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At a recent media day, Delta confirmed rumors it is looking to implement a Premium Economy cabin in the new Airbus A350-900's it has ordered for international routes. Reported on Forbes yesterday, Delta will follow American Airlines in rolling out a PE class when it receives it's first new Airbus machine in spring 2017.
With approximately 30 airlines around the world now offering a Premium Economy option, Delta is not breaking new ground here, but is playing catch up with international partner airlines Air France and Virgin Atlantic. In a quote from the article Delta CEO, Ed Bastian noted:
“When you look at the international stage, the international competition has moved to premium economy as a cabin and service and product of itself.”
Delta already runs Comfort+, an extension of its economy class, but the only real benefit of note is the extra legroom. It still uses a standard width seat and conventional recline.
Delta has not released details yet but if international PE classes on other airlines are anything to go by, we can expect a wider, more luxurious seat with a longer recline, some form of foot rest, and a step up in the quality of hospitality offered.
It's Mixed News For Loyalty Members However
Don't get me wrong, having more premium options is great. Not everyone can pay or hack their way to the front of the plane and the gap between First or Business Class, and Economy has been growing wider year on year.
But with the rise of Premium Economy and Delta's intention to start offering Comfort+ as a separate booking option rather than an upgrade, I can't help but feel that the days of straight points upgrades from Economy to First Class may become a thing of the past.
In the process of integrating new classes into the booking systems and miles plans, Delta SkyMiles® members will see a guaranteed reshuffle of the frequent flyers program, and that begs the question of what happens with upgrades for elite members.
Will you be able to swing an upgrade to First or Business Class from a Basic Economy seat?
Or, will you be required to purchase a Premium Economy seat to upgrade to the champagne and caviar at the top end of town?
Delta is shy on the details of which routes the A350's will be flying but as a replacement for aging 747-400's, it will likely spend a good deal of its time servicing the Pacific long-haul routes with the new A330-900neo's to maintain the Atlantic and other international routes.
We will have to wait and see where Delta slots Premium Economy into SkyMiles® before we know if it's a win or loss for frequent flyers.
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