Delta has announced major upgrades to their 747 cabin interiors in both the business and economy cabins. One aircraft is already converted and the company expects all their 747s to be in the new configuration by October, 2012. The changes are significant throughout the plane, mostly for the better, but there are a couple potential negatives that come with the announcement as well.
In the Business cabin the new seats will offer flat beds and direct aisle access for all customers. The seats are from Zodiac Aerospace and are the same as those in place on US Airways A330s and Cathay Pacific’s new business class. American Airlines has also confirmed that they will be using the sets for the new business class product on their 777-300s. The seats are nice and the IFE upgrades that will accompany them – 15" screen, more than 300 films, 88 hours of television programming, nearly 100 hours of premium programming from HBO and Showtime, 27 video games and more than 5,000 digital music tracks – are certainly top notch. The layout of the seats is also nice, with both single and "paired" seats so traveling with a partner in the comfy seats won’t mean being isolated from them.
It is somewhat strange, however, that the company is claiming the seats’ 20.5" width is 20% more than the old seats. That suggests the old seats are 17" wide, which is definitely not the case, or there is some other creative math going on. The other significant downgrade that is coming with the new seats is a sharp decrease in the number available on the planes. The current configuration has 65 seats; the new configuration has only 48. That’s going to hurt folks looking for upgrades or discounted business class seats.
In the economy cabin the best news is that the same IFE system that powers the business class cabin will also be available. Other than that, there will be new, slimline seats installed in the cabin. The general idea behind the slimline seats is to provide additional knee-space for passengers without requiring additional pitch in the cabin. This allows for more customer space without removing seats from the plane. I’ve only had one experience on the slimline seats – with Lufthansa on a short flight in Europe – and they were comfortable enough but I’m not so sure how they’ll fare over a 12-16 hour trip.
Definitely upgrades to the product overall, though, like everything else, a few sacrifices to realize those improvements.