Upgrades (and downgrades) to the Delta 747 cabin

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.

imageIn 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.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. You mention business class seats will be harder to get with upgrades. What upgrades?? Delta’s horrible SWU’s that are basically useless?

    1. I was more thinking about Cash+Miles upgrades than the SWUs though every now and then it seems that there is a route or three where the fares for SWU redemptions aren’t horrible (check them here: http://wandr.me/DeltaSWU). And if they’re really filling the planes already then offering 25%ish fewer premium seats isn’t going to help yields unless they manage to sell the seats for more money.

  2. DL will now have five different varieties of longhaul J seats (though two are being phased out). They have this, the staggered seats on the 767-400s, the herringbone on the 777-200LRs, the old DL BE cradles on 767-300s and the old nw cradles on some A330s. Nuts.

  3. “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…” I’m not following the first part of this. When you say “The other significant downgrade” it implies that you already listed another significant downgrade that will result from the cabin re-fit…but I don’t see any downgrades listed before you mention the reduction in total number of seats in the cabin. I believe the current BizElite seats are 20″ wide, so while going to 20.5″ isn’t a huge increase, it’s certainly not a downgrade, if that’s what you were trying to imply.

  4. Lufthansa actually installed the seats to decrease the pitch and fit in more seats on their planes. More “living space” is just the marketing spin they used.

  5. Regarding your comment, that you can’t imagine Delta’s claim that the new seats are 20% wider, here’s the explanation.

    The seat actually has two widths. One is the width while you are sitting down, which is measured arm rest to arm rest. That width is 20.5 inches. The wider width comes when you lie flat in the sleep position. The width is now measured without including the arm rests, and this width is 28 inches.

    If you go to the link to Zodiac Aerospace in your post, you will see all this. Perhaps you missed it. Anyway, I would gladly take these seats over the existing J seats. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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