Delta Air Lines has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 yesterday, making it the first North American airline to operate the aircraft.

The carrier has said its primary use of the A350 will be to operate long-haul routes between the US an Asia, replacing the airline’s B747-400s, and the airline’s inaugural A350 is set to do just that. Starting October 30, it will fly between the airline’s Detroit hub and Tokyo Narita, with Seoul and Beijing also set to follow by January next year.

Delta’s deployment of the A350 is also part of a wider push the carrier is making into Asia, particularly through the South Korean capital. Last month, Delta began its new daily Atlanta-Seoul Incheon flights using its B777-200LR, the first step in a joint venture the airline has with Korean flag carrier Korean Air, which the two airlines agreed to back in March.

The A350s are set up with 306 seats and include 32 of the airline’s Delta One suites (which offer lie-flat beds and a full-height door) as well as a Delta Premium Select cabin that offers seats with a 38-inch pitch and 19-inch width. The aircraft is also the first aircraft to feature 2Ku internet connectivity (Delta’s B777-200LR that’s currently flying to Seoul also has in-flight wifi – a boon considering Korean Air doesn’t offer the service on any of its aircraft).

A detailed look at the features of Delta’s A350 can be read here.

Announcing the delivery of the new A350, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, said: “The Airbus A350 sets a new standard of flying experience for our customers, representing years of product innovation as Delta continues to transform into a leading global carrier. Our new flagship A350 fits well in Delta’s long-haul network, combining an exceptional customer experience with strong operating economics and fuel-efficiency as we retire older, less-efficient aircraft.”

A video of the aircraft being painted in the Delta Air Lines livery can be viewed here:

Video: Delta unveils A350 livery

Delta is not the only airline upping the ante on its US-Japan routes, however. Late last month, Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced it would be upping the frequency of its Tokyo-Los Angeles flights to three times daily, operating out of both its Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda airport hubs.

Meanwhile fellow US carrier United began flying its new Polaris business class-equipped B777-300ER on its San Francisco-Tokyo Narita route late last month, and a few weeks ago announced it would be adding the aircraft to its New York Newark-Tokyo Narita route starting October 28.

delta.com