Delta Will Expand Premium Select Fleetwide by 2021

by John Harper

Delta Air Lines will expand the scope of it’s Premium Select premium economy service to include every wide-body aircraft within the next three years.

Delta President Glen Hauenstein said this week that the airline will put the recliner seats on every wide body aircraft by 2021. Presently the airline only has the cabin on a few jets, mostly new Airbus A350-900s, and a handful of Boeing 777s that have undergone retrofits.

Premium Select is a middle cabin between standard economy and lie-flat business class seating. The seats themselves are slightly narrower ghosts of business class chairs from two decades ago. Each chair has deep recline, an extendable leg rest and a footrest.

Delta Premium Select premium economy cabins

Delta Premium Select looks an awful lot like business class, 20 years ago. Image by Delta Air Lines.

The airline hadn’t previously said that it would put premium economy seating on its Airbus A330s and Boeing 767s, which make up the vast majority of its wide-body fleet. The expansion will take Premium Select from its presently limited state to a staple, giving international passengers on just about every overseas Delta route access to the third cabin.

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Hauenstein told investors on the airline’s quarterly call this week that Premium Select seating was netting an average of over 100 percent fare premium over economy seats.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said there was no evidence the cabin was eating into DeltaOne sales. Rather, business travelers restricted from purchasing business class tickets and price sensitive leisure travelers were buying up into the pseudo business class cabin.

For a time, Delta was seating Premium Select passengers in first class seats on domestic cabin. The airline has recently begun booking those connections in Delta Comfort+ extra legroom economy seats, however.

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Currently Premium Select is available on about 50 percent of Delta’s flights across the pacific, including Detroit to Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul routes, Atlanta to Seoul, and Los Angeles to Tokyo. Premium Select is only sold on one daily flight to Europe, Detroit to Amsterdam.

Hauenstein said the airline will work through the end of this year and into 2019 to make Premium Economy available on more transatlantic flights.

Premium Select prices range widely. Sometimes fare sales put the seats well within economy budgets, but they have also sold for as high as $3,000 to $4,000 round-trip. Business class seats can be had at that price.

Delta frequent flyers and those with transferable American Express Membership Rewards points can book Premium Select seats using SkyMiles. Those awards, at the lowest level, are pricing similarly to 2013 DeltaOne business class redemptions.

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