we dive deeper into what it’s actually like, not just how Delta describes it. Then we’ll use that information to drive our guidance on who should upgrade to which product.

NOTE: This post focuses on domestic routes. Experiences on international flights may vary.

Booking Delta Premium Cabins

When booking a premium cabin, it’s usually best to buy direct from the airline (unless you’re using credit card points, which we’re not covering here.) If you do a basic flight search on the Delta website, it lists the prices for each seat category. This is the best way to see exactly how much more you’re paying for an upgrade.

Alternatively, if you know you’re only interested in a premium experience, you can filter the search results. Click Advanced Search, and then change the dropdown below “Best Fares For” to your preferred flight experience.

The search will show you the category you select, plus anything above it. For that reason, I’d recommend searching for Delta Comfort Plus. Your search results will include Comfort Plus and First Class pricing. This search will also show you if Delta One is offered on your flight instead. (Delta One is Delta’s premium first class product with lie-flat seats. It is typically only available on international and select domestic medium-haul flights.)

Pricing for Delta Premium Cabins

When it comes to pricing, First Class is always going to be the most expensive option. Just how much more expensive is going to depend on several factors, including flight duration, demand and how far in advance you book.

As a very, very loose guideline, Comfort Plus is going to be about 50% more than Main Cabin and First Class is going to be about double the price of Main Cabin. That said, the jump to First Class tends to get a little steeper once the flight surpasses 900 miles. The reason for that being that flights over 900 miles include a meal in First Class.

For example, let’s look at two flights that are pretty similar in duration and price. New York (LGA) to Chicago (ORD) is 733 miles and New York (LGA) to Orlando (MCO) is 950 miles. The 7:30 AM flight to ORD costs $335 in Main Cabin (photo above), and the 3 PM flight to MCO costs $322 in Main Cabin (photo below) — a difference of only $13.

While the Main Cabin prices are similar, the First Class prices are much further apart. First Class on the slightly longer flight to MCO is $152 more than on the shorter flight to ORD. Or to say that differently, the First Class ticket is 105% more than Main Cabin on the shorter flight to ORD, compared to 160% more than Main Cabin on the longer flight to MCO.

The price increase to Delta Comfort Plus is usually not impacted as greatly by the duration of the flight. You’ll find that the upgrade to Delta Comfort Plus is pretty consistently around 40% – 55% more than the Main Cabin fare. However, Comfort Plus does get relatively more expensive the longer the flight. For example, the price increase for Comfort Plus on a transcontinental flight inches closer to 70% more than Main Cabin.

Airport Experience

Both Delta First Class and Comfort Plus include a handful of perks that streamline the airport experience. However, most of these airport perks benefit only First Class passengers.

Here’s a look at some of the perks that are offered (or not offered) for First Class and/or Comfort Plus.

  • Checked Bags (First Class Only). Delta First Class passengers receive up to 2 complimentary checked bags. Those checked bags will also be tagged as Priority, so you can retrieve them quicker Delta Comfort Plus passengers do not receive any complimentary checked bags, and will need to pay the standard checked bag fee ($30 each way for the first bag <50 lbs and $40 for the second).
  • Priority check-in (First Class Only). Delta First Class passengers are invited to use the dedicated SkyPriority lanes at the departure airport. This queue is usually much shorter than the regular queue, so you can check your bags or finish the check-in process (if necessary) quicker. Comfort Plus passengers are not eligible for the SkyPriority lane, and must wait in the regular check-in queue.
  • Priority security lane (First Class Only). Delta First Class passengers can utilize the SkyPriority security lane. It’s important to know that this is an expedited queue for the standard TSA security check. This priority lane cannot be combined with TSA PreCheck. Just because you have access to the SkyPriority lane, does not mean you have to use it. If you are a member of CLEAR and/or TSA PreCheck, it may be faster or more convenient to utilize those lanes instead.
  • Priority boarding. Both Delta First Class and Comfort Plus are invited to board through the SkyPriority lane when their group is called. First Class benefits the most from early boarding and are invited to board after only pre-boarders and active-duty military. After First Class, Comfort Plus passengers have to also wait for Diamond Medallion Members and families (with children under 2 and/or traveling with car seats or strollers) before they can board. Comfort Plus is really just one step above Main Cabin 1 in terms of boarding priority.

And while we’re discussing airport perks for Delta premium cabin passengers, let’s talk about one major perk that is missing from this list.

  • No lounge access. Neither of these upgrades include lounge access. A Delta First Class or Comfort Plus ticket for a domestic flight alone will not get you into the Delta Sky Club lounge. To access a lounge before your flight, you will need to secure entry another way. (For example, some Medallion Members can access Sky ClubS, Priority Pass members may have access to a different lounge, or you may be able to purchase a day pass.)

Consider This: Airport Experience

If you just skim this list, it may seem like only First Class passengers are getting any priority service at the airport. However, that only matters if you actually plan to utilize these perks.

For example, if you are not checking any bags, you checked-in online and you have TSA PreCheck, you are not missing out on the first three big perks that come with First Class. And since neither First Class nor Comfort Plus passengers get lounge access, the only difference on the ground is boarding a little bit after First Class.

More than any other part of the premium cabin experience, the perks on the ground are only valuable if you plan to use them. In some cases, First Class passengers might get a lot of value out of these perks, but in many other cases, they might go completely unused.

Drink Service in Delta Premium Cabins

On most Delta domestic flights, First Class passengers will be offered a drink before departure to enjoy while the rest of the plane boards. Typically, this is a full drink service and you can choose from any beverage on the menu. On shorter flights or smaller planes, this drink service might be skipped and replaced with bottled water at the seat.

Delta Comfort Plus does not receive any pre-departure drink service upon boarding.

Once in the air, First Class is offered another round of drinks as soon as it’s safe to do so. Generally, this is shortly after the plane hits 10,000 feet. This round of drinks (and all subsequent drinks) are served in real glassware.

In Comfort Plus, drink service can often take quite a bit longer. There is no expedited or special service for Comfort Plus. Comfort Plus rows are the first rows served when they start the regular Main Cabin drink service. This is basically the same time frame you’d expect from sitting in the front rows of Main Cabin on any flight. Drinks in Comfort Plus come in plastic cups.

In both cabins, though, all drinks are complimentary. This includes soft drinks and juices, as well as alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and mixed drinks. On some flights, other premium beverages such as cold brew coffee and canned cocktails are also complimentary.

The schedule of subsequent drink services in both classes varies based on the duration of the flight. In First Class on flights over 900 miles, they will do a second drink service with the meal. However, Comfort Plus will only get a second round of drinks if the rest of Main Cabin gets another round. This is typically on flights over 1,500 miles.

In both cabins (actually, all cabins, including Main Cabin), you can usually get additional drinks by request. In First Class, you can ring your call button or flag down the flight attendant for another drink at anytime (up until initial decent begins.) Comfort Plus and Main Cabin passengers can go to the galley to request another drink. (Limits on alcohol may apply and are subject to the flight attendant’s discretion.)

Consider This: Drink Service

All drinks, including alcohol and specialty drinks, are complimentary for First Class and Comfort Plus passengers. First Class passengers will typically get more value out of that, because they get an extra pre-departure drink. Plus, it’s usually easier and more socially acceptable to order additional drinks throughout the flight in First Class than in Comfort Plus.

I’d also caution you to not to confuse complimentary with free. Alcoholic and premium drinks typically go for $7-$10 each. Realistically, drinks are only going to account for maybe $30 of value against the cost of the upgrade.

But before you factor in that value, think about what you’re actually going to order. If you don’t drink alcohol or have an early morning flight, you might end up only ordering drinks that are complimentary in all cabins anyway. In those cases, you may not get any extra value out of the drink service.

Food Service in Delta Premium Cabins

The food service in both First Class and Comfort Plus starts out the same: with an offering of premium snacks. The selection usually includes full-size packaged snacks to the tune of chips, nuts, granola bars, and cookies. There is usually a few dietary-restriction friendly items like gluten-free pretzels, vegan gummy bears and nut-free bars. In my experience, flight attendants are very generous with these snacks, encouraging passengers to take multiple items.

After that, the experience diverges for First Class and Comfort Plus.

On flights shorter than 900 miles, First Class does not receive any additional food offerings after the premium snack service. However, Comfort Plus passengers often do. On flights over 400 miles, Comfort Plus passengers are also offered the Main Cabin snack selection that comes with the standard drink service. This is usually a smaller snack, with options like Sun Chips, Almonds, Biscoff cookies or a granola bar.

On flights longer than 900 miles, First Class passengers receive a complimentary meal. On domestic flights, you cannot pre-order your specific meal in First Class, but you can request a special meal category, such as vegetarian, gluten free or even a kid’s meal. (These requests can be made in the Delta app at least 24 hours in advance.)

Meals are never complimentary in Comfort Plus on domestic routes, even on long flights. On flights longer than 900 miles, Comfort Plus passengers can purchase any available meals/snack boxes that are offered to the rest of the Main Cabin. Similar to the drink service, Comfort Plus passengers have the advantage of being served first, so they’ll have the best selection.

Consider This: Food Service

The food service piece is actually a bit interesting. On flights <900 miles, Delta Comfort Plus passengers have a slight advantage over First Class, as they receive a second small snack with their drink service. That said, in First Class you could request an additional snack and I’d be shocked if they didn’t give it to you.

On flights over 900 miles, First Class gets the huge advantage of a complimentary meal. Keep in mind that the First Class ticket on these longer flights is also relatively more expensive. It’s also worth noting that the food on Delta is good, but not necessarily the best. On a longer flight, more than anything it’s just nice to know you have food covered and don’t need to wait in airport lines and pay airport prices for a meal.

Seats in Delta First Class and Comfort Plus

There is a lot to break down when it comes to seating in Delta premium cabins. The details can vary a lot based on the specific plane. You can check the plane scheduled for a given route when you’re booking on the Delta website. If you click “Details” in the flight list, the plane model will be listed at the top.

First Class seats are wider and have more legroom than Comfort Plus. This also usually means that the First Class cabin is configured differently than the Main Cabin. For example, if the Main Cabin is 3-3, the First Class cabin is usually 2-2.

Delta Comfort Plus offers more legroom, but the seats are no wider than the rest of the Main Cabin. These seats are placed in the same configuration as the Main Cabin seats.

The seats themselves are also quite different in First Class than in the Main Cabin. They are typically much more plush, include adjustable headrests and recline further. Meanwhile, Comfort Plus seats are typically nearly identical to Main Cabin seats in terms of comfort and recline, again just with the extra leg room.

Another key difference between the seats in First Class and Comfort Plus is the seatbelts. First Class seats are much more likely to have inflatable seatbelts. Usually, this is true of at least the first row, and sometimes the entire First Class cabin. This is a big deal for parents traveling with young children, because car seats cannot be used in seats with inflatable seatbelts.

Consider This: Seats

First Class seats are larger, wider, comfier and have more legroom than Comfort Plus and Main Cabin seats. In Comfort Plus, you’re basically getting the same seat as Main Cabin, but with extra legroom. If you care are lot about the comfort and space of your actual seat, First Class definitely takes the cake here.

However, I think the more important and less talked about thing about the seats is the different configurations in these two cabins. This can vary by plane. You can check the configuration a handful of ways, the easiest of which is probably going to be the seat selection page during the booking process.

If you’re traveling as a family of three, three seats together in Comfort Plus might be better than being separated by an aisle in First Class. But if you’re traveling solo and find yourself on a smaller plane, snagging a single First Class seat in a 1-2 configuration might be much more appealing than sitting next to a stranger in Comfort Plus.

Our Toddler in a Delta Comfort Plus Seat

Storage Space in Delta First Class and Comfort Plus

Upgrading to either First Class or Comfort Plus goes a long way in reducing the stress of stowing your carry-on items on the plane. Both cabins offer dedicated overhead bin space and early boarding, which means you should have no problem finding space at or near your seat to store your approved carry-on bag and personal item. This is true if you board with your boarding group, at least.

These bins are labeled “reserved,” but that’s not exactly enforced. This is most notably an issue for Comfort Plus. As the Main Cabin bins fill up, passengers (often at the direction of the flight attendants) start to use any remaining Comfort Plus bin space. If you board late, either by preference or circumstance, there’s a chance the bins above your section may be full.

The other main storage space for both First Class and Comfort Plus is under the seat in front of you. In Comfort Plus, this is the standard storage space that you would expect on most planes. It’s large enough to store a regular size personal item, such as a small backpack or the Béis Mini Weekender (my personal item of choice at the moment.)

In First Class, this storage space is hit or miss, and it varies a lot based on the specific plane. In my experience on several different planes, I have found the under-the-seat storage space to be noticeably smaller in First Class than in Comfort Plus. The bulkier First Class seats tend to have hardware protruding into this storage space. Sometimes, this is so severe that our personal items can’t fit under the seat at all.

Consider This: Storage Space

As far as overhead bin space goes, you are only slightly better off in First Class than Comfort Plus. Both cabins have dedicated bin space, but there are fewer people sharing it in First Class. (This is true on most planes, at least. I did fly First Class in the CRJ, and the overhead bin space in First Class was actually much smaller than Comfort Plus.)

The bigger difference between these cabins is the storage under the seat. The smaller storage space can actually have a big impact in a variety of ways.

For one, it means you might have to store your larger personal item in the overhead bin. There will likely be plenty of room for it, but you can’t access items in the bin as freely as you can access items at your seat. For me, this often results in unpacking the things I need during the flight, which just increases my chances of leaving or losing something.

This small storage space is particularly inconvenient for passengers traveling with pets in carriers, which cannot be placed in the overhead bin. On a recent flight, we were asked to change our seats because a different passenger had a pet and needed the seat with a larger storage space. This is one example of how the storage space issue can impact you even if your own bags fit.

The under-the-seat storage space sounds like a little thing, but it can end up being a real inconvenience. I wouldn’t say to avoid First Class entirely just because of this, but I would recommend being prepared for it.

Technology in Delta Premium Cabins

There are two main differences in the technology in First Class versus Comfort Plus.

First, is screen size. On planes that have screens, the seat-back screens in Comfort Plus are the exact same as Main Cabin. The First Class seat-back screens are (usually) a few inches larger. The entertainment options and functionality is otherwise the same in all classes. (Some smaller planes do not have screens in any cabin.)

Second, is the outlet situation. In First Class, outlets are usually 1:1 seats to outlets. In Comfort Plus, there is usually only two outlets for every three seats. This isn’t a big deal if you’re traveling with a party of two or three and can share, but it can be stressful if you’re solo in the middle seat and the other two passengers snag up the outlets. (Again, this is true on most planes, but smaller planes may be different.)

USB ports are almost always available though, and those are at each individual seat in all cabins. Similarly, all cabins offer free wifi for SkyMiles members (Delta’s free loyalty program) on all wifi-enabled planes.

Consider This: Technology

In terms of technology, First Class is marginally better. First Class has a larger screen and dedicated outlet access. However, Comfort Plus still has screens and some outlets, and it’s generally a pretty good setup. Plus, if you end up on a plane with working Wifi, both cabins fare equally well.

I don’t think the technology on board factors in too much when evaluating these cabins.

In-flight Experience in First Class and Comfort Plus

This section is kind of a catch-all for all of the other differences I noticed flying in these two cabins.

The most notable difference in the air was access to the restrooms. In First Class, you can use the bathroom the second the seatbelt sign goes off and then pretty much anytime it’s off during the duration of the flight. There’s no drink cart in First Class, so that is never blocking your path. And since passengers are asked to use the restroom in their cabin, this usually means fewer people sharing the front bathroom which results in shorter waits.

In Comfort Plus, getting to the bathroom after takeoff can take a while. They usually start beverage service right when the seatbelt sign goes off. Comfort Plus is at the front of the drink service route, which means you have to wait until they complete drink service for the entire plane before you can get past the beverage cart and to the bathroom. Larger planes have a bathroom in the middle of the plane, which can cut this wait down a bit.

Then there’s flight attendant service. First Class has a dedicated flight attendant, while Comfort Plus is served by the same flight attendants as Main Cabin. This means that First Class is getting more frequent and faster service than in the Main Cabin. The quality of the service is usually pretty equal between the two cabins, though. I have flown Delta in all three cabins and have always found the flight attendants to be friendly, knowledgable and proficient.

Related to that, the last thing worth noting is ad hoc service. If you want another drink or snack, you can usually get it in either cabin, but it’s much easier in First Class. The First Class flight attendant is frequently walking through the cabin, and you can easily ask for a refill or a cup of coffee when they pass by. In Comfort Plus, after they finish drink service, the flight attendants only pass through when they’re doing something (clearing cups, taking trash.) It’s best to go to the galley to request anything extra.

Consider This: In-flight Experience

This broad in-flight experience is a substantial part of what you’re paying for with an upgrade to either of these cabins. You can’t assign a dollar value to it the same way you would for drinks or checked bags, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

Broadly speaking, the experience in the air is noticeably more relaxing in First Class than Comfort Plus. In First Class, the experience is elevated for the entire flight, whether that’s easier bathroom access or dedicated flight attendant service. In Comfort Plus, after you cash in your premium snack and complimentary drink (assuming you order a drink that isn’t already complimentary to everyone), it feels like a pretty typical Main Cabin experience.

Deplaning & Arrivals on Delta Premium Cabins

Whether you’re in First Class or Comfort Plus, you have the luxury of being some of the first people off the plane. First Class is just slightly ahead of Comfort Plus.

If you’re flying First Class, you’ll also benefit from priority checked bag retrieval. Comfort Plus does not receive priority baggage claim, which means you may end up waiting a bit longer for your baggage.

Consider This: Arrivals

This one is pretty straight-forward. If you’re checking bags, the priority retrieval can potentially mean a huge time savings. However, if you’re not checking bags, this is kind of a wash.

Getting off the plane quickly is convenient, but First Class and Comfort Plus are very similarly positioned. You can also book a Main Cabin seat right behind Comfort Plus and achieve a similar deplaning position without the up-charge. Even if you were at the very back of the plane, it’s realistically only a difference of maybe 15 minutes.

Delta First Class vs Delta Comfort Plus at a Glance

If you are overwhelmed by my 3,000 words about the difference between these two flight experiences, I apologize. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Comfort Plus First Class
Pricing About 50% more expensive than Main Cabin About double the cost of Main Cabin
Airport Experience Priority Boarding
(No Lounge Access)
2 Free Checked Bags
Priority Check-in
Priority Security Lane
Priority Boarding
(No Lounge Access)
Drink Service Complimentary inflight drinks (including alcohol) Pre-departure drink (usually)
Complimentary inflight drinks (including alcohol)
Food Service Premium Snack
Main Cabin Snack (Flights >400 miles)
Meals for Purchase (Flights >900 miles)
Premium Snack
Complimentary Meal (Flights >900 miles)
Seats Extra legroom Wider and larger seat with extra recline
Extra legroom
Fewer seats per row than Main Cabin
More frequent use of inflatable seatbelts
Storage Dedicated overhead bin space
Standard under-the-seat storage
Dedicated overhead bin space
Reduced under-the-seat storage (sometimes)
Technology Same size screen as Main Cabin
2 outlets per 3 seats (on most planes)
Larger seatback screen (usually)
1 outlet per seat
Inflight Experience Main Cabin experience with some complimentary items Premium onboard experience
Easy bathroom access
Frequent Flight Attenant Service
Deplaning Deplane Quickly Deplane Quickly
Priority Bag Retrieval

And for an even more distilled breakdown, you can review Delta’s comparison chart here.

So … Delta First Class or Comfort Plus?

While these products share several similar perks, they are very different products. In short, First Class is a premium flight experience while Comfort Plus is a Main Cabin experience with a few extras. First Class is “better” on almost all counts, and the price point reflects that.

That doesn’t mean that it’s better for you, though. In some cases, it can actually make more sense to upgrade to Comfort Plus instead of First Class.

When deciding between Delta First Class and Comfort Plus, it’s import to evaluate which perks you were actually use, the duration of the flight, and what you’re expecting to get out of the experience. Here’s how we’d recommend thinking about these upgrades.

When to Upgrade to Delta First Class

Upgrade to First Class if you want a premium experience. Now, it’s important to set your standards accordingly. First Class on domestic flights is not the same luxury experience as international First Class, but it is the best experience you’re going to get. If you want a dedicated flight attendant and personal service throughout your whole flight, First Class is the way to go.

Upgrade to First Class on flights over 900 miles. The price of the upgrade to First Class is hard to justify on shorter flights that don’t include a meal. You will usually get more value out of the upgrade on longer flights, particularly ones just over the 900 miles mark, even if the upgrade is relatively more expensive.

Upgrade to First Class if the math adds up. It’s pretty rare that First Class ever actually saves you money. That said, it can be a good idea to add up the cost of perks that you plan to actually use and then see if that makes the cost of the upgrade easier to stomach.

For example, let’s say you plan to check two bags ($70), purchase a meal ($30) and order three cocktails ($30). When you bake in the $130 of value, the $260 cost to upgrade from Comfort Plus to First Class is now only $130 more. Maybe you feel like the extra large seat and enhanced service is enough to justify the upgrade to First Class at that price point.

Upgrade to First Class if you’re traveling solo. If you’re paying for a single ticket and considering an upgrade, I’d go all the way up to First Class if you can. You’ll feel more comfortable, have a bit more privacy, and will have one less person in your row than in Comfort Plus. (It’s even better if you’re on a small plane and can snag a single seat in a 1-2 layout.)

When to Upgrade to Delta Comfort Plus

Upgrade to Comfort Plus if you are traveling with young kids. Comfort Plus is very popular with families. If you’re a family of three (or four with a child under 2), Comfort Plus is the way to go. You get some helpful perks for kids (hello extra snacks and quick drink service), and your family can sit together in one row while enjoying that precious extra legroom.

Upgrade to Comfort Plus if you’re a nervous or infrequent traveler. If you aren’t comfortable flying, the perks from either of these upgrades can relieve a lot of travel day stress. While First Class does it a little bit better, Comfort Plus is a reasonably priced upgrade that can make travel much more relaxing.

Upgrade to Comfort Plus if you’re tall. If you’re much taller than 5’10, upgrade to Comfort Plus for the extra leg room alone. Main Cabin seats on Delta usually have a pitch of about 30″ and Comfort Plus will give you 3-4 inches more.

Upgrade to Comfort Plus for longer flights when First Class is too expensive. When you start looking at flights over four hours, the price of First Class can get really high. The cost of Comfort Plus is high too, but these longer flights are the ones when you will get the most value out of Comfort Plus. That extra legroom is going to feel a lot better in hours 3, 4 and 5 of your flight.

So much room for activities

Closing Thoughts

Delta Delta First Class and Comfort Plus are two very different flying experiences. One is a premium flight experience, while the other is a Main Cabin experience with a couple extra perks. However, both can offer a more relaxed and enjoyable flight.

Delta’s First Class product is their best and most expensive option on most domestic routes. As far as domestic First Class goes, it’s a solid option. The seats are spacious and comfortable, the service is generally high quality, and the airport experience on either end of the flight is pretty efficient.

That said, just because First Class is better than Comfort Plus, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily worth the upgrade. Delta First Class can be really expensive, especially for what you get. It’s a steep improvement over Main Cabin, but it’s nowhere near the First Class experience you’d get on an international flight (Delta One or otherwise).

Comfort Plus might not be as specious or as well served as First Class, but it’s a much more reasonably priced option. You get a bit more space, early boarding, and a few free drinks and snacks — which sometimes is all you need.

I think both of these products can be useful upgrades, and the choice if which one will probably come down to price and expectations.

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