This is an interesting move on Delta’s part. It probably feels a bit more “USAir-ish”, but not totally unexpected.
Essentially, they have a new class of fares that don’t include seating assignments. They are pretty much the same in all other regards to a regular deep discount coach seat, though I could see ways they could create wider separation in the future.
Southwest has sold tickets without guaranteed seating assignments since the beginning of time. However, over the last few years they’ve added ways to guarantee a better seat, such as Early Bird boarding and Business Select fares.
Delta is only launching this service in a few markets right now. I plugged in 3 or 4 random sets of dates in April and May using the announced city pairs but couldn’t find any availability. Not sure if this means there’s just very little availability or they haven’t loaded a lot of the inventory yet.
I think it’s fair to say a seating assignment is worth at least $10, since Southwest charges $10 for a one-way Early Bird check-in add-on, which essentially gives you a good chance at getting the seat you want.
I’ll be interested to see how they end up pricing this fare bucket. I don’t have a huge issue with this rollout. I assume that these new fares are probably the same lowest fare in a market now, so it’s most likely a price increase hidden in a “new feature”.