Why I’m Excited (And Suspicious) About Delta’s New Premium Economy

Filed Under: Delta

Last December American announced that they’re introducing a premium economy product, making them the first US carrier to offer a “true” premium economy cabin on longhaul flights. There had been rumors for a while that Delta would introduce one as well, and it looks like that is finally coming to fruition.

Funny enough Delta announced their premium economy product around the same time that American began offering premium economy on longhaul flights.

Details of Delta’s new premium economy

Delta’s new premium economy product will be called Delta Premium, and it will debut in late 2017.

The new Delta Premium seat

Delta Premium will come with the following amenities:

  • More space with up to 38 inches of pitch, up to 19 inches of width and up to seven inches of recline. Delta Premium seats will also offer adjustable leg rests and head rests;
  • Westin Heavenly In-Flight Blanket with pillow and a TUMI amenity kit featuring Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials, allowing customers to settle in and arrive well-rested;
  • Pre-departure beverage service followed by fresh, seasonal menu selections presented with Alessi serviceware designed exclusively for Delta;
  • A 13.3-inch, high resolution in-flight entertainment screen that is among the largest in its class, allowing customers to stay entertained with Delta Studio’s industry-leading library of complimentary movies, shows and games, and noise-cancelling headphones;
  • In-seat power ports for large and small devices and convenient storage to keep them within reach;
  • Sky Priority service, which includes faster check-in, accelerated security, priority boarding and expedited baggage service.

It’s interesting to note that Delta’s premium economy seats will feature actual leg rests, while American’s seats just have foot rests (except the bulkheads, which do have leg rests). Some people love leg rests, while others hate them. Personally I’m not a huge fan of them when you only have 38″ of pitch, as I find they’re a bit constraining.

The new Delta Premium seat

Which planes will feature Delta Premium?

Delta Premium will debut on Delta’s Airbus A350 aircraft, which will be entering service in fall 2017. The A350s will feature 32 Delta One Suites (which are fully enclosed and were announced a few months back), 48 Delta Premium seats, and 226 Main Cabin seats.

The new Delta One Suite

What’s a bit odd is that Delta doesn’t make reference to Comfort+ being installed on their A350s. This is Delta’s extra legroom economy section. This suggests they won’t offer it, which seems a bit backwards, since it’s something they’ve been focused on selling. But perhaps that would come at the cost of too many seats, and they’d rather just have business, premium economy, and economy.

Delta will also roll out Delta One Suites and Delta Premium on their 777 fleet, starting in 2018.

Additional aircraft may also get the new product in the future, though that hasn’t been confirmed.

Delta Premium & Upgrades

American announced premium economy late last year and is already operating the product to Madrid and Sao Paulo (though for now they’re selling the seats as economy). It has now been nearly a year since the announcement, and they still haven’t explicitly said how upgrades will work with premium economy.

In other words, as of now systemwide upgrades are valid for a one class upgrade, so does that mean they’ll only be valid for economy to premium economy, or from premium economy to business? If so, that would be a massive devaluation.

While I assume that’s how it will work on planes with premium economy, American hasn’t formally announced it one way or another.

Well, interestingly Delta has been much more forthcoming. They just announced their new premium economy yesterday, and have already updated their upgrade terms. If you look at Delta’s webpage for upgrade certificates, it says the following:

Diamond Medallion Members will be eligible to use Global Upgrade Certificates to upgrade to Delta Premium, a new class of service on Delta’s long-haul international flights that will begin in 2017. On Delta Premium-equipped aircraft, Global Upgrade Certificates can still be used to upgrade to Delta One™. Regional Upgrade Certificates cannot be used to upgrade to Delta Premium.

Certificates are flexible — they can be used to upgrade directly from Main Cabin to either Delta Comfort+, First Class, Delta Premium or Delta One. Or they can be used to upgrade from Delta Comfort+ to either First Class, Delta Premium or Delta One. Or they can be used to upgrade from Delta Premium to Delta One.

So Delta is saying that you’ll have the option of upgrading from economy to either premium economy or business class using your Global Upgrade Certificates. That’s fantastic news, though I’m a bit suspicious. Delta is usually the leader in the race to the bottom when it comes to loyalty program “enhancements,” though this would be a very nice policy.

You’ll be able to upgrade to the Delta One Suite even on flights with Delta Premium

I imagine American is getting ready to announce their upgrade policy for premium economy soon, as they’re preparing to actually sell the cabin. I hope Delta’s policy will rub off on American, and that they’ll allow systemwide upgrades to be used from economy to either premium economy or business class. I had sort of given up hope that this would happen, but since American and United just seem to follow Delta’s lead…

Delta Premium bottom line

It was only a matter of time before Delta announced their premium economy cabin, which has been rumored for a long while. Overall the cabin looks solid, not that there’s all that much differentiation between premium economy cabins across most airlines.

What I’m most excited about (and perhaps also most suspicious about) is that Delta is saying that Global Upgrades will continue to be valid from economy to business class, even on planes with premium economy. Here’s to hoping they’re not being sneaky, and that American will have a similar policy.

What do you make of Delta Premium, and in particular their upgrade policy?

  1. So if I can book an economy ticket each time and upgrade to business class, why would I bother purchasing a premium economy seat ? Makes no sense.

    Maybe it depends on the Y booking class on if it can be upgraded to business, or would it count as being upgraded twice ?

  2. Translation for DL’s weaselese : If you’re in Y, you can apply Global cert to the “upgrade waitlist process”.

    It’ll attempt J first, and if that fails, it’ll attempt W. If that succeeds, you’re “upgraded” to W, and your cert is considered used.

    Only if both fails would the cert be redeposited back to you. THAT’S the true deval.

  3. It would be AAmazing (but extremely unlikely) that AA would make PEY and guaranteed domestic F (excluding premium 3 cabin transcon) 0.5 of an SWU and regular biz 1 SWU

  4. D1 upgrades only allowed on aircraft with Premium, so I read the T&C as …..
    If in Y can use cert to get to Premium
    If in Premium, can use cert to get to D1

    ….which is entirely in keeping with DL behaviour

  5. This is consistent with what DL has recently allowed for GUCs on VS flights, so this makes sense. Though the language is hugely confusing, and as @Henry LAX said, I suspect there is another shoe waiting to drop here somewhere.

    Most notably, why would a Diamond Medallion ever use a certificate to upgrade to Comfort+ when Diamonds get unlimited at-time-of-booking upgrades to Comfort+ with a companion already? (And you can only use GUCs for yourself and a max of one companion traveling on the same PNR, so there is never a case where you might otherwise want to do this — for example Delta GUCs can’t be gifted to someone you’re not traveling with.)

  6. Nice to see DL’s upgrade policy on this. I think AA already had something similar planned, but just had not announced it because they wanted to see if DL would keep Y -> J upgrades. Now that DL has, I assume AA will announce keeping Y -> J SWU’s the same.

    I’ve always thought that AA cutting SWU’s from 8-4 would mean they would NOT cut SWU use further. I suppose there’s still a chance AA comes out with Y -> W SWU upgrades, but I doubt it. If they do, I’m definitely leaving for the UA or DL pastures.

  7. If they don’t want people to upgrade to D1, they can just restrict the availability of upgrades while keeping the policy the same. There are plenty of flights where D1 goes out with empty seats and it would silly to deny a DM a use of their GUC in that case.

  8. I am not entirely optimistic that this will be a good thing. I look at BA’s product. I don’t buy their premium economy because for the price I can often find a flight in business class for a small fraction more. So even though an upgrade may be possible, I rarely find it is much of a value as the 20,000 avios can be used or I can spend $200 more for the J fare which earns more miles.

    I wish they would make a premium economy that was worth the asking price. For example if they could get a angle flat seat then I would buy in a heartbeat. But I guess that would require a minimum 60 inch pitch versus what the 38 they are offering.

    I do think the amenity kit is a nice touch and will go a long way, especially for those people who do not usually fly in business class.

  9. I’m all for further segmentation of airline seats/classes. I’m flying a cheapish D1 fare next week EWR->MAD ($1900) but normally Int’l J is out of my price range. If i can fly a real prem economy product for a few hundred dollars for than economy then its a no-brainer. For a few inches of extra legroom and ‘zone 1’ (which is really zone 5) boarding it’s not at all worth it.

  10. I am an Air New Zealand frequent flyer and should explain how this has worked for many years.

    First the fare levels – this is important:

    Business = 2 x Premium
    Premium = 2 x Economy

    Secondly, upgrade instruments only permit a one class upgrade.

    The outcome is that they no longer upgrade anybody from coach to the front of the plane.

    And I pay double the coach fare – I buy Premium Economy tickets – so that I can upgrade to the front of the plane and lie down.

  11. Don’t you think Delta will “allow” you to upgrade from economy to Business but require 2 GUC’s. 1 to Premium and another from Premium to Biz. If there are 3 separate paid classes that’s how I figure they will do it. So you are able to do it but it will cost you more certificates.

  12. Genuine question I have looked at the pictures of premium, and I looked at the 360 view on the website, for the life of me I can’t see any kinda tray table, and it doesn’t look like anything will pop outta anywhere.

    Is it just me, am I just missing it, I assume I am if so to anyone who points it out much appreciated.

  13. The big negative as Delta has announced it is this: they will not be offering Comfort+ on Premium-equipped aircraft. And as of now, they are saying no free upgrades to Premium, even for Platinum and Diamond elites.
    So this means that a customer who is flying 75,000 miles a year+ is relegated to a 31″ pitch totally conventional, totally average (ie: quite uncomfortable) seat for 8 or 10 hour longhauls. As a soon-to-be minted PM, I find that very, very disappointing.
    I see almost no value in retaining Delta status if my most grueling flights = the same seats as a once-a-year vacationer on a deep-discount V fare.
    It is a very poor way to treat high-tier elites, and will move me to book whoever has the best priced W cabin once Atlantic service has it.

  14. As a Diamond (300k/year), 2MM, I find this extremely disappointing. Delta already charges appx $200 more per international itinerary for “Comfort+”, when all that gets you is an additional 4″ pitch. Obviously, for a Diamond, you get upgraded to those seats immediately for free, so the cost is moot for me. BUT, it makes me shudder to think what Delta will charge for these true Premium Economy seats.

    I book my flights usually with no more than a week of advance notice, which means most of my international economy tickets cost around $3k. Another $500-$700 for Premium Economy would just be highway robbery or rather “sky”way robbery, and the only upgrade option is to waste a GUC? You only get 4 of those a year – who would waste them on Premium Economy????

    How about this – if you are Diamond (or Platinum), AND you book an H fare or higher, you can be waitlisted for free Premium Economy upgrades as available without uselessly burning a GUC. Those should be saved for Delta One on flights of 12+ hours.

  15. “Complimentary Upgrades are not available.” So… that pretty much sucks. Even if you’re a Diamond, you can’t upgrade to premium as you currently can to comfort+ at check in.


  16. Result for me – I try to avoid routes with Premium Select and try to find routes where there is still Comfort+.
    Wonder if anybody has been able to talk to Delta about what they are thinking their highest tier passengers will do when they have no upgrade path to a better seat on those routes (since Comfort+ does not exist on all Premium Select flights I checked)

  17. “Complimentary Upgrades are not available.” So… that pretty much sucks. I agree! Delta will lose their Diamond customer as “since Comfort+ does not exist on all Premium Select flights” especially for long time flights.

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