Delta debuts new class of service, upgrades Delta One

Atlanta-headquartered Delta Air Lines will debut a new cabin class on select international flights in the fall of 2017, bringing to six the number of different cabin classes the carrier offers. At the same time, it will upgrade the Delta One section in some of its new long-haul aircraft.

The latest “cabin experience” will be called Delta Premium and will offer more room, “[E]levated service and distinguished amenities provided by partnerships with brands focused on design and quality,” according to the news release announcing the service addition.

Delta Premium seating, Delta Air Lines, Airbus A350, long-haul international
Delta Premium seating
“Delta Premium is Delta's latest example of paying careful attention to what customers tell us they want and responding with unique products designed to meet their individual needs,” Tim Mapes, Delta’s (NYSE:DAL) SVP and chief marketing officer, said.

The Delta Premium experience will start even before boarding the aircraft and continue on the ground at the destination. Premium class tickets will include Sky Priority service that includes faster check-in, accelerated security, priority boarding and expedited baggage service.

Onboard, passengers who opt for Delta Premium will have more space, with seats up to 19 inches wide and pitch of up to 38 inches. Delta Premium seats will offer up to seven inches of recline and feature adjustable leg rests and head rests. Seating areas will include power ports; additional storage; a 13.3 inch, high resolution in-flight entertainment screen for viewing a wide range of complimentary movies, shows and games; and noise-cancelling headphones.

Delta Premium passengers will also receive upgraded food and beverage offerings, beginning with a pre-departure beverage and followed by fresh, seasonal menu selections. Premium passengers will be offered the use of a Westin Heavenly® In-Flight Blanket with pillow and will receive a TUMI amenity kit featuring Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials.

The Delta Premium cabin will be introduced on the airline’s Airbus A350s entering service next year.

Delta One suite, Delta Air Lines, Airbus A350 long-haul international
Delta One suite
In addition to Delta Premium, the carrier’s A350s will also debut the Delta One suite. Perhaps taking a cue from industry-leading Emirates’ First Class suites, Delta may be going the U.A.E.-based carrier one better, offering what it calls “[T]he world’s first business class cabin to feature a sliding door at each suite.”

The Delta One suite offers each customer an individual space, a sliding door for added privacy, personal stowage areas, a wide-screen in-flight entertainment system, and premium trim and finishes.

Delta began introducing differentiated experiences for customers in 2014, offering a range of options that allows customers to tailor travel to their specific needs. Delta One, First Class, Delta Premium and Delta Comfort+ offer enhanced experiences, while Main Cabin and Basic Economy service offer value options, according to the airline.

My take: Delta seems to be ‘getting it’

Delta has come a long way over the last few years. In addition to its aggressive expansion, the airline’s leaders actually seem to be paying attention to the mood of the flying public.

Rather than selecting a narrow business model like many low-cost/no-frills carriers or continually expanding the number of á la carte services for which it charges under the pretext of providing passengers "more choice," Delta is offering its customers genuine options.

For passengers who value a low price above all else, basic passage is available. For those who are willing and able to spend additional dollars to get from Point A to Point B in more upmarket surroundings, that is available too.

That is as it should be. When we spend the night at a hotel, we can choose a basic Motel 6, more room at Staybridge Suites, more luxury at a Hilton or a Four Seasons. Why most U.S. airlines seem to think that offering only two classes of service is sufficient remains a mystery, at least to me.

Delta’s improvements seem to be resonating with airline passengers. From 2015 to 2016, the carrier moved up 10 points on the SKYTRAX list of The World’s Top 100 Airlines. It is also the U.S. carrier that derived the smallest percentage of its revenue from those á la carte services that many passengers refer to as “nickel-and-dime” charges, well behind United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) and American (NASDAQ:AAL). As I opined recently, the carrier’s increasingly positive reputation and its keeping a la carte charges in check may even be related.

U.S. airlines, particularly the other two legacy carriers, need to pay attention to what Delta is doing and how it is being received by the traveling public. From my perspective, the airline is making improvements that, for the U.S. airline industry as a whole, are long overdue.

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Photos provided by Delta Air Lines
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