Delta Air Lines will roll out its new international-style premium economy seats to all of its widebody flights by 2021, airline president Glen Hauenstein said on an earnings call Thursday.
The “Premium Select” seats, first announced by Delta in 2016, began flying last year on the carrier’s new Airbus A350 widebody jets. The new seats are now being added Delta’s Boeing 777 aircraft as part of a cabin retrofit to that plane type.
True international-style premium economy seats have long been a staple on international carriers, but they’ve only recently caught on at U.S. carriers. The seats are more than extra legroom, typically featuring recliner-type seats with extra width and recline. They also typically come with meal and in-flight service that’s closer to business class than economy. American became the first U.S. airline to add such a cabin to its international flights, debuting the product in 2016. United has just begun installing its own version of such a cabin.
Delta’s rollout of its Premium Select cabin comes as it projects a $350 million revenue gain this year from premium seats, as an 8 percent gain in seating during the second quarter led to a 20 percent gain in revenue, executives said Thursday.
The categories include Delta One suites, Premium Select and Comfort Plus, according to Hauenstein.
Expansion plans continue. Delta plans to offer Premium Select, which has been available in half its Pacific markets and is being added to trans-Atlantic flights this year, on all widebody flights to Europe by 2021, Hauenstein said.
“This is really something that we continue to remain excited about,” Hauenstein told investment analysts during an earnings call. “People really want to buy this from us.”
TODAY IN THE SKY: Delta shows off first Boeing 777 retrofitted with new cabin interior (story continues below)
Part of the growth is from allowing customers since May 2017 to upgrade seats after buying them. The move came in response to corporations limiting business travelers to coach seats, despite a willingness by travelers to pay more themselves.
“Quite honestly, we haven’t made it that easy for them,” Hauenstein said. “As we continue to roll out different ways to buy those products, we will see another explosion in demand as customers will use miles to sit in cabins where they want to sit.”
Delta expects to offer the option for upgrading seats with loyalty miles by the end of 2018. Fares are typically $25 to $35 higher for switching domestic flights from economy to Comfort Plus, Hauenstein said. The international premium averages twice the revenue from economy, worth several hundred dollars per seat, he said.
Overall, Delta projects premium seating could generate an additional $500 million in 2019, Hauenstein said.
TODAY IN THE SKY: Delta shows off new ‘flagship’ Airbus A350 in Atlanta