The Interesting Way In Which Delta Is Reconfiguring Their 777s

Delta is in the process of adjusting their longhaul experience on some planes. Last August, Delta announced their new Delta One Suites, which will be available on their upcoming A350 deliveries, and their 777s will also eventually be reconfigured with this product. These seats will each have a door, making Delta the first airline to announce a fully enclosed business class product.

Delta-One-Suite

On top of that, Delta announced their new Premium class last November, which is their international premium economy cabin. The seats will be similar to those you’d find in domestic first class, and this cabin will also be available on their A350 and 777 aircraft.

delta-premium-3

We already knew that Delta’s A350s would feature 32 Delta One Suites, 48 Delta Premium seats, and 226 Main Cabin seats. However, up until now we didn’t know how Delta would be reconfiguring their 777s.

Rene’s Points reports that Delta has filed their initial specifications for refurbished 777-200s. For reference, currently Delta 777-200s have:

  • 37 Delta One seats
  • 36 Comfort+ seats
  • 218 Main Cabin seats

However, once reconfigured, Delta’s 777-200s will have:

  • 28 Delta One Suites
  • 48 Premium seats
  • 220 Main Cabin seats

Delta-Livery

In other words, Delta’s 777-200s will have nine fewer business class seats, 48 extra premium economy seats, and two extra economy seats. In total, the new configuration will have five more seats. This means that upgrades to business class will likely be much tougher, even though Global Upgrade Certificates can still be used to upgrade from economy to either premium economy or business class.

There are still a few questions, though. Will Delta maintain only nine seats per row in 777 economy, or will they follow the competition and go for a 10 abreast configuration? It’s tough to know for sure based on the above numbers, given that they’re changing the style of business class seat they have, adding premium economy, etc.

I suspect they’re going to be installing 10 seats per row. After all, this is Delta we’re talking about, and they know as well as any airline that people aren’t willing to pay a premium for one less seat per row.

The other big question is what happens to Comfort+? Comfort+ is Delta’s extra legroom economy configuration, which they offer throughout most of their fleet. However, they haven’t made reference to having this cabin on their A350s or reconfigured 777s, which leads me to believe they’ll eliminate it, given that up until now they’ve been marketing it as a separate product.

Delta is going for a huge premium economy cabin, though the elimination of Comfort+ would be a bummer for frequent flyers, since many elites can assign those extra legroom seats for free. Meanwhile the price premium for premium economy tends to be hefty.

It’s also interesting to see how Delta is generally going for a less business class heavy configuration than the competition. United has 60 business class seats on their 777-300ERs, and rumor has it that they’ll also have 60 business class seats on their A350s. Meanwhile Delta will have about half as many. That’s pretty telling of their respective strategies.

United-Polaris-777 - 41
United’s 777-300ER Polaris cabin

In terms of maximizing revenue, I tend to think Delta is in the right here. Aside from a few routes, it’s tough to sell anywhere close to 60 business class seats with high yields. Heck, when I recently flew United’s new 777-300ER business class from San Francisco to Hong Kong, they couldn’t even fill the cabin with people willing to pay cash or redeem miles for upgrades — they were able to accommodate non-revenue passengers.

What do you make of Delta’s decision to decrease the size of their business class cabin and create a big premium economy cabin?

Comments

  1. United has better hubs than Delta so perhaps the strategy makes sense for the respective airlines.

  2. Never liked the approach of Delta anyway. Free upgrades for elites where other have to pay hundreds of dollars. But it will be interesting how the premium section will evolve.

  3. It’s pretty clear that they’re sticking with 9 across. In the FAA filing they state that J will be between doors 1 and 2. 6 rows of PE with 38″ or less pitch will take up about the same space as the current J mini cabin and C+. That works out almost perfectly for 9 across.

    NZ has J between doors 1 and 2 on their 772. They also have five rows of PE but with more pitch than Delta, the size of the sections will be nearly identical. NZ has 246 Y seats in the same space as Delta will have 220. They have the same pitch. That difference pencils out to within an error 1 seat for 9 vs 10 across.

  4. I wonder how well Comfort+ and equivalents do on international routes. On the one hand, there aren’t typically enough elite flyers in economy to take up all of that space with the complimentary perk but I also don’t know how many regular flyers shell out the $100+ that is often charged for the extra leg room (vs. hoping to get assigned those seats at the gate). If the revenue from Comfort+ has fallen off, I’m curious if the strategy will evolve to trying to get more people to pay out of pocket for premium economy from the outset vs. getting free upgrades and using certificates for business class.
    Totally biased and anecdotal but I know I’ve increasingly just purchased the required fare class on United for GPU’s when there’s R space available to ensure an upgrade even if it’s significantly more than the lowest fare class and have even purchased very cheap outright business class for personal travel. Definitely wouldn’t have dreamed of doing so a few years ago when the differential was much greater.

  5. I read reports on airliners.net that Delta is looking to keep 3-3-3 in economy. If they do, I think it will give them a big advantage over their competition. It makes sense to me that Delta has a larger premium cabin. I personally wouldn’t spend the money for a Delta One seat (although it’s a nice product, which I’ve experienced through free upgrades). I would be more willing to spend more for a premium seat than I would for a business seat. The cost jump from an economy seat to a premium seat is much less than the jump from economy to business or even premium to business. Business class price is so much higher, Delta seems to think they can make more money with a larger premium cabin. I personally, as a consumer, would be more willing to pay for a premium seat than I would pay for a business seat.

  6. I just looked at the current 777 seat map, and it’s clear they are not going to 10-across seating. Not counting Comfort+, they have 25 rows of Economy. The last two rows don’t have C or G seats, and row 43 doesn’t have G,H,J seats. So, (25×9)-7=218. If they kept the same configuration (in terms of missing seats) and increased to 10 across, then(25×10)-7=243. So, if their stated Economy section on the reconfigured 777 is 220, then they are sticking with 9 across… To which I say”hallelujah!”

  7. Sadly, Delta’s current policy is that a diamond elite (its top-level) can use a global upgrade certificate to upgrade, based on availability, from economy to premium-economy, premium-economy to business-class, or economy to business-class. Unfortunately, it will not allow someone to upgrade to premium-economy and then waitlist for business-class, unless they use a second certificate. That’s just rubbish.

  8. @brian kusler

    This is not the case. Delta will be flying the A350 by the end of the year. They may or may not defer some of their later A350s.

  9. The last line about United’s largely unsold business section on the flight to Hong Kong makes sense… Long haul flight’s serving Asia probably only need 20 such seats for Westerners. Let’s be real, an economy seat is first class seat for an Asian space-wize.
    Will never forget the Delta flight attendant… When complaining about the oversized passenger spilling into my seat she said “there’s a bunch of Asians on this flight; I’ll get one of them to switch with you, they’re tiny”!

  10. >>>>
    The other big question is what happens to Comfort+? Comfort+ is Delta’s extra legroom economy configuration, which they offer throughout most of their fleet.
    <<<<<

    Really, Ben. This IS classic Delta… always 'trying stuff out'. 110% 'committed' to Comfort+ until you notice one day that Comfort+ has disappeared.

    They announce stuff to big fanfare, but they always game the system, change the rules and generally make life miserable for us seeking a consistent, know-able set of rules, features and offerings.

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