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.