Premium economy cabin for Delta?

4 Nov 2010 by BusinessTraveller

Sources within US carrier Delta are saying that the airline will unveil a premium economy cabin next year.

Various airline blogs have begun reporting that the separate cabin will be located towards the front of the economy class zone.  The seating will offer more legroom and a greater angle of recline.

The premium economy cabin will be fitted across the Delta long-haul fleet which comprises of number of planes including the B757, B767, B777, B747 and A330. The new product would therefore feature on Delta’s popular transatlantic and transpacific routes. It would offer a value-for-money alternative between the cost of business class and the lower cost but denser conditions in economy class.

It is not clear whether the new seating will be something special (as we see with Air France, British Airways, JAL, Virgin Atlantic and so on) or whether it will resemble KLM’s Economy Comfort product, which is essentially the normal economy seating with increased leg room.

The move makes sense for three main reasons:

  1. Delta does not offer a first class product unlike rival carriers like American, United, British Airways, JAL and SIA on many of its most important routes. And now that Delta is busy installing fully flat bed seating in business class there is an enormous comfort and price gap between the carrier’s premium product and the regular seating in economy class. So pity the harassed Delta airport staffer in an overbooking situation who must tell the business class customer taking an overnight flight from the US to Europe that he or she is being downgraded to economy class.
  2. Some of Delta’s Skyteam alliance and codeshare partners like Air France and KLM already offer a premium economy cabin.
  3. Increasingly on key business routes Delta must compete with rivals who have premium economy cabins. Examples include London-New York where both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offer such a cabin, Los Angeles-Sydney where Qantas and V Australia offer premium economy and where fellow US carrier United offers a quasi-version branded Economy Plus. Also Los Angeles-Tokyo where both Japan’s JAL and ANA have premium economy cabins and where United also competes.

Delta has not begun to promote the new product. It is believed a number of planes will be reconfigured with the new cabin over the coming months before Delta makes an official announcement. If a flight is fitted with the improved seating it may be offered first (at the existing fares) to members of the carrier’s Medallion loyalty scheme.

In an email statement to Business Traveller, the airline says, “Delta is always evaluating product offerings and looking for ways to improve the customer experience but we have made no announcements at this time.”

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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