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Delta Wins: Airline Awarded For New Business Class Suites

Delta has taken massive strides in the past few years to improve their overall product, especially in their premium cabins. The advent of Delta One was a result of this intiative – one that has paid out dividends in the mean time as Delta made huge leeway in the coveted trans-cond market between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, introducing their international product on the route.

Numerous product innovations have also taken place, starting with the herringbone configuration which was met with mixed reviews, then switching to the staggered 1-2-1 layout that’s featured on the airline’s 767 fleet. Then came the reverse herringbone in their 747 fleet, mostly flying flights to Asia from the United States. While some people can fault the airline for a lack of consistency, you can’t fault them for their consistent strive to be better – and to hear passenger feedback (be it good or bad).

It seems like the latest Delta One product has stuck – and for good reason it seems. 

The Scoop:

One of the most prestigious cabin and seat design awards, the Crystal Cabin Awards has just taken place and Delta has won big this year, with their new Delta One ‘Suite’ concept taking first place in terms of ‘best innovative seat’ in the sky.

For a US based airline, this is a big deal.

Let’s not downplay this – according to Travel + Leisure Magazine:

The awards, given out during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg each year, are considered the Oscars of the aircraft cabin industry. The decision on the winners is made by a jury of industry experts among airlines, manufacturers, and designers.

And this is what the awards’ official website touts of the award ceremony:

The Crystal Cabin Award is THE international prize for innovations in the field of aircraft cabins. A high-calibre jury made up of renowned academics, engineers, specialist journalists and airline and aircraft manufacturer representatives comes together under the slogan “Let your ideas take off” to honour extraordinary cabin concepts and products. The competition was launched by Hamburg Aviation and is organised by the Crystal Cabin Award Association. The award, to date the only one of its kind, has been presented during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg every year since 2007. The trophies have become a seal of quality, known and coveted around the world.

What’s made the (thus far unique to Delta) seat is that it offers a huge amount of privacy at an efficient use of valuable cabin space, with DL not having to sacrifice much capacity to offer a much superior product than what they currently offer. The new layout also works on both Delta’s Boeing and Airbus longhaul aircraft.

Furthermore, this is closer to a First Class product whereas DL markets DeltaOne as a business class service (and prices it accordingly) – this makes it very competitive product to be able to sell to passenger and only further puts the airline further ahead of their American counterparts and on the same (if not higher league) than their Asian, and European competitors.

Delta A350 sneak peak

The new enclosed suites will be introduced into the incoming Delta A350-900 fleet in the fall of 2017. Credit: Delta

The Takeaway

Delta has been on a roll lately. But this is a great further confidence boost for the airline, who heas now introuced an industry leading hard product into the fore. The edge Delta already holds over their American counterparts is that they offer a flatbed product on all international routes beyond Central America and Canada – they were the first to do so in the market.

Now they are the first American airline to introduce a fully enclosed suite in Business Class (indeed, they are one of the few airlines to do so in this fare class in the world). What makes it all the more impressive is that it seems like they have made a bespoke product – the new DeltaOne suites seem to be an alteration and enhancement on what is already a widely popular Apex seat.

While Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad were the pioneers of the enclosed suite, Delta faced their own challenges to try to get the seat approved by FAA regulators, as articulated by Adam White, owner of FactoryDesign, the company who had been employed by DL to construct the new seat:

The effort we went through with [the suite’s manufacturer] Thompson to get certification approval was considerable, but that’s true of any innovation. It’s the job of certification bodies to challenge innovation, and the job of designers and manufacturers to match those challenges… but it’s not easy.

The door, like the lie-flat is the fundamental benchmark of comfort. It offers you a level of privacy that up to now you simply had to go to first class for. Everyone will start wanting doors on their business class seat products, and that makes you question the first class offering. If Delta have it in Business why should I pay extra for First? It also increases the vacuum between Business and Economy

It’s not clear yet if Delta has patented this new product but we will update you when it becomes clear one way or the other.

Taking all this into account it’s easy to see why Delta has won this pretigous award with their new Business Class product to be introduced into their new incoming fleet, but not many out there can argue that this seat seems like a game changer for the airline, and they seem to be pulling away from the pack in terms of the fabled ‘Big Three’ in the United States.

This leads me to the most frustrating part of the whole situation – the soft product. When you introduce such an amazing hard product, requisite with all the needed investment and hard work, why not upgrade your soft product and some stricter standards on crew service? Delta already leads the general US pack in terms of service, but that doesn’t speak much to international standards. If they just added some perks here and there to their DeltaOne product and enforced some service standards to cabin crew they could have a real deal here. Alas that’ll remain to be seen.

Lastly, for those who are unfamiliar, Delta will introduce the new all direct aisle access product on their Airbus A350 fleet that’s coming in the latter part of 2017 and, according to Delta.com, will feature:

  • A full-height door at every suite
  • Sliding privacy dividers between center suites
  • In-suite, customizable ambient lighting
  • Dedicated stowage compartments for shoes, headphones and laptops
  • Contemporary design featuring premium trim and finishes
  • Memory foam-enhanced comfort cushion
  • An 18-inch, high resolution in-flight entertainment monitor, the largest among U.S. carriers
  • A universal power outlet and high-powered USB port at every seat

Are these new seats enough to entice you away from either American or United and to Delta? How much of an edge do you give these seats in comparison to Polaris or AA Biz? 

Featured Image Courtesy of Delta Airlines.

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