Why I’m Not Excited About Delta’s ‘Flagship’ Interior Updates

by John Harper

Delta Air Lines is changing the way it does business in long haul cabins, and I’m not sure most Medallion frequent flyers have fully processed what that means for their butt-in-seat experience.

The airline issued a press release this morning touting “signature flagship interiors” coming not only to the entire 777 fleet, but also on the airline’s large fleet of 767-400s and an incoming crop of Airbus A330s.

Sidebar: There seems to be widespread confusion over what flagship (noun, not adjective) means (the best or most important one of a group of things owned by an organization). What I interpret from this latest confusing use of the word is that these aircraft will look somewhat like Delta’s new airplanes: There will be Delta One Suites in front, updated economy seats in back, and premium economy in the middle.

Delta One suites coming to 767-400 and 777 airplanes

Delta One Suites.

We had previously reported in July that Delta planned to expand its new Premium Select premium economy seating fleetwide.

Delta Premium Select premium economy cabins

Delta Premium Select, replacing Comfort+, but not for Medallions.

Review: Delta Premium Select on the A350

I fly at least 35,000 miles each year on Delta flights operated by A330, 767 or 777 jets, and I am not excited by this.

These new cabins look really good in pictures. The touch screens are more responsive. Seat padding has been upgraded to the latest space age goo that cools butts and distributes bodyweight. We are being robbed, however, of one of the most valuable Medallion benefits.

I cannot effectively sleep in an economy seat on just about any airline. My head rolls forward, my tongue falls out of my mouth, drool follows, dripping onto my neck and shoulder, and I am jolted awake.

I can, however, sleep decently in Delta Comfort+.

Delta Comfort+ seats

Comfort+ seats on a Boeing 737-900ER (739). On long haul flights, Comfort+ seats recline significantly more than standard economy seats, making sleep much easier. Image by Delta Air Lines.

On these long-haul jets, Comfort+ isn’t just an extra legroom section. The seats recline farther, so much farther that I have been able to nod off for most of the duration of an 11-hour transpacific haul, arrive well rested and work a full eight hours the next day.

The Premium Select (premium economy seats) are vastly preferable and a better value proposition from a buy-up standpoint. They are not available free of charge to any Delta frequent flyers.

That means my sleep will now come at a higher price premium on Delta metal. It also means that Delta is forfeiting one of the lures that keeps me buying economy tickets on their flights.

I have raved about premium economy seats on other airlines before. Some of those airlines are SkyTeam airlines, many are not.

Consider a choice on the JFK to London route, on which I can pay $550 for an economy ticket on Norwegian, $800 for a seat in Delta’s Main Cabin, $1,300 for a Premium Select seat, and $1,100 for a World Traveller Plus premium economy seat on British Airways. Knowing there’s a good chance Delta will give me a more comfortable seat anyway, I happily choose the $800 Delta ticket in lieu of either Norwegian’s fare or the reasonable buy-up to British Airways’ premium economy cabin.

I wouldn’t pay the same premium to fly Delta’s brand of premium economy over another carrier’s, though. When travelling internationally, SkyTeam lounge access isn’t much of a benefit given credit card lounges, not to mention many airlines now permit premium economy passengers lounge access on flights of a certain length.

I think Delta does a better job with their new cabins than just about any airline out there right now. To those flying on business class tickets, bon appetite. Unfortunately, the new allocation of seating may inadvertantly wipe out one of Delta’s greater frequent flyer lures on long-haul flights.

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Ralfinho December 21, 2018 - 2:51 am

According to a prior press release by Delta the new A330-900neo planes will be outfitted differently, not only with the suites and Premium Select (and, of course, the regular main cabin) but also with Comfort+. We’ll see if they will stick to that.
But other than that I agree with you. It is kinda sad that Comfort+ vanishes due to the introduction of Premium Select.

William December 27, 2018 - 11:06 pm

I anticipate DL having the same problems that other airlines have had with PE pricing. Right now it’s way too expensive for what you get. $200-300 more than regular economy seems right, but from what I’ve seen it’s often double. That’s just not going to fly for a product that isn’t that great.

DL should allow elites to use regional upgrades to clear into PE. They won’t, but they should.

John Harper December 27, 2018 - 11:43 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, William!

The way I see it, it doesn’t much matter what you or I feel might be the right price. These prices are now algorithmically set. If the price is $2800, it means Delta is highly confident they will sell those seats at $2800.


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