Topic of the Week: The Importance of the Look of a Cabin


Runway Girl Network captured a photo of a pretty snazzy looking new First Class cabin on Delta’s MD-88 aircraft. The seats are the same, I believe, but they just have new covers. Does this matter to you? Do you care if the seats look nice?

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26 comments on “Topic of the Week: The Importance of the Look of a Cabin

  1. Yes. Not so much what they look like. But that the cabin looks clean and fresh. And bright.

    I recall flying in a few UA PS planes years ago. Seeing duct tape on the walls and bins. Not a good look. Makes you wonder what else is wrong.

    Just flew a new DL 717 last week. So shiny and new. Just looked like I was going to have a comfy flight.

    I dunno. Probably doesn’t matter. But yes I care.

    1. I’ve flown Delta’s B717 several times over the last few months. I love them! They look so much better than the MD88’s. I’ll pick a flight on a B717 over one on a MD88.

  2. Absolutely. If humans didn’t care about appearances we would all be wearing the same rags and driving beat up cars.

  3. I think it and overall comfort are both important. You can polish crap all day long but in the end it’s still crap. Southwest devolve seating for example. They look great but the general consensus is they are terrible to sit in. But at the same time I really don’t want to see duct tape and super glue everywhere.

    As a side note and this post reminded me to ask. Cranky, when you changed your website over to the new look, I haven’t been able to find all the links you have to other travel blogs. I used to love browsing them so satisfy the airplane dork in me. Are they on this site? And if not would you consider adding them to the site?

    1. Pilotaaron1 – Wow, you know I never realized it had fallen off the post page. It’s been on the homepage but somehow I left it off the posts. It’s fixed, and you’ll see it in the sidebar again. Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. It matters. Stylish, fresh cabins improve the flight experience, it’s sort of like buying a new suit- you put it on and you feel smarter, sharper, and with a little spring in your step. There’s no doubt there are some fundamental truths here although i’m no expert. Have any of you flown AA’s 777-300? the thing is so damn stylish and comfortable it helps you overlook mediocre service and resentful f/a’s.

    1. I agree/disagree Trent. I think DL’s working hard to be a “love brand” (i’ve heard them speak of it) and seat covers or stylish interiors don’t by themselves do this but it cumulatively affects our brand loyalty and attraction. Delta knows what it’s doing- doing a million small things to make the brand more aspirational, more desireable. This helps. And as superficial as it makes me sound, I do make purchase decisions around little things like stylish cabins- I find the cabins of most US Airlines to be incredibly bland, depressing and industrial. I do choose Virgin Atlantic sometimes because the cabins, especially on their A330’s, are so stylish and pretty. It makes me feel better when flying.

  5. So First class looks snazzy on a DL MD88, but what does coach look like? Right, airlines make First class looke like Neiman Marcus, but coach will still look like the 99 Cent store.

  6. Looks are great, but when I am sitting in them that’s there the.. umm.. bum meets the leather. I avoid Delta for TATL flights just because the economy seats are so uncomfortable. About half way through a DTW-LHR flight in economy “comfort” I wanted to scream. It felt like sitting on an old hardwood church bench. The same is true of the new interior 744’s in the Lufthansa fleet. I hate them, but in their case I did still fly them because the DEN-FRA flight was super convenient for me… then they stranded me in Munich with their strikes and still won’t respond to requests for them to pay the hotel bill.. so I’m back on United, which often has some bad looking seats, but (and perhaps it is because of this) they are broken in and feel more comfortable.

  7. The most important qualities to me are cabins that are clean and in good repair. I also like seats that are reasonably comfortable. I know I’m going to be crammed in like a sardine, but a clean, comfortable seat help that a lot.

  8. I flew an ERJ 145 from MSY-EWR this year. The cabin looked ancient, however the seat was comfortable for my hind quarters for the three hour flight. A few weeks ago, I flew MSY-IAH on an E175. The cabin was fresh and the windows large allowing in plenty of light, while the slick seats looked nice. However, my hind quarters were painfully numb in 45 minutes. Appearances do not equate to comfort.

  9. I flew an AirTran 717 last week (TPA->ATL), and you can tell they are band-aiding everything before unloading them to Delta. The exterior paint looked like it had hit a flock of birds and the interior wasn’t much better – if I tried, I knew I could have ripped off my already-loose armrest.

    I know they are getting rid of the things, but it doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in your product if you don’t take care of them until then. Other passengers were making note about what a dump the plane was.

    1. I wonder what percentage of passengers know that Airtran=Southwest. If most of them don’t know that then they can just let the Airtran planes look like crap, since the brand will be completely gone by the end of the year.

  10. there seems to be alot of duct tape and lots of glue in many places lately on planes recently i saw a large overhead panel coming apart near me but it stayed up for the 4 hour flight..Also most of the window shades are broken and do not move up or down…

  11. There’s no accounting for taste. Some people don’t have it. They’re just sniffing for a bargain… all the time…as a way of life ! .. People who shell out pennies for tickets and then expect to get premium luxury are delusional .

    1. Since you think you have it, perhaps you will school us on good taste. (You mean you still have to fly commercial?)

  12. Appearances do matter. If an airline makes extra effort to make their cabins look clean, bright, and well-maintained, that goes a long way to making a positive first impression on the customer. Subliminally at least, if I see an attractive interior, I now think they’re more likely to put in the same kind of effort to make the rest of the product and experience customer friendly. I think your blog had even put together a post on this several years back, when US Airways was trying to recover from the HP/US integration disaster – appearance was listed as one of the keys that Doug Parker had focused on to win back customers.

    Now, a positive initial impression only works if it turns out be validated when the rubber hits the road. If the seat is uncomfortable or the FAs are consistently surly, I’m not going to consider an airline just because of appearances. But it certainly would influence me to at least give them a try.

  13. Ever since DL started flying the 737-900’s I try to choose them when I can. They are so new and clean and I notice that when the planes are newer, the pilots comment on them and the FA’s sometimes are in better spirits. Although on the 900, the FA”s hate the galley because it is much smaller to work in. SO it is different for everyone.
    I fly CLT ATL alot and can’t stand the MD-80’s on virtually every flight. I sometimes go to RDU just to avoid them. And when I can, I avoid the 757-200’s that only have the overhead screens as they are so much older. Appearance is everything at first blush, for everyone, no matter who you are. Then you settle in and notice personality (for humans), comfort, and functionality on the planes. But I would say first impressions are everything.

  14. I ground handle for Piedmont doing US/AA, CRJ-200s and Dash8s is all we get scheduled with (occasionally we get a crj-700.) I find the dash, as long as you have a good pair of headphones, much more comfortable then the crj. In general though “old” doesn’t bother me, but plane does need to be clean.

  15. It doesn’t influence my booking much, but it does affect my loyalty and how happy I am to speak highly of my flight to someone else. In order, I care about:
    – safety
    – comfort
    – cleanliness
    – service
    – “style”
    Alaska won me over a couple of years ago and I fly them whenever I reasonably can.

  16. As AvGeeks, we are not representative of the general flying population. Time and time again, surveys show the vast majority of people consider price far more than anything else when purchasing air travel. Second is schedule, third is loyalty program. Down the list quite a bit you’d find on time performance and cabin comfort/appearance. That said, some do it better than others (i.e, Delta). Product consistency is important to them, which I applaud, but what is the return on investment? I assure you that in tougher financial times, a judicious airline would not be making such investments for the sake of aesthetics alone. Being that return on investment is nearly impossible to quantify, I just go back to all the passenger surveys that list price, followed by schedule, as the top considerations when purchasing air travel. If cabin appearance were in the top 3, you’d see all airlines doing cabin reno’s on a regular basis. But since it’s not, it has become a priority for a small number of carriers. For an AvGeek it is awesome stuff though!

  17. Thanks for bringing this up, especially after your recent flight to and from RDU Brett. It all comes down to this, we are buying tickets to get somewhere safely, economically and with some comfort. But since I work in a business that I like to give comparison to the airline business, the experience is just as important. Yes, cleanliness and looking maintained is a superficial impression of an airline.

    In Brett’s recent situation, it’s frustrating to see how an airline like Delta can stretch an aging A320, with tattered paint and failing tray table as they stretch that particular airframe to it’s next big maintenance or final resting place. Is that a situation which could turn off future business travelers worried about not getting work done on a flight? Would it chase off a vacation person upset about their bloody Mary sliding off the edge? I don’t know. But as I’m moving in my career closer to being a regular traveler, little things do add up with an airline.

    I took a Southwest flight to Nashville earlier this year on the new seats, but just felt like I was on a seat. So I’m going again in February on Delta Economy Comfort, so I’ll compare notes.

    In September I few from LAX, transatlantic and back a week later for business in basic coach. I flew a 25 year old KLM 747-400 (City of Bangkok) to AMS, it was clean, crew was attentive and the interior of the plane was not modern (well used video system), but very clean. My gripe was that the width of the seat felt even tight for me a 5’8” 150 lbs man. That stuck with me as something to avoid.

    On my flight back (thank you Air France for striking), I was rebooked on a Delta 767-300ER in standard coach which seemed fresh, modern and functional video system. Again, crew was on top of things. Nice sitting on the 2 seat side, but right where I wanted to put my briefcase in the foot well there was a video box in the way.

    In the end, I got where I wanted to be, at a fare I felt was reasonable for the trip.

  18. Yes, of course general cabin appearance – form and function – are important. That said, I’d gladly accept a less-than-perfect design in older J and/or F class cabins that for a more functional one that is Filthy and Poorly Maintained. Some airlines (or their ground services contractors) pride themselves on their ability to ‘turn’ busy, 100-200 seat aircraft in under 30 minutes. What is the point if the poorly supervised workers don’t do the necessary work? The lavs stink to high heaven, the trash is not removed and the tight personal space is filthy that I’m tempted to bring a personal seat liner and ask for latex gloves. (Yes, I’m talking about YOU, United and American! The the interiors of your domestic fleets are horribly FILTHY, even for first of the the days flights. American’s long haul fleet seems to be a Little Bit better, but United? Even the international fleet, including nearly new airframes, and truly disgusting. My last choice. I’ve often suggested that travel writers and bloggers posting individual trip reports include comments about aircraft interior maintenance, cleanliness and hygiene, but they rarely do. It makes a difference to me and it should matter to you.

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