Delta is killing their BusinessElite product. Except that isn’t really happening. The company is also upping the game in domestic first class. Except not so much. And Economy Comfort is rebranding as Delta Comfort Plus to make it a truly competitive Premium Economy product in the international market. Except not at all.
The hype leading up to this morning’s announcement was pretty spectacular. Stories of a real Premium Economy and full rebranding of domestic first swirled through the ether. Maybe Delta was truly going to take a step forward and leverage their leading position in the US market to change the industry. It turns out all the company is really changing is a few product names and the stitching on seat covers. The cabin reconfigurations are ongoing; the new menu and drink rules take effect on 1 March 2015.
Introducing Delta One
Delta One is the new name for Delta’s BusinessElite product. Other than the name nothing is really changing. Maybe the BusinessElite brand is tired. Maybe it just doesn’t have the same draw as it once did. Maybe Delta is banking on the slow death of long-haul first class and wants to also drop the word “Business” from the name so it can appear more exclusive and prestigious than it really is, similar to Virgin Atlantic‘s Upper Class. But nothing is really changing here other than the name.
Domestic First Class
What’s new in the Domestic First Class cabin? Not much. It most definitely is not going to be an extension of the international premium economy product (more on that in a bit). The biggest news seems to be that power plugs will be added to “most” planes. And the seat covers in the cabin are changing.
The Comfort Plus (Comfort+) Cabin
We used to call it Economy Comfort. Now we’ll call it Delta Comfort Plus and not change the seats at all but it will somehow no longer be associated with the economy class cabin, right? That almost seems to be the thought logic in play for Delta’s rebranding of its extra legroom section. The carrier is also adding complimentary snacks on longer flights in the Comfort+ cabin. These come on the same flights where first class passengers will be getting meals (900+ miles) and the complimentary booze service is expanding to all flights, even the domestic ones. That is a nice nod to top elites and the folks paying for the extra space, but it stops very short of being a full Premium Economy product.
Also added in to the Comfort+ rules is that Gold Medallion members no longer can assign seats in the cabin for free at the time of booking. These customers now either must pay to get in to the Comfort+ cabin in advance or assign seats for free at 72 hours out. Silver Medallions continue to pay for early access or get free access at 24 hours from departure. Delta is the first of the Big 3 US carriers to make this benefit cut at that elite tier; I’m sure many United and American elites are now waiting with bated breath to see if their carrier of choice follows suit.
More “Basic Economy” fares with greater restrictions are coming. But we already knew that. Otherwise the economy cabin is mostly going to remain the same. Of course, there’s the part where more seats are going to be installed on many of the planes, so even without a formal “Economy Minus” product announcement there seems to be a bit of challenge coming for passengers flying down the back.
Depending on where you sit in the industry this mostly seems to be a whole lot of noise with very little actual news included. Passengers who can get into Comfort+ for free will see a slightly upgraded offering. For everyone else it is neutral or slightly negative.
But everything gets a new name. So that must make it better, right? Makes me think a bit of this:
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