Surprising: Delta Premium Economy Passengers Get First Class On Connecting Flights

As I posted about a few days ago, Delta will soon be inaugurating service with their A350, which will represent quite a change in terms of their longhaul product. The A350 will be the first plane to feature Delta’s new fully enclosed suites in business class, and also the first plane to feature their new premium economy product. However, this is coming at the expense of Delta’s extra legroom economy section, Comfort+.

Delta-One-Suite
Delta’s new international business class suites

Delta has now officially confirmed their first three international A350 routes, which will be as follows, per @airlineroute:

  • Detroit to Tokyo Narita daily as of October 30, 2017
  • Detroit to Seoul Incheon on alternating days as of November 18, 2017, and daily as of December 16, 2017
  • Detroit to Beijing on alternating days as of January 17, 2018, and daily as of February 23, 2018

Now that Delta is officially “selling” this plane, there’s one thing I find especially interesting. Passengers booked in Delta’s Premium Select, which is the name of their premium economy product, automatically receive first class seats on any domestic connections.

delta-premium
Delta’s international premium economy

This is true across the board, whether you’re redeeming miles or paying cash.

Now, in a way this is almost logical enough, since Delta’s premium economy seat is basically the same as their domestic first class seat, so it gives customers the most consistent experience throughout their journey.


Delta’s domestic first class

However, this hugely counters the industry trend, as there aren’t many airlines that book premium economy passengers into first or business class on connecting flights that don’t have premium economy. For example, American books you into economy domestically when flying premium economy.

I would have expected that maybe Delta would let premium economy passengers book into Comfort+ (their extra legroom economy section) domestically, but being allowed to book straight into first class is surprising.

I’m not fully sure I get Delta’s motivation here. On one hand they have a long term goal of increasing the percentage of first class seats they sell rather than offer as upgrades, and they’re also the airline that’s among the best at pricing their products. At the same time, I doubt they’ll be able to command an incremental premium for their premium economy product in exchange for this benefit, since I doubt most people will know about this benefit.

A very interesting move, though…

What do you make of Delta letting premium economy passengers book into first class on domestic segments?

Comments

  1. China Airlines does the same. If flying Premium Econemy long-haul you get a business class seat on intra-asia flights.

  2. Just an FYI that Alitalia also books long-haul Premium Y passengers into business on the connecting legs (i.e. TLV-FCO-JFK, TLV-FCO is in J). This is from first-hand experience.

  3. I don’t think this will last. I’m going to chalk this up to IT issues and assume eventually connecting passengers will get Comfort+. With all the effort they’re putting in to make Comfort+ a separate class, it just doesn’t make sense for premium economy passengers to get F

  4. Does anyone know why Detroit is the first for the A350, surely there must be more premium heavy routes for this new aircraft. Or is it just the 747 replacement.

  5. Same with TG who books PE from CPH/ARN into C on connecting flights from BKK and vice versa.

  6. will lax to syd get the a350? Seems like it should. Would be amazing if you could get delta one from New York connecting in lax on the way to Sydney.

    We can dream right?

  7. @james Because detroit is huge for DL and because most if not all their asia flights leave from detroit

  8. Asia market is quite competitive…. Delta is competing again Asian carries of O&D, so this is not surprising…
    How many Asians you see around DTW? I think majority of passengers on these flights are connecting… Why should they choose Delta over fancy Asian carriers?

  9. It’s consistent with Business Class being the new First Class, and Premium Economy being the new Business Class.

    Back when Business Class was still relatively new, confirmed upgrades to First Class on domestic connecting legs was a selling point.

  10. Agree with @Skk, I think this is really smart given the number of connecting passengers Delta is clearly expecting (especially through DTW). If the choice for a transpacific PE itinerary was Delta via DTW and onwards in domestic first vs CX, JL or AA via ORD say, and onwards on AA economy the Delta option looks far more attractive. International PE is clearly becoming more competitive and taking an increasing share of (formerly) business class fliers, while the price point is already 1.5-2x economy so it always confused me that AA throws you back into economy or MCE on the domestic legs of a PE itinerary. Delta will need to work hard to advertise this feature though.

  11. Makes sense to me because the same consumer they’re targeting with premium economy is the one they’re targeting with modest premiums for domestic first class. That and it helps the average traveler distinguish from the “extra legroom” seats vs the global definition of premium economy.

  12. I fly DTW to NRT (thru to TPE) annually and it is always fully loaded. Ditto with DTW to PVG. The last few times there wasn’t a single empty seat on the 747 they’re still flying. Most people forget all the Japanese auto companies have a big footprint in the area and none of the Asia carriers fly into DTW, so it is highly profitable.

  13. @Terrence, have you tried booking a non-rev flight from DTW to any Asian city? It will cost you 120k skypesos just in basic economy. 350k in Delta First. So, probably not too many people using points is my guess. It is much more economical to fly from a major west coast city non-rev in Delta. I’ve always just paid cash. I will definitely be looking at the premium economy offering as it is unbearable to fly 20+ hours in cattle class.

  14. When I priced out a PE flight on VS to the U.K., it did the same thing. ATL-JFK in DL F and onward in VS PE.

  15. I’ve flown Turkish Airlines premium economy, and although the intra-Europe segments are booked in regular economy, I’ve never had a segment not get upgraded to business.

  16. I doubt it’s “free” i’m sure the incremental cost is baked into the overall cost of the premium economy cabin. Delta doesn’t give anything away. Also, it feels like the reason delta increased the pricing of One is to make room in order to give PS the old redemption rates. More and more, business becomes first class from a decade ago and premium economy is becoming business of a decade ago, which has opened up the top of the spectrum for pretty spectacular first class cabins.

  17. @Lucky. You made my day!!! After reading this post, I checked our seats for our January 2018 flight from DTW to ICN, and indeed, we have the new intl business class seats!!! I am very excited to try it.

  18. Maybe they feel more comfortable testing on a smaller route, than initiating everything on a long-haul which might include international travelers. Sometime is best to test locally before going international

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