Diving in to the Delta One Suite


Rendering of the Delta One Suite on the A350; image from Delta
Rendering of the Delta One Suite on the A350; image from Delta

Delta’s got a new business class seat coming and it wants everyone to know about it, even though it won’t take flight for a year. The new “Delta One Suite” will offer direct aisle access for all passengers and, in what the carrier is proudly calling a first for any airline, doors for all passengers, making them “suites” rather than just seats. The new Delta One Suite will debut on the A350-900 set to fly in mid-2017.

The seat is based on the Thompson Vantage XL+ product line, a staggered, fully flat offering that generally gets very good reviews from passengers. The stagger allows carriers to choose a door option, something JetBlue did when it introduced its Mint product in 2014. And that makes it a suite rather than just a seat. Delta is upping the ante by putting that door in for every passenger, something it can manage with the seating layout because it will only install the product on its twin-aisle aircraft. It calls the door “full-height” but the renderings show it stopping at the top of the headrest; the Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines suite doors all extend higher than that.

The new product will first fly on the A350s and will then be retrofit into the 777 fleet. That’s a total of 43 aircraft expected to see the new product; the A330, 767 and 757 international aircraft are not scheduled for retrofit and the 747s are being retired from the fleet. Given the seat width (something Delta declined to specify, citing competitive concerns) it is unlikely that the new product could fit as well in the narrower fuselage that the A330 or 767s offer, though the Vantage XL does work for some airlines on those aircraft types but without direct aisle access for all passengers, something Delta is keen to keep. Delta’s 767s have the narrower Vantage seat, not the XL model.

Other benefits of the new product include larger IFE screens (18″) and multi-level horizontal surfaces for putting snacks, drinks and other “stuff” during the flight. The rendering also shows an open storage area for the headphones which is surprising to me; typically that would be a latched cabinet.

Rendering of the Delta One Suite on the A350; image from Delta
Rendering of the Delta One Suite on the A350; image from Delta

My excitement for the new product is tempered by the fact that it will only be installed on a small part of the fleet. There’s also the part where the total number of business class seats on the A350 is dropping relative to the 747s it will be replacing (32 v 48), though the main cabin seating capacity is also dropping. Still, the ratio suggests securing the seats will be harder as an award or upgrade. And while the company is saying the new “suites” come at no extra cost the reduced total premium capacity on these routes likely translates to higher fares along the way. At least there will also be a premium economy offering for passengers who want a little more but cannot spring for business class all the time. I’m also slightly annoyed at the way the stagger is set up for the middle pairs, making it harder to fly with someone else and sit next to them, though I understand that’s a minority of the premium cabin traveling public.

Overall, this is a nice hard product upgrade from a US carrier, reflecting a willingness to reinvest some of the recent massive profits into improving the on-board experience rather than just buying back more shares to placate Wall Street. Of course, if the 777 rollout also comes with a 3-4-3 economy cabin (most of the competition is already there) I might sing a different tune, but we don’t know that detail yet.

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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.

9 Comments

  1. How does it look to you in terms of how these suites compare to the JetBlue Mint suites? Is it the same manufacturer or suite type? The DL suites will also have memory foam. I know on the B6 suites the doors don’t go up that high maybe shoulder level or a bit less.

    It would also have been neat if DL placed these suites on the premium LAX/SFO/SEA east coast transcons similar to how JetBlue Mint is deployed on these routes.

    1. Similar product to what Mint offers (both are Vantage but DL’s is the XL version as a base so wider and a few other improvements). Some prefer the foam and hate the air pads of the Mint seat; I’m not sure I care.

      As for showing up on transcons, the 777s fly domestic occasionally today. It’ll be more like that than specifically for the transcons, I bet.

  2. Don’t really see the appeal of “doors” — normal c. 2016 business class if anything lacks human contact as it is, with the staggering of seats that allows flat beds at a density that works for the bean counters meaning you can rarely see more than a foot or an elbow of another passenger as it is. Interesting that when BA revamped their F class it was done in consultation with many of their biggest paying customers and there was no interest in more privacy, and I suspect BA fly more high value high profile premium pax than Delta, definitely more heads of state (I have personally seen a few presidents on BA jumbos out of JFK after a UN pow wow), mega stars (McCartney et al). “Delta One” is a good product but putting a few “doors” on it doesn’t enhance it at all, (except among cheapskates who won’t pay for true F class on SQ or EK).

    1. Huh? You think the new A350 J product is not an improvement over the herringbone tightness that exists today? You think people who don’t buy true F tickets for tens of thousands of dollars are cheapskates?

    2. David Huberman I don’t know if it’s an improvement or not — no one does — but if it is, these “doors” aren’t why; and if for some pax they are, it’s probably because it allows them to pretend they’re flying SQ Suites without paying the big bucks

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