Delta Hopes Better Seats Will Draw Travelers

Airline is upgrading its premium economy experience for long-haul flights.

Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us and the world gets back to normal, air travel is having an impressive rebound. 

Despite the fact that airline industry was given more than $50 billion in pandemic relief money, service over the past couple of years has dropped off the map as airlines repeatedly stranded thousands of passengers during some of the busiest travel weekends. 

In October 2021 for example, Southwest Airlines LUV cancelled more than 2,000 flights due to what it called an “unexpected air traffic control issue. 

According to a study from Bankrate, 79% of U.S. travelers who’ve taken an overnight trip outside their local areas this year experienced at least one negative travel-related issue. 

The federal government finally stepped in in late August 2022, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg saying, “These aren’t just numbers. These are missed birthday, parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”

Now, at least one airline is stepping up its game to improve the customer experience, for a price.

Delta Premium Gets Upgrade

Atlanta-based airline Delta Air Lines  (DAL) – Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report announced plans to overhaul its onboard service experience for passengers flying its premium economy cabin on long flights. 

Starting Tuesday, September 20, Delta will debut new menus and refreshed tableware to start its transformation. 

Then, starting in October, Delta will debut new amenity kits designed by chic clothing company Someone Somewhere that feature an eye mask, lip balm, hand cream and “all of your travel essential needs.”

Premium fliers on all long-haul flights will also get other amenities like a memory-foam pillow, noise-canceling headsets and blankets.

“Delta Premium Select sits at the intersection of luxury and practicality – giving customers the opportunity to treat themselves to a more spacious seat and premium experience at a lower price point compared to our Delta One cabin,” Maricio Parise, VP of brand experience, said in a statement, according to travel blog The Points Guy

The airline says that most flights to Europe, including all routes to Amsterdam and London will feature a Premium Select option. This winter, the airline will operate about 400 weekly Premium Select flights to Europe. 

All transpacific routes will also feature premium economy. 

The improved experience comes at a cost. A round trip flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam on Oct. 23 is quoted on Delta’s website at $807 for a basic seat vs. $1,281 for the premium select service.

Delta’s Q2 Profit

Delta reported softer-than-expected second quarter earnings Wednesday as fuel, staff overtime and customer re-booking costs ate into the carrier’s bottom line.

Delta said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in June were $1.44 per share, up from a loss of $1.07 per share over the same period last year. The results were well shy of the Street consensus of $1.66 per share. Group revenues, Delta said, nearly doubled from last year to $13.84 billion, firmly ahead of analysts’ estimates of a $13.24 billion tally.

Delta’s operating margin came in at a lower-than-expected rate of 11.7%, thanks to surging jet fuel prices as well as costs linked to staff overtimes amid a chronic pilot shortage and charges tied to customer re-booking during the worst of the spring flight schedule disruptions.

Looking into the current quarter, Delta said its sees revenue growth of between 1% and 5% from 2019 levels, but plans to cap capacity at June quarter levels.

“For the September quarter, we expect an adjusted operating margin of 11% to 13%, supporting our outlook for meaningful full year profitability,” CEO Ed Bastian said. 

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