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Delta’s Premium Economy, Coming in 2017. The Real Deal?

There’s an ongoing debate among travel junkies concerning what’s commonly referred to as premium economy. Specifically: When does an airline’s coach product legitimately deserve to be called premium economy? Is a couple of extra inches of legroom enough to qualify for the “premium” designation? An upgraded inflight entertainment system? Better meals? Priority boarding? More frequent-flyer miles?

Delta began its slow embrace of what has become premium economy several years ago, with Economy Comfort – extra legroom, free drinks, an amenity kit, and priority boarding on its transcon flights. It was a competitive response to United’s p.s. (for premium service) product, also an upgraded coach product on flights between New York and the West Coast.

More recently, Delta introduced Comfort+, featuring up to four extra inches of legroom, dedicated overhead bin space, and other Economy Comfort-like niceties. It was offered not just on the major transcon routes, but on a number of longer domestic and international flights as well.

On the price/service continuum, the premium product is positioned between Basic Economy and Main Cabin, at the budget-priced end, and Delta One and First Class, at the other end. Plenty to choose from, in keeping with Delta’s differentiated-products strategy.

If that weren’t differentiation enough, Delta today announced yet another premium economy product, dubbed Delta Premium, set to launch late next year, when the airline’s new A350 aircraft enter service. The A350s will be configured with 48 Delta Premium seats, only available on select international flights. With a dedicated cabin and seats with adjustable foot rests, it’s the most premium of all Delta’s enhanced coach offerings. A decade ago, it might have been sold as business class on some routes. The highlights:

  • Dedicated cabin and crew
  • Up to 38 inches of seat pitch; up to 19 inches wide; up to seven inches of recline
  • Adjustable leg and head rests
  • Westin blankets and pillows
  • Tumi amenity kits
  • Pre-departure drink service
  • Special meal service
  • 13.3 inch seatback entertainment screen
  • Priority security clearance, check-in, boarding, baggage handling

Following the A350 deployment, Delta’s B777s will be fitted with Delta Premium cabins, beginning in 2018. “Additional fleets may be added.”

According to Delta: “Through additional space, elevated service and distinguished amenities provided by partnerships with brands focused on design and quality, Delta is bringing the ‘premium’ back to the premium economy experience.”

No doubt Delta Premium is deserving of the name. Will it be deserving of the price premium, as yet unknown, that Delta will charge for the upgrade? We’ll have to wait a year to see.

Reader Reality Check

How much extra would pay to upgrade to Delta Premium?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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