Delta Plans Premium A321neos With Flat Beds

Delta Plans Premium A321neos With Flat Beds

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Delta Air Lines recently took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo. The airline has 155 of these planes on order, which will be delivered through 2027. It looks like at least some of these jets will feature a really premium configuration…

Leaked: Delta’s 148-seat Airbus A321neo

Airline Weekly reports that a fleet guide that Delta shared with pilots outlines the carrier’s unique A321neo plans. Specifically, it’s expected that 21 A321neos will get a special configuration, featuring just 148 seats (compared to the standard 194 seats). This includes:

  • 16 Delta One seats (business class), which will be fully flat and in a 1-1 configuration
  • 12 Delta Premium Select seats (premium economy), which will be in a 2-2 configuration
  • 54 Comfort+ seats (extra legroom economy), which will be in a 3-3 configuration
  • 66 Main Cabin seats (economy), which will be in a 3-3 configuration

Based on the leaked seatmap, it looks to me like Delta will have reverse herringbone seats in business class on these planes, which we should soon see on narrow body planes on a more widespread basis, as airlines start to take delivery of the A321XLR.

Delta hasn’t publicly confirmed plans for this configuration, and for that matter we don’t know when these planes will enter service. Delta’s A321neo deliveries are scheduled to happen through 2027.

What will Delta do with premium Airbus A321neos?

While this is the first we’ve officially heard of Delta’s A321neo plans, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. My guess would be that these specially configured A321neos will be used for premium transcontinental routes, like New York to Los Angeles.

Historically Delta has used a combination of Boeing 767s and Boeing 757s for these premium routes, though we knew that eventually there needs to be a replacement, especially if Delta wants to compete with a leading product:

  • The 757s don’t have a very competitive product, as business class is in a 2-2 configuration, and the planes aren’t great in economy
  • The 767s are getting old, and if you’re focusing on a premium market, there’s something to be said for a lower capacity aircraft (so that more frequencies can be operated with more premium seats
Delta’s 767 business class

While back in the day most airlines operated wide body aircraft on premium transcontinental routes, that’s no longer the case. American flies specially configured A321s, JetBlue has its fleet of Mint-configured A321s, and United plans to eventually install flat beds on Boeing 737 MAX 10s.

American’s A321 first class

I think the configuration Delta is planning is roughly what we would have expected. The only part that’s a bit surprising is that premium economy will be offered, as that’s not something we’ve regularly seen on domestic flights, even in premium markets.

Bottom line

While details are limited as of now, it’s being reported that Delta plans to configure 21 Airbus A321neos in a premium configuration. These planes would feature 148 seats, including business class, premium economy, and lots of extra legroom economy seats.

Delta ultimately needs a plan for refreshing its premium domestic fleet, and this seems like an ideal way to do so. I’ll be curious to learn more details.

What do you make of Delta’s alleged premium A321neo configuration plans?

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  1. Tim Dunn Diamond

    It's nice to know people miss me when I don't reply.
    Pre-covid, Delta was the largest airline by local market revenue between NYC (all 3 airports) and LAX. Given that airfares from EWR to LAX have fallen with B6' entry into the market, I'm sure that will be even more true.
    Delta became the largest airline from NYC to LAX because it uses widebodies. They have a robust schedule and aren't going to...

    It's nice to know people miss me when I don't reply.
    Pre-covid, Delta was the largest airline by local market revenue between NYC (all 3 airports) and LAX. Given that airfares from EWR to LAX have fallen with B6' entry into the market, I'm sure that will be even more true.
    Delta became the largest airline from NYC to LAX because it uses widebodies. They have a robust schedule and aren't going to add a half dozen more flights in order to use premium configured A321s.
    Delta's 767-300ERs seat TWICE as many passengers as American's A321Ts, the 767 have lower costs per seat mile, and carry millions of pounds of cargo per month (according to DOT data) which narrowbodies cannot do.
    Delta is the #2 airline between NYC and SFO after United.
    Delta has just renovated the cabins of its 767-400s and is sending a growing number of 767-300ERs for 4 cabin mods and they are clean and fresh.
    Delta is mirroring its international widebody class of service strategy on its A321 strategy and will have a premium select cabin, something neither American or JetBlue offer.
    The A321 premium transcons will be used side by side with the widebodies based on the size of market demand.
    BOS is likely to see the new A321 config as will some JFK routes and the DCA-LAX route might get it as well.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Thank God you’re safe, Tim Dunn!

      When your reflexive praise of Delta didn’t appear instantly after the post, I thought we’d lost you!

      I can sleep soundly tonight.

    2. DesertGhost Guest

      Tim,

      You conveniently ignored the fact that American has 20 lie-flat "business class" seats in lieu of premium economy on its A321Ts.

      However, in light of Delta's new A321neos with lie-flat pods and premium economy/domestic first-class, the fact that American's current A321Ts are getting a bit long in the tooth, and the upcoming deliveries of new A321XLRs that will probably be similar to Delta's premium A321neo configuration, I'm guessing (and only guessing) that...

      Tim,

      You conveniently ignored the fact that American has 20 lie-flat "business class" seats in lieu of premium economy on its A321Ts.

      However, in light of Delta's new A321neos with lie-flat pods and premium economy/domestic first-class, the fact that American's current A321Ts are getting a bit long in the tooth, and the upcoming deliveries of new A321XLRs that will probably be similar to Delta's premium A321neo configuration, I'm guessing (and only guessing) that American will probably reconfigure its current A321Ts (or replace then with newly reconfigured A321neos) that will be similar to what Delta is doing. To me, that just makes sense.

      Replacing one-off, lie-flat seats with standard premium economy/domestic first-class seats (as Delta is doing) allows premium narrowbody aircraft to be used interchangeably with similarly configured widebodies to better match capacity with demand.

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      I didn't ignore the configuration of AA's A321Ts; I just noted that DL's new configuration mirrors its international widebody classes of service which does not include 2 lie flat classes of service.

      I find it more enlightening that you are one of the few people to admit that AA's A321T configuration probably isn't long for this world. It is TOO premium, results in unit costs that are too high, and the value of the...

      I didn't ignore the configuration of AA's A321Ts; I just noted that DL's new configuration mirrors its international widebody classes of service which does not include 2 lie flat classes of service.

      I find it more enlightening that you are one of the few people to admit that AA's A321T configuration probably isn't long for this world. It is TOO premium, results in unit costs that are too high, and the value of the double premium cabins on a narrowbody were challenged the minute that B6 announced Mint which resulted in widespread access to a lie flat transcon product - something Virgin America started w/ its recliners but B6 pushed to the next level esp. w/ lower pricing.
      Delta never took the bait on super premium narrowbody aircraft although UA did and walked away a decade or more ago.

    4. DesertGhost Guest

      Tim,

      Your comment made it sound like there's no option between American's lie-flat pods and extra room coach on the A321T. That's obviously not true. Another thing to consider is that the A321T entered service before the widespread adoption of "premium economy" on long-haul U.S.-based aircraft. Don't forget, the current A321T interior configuration was specified by the pre-bankruptcy American management, not this one (some people, not you, like to conveniently overlook that fact). I remember...

      Tim,

      Your comment made it sound like there's no option between American's lie-flat pods and extra room coach on the A321T. That's obviously not true. Another thing to consider is that the A321T entered service before the widespread adoption of "premium economy" on long-haul U.S.-based aircraft. Don't forget, the current A321T interior configuration was specified by the pre-bankruptcy American management, not this one (some people, not you, like to conveniently overlook that fact). I remember Parker mentioning that he had questioned the need for the A321T when he became American's CEO, but saw the numbers and changed his mind. Having written all of that, I think the main reason the A321T's current configuration isn't long for the world is that its interiors are probably getting pretty worn, and it's time to replace them. I detailed my rationale for emulating Delta's (and others') configuration above, so there's no need to repeat it here.

      The competitive environment has changed since 2013, so to automatically put down a decision that was made under very different circumstances is both unfair and lacks common sense. Howard Cosell used to say (and I repeat often), "Hindsight is always 20/20." Only airline nerds and sports fans are clairvoyant (meant facetiously, not sarcastically).

  2. Rizzo Guest

    How is the 757 econ and this config in econ any different? Author seems to think so...

  3. Jeff Guest

    I really hope some of the core hubs (e.g., ATL, DTW) see these on longer routes. These hubs have their fair share of long domestic flights and redeyes. While not as premium O&D markets as NYC or LA, there is premium demand that flow through them. If one needs to connect, one can easily spend 5-10 hours as a customer with Delta in a day. It would be nice to have the premium product on...

    I really hope some of the core hubs (e.g., ATL, DTW) see these on longer routes. These hubs have their fair share of long domestic flights and redeyes. While not as premium O&D markets as NYC or LA, there is premium demand that flow through them. If one needs to connect, one can easily spend 5-10 hours as a customer with Delta in a day. It would be nice to have the premium product on the longer legs of an itinerary.

    I used to fly LAX-DTW(-XXX) almost weekly at early or late hours. It was always the A321, 757-200/300, or 737-900ER with the domestic first class recliners. It's not great for sleeping. I would have happily paid for a lie flat. I eventually elected to overnight at nearby airport hotels to get additional sleep.

    Here are some pretty long legs one might encounter on connected itinerary from major population centers. While all these may not have the demand for Delta One, it's interesting to consider.

    SEA/SFO/LAX/SAN - ATL/DTW,
    BOS/PHL/RDU/IAD/DCA/BWI/MIA/EWR/CLT - SLC/LAX/SEA

    1. ConcordeBoy Gold

      DL has an somewhat-unrequited love affair with Miami/S.Florida, that may, just may, see some of these aircraft as well.

      We've seen what, 3 buildup attempts at MIA/FLL since 2000? Considering the premium nature of MIA-California, and DL's relative power in the LAX market, but wouldn't be surprised to see these aircraft make a run of LAX-S.Florida at some point in their history.

      Maybe not immediately, and probably not permanently.... but would be more surprised if...

      DL has an somewhat-unrequited love affair with Miami/S.Florida, that may, just may, see some of these aircraft as well.

      We've seen what, 3 buildup attempts at MIA/FLL since 2000? Considering the premium nature of MIA-California, and DL's relative power in the LAX market, but wouldn't be surprised to see these aircraft make a run of LAX-S.Florida at some point in their history.

      Maybe not immediately, and probably not permanently.... but would be more surprised if they didn't ever show in that market, than if they did.

  4. D3kingg Guest

    People put too much emphasis on lie flat seats . In the end First Class is First Class. Less seats equal less upgrades.

  5. DesertGhost Guest

    Are you sure this new "Premium Select' cabin isn't really domestic first-class as opposed to premium economy? To the untrained eye, the distinctions are minimal so why not brand them the same? "Premium Select" is a perfect example of this. It essentially says nothing, but it does identify the cabin as something other than economy.

    1. ConcordeBoy Gold

      It's essentially the same, with domestic-configured aircraft offering "Premium Select" on some int'l routes (e.g. KEF) despite using a decade-old domestic F seat.

      Reason they'll likely brand it Premium Select, if indeed they do so at all, is its proximity to Delta One aboard the same ship.

  6. Happy Flyer Member

    Good for Delta. Starting to give their passengers what they want in long-haul domestic flights.

  7. Sam Guest

    One thing of note is to see the lack of First Class galley space on the domestically configured non-premium aircraft. When American increased A321 F from 16 to 20, they increased the size of the galley.

    1. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      Hopefully, these will replace the 737-900s, which Delta has had for 8 or 9 years now. The galleys in first-class on the 737-900s is too small for hot meal preparation. Flight attendants hate it. The sink in the lavatory is too small to wash your hands. Who are the idiots who design aircraft interiors? Just like the idiots who design hotels, it's like they have never actually flown on the plane they designed.

  8. Never In Doubt Guest

    Someone please check on Tim Dunn.

    This post has been up for ~2 hours and no sight of him telling us what a (typically) genius move this is by Delta

    1. mike Guest

      Blah blah Delta revenue premium....AA too many hubs...Delta is in the best position moving forward....something something delta casm is three hay-pennies lower...

      There you go.

  9. 9volt New Member

    I suspect the addition of Premium Select is to eliminate the complimentary upgrades to Delta One from economy.

    1. CSR 2.0 Guest

      Very interesting, I think you're right. Delta currently is running Premium Select as Comfort Plus on the LAX-JFK routes and those seats are complimentary to Platinum and Diamond. It would be very Delta to do exactly as you say, and make people pay for PS to be eligible for a D1 Upgrade. Would mimic the GUC change for RUCs.

    2. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      After they've gotten used to those "free" seats. Great strategy. Get people dependent on a seat and then start charging for it. With that said, I'd take an aisle bulkhead seat in extra-legroom economy (Delta's comfort-plus) over a middle seat in premium-economy (Delta's premium).

    3. ConcordeBoy Gold

      They're already doing that in terms of upgrades.

      Even if you redeem a Regional upgrade as a Platinum and Diamond(!!) from standard Y, you're going to get PS confirmed, with a waitlist to D1.

  10. DLPTATL Gold

    Agree with others that these might do more than premium transcon routes and could easily handle flights to Iceland, Hawaii (other than HNL where they want more capacity) from the west coast, northern S. America, etc.

  11. Roy Ducker Guest

    Will any of their A321neo order be LR's or XLR'S?.

  12. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    If someone arrives in Los Angeles or New York on an international flight, Delta wants to keep them in the same class of service for their connecting domestic flight — at least between so-called premium markets. Basically, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and, occasionally, Seattle. With the new LATAM partnership and quasi-Miami hub, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that we could see a premium route between Miami and Seattle or Los Angele.

    Additionally,...

    If someone arrives in Los Angeles or New York on an international flight, Delta wants to keep them in the same class of service for their connecting domestic flight — at least between so-called premium markets. Basically, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and, occasionally, Seattle. With the new LATAM partnership and quasi-Miami hub, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that we could see a premium route between Miami and Seattle or Los Angele.

    Additionally, I suppose equipping the new plane with premium economy allows Delta to also use it for international flights, depending on demands. I’m thinking about seasonal flights to Iceland; Ireland; Stockholm.

    Personally, I’d prefer MORE Delta One seats or bigger lavatories, the latter of which are surprisingly cramped even on the A350. I flew the A350 twice last week between Detroit and Atlanta. I forgot how small the lavatories, even in Delta One, are on that particular aircraft.

    1. Roy Ducker Guest

      Its rubbish how people fly in internationally in Delta One then continue their journey in domestic first class are not allowed to use their first/business class lounges while waiting for a connection unless they pay.

    2. Sam Guest

      I don't think that's true. You should still have same day lounge access based off of your arriving DeltaOne international flight.

    3. LAXFlyer Guest

      What? Same day Delta One, even if connecting to domestic First Class, has Sky Club access. The rule specifically states a "domestic flight connecting to/from a same-day international Delta One flight."

  13. MikeL1986 Guest

    I really hope that Delta will incorporate these on Hawaii routes. Living in WA, we have to go through Seattle to go pretty much anywhere far away so I'd love to see the old 757's on the SEA-OGG route get this upgrade.

    1. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      I don't mind the 757s to Hawaii. Much better than the 737-900 that Delta was using between Seattle and Honolulu. I have a hard time believing there is enough demand for Delta One business-class and premium-economy to/from Hawaii. It isn't unheard of for seats between Honolulu and Los Angeles or Honolulu and Seattle on the 757 to go empty because there was nobody left to upgrade. I've also seen plenty of silvers and golds get the upgrade too.

  14. shoeguy Guest

    I don't think we'll see the reconfigured A321NEO's (Delta's answer to the 321T at AA) on JFK-LAX. It will be more of a BOS-LAX, BOS-SFO, and JFK-SFO plane. Perhaps JFK-LAX on off peak.

  15. sharon Guest

    this is interesting. As of now, Delta operates 767's exclusively on JFK LAX, so it seems like they need a larger capacity replacement for that service

    Perhaps this will be used on the DCA or Boston to LAX & JFK SFO ofcourse

    United has gone all in this summer with transcon service from EWR, almost all widebody service including 777-300ER to SFO and LAX

    1. shoeguy Guest

      UA moves a lot of traffic between EWR and SFO and LAX often on wide bodies and positions the planes back and forth. Capacity matching demand is part of it, but the main issue is that UA has a lot of 77W spares given the light TPAC network.

    2. Jeff Guest

      This could also be a pandemic-driven thing. We've seen a lot more hub-to-hub domestic flying on widebodies to keep pilots current.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Rizzo Guest

How is the 757 econ and this config in econ any different? Author seems to think so...

1
Never In Doubt Guest

Someone please check on Tim Dunn. This post has been up for ~2 hours and no sight of him telling us what a (typically) genius move this is by Delta

1
ConcordeBoy Gold

They're already doing that in terms of upgrades. Even if you redeem a Regional upgrade as a Platinum and Diamond(!!) from standard Y, you're going to get PS confirmed, with a waitlist to D1.

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