Delta Air Lines will be introducing a new, more premium layout on some of its upcoming Airbus A350s, and there may be an ulterior motive…
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Delta plans A350s with more business class seats
As flagged by @TheAviationBeat, Delta has updated its seat maps to reflect a new type of configuration for its Airbus A350-900s. Delta currently has 28 A350s in its fleet, with an additional 16 of these jets on order. Currently, Delta has its standard A350 layout, plus it has a special, less premium layout on some aircraft that were acquired from LATAM.
With some of Delta’s upcoming A350 deliveries, the airline seems to be planning a more premium layout. Initially, these aircraft show as operating the following two routes:
- Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB) as of June 1, 2024
- Atlanta (ATL) to Cape Town (CPT) as of August 1, 2024
So, what exactly is changing? The jet’s overall capacity is decreasing by 31 seats, from 306 seats to 275 seats. with the breakdown of seats changing as follows:
- Delta One (business class) is going from 32 seats to 40 seats, as it gains two additional rows of seats behind the second set of doors
- Delta Premium Select (premium economy) is going from 48 seats to 40 seats, as it loses one row of seats
- Delta Comfort+ (extra legroom economy) is maintaining 36 seats
- Delta Main Cabin (economy class) is going from 190 seats to 159 seats, as a few rows of seats are being eliminated
So as you can tell, Delta is swapping eight premium economy seats for eight business class seats, and in the process is losing 31 economy seats.
What’s the motive for this configuration change?
While Delta is generally able to command a revenue premium among US airlines, the airline is conservative about the size of its premium cabins, especially on long haul flights. For example, the A350 is Delta’s flagship aircraft, and the airline currently just has 32 business class seats on those planes.
Meanwhile United’s 777-300ERs have 60 business class seats and United’s 787-9s have 48 business class seats. So it’s interesting to see the different strategies the two airlines take. I’m not sure if Delta just isn’t able to sell as many business class seats as United, or if Delta believes it can command the highest fares with these smaller premium cabins.
So, is Delta increasing the size of its A350 business class cabin a general trend shift, or is there more to it? I think it’s pretty telling on which routes this new configuration is launching. Delta’s Atlanta to South Africa routes are the carrier’s two longest flights, and the airline often has serious weight restrictions on the westbound flights, especially when departing Johannesburg (which is at a high altitude, and therefore has reduced takeoff performance).
So I’m curious if this is part of a bigger play on Delta’s part to add more business class seats, or if Delta is just strategically introducing a more premium configuration with fewer total seats, so that the airline doesn’t have to deal with weight restrictions departing Johannesburg, allowing the airline to carry more cargo.
Delta is introducing a new Airbus A350 configuration in 2024. This will feature eight extra business class seats, eight fewer premium economy seats, and 31 fewer premium economy seats. This configuration will be debuting on Delta’s longest routes that are weight restricted, so I imagine reducing the overall weight of the aircraft while adding more premium capacity is the primary goal here.
What I’m curious about is if this configuration spreads to other routes, given Delta’s small business class cabins on its flagship aircraft, or if this will only stay on these two routes.
What do you make of Delta’s new premium A350 configuration?