Delta to debut business class suites on new jets

Delta Air Lines plans to introduce business class suites in flight, with each suite featuring a sliding door to a private space with seats that recline into beds.

Atlanta-based Delta said the new suites will be on its first Airbus A350 jet to begin flying in fall 2017. Each wide-body A350 will have 32 suites.

Delta says it will be the first airline in the world with aircraft that have an all-suite business class. It plans to use the A350 primarily on routes to Asia, with the first flights with suites available to book in November 2016.

Suites will also have “personal stowage areas” for shoes, headphones and laptops and an 18-inch in-flight entertainment system, power outlet and high-powered USB port, according to the airline. Each suite will have a “full-height door,” and center suites will have privacy dividers. The cushions will be “memory foam-enhanced.”

Comfort and privacy are “important to business travelers,” according to Delta’s chief marketing officer Tim Mapes.

After debuting the suites on the A350, Delta also plans to add its Delta One business class suite on its Boeing 777 fleet. By the end of 2020, the airline expects to have the suites on its 25 Airbus A350s and 18 Boeing 777s.

Foreign carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad already have high-end suites on their aircraft to cater to well-heeled travelers, while U.S. airlines have been slower to move to the super-high-end category of travelers.

But increasingly, Delta and other big U.S. carriers including American and United are competing against foreign carriers on lucrative international routes, and are under competitive pressure to improve.

Delta has spent billions on improving its offerings, emphasizing its focus on improving the experience for high-spending corporate travelers, while separating the budget conscious into more limited choices such as its “basic economy” fares.