Delta takes a big step forward with its One Suite business class

Delta recently presented the seat that will progressively equip the business class of its A350 and B777. This announcement did not go unnoticed since, after JetBlue, Delta will be the second airline to offer a suite-only business on some of its aircrafts, a product previously reserved for first class – for the airlines that have one.

The product chosen is the Thompson Vantage XL, which will equip the A350 and B777 in a classic 1-2-1 configuration in business class today.

Delta: second airline to offer a business class with suites

It is assumed that the window seats will be the most popular, especially those with aisle-side seats (in fact, the configuration means that one seat out of two will have an aisle-side seat and the other will have a window-side seat, the first option allowing to be both isolated from the aisle and not having to bend over to look through the window).

Source: Delta
Source: Delta

In the lie-flat configuration, the comfort is totally worthy of the first class of some airlines, with much less space however.

Source: Delta
Source: Delta

The central part has a removable separation that you can keep or not depending on whether your neighbor is your travel mate or not.

Source: Delta
Source: Delta

A product that confirms Delta’s move upmarket and its Delta One product, which is a very consistent evolution of its traditional Business product that is disappearing on both domestic and international routes.

Delta One Suite: an offering with limited reach

However, you should not expect to benefit from this business class suite immediately and on any destination.

Firstly, the cabin will not be deployed until the airline’s Airbus A350s are in service, which is not expected to begin before fall 2017.

Secondly, only the A350-900 and B777 will be affected, i.e. less than 20% of Delta’s seat capacity on international routes. No decision has been made yet for the A330 neo, but we can expect that the difficulties encountered by Zodiac Aerospace to deliver its Cirrus seat, which equips the 777 and 330 today, will not encourage the American company to trust the French equipment manufacturer.

The only negative point of this cabin, which can be found on all those arranged in the same way. Contrary to what Air France can offer, for example, all seats are not equal. Windows seats where the sideboard is located between the passenger and the window will have less value to the passenger than those where it isolates them from the aisle. The same goes for the center seats, depending on whether you are traveling alone or with two people and whether the sideboards are aisle-side or create distance between the two passengers.

Delta One Suite: a mixed bag for skyteam and Air France KLM?

For the foreign traveler to the United States, and especially the member of a SkyTeam frequent flyer program, this is excellent news: on flights operated in codeshare by Delta, they will be sure to benefit from one of the best “hard products” on the market, a real “mini premiere”.

Not sure if this is necessarily good news for the partner companies though. It is hard to imagine the frequent flyer, a bit of a connoisseur, not opting for a Delta One Suite flight when his regular airline offers him an inferior product. For the French passenger for example (he is not the only one in this case but lets focus on what directly impacts us), if the Cirrus that equips Air France’s Best & Beyond cabins can more or less compare and if the French airline can try to fight on the service and in particular on the food, the gap is too big with the NEV4 that still equips too many aircraft. The same goes for KLM, even if the retrofit is progressing faster than at Air France: as pleasant as it is, the “New World Business Class” will pale in comparison with Delta’s One Suite product.

Towards a new standard in business class?

The question that arises is whether this cabin prefigures a new standard in business and in view of the headlong rush that we are witnessing on the front class, it is indeed our hunch.

Although it will be another year before we see this product in operation, knowing how long it takes to design a cabin, the Delta One Suite will undoubtedly make many products, even recent ones, look old. Companies that were late to the party when the trend shifted to 1-2-1 full-flat configurations and thought they were back up to par may find themselves falling behind again, even though they are not at the end of their efforts. So despite the efforts made to move upmarket – with real success – in recent years Air France will continue to pay a high price for the industrial accident that was the release of the NEV4 seat in 2010, which was already outdated before it was installed.

Delta One: the art of killing two birds with one stone

With this product, which we are still waiting to test in flight to see if it lives up to its promises and if the service is up to the level of the hard product, Delta is killing two birds with one stone:

– By proposing an innovative business class product, impacting in terms of image, perceived quality and, presumably, customer experience

– By solving the problem of the lack of a first class. Unlike some European airlines such as Air France or Lufthansa, Delta, like most american airlines, does not have a “First” product above its business. The One Suite is therefore an intermediate product between the business and the first one, which allows to position itself on the top of the business segment while erasing part of the absence of the first one. This will force European airlines to make a difficult choice: if such a business suite proves attractive, it could cannibalize part of the “First” product. Unless it allows us to offer a good compromise on aircraft that are not equipped with a first class.

In any case, this new Delta One Suite is a truly differentiating and promising product that we look forward to testing in flight.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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