Fliers can still choose between window and aisle seats at Delta Air Lines, but they'll have to pay extra if those spots are near the front of the plane.
Delta is following the lead of other airlines --US Airways, Sun Country and American Airlines, among them -- who are already charging customers extra for window and aisle seats. The fee for such premier seating is the latest in a string of charges by airlines that have generated billions of dollars in extra revenue.
Last year, Delta pulled close to $3 billion in revenue from fees involving baggage, seat assignments and other a la carte services, said Bob Herbst, founder of AirlineFinancials.com, which provides airline industry analysis. Herbst said Delta's latest initiative will generate far more revenue than consumer backlash.
"Bottom line, they can get away with it. People are willing to pay it," Herbst said, adding that he expects more fees unless "consumers rebel enough that they aren't going to pay it."
Delta's economy passengers now can pay $9 or $29 for prime seats, depending on the length of the flight. Previously, the seats were only available to frequent fliers in the airline's Medallion program. Herbst estimates Delta's revenue from such ancillary sales to jump up to 2 percent through the new seating option.
Delta, the dominant carrier in the Twin Cities, started assessing the fee for window and aisle seats on domestic flights earlier this month. Delta generally sets aside 25 percent of economy seating for preferred customers.
"There is a trend in the industry to offer up those seats, and there's an appetite from consumers who are willing to pay an extra few dollars for a seat of their choosing," said Chris Kelly Singley, a Delta spokeswoman.
The airlines that do charge for some window or aisle seats say the initiatives give consumers more choice. Consumers say it's just another attempt by the airlines to get their money.
Vic Ellison, a marketing consultant who lives in Apple Valley, said he won't pay for the preferred seats unless he is assigned a middle seat toward the back of the plane. The fees are "just a continuation of what the airlines are trying to do, raising money whenever they can," said Ellison, 56. "It's no surprise."
US Airways said it charges $5 to $99 for preferred seats. American Airlines charges economy passengers $4 to $39 for window or aisle seats near the front of the cabin.
US Airways expects to generate more than $500 million from ancillary revenues this year, which include the preferred seating, said spokeswoman Valerie Wunder.
"If you have a family, you can get a whole row together," she said. "It offers you greater choice."
Meanwhile, Sun Country Airlines charges for all window and aisle seats. Window seats are $10, while aisle seats can cost $15 or $25 extra, depending on the destination.
Delta Medallion members will still get first choice when it comes to the seating. Economy passengers who want preferred seating must pay for those spots when they check in.
Delta charges $9 for flights less than 500 miles and $29 for flights more than 500 miles. There are still window and aisle seats available at no charge, but they're near the back of the plane.
"Based on customer response, the ability to choose a seat assignment at check-in for a small fee is highly desired," Delta's Singley said. "It's about putting control back in the customers' hands."
In October, Delta announced "Economy Comfort" seating on domestic flights, which gave consumers more legroom for $19 to $99. The preferred economy seating would begin after the Economy Comfort seats.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712