It’s time for Delta to step up with “real” Premium Economy seats on international flights!

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email ad for singapour airlines premium economy seats

The other day I got a nice email from Singapore Airlines with the above graphic for their “new class of service”. It said in part the seat would include:

“Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class is a new way to fly with enhanced comfort, additional choices, and exclusive privileges.”

That sounds great. The seats look very nice compared to any coach or Comfort+ type seat Delta has. Then Delta PR this week was focused on promoting their, on paper anyway, OFCMB or 5 class of service with up-sell choices with Expedia and Orbitz travel. Lovely. Makes me think back to my recent Field of Dreams road trip and hear in my head, “If you market it, they will buy“. Delta is doing all they can to sell the two kinds of seats they offer as unique products when they are not even outside “Delta land” now. But all of this got me thinking.

Virgin-Atlantic-MAN-to-ATL-Upper-Class-review-by-RenesPoints blog

What a SEAT! (click to see full screen)

I have been told a rumor that Delta is in fact at least thinking of installing a real Premium Economy seat on international flights and I feel this would be a smashing idea. It truly is about time and they need to catch up at this point with what is in the rest of the market. After all Delta owns almost half of Virgin Atlantic and they have just an amazing Premium Economy seat but the only way Delta flyers have access to this is to buy a ticket – not via upgrades etc. The same thing goes for Air France. Medallions cannot get access free.

Now on to my speculations and why I think this would be such a home run idea for Delta and how this could be marketed.

Delta would install these seats for all internationally configured jets as well as the LAX-JFK/SFO route (plus Hawaii direct). All of these routes are non-Medallion upgradedable as they have DeltaONE seats that are full flat and much much much better than the normal domestic 1st class or business class seat. Really, when you think about it, the DeltaONE seat is much more like a 1st class seat compared to so many other airlines.

Here is how this will be marketed. Delta will offer FREE upgrades for this seat for Diamonds and Platinum Medallion members. They will offer discounted upgrades for purchase for Gold and Silver Medallion members. This way, even those who are buying long haul coach seats have a shot at a “minor” upgrade either free or at a discounted price and loyalty is rewarded. The DeltaONE seats are preserved for high price sales and Global Upgrade certs.

The other big plus is there would then be alignment with both Virgin Atlantic plus Air France and a chance to compete with airlines like Singapore and others who offer more than just two choices of seats on international aircraft.

For me, Comfort+ on Domestic flights is fine. You are getting a little bit more in space and perks even if the seat is the same as the rest of coach. Those flights are normally not “that” long that a true Premium Economy seat is called for. Plus, domestic birds, for the most part, do not have DeltaONE but just a 1st class or business class seat. A Premium Economy seat here would rival what was up front – not good.

What else? Delta is wanting to block the ME3 from new routes. I do not get in the middle of things like that but it looks like they ARE going to have to compete head to head after all. DeltaONE is a great product so I think they are fine there. The rest of coach is fine and service is good. What is missing in this equation is Premium Economy!

Delta has been smart enough not to destroy elite points by still awarding them for the distance you fly but there is less reward for international elite flyers with only two types of seats. A real Premium Economy would be a tangible reason to avoid the ME3 and keep banking your MQMs, that is, elite points for each trip to Delta. It just fits with the current SkyMiles program.

I could go on and on but clearly there is a need. It would be a great way to compete and reward elites and even make some more money on up-sells. Other than the cost to upgrade the seats I see very few drawbacks from finally making this move on all of Delta’s international birds. What do you think? Like the idea? – René


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  1. I’m usually a long haul flier and the idea sounds great but, you write: “After all Delta owns almost half of Virgin Atlantic and they have just an amazing Premium Economy seat but the only way Delta flyers have access to this is to buy a ticket – not via upgrades etc.”
    This is what might eventually happen – even DM and PM folks will not these as perk up-grades. We will have to pony up with a few more $ for, more likely, miles. Bring them on, Delta!

  2. @Dale – I could see either way. It would be a way to somewhat copy the free upgrades Medallions get on domestic and have something other airlines do NOT offer.

  3. I like the idea of using Platinum upgrade certifications for a proper premium economy on international flights. Keep the Diamond global upgrade certificates for business-class. That’s fine. One comment, however. Air France’s premium economy seat isn’t that great. Heck, the business-class seat on Air France, unless you’re in the new seats, which aren’t rolled out on all planes, isn’t great at all.

  4. One issue is there will almost certainly be middle seats in PE on a widebody. A few weeks ago I booked JFK to CDG on AF in regular economy (miles). At the gate I was upgraded to PE (as a Diamond, this does happen; it has happened to be on AF and VA once each on mileage tickets), but put into a middle seat in PE instead of the aisle bulk head in coach that I had confirmed into. I would have preferred the aisle bulk head in coach to a middle seat in 2x4x2 config in PE.

  5. As a diamond medallion Premium Economy would be something I would pay for even if I was not upgraded. I just cannot get myself to pay sometimes 5 or more times the economy price for my wife and I for the cost of Delta One on many international flights. We booked an Air France flight to Papeete in Premium Economy and were very happy with the price and ability to get a little more comfort and services. I would be in Premium Economy on Delta for all of our Delta international trips.

  6. I’m a diamond and recently flew in a premium economy seat from LAX to SYD. 13+ hours. Ouch. As far as I am concerned it was a minimal step up from coach. The food and the service were not good. Virgin Australia blows Delta away in this category, and in the future, I will be flying Virgin Australia and paying for PE on this route.

  7. Delta is not going to give anything away to anyone. Should they create a proper PE cabin,it will be to reduce costs. That will just restrict the remaining SkyMiles members to only PE upgrades on international flights – effectively eliminating using miles for a J class upgrade on any Delta or Partner airline since you are only allowed a one cabin upgrade remember?

  8. Rene, I couldn’t agree more. I shudder to say this out loud (should delta read it), but I would be happy to pay for real premium economy even if they did not grant upgrades to medallions. 6k each for two business seats to Europe just isn’t worth it for us. I’d rather not have to fly Air France or Lifthansa (read: labor strikes), but that’s the only option now and we pay for it gladly over economy.

  9. @Barry and @Howard: I agree. The price of business-class on Delta planes is absurd. I’ve seen round-trip airfares of $8,000 and $9,000 for 8-hour flights. Thankfully, I’m pretty good about weaseling my way into business-class through oversell situations, certificates or unusual routing making the business-class fare much more reasonable. I’m flying business-class LAN-DTW-SFO-LHR and LHR-SEA-PDX in the next week for under $1,600. I would never, ever pay $5,000 or whatever for JFK-LHR. It’s such a short flight that it isn’t worth it. If there was no way I could get into business-class, I’d rather fly in a day earlier and pay for a hotel on my own dime and sleep off the jet lag. On occasion, I’ve also been able to buy a row of Delta economy seats for $500-700 per seat, which is still cheaper than business-class.

  10. Thanks for the comment Renee and as a Delta flyer I appreciate the advice. How do you put together such a routing like your LAN-DTW-SFO-LHR and return? Can you build that on using multi-city or do you use another site?

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