Delta downsizes business class

Delta Air Lines is to remove some business class seating in a bid to boost revenue.

The move will see seven seats taken from the B777’s current 45-seat business class cabin, to be replaced by 23 economy seats.

Delta’s B767s will see a more dramatic reduction — its existing 36 to 40-seat business cabin will lose 12 seats in favour of adding 20 in economy.

The carrier has not specified how many of its B777 and B767 aircraft will adopt the new layout or which routes will be affected.

The news will come as a surprise as long-haul business class is widely recognised as being any carrier’s most lucrative product.

But Delta, which has no first class product, is finding that fewer of its passengers are paying the full fare to sit “up front”.

At an investors’ day meeting in New York last month, a senior Delta executive admitted that on average 60 per cent of his company’s business class passengers are not paying full fare.

According to a report on Bloomberg, chief revenue officer Glen Hauenstein said that the share of passengers not paying the full business class fare drops from a percentage in the low 90s on Saturdays, a slack day for business travel, to the high 40s on mid-week days, the peak time for business travel.

So, on a Saturday barely 10 per cent of those passengers seated in the business class cabin have paid the regular fare.

Presumably, it means that a good number of Delta passengers booked in the business class cabin are on upgrades (through their loyalty club status, for example) or have redeemed FFP miles.

By offering fewer business class seats, Delta will make it more difficult for passengers to secure an upgrade from economy class. Load factors in business class will increase, meaning Delta will earn more money per seat.

But passengers should benefit too. With less people in the premium cabin, one hopes that Delta staff will deliver a more personalised service in line with that offered by the carrier’s joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic.

Alex McWhirter

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  • Sad… the biz class cabin is always full because they give it freely to staff as part of their compensation for their low salaries. Pre-merger NWA used to clear non-revenue staff onto the plane if there’s space in the back of the plane. If no available space, they would first push up high value customers to make room in the back. Post-merger Delta now pushes their staff upfront.

  • Worst of all they frequently move full paying passengers like myself to less desirable seats for employees with family members, though I had booked weeks in advance.

  • DL is awash in bad ideas…..They should be thanking their elite travelers for coming back and reward them with everything they can…..their business class is based on a very low standard of international business class standards….and the seats alone are horrible. When DL merged with NWA they became an horrific airline thinking that all they have to do is get you off the ground……pathetic in the air, nasty boarding process…..just plain awful…ATL employees are the WORST in the country.

  • I thought this may happen based on the fact that airlines are now making seat areas even tighter as well. See my blog at This is all about making more money, not improving service. If it was about service, they would have made efforts to improve their Skytrax 3 Star rating long ago.

  • My experience of Delta has been limited to US domestic sectors except for one horrendous trip back to the UK. Flying with Delta is a definitive “bad trip” and their cabin crew and ground staff are worse than equivalents in the 3rd World. Delta always have been at the bottom of my preference list and only flown if absolutely no alternative.

    So this ‘service development’ by Delta comes as no surprise

    This is the airline with which Virgin has chosen (??) to partner on transatlantic flights – unbelievable, Mr Branson !!

  • They keep getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse
    I thought bigger was better, I don’t think so
    They sell mergers as offering more efficiency and cost saving which mean cost cutting and poorer services, that’s ALL folks .Take it of leave it, we are stuck with the intended consequences.

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