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US carriers go fully flat in business

Published: 11/09/2009 - Filed under: News »

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Delta and Continental join United in going fully-flat transatlantic. This summer, Delta announced that its new fully-flat seat is on all its flights between London Heathrow and Atlanta, New York JFK and Detroit. In addition, this month it will be introduced on Delta’s flights between Heathrow and Minneapolis.

Of course British Airways and Virgin Atlantic pioneered the fully-flat business class “bed” on these routes nearly ten years ago, but beset by financial problems, US carriers were slow to react. There has been progress, though. Earlier this year, United’s roll out of its own  fully-flat bed business product reached a tipping point with the complete refit of the B767 fleet with the B747 fleet being completed by the end of this year (pictured below). For details, see online news April 6.


In the case of Delta, the new BusinessElite seats (pictured below) are on its Boeing 767-400 aircraft and feature 77-82 inch,  fully-flat beds (reclinable 180-degrees) in a one-two-one configuration, every seat having direct access to the aisle.

Armin Venencie, Delta’s sales director for UK and Ireland, says that the airline’s frequent business travellers had told them that “the comfort of a flat bed seat with direct aisle access is a must-have on flights to and from London, and passenger feedback has been very positive”. The new seat (pictured here) has

  • full-size pillows, quilted duvet comforters and new dinnerware.
  • on-demand digital entertainment (AVOD).
  • PC power and USB port for charging small electronics.

The upgrade also improves life for economy passengers, with the new economy class featuring the new Delta on-demand digital entertainment, as well as printed menus and free beer and wine.

More information on Delta’s new fully-flat bed is available at this page at delta.com.

Meanwhile, Continental – which announced its new seat in last July – is now proving coy about the roll-out. Part of the reason is undoubtedly not wanting to over-promise, and under deliver. Put bluntly, there's not much point in telling people about a seat that they probably won't encounter until the last quarter of 2010. In difficult times, all airlines are becoming expert in managing expectations.

For details on the seat, see Business Traveller’s exclusive report of the unveiling here. As can be seen from the pictures accompanying the report, the new seat converts into a fully-flat bed, but for the moment, the existing BusinessFirst is what readers will encounter on all routes. When asked for a comment, a spokesperson would only confirm  that “Continental expects the seat to be flying on the first B777 by the end of October 2009 and on the first B757-200 sometime in December 2009.”

To read a review of the current lie-flat offering, click here. Details of the new seat are available from Continental’s own website here and there is a progress chart detailing the roll-out of the new seats here.

So who’s left? American Airways is sticking with its lie-flat bed in business (reviewed here), now familiar to many transatlantic passengers flying in business with the airline, while US Airways has recently announced its new fully flat Envoy Suite in business class, to be fitted to its A330-200 aircraft from this December (see online news September 18).

Report by Tom Otley

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