Do The New Delta One Suites Make You Upset?

Filed Under: Delta, Media

A couple of days ago Delta announced that they’d be introducing suites with doors on their Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft over the coming years. This is a very nice innovation on Delta’s part, and makes them the first airline in the world to introduce an all suite business class product.

The new Delta One Suite

It looks like Delta managed to create this new seating option in a very efficient configuration, since it essentially looks like a modified and more private version of the Vantage XL staggered business class seat, similar to what SAS has in business class. In other words, the footprint per seat might not even be bigger, but rather they’ve just added a privacy partition.

SAS-Business-Class-A330 - 2
The SAS Vantage XL staggered seat

Naturally I was curious when I read the following headline on “This Bold, New Move by Delta Air Lines Has Already Gotten People Really Upset”

Okay, what are “people” really upset about? Did they screw something up about the product, are they angry that Delta is advertising these when they’ll only be rolled out on select planes, or what?

Nope. As it turns out, the author is upset that Delta is introducing a better business class product but not improving their economy product.

The author claims he understands why airlines cater to first and business class customers, citing the principle that 80% of profits are generated from 20% of customers:

Don’t get me wrong–I understand why an airline caters to those business and first-class customers.

Alrighty, so to me it seems like we could stop there, no?


But then he continues, and cites Singapore Airlines as an example of an airline that offers a great economy product and a great business class product:

But here’s the thing: What if an airline found a way to do both? Must standard service to economy passengers continue to decline while the rich get richer?

At least a few airlines are figuring this out. For example, I’ve found Singapore Airlines to offer a great flight experience, and that’s in coach. Incidentally, Singapore also ranks extremely high in its business-class offerings.

Well, the author might be interested to know that at least as of last year, Singapore Airlines had been losing money on almost all of their longhaul routes for the past six years.

Singapore Airlines 777 economy

So while some airlines may be figuring it out, it doesn’t seem like Singapore is getting a very big ROI on their nine seats per row in 777 economy, and superior service, unfortunately.

All the author wants is a decent meal, a little more legroom, and a glass of wine:

So, it’s time to speak up, my fellow 80 percenters. Let our voices be heard, in hopes that we can turn the tide!

I don’t need a private suite. I’d be completely happy with a decent meal, a little more leg room, and a glass of wine.

Oh…and the hot towel is a nice touch, too.

The author is missing a couple of major things here.

First of all, almost unarguably the quality of economy on longhaul flights is being improved. Most US airlines now have on demand entertainment and Wi-Fi on longhaul flights, and they’ve even brought back free alcoholic beverages and in some cases improved meals.

At least it’s easier to stay entertained in economy

Second of all, airlines are increasingly giving customers the opportunity to purchase the experience they want, which should be a good thing for someone saying “I’d be completely happy with _______.”

You want a little extra legroom? Perfect, Delta’s Comfort+ is for you, and it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg. Want even more space than that? Delta’s A350s will have premium economy. All of these options are far less than the cost of business class.

But while I’m a huge consumer advocate in general, there’s no denying that consumer demand has caused the current state of airlines. That’s not to suggest that I agree with everything the airlines are doing, but the precise reason for these changes is because of the success of low cost carriers.

Spirit Airlines has an average load factor of close to 90%, and that’s despite the fact that they have very few loyal flyers, and that they nickel and dime for everything, including carry-ons. Why do people fly Spirit? Because if there’s one thing a lot of people like more than a decent meal, a little more leg room, a glass of wine, and a hot towel, it’s a low fare.

Spirit Airlines is popular for a reason

Years ago American tried to offer “More Room Throughout Coach,” where all seats in economy had additional legroom. What did they find? Customers weren’t consistently willing to pay a slight premium for it, so they got rid of it, and eventually brought it back on a smaller scale as a buy-up option. And now it’s quite successful.

What do you guys say — do the new Delta One Suites make you really upset?

  1. There is one answer:

    The author can’t afford (or is just too cheap) to purchase DL C+

    End of story.

  2. Economy isn’t really getting better. It’s also all about the seat, and it’s getting narrower, and narrower, and narrower. When you realise even Cathay Pacific tried once to go 10 across on their 777s, you’ll realise.

  3. I’m upset that DL is getting all this press for having “suites” when they’re a Vantage XL with a screen around them. Not exactly like flying Singapore

  4. Great read. The additional privacy seems great, but I wonder if that has increased the price of the business class seats.

    You really pay for what you get in a lot of cases with airlines now. I like the pay-to-get or upgrade option. Long hauls are the only time I want more from the airline, simply for more comfort and convenience.

  5. I’ve paid for J only a couple of times. Sometimes I get an upgrade but most of the time I pay for coach (and am loyal to Delta usually up to 20-25% more for the fare). I know J is better but most of the time i’ll suck it up an Y or Y+ and put the $avings towards another part of my trip.

    Always frustrated by hearing people complain about the economy experience on airplanes. Yes, it’s not luxurious but customers don’t want luxurious. 9 times out of 10 they will shop based on the lowest fare, so why should the airlines have any incentive to offer additional service at a higher price? Why are Delta’s basic economy fares extremely popular?? Because as much as someone likes to complain, they’d rather save $25.

    Want drinks? Buy drinks? Want a checked bag, pay for a check bag. Want more legroom, pay for more legroom. Want to board early, pay to board early. Want to get from point A to point B safely, enjoy the cheap flights.

    People also forget that while service has declined since de-regulation, flights are substantially cheaper now than they were in the 70s. We can go back to great service, lots of legroom and high quality meals if you want to pay $1000 to go from New York to Miami. Or you can pay $250 and be a little uncomfortable for 3 hours. I know what i;d choose.

  6. It seems most upsetting to those who praised UA’s Polaris as basically a new “best in class” offering, and don’t want to admit this is a better seat

  7. My immediate thought when he stated that Singapore had a good economy class was, wait but they have been losing money. Economy isn’t a great seat, never will be… but find a way to use business class… we have.

  8. I do think Singapore is loosing money for a wide variety of reasons. None of which is because they have a better, more comfortable coach seat than Delta does.

  9. @ Dan — Well, that actually probably is a reason they’re losing money. They only have nine seats per row in 777 economy rather than 10, while they’re not able to command a price premium for the larger and more comfortable seats.

  10. Economy is fine and has been getting better for years. Better IFE, better food (paid), better legroom with economy plus/comfort/MCE etc. At the end of the day, even spending 12 hours in a cramped seat to fly around the world for not that much money is amazing!

  11. Not so long ago I might have answered “yes” to that. There were few options for those of us who weren’t EXP or wealthy to get into anything but economy. There were no MCE seats on international flights, just J and (basic) Y. However with the new direction of discounted J and MCE seating options it’s finally possible to move up for a reasonable fare increase. I’m a fan of the new design.

  12. I think the author has not really articulated himself well although I do get the point he is making- that the level of innovation in economy has not matched that in business class. Firstly, airlines are only starting to realize that economy class is not homogenous. There are several segments within economy- hence you have extra legroom options and even premium economy with Delta and American aiming to offer both. But compare that to the business class innovations- flatbed and now enclosed suites. In economy, several options featuring staggered layouts that increased comfort without compromising density have been proposed but airlines have yet to bite. Why? Because it has limited PR mileage. Another area where airlines need to seriously innovate is on the service. This boarding school style service of everyone getting the same drab meal with a tray full of paraphenelia is so archaic and wasteful. Why can’t airlines simply start charging for meals in long-haul economy and actually offer better food to the people who want to eat and boost ancillary revenues? In order to innovate, the airline executives themselves need to get past their inertia and actually fly in their economy cabins to get a sense of what flyers actually want and what is surplus.

  13. Perhaps the author does not realize the incredible ability that the common man has today to fly anywhere in the world for a fraction of the cost compared to decades and in some cases even years ago. Yes – the seats may be more cramped, but the costs are lower, the in-flight amenities are increasing (IFE, wi-fi connectivity, plug and play abilities, etc.) and airlines are investing into making the flight more comfortable from a physiological aspect as well with the delivery of the dreamliner and the A350. In addition, airlines are introducing innovative intermediate products with options (economy plus over the last five years, the couch on Air New Zealand, etc.).

    Sure, there are more publicized changes to the premium cabins, but these cabins are the money makers and in many cases the reason why economy passengers enjoy the low fares.

    The question I receive from disgruntled passengers frequently: How do you contribute to the airline’s bottom line when you get free upgrades regularly? Well, I fly a lot more than the average public does and hence contribute to their bottom line through my continued loyalty to their products.

    Overall, this author needs to do some research into the aviation industry.

    Now, getting to the DL suites, they are interesting but not moving. My main issue with DL has always been their ground services, which is why my employees and I avoid them – especially on long-haul tightly scheduled expeditions. I fly *A a lot due to my frequently visited destinations so I am genuinely interested in the Polaris product, especially since it’s focused on the main amenity I need on a long-haul flight – sleep. Why someone would be upset by either product is unfathomable and in this case even more so since neither has been released to the public with some exceptions!

  14. I am 6’1″ and can afford to pay for C+ or E+ or whatever. But if i’m not able to fly F/J on miles , then I’m flying in Y, because that C/E+ bs is not worth it and sometimes I get bumped by DL to C+ because they were too stingy to assign me a seat in Y .

  15. Lucky, you’re right, the airlines *are* giving economy passengers what they want… cheap fares.

    The problem with an overall “better” economy cabin, as someone else mentioned, is the limited PR mileage. Translation: It’s *hard* to market that product as “better” than the competition. So if your costs are higher, you’re sunk, because the flying public has no idea that your product is better (and worth paying extra for) or enough people don’t think it’s worth a price premium.

    And I understand the importance of branding, even for economy. I haven’t flown economy to/from Asia in almost 10 years. I don’t know the specs off the top of my head as to who has the bigger seat or better product. So if Singapore costs $50 more than the competition, it’s not going to register. The other thing that Singapore Air has going against it is that Singapore’s geographic location as a world-wide hub is really inconvenient for anybody whose destination is not Singapore. If you’re connecting from North America, an SQ itinerary is an automatic 2 stops. Add to that that one is likely to overly their destination and then have to connect back up. So Singapore a vast majority of the time is going to have a more inconvenient schedule, and presumably higher operating costs for a given city pair.

    And on top of that, they have higher operating costs do to lower aircraft densities? No wonder they’re struggling.

  16. A few points here

    1) Delta actually has a coach product (not just seats, but IFE, food) that is seen as pretty good compared to many others in the industry. For example, their 2-3-2 coach seats on the 767 to Europe are pretty well regarded, especially compared to the 3-4-3 seating you see on 777 and 380s in coach.

    2) Singapore is losing money not just because they have 3-3-3 on their coach seats, but also because cash demand for their premium seats has also declined (as it has for a lot of premium products globally)

    3) Virgin America could have probably remained independent for a good while. Most of its positive reputation was based on a good coach product.

    A lot of jumbled thoughts there, but airlines can’t neglect coach or premium seats. During different parts of the economic cycle, certain cabins will do better than others.

  17. I’m happy about Delta’s new product. New planes have improved so naturally economy has improved in some instances. I would be thrilled to fly in economy on the 787 or a350 .

  18. I wonder how these ” suites” will be during an emergency landing or evacuation ?
    I hope someone doesn’t get stuck inside as to is low down the evacuation process
    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see but for an unplanned evacuation they don’t seem so safe

  19. Wow Lucky, what a load of BS you just let out. Unfortunately you also show your narrow minded bias on the subject of cabin classes and profitability… What a sad experience

  20. What do these complainers want? I have an idea, lets go back to the 80s where many domestic flights were very expensive. You ever see a fare for $49 in 1990? NO you didn’t. So, you have a choice, pay $250 for a R/T ticket LGA-ORD and spend a couple more bucks for MCE/EconPlus/Delta+ or the old $400 fares of 1990 and get the same legroom but pay easily $100 more. These clowns simply don’t understand that airlines are a BUSINESS and they are out to MAKE MONEY not make you comfortable. The system the way it is now actually isn’t terrible, you pay extra for what you want and will use, and get in general lower fares than in years past.

  21. I always find your opinions about international economy questionable because I don’t think you actually fly it. That said, airlines deliver a product that customers value and I agree with you that adding enhancements or reducing seating density in economy typically doesn’t work financially.

  22. The quality of long haul economy is improving… says the guy who hasn’t flown long haul economy in over a decade.

    I suggest you fly Lufthansa economy long haul sometime. Might give you perspective on your favorite airline.

  23. It’s nice to see Delta is finally investing in new aircraft but as usual they are only interested in premium flyers. Ad for the rest of us Delta will just keep trying to squeeze the rest of us for every nickel and dime they can and giving nothing in return. If you live in one of their hub cities like Atlanta you really don’t have a choice. Once again we can thank the government for allowing these mergers.

  24. “You know, we’re living in a society.” “We’re supposed to act in a civilized way.”

  25. I always have to chuckle! Love reading this blog! Key words in question-
    What do you guys say-………… really upset?
    Out comes all the critics!!
    Great job Ben! Mission accomplished!

  26. What I would really love to see is a seat with the legroom of most premium economy, c+, whatever, but with enough width (read 20″) to fit my shoulders in (I wear a 48 long jacket) that has some actual padding in it, not those new ultra thin seats that are like sitting on bare metal, so that a pseudo economy flight isn’t simply pure misery. And no, I am not upset with Delta and their cheap imitation of Singapore.

  27. Well…one could see it the other way and commend Delta for bringing the enclosed luxury and privacy of first class at a more accessible business class price-point. My comments about the lack of innovation in economy was a general comment- the vast majority of airlines today including the big ME3 carriers have no extra legroom options either and even Singapore airlines has only recently introduced premium economy and that too with a fairly mediocre product…at 18.5 inches width it is essentially a Coach plus seat with 1-2 inches of more legroom and champagne. Delta on the other hand is offering coach passengers two options to upgrade their experience with coach plus for extra legroom and premium economy for those seeking an upgraded intermediate experience meaning that the main economy class is essentially catering to the segment flyers who are wanting to get from point A to B at the lowest price.

  28. My two cents:
    It’s insane that airlines can introduce longer and longer routes (like 15 hours plus), and still have economy on the 777 with 10 abreast and 31 inch pitch, or the 787 with 9 abreast and 31 inch pitch. If they squeeze in that extra seat, then at least up the pitch a few inches (33 or 34 too much to ask?!). 10 hours with high density seating is just torture, and I can’t imagine it for 15 + hours! I don’t care about consumers willingness to pay or price being the driver, it just shouldn’t be allowed based on what the body can feasibly handle.

    That being said, I consistantly find round trip tickets from CPH to LAX in economy for around 600 USD (when booked far in advance). That’s a great price, but I dread the economy experience because of how miserable my body feels, and do everything in my power to either upgrade or get an exit row seat. Not everyone is as savvy or has the ability to upgrade or finagle the best economy seat.

  29. Average customers don’t compare. It’s all about the price. Then they get to the thin seat or lack of space and are unhappy. But they don’t travel enough to compare next time they fly, as they rarely fly. So they book cheapest all over again. At least when they have to pay for a seat that’s more comfy, they know why. Hence the decision by many/most airlines to have different layers of “economy” seating.

  30. How often do you travel in economy? Or even economy plus or comfort blah blah or whatever other BS names airlines try to give a product that simply means, “this sucks softly less”? Because it’s horrific.

  31. Fare Options JFK LHR JFK on for a return trip on 10/5 and 10/12

    Economy (Main cabin): $730
    Economy Plus: $850
    Premium Economy: $975 (On Virgin Atlantic operated flights as Delta does not have a premium economy yet)- flights priced the same as Delta and VS operate a joint venture between the US and UK.

    Looking at the options below it is pretty obvious that Delta is giving economy class passengers multiple opportunities to customize and enhance their travel experience at very reasonable price-points. Essentially, what Delta is trying to tell you is that you do not need to fly Singapore airlines to have a comfortable flight in economy. Simply cough up another $120 and get a seat way more comfortable then what you would get on the so-called leading airlines of the world particularly airlines like Qatar and Emirates that offer a uniform tight squeeze in economy.

    If only the airlines would begin unbundling their services in economy and allow some customization there as well. People should be able to choose if they want to eat and pay to eat better food rather then being force fed the junk that the free catering dishes out.

  32. “I do think Singapore is loosing money for a wide variety of reasons. None of which is because they have a better, more comfortable coach seat than Delta does.
    lucky says:
    @ Dan — Well, that actually probably is a reason they’re losing money. They only have nine seats per row in 777 economy rather than 10, while they’re not able to command a price premium for the larger and more comfortable seats.”


    Delta also has 9 seats per row on their 777s. UA uses the terrible 10-across config, but Delta doesn’t. SQ does have slightly more pitch, though (32″ consistently vs. varying from 31 to 32″ on DL.) KE offers 9-across with 33-34″ pitch.

    I’d guess SQ’s extra expenses are probably more in the soft product realm and up front (how often are they filling those F suites with paying passengers vs. those flying on points?) The profit difference could also be partially due to fare differences, too.

    Agreed that the article complaining about Delta putting a nicer product up front is ridiculous, though. If someone wants business class, pay for business class. If they want something in between, pay for C+ or premium economy. But if you just buy the cheapest fare you can find, you really have no room for complaint when you’re not the focus of service improvements.

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