Delta premium economy seats. Source: Delta Air Lines.

Delta plans new seating for ‘mass affluent,’ biz travelers

Delta Air Lines says it will debut new “premium economy” seats on international flights next year with more legroom and other creature comforts like an amenity kit and pre-departure beverages.

Delta president Glen Hauenstein has said international premium economy will be targeted at business travelers whose employers may not pay for business class seats, as well as travelers who are part of what he termed the “mass affluent.”

The move is part of an industry arms race to reap bigger profits from international travelers who are willing to pay more for more comfort on long flights.

Delta’s announcement came as Fort Worth-based American rolled out its first flight Thursday with premium economy seats on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sao Paulo.

Delta’s premium economy seats will be available on some international flights in fall 2017, starting with flights on Airbus A350 jets.

The seating will be slightly roomier than coach in most respects, with up to 38 inches of seat pitch, a measure of legroom, along with leg rests and the ability to recline up to 7 inches.

Premium economy will also come with pre-departure beverage service, a Westin Heavenly brand blanket pillow and TUMI brand amenity kit. It will also include access to Sky Priority lines for check-in and security, as well as priority boarding.

Hauenstein has said premium economy will be distinct from Delta’s Comfort+ seats, previously called economy comfort. While Comfort+ seats have extra legroom as their main feature, premium economy seats also come with a different level of service, as well as different seats.

Delta’s international partners Virgin Atlantic and Air France already have premium economy class.

Delta’s A350s will have 48 premium economy seats, in addition to 32 Delta One business class “suites” and 226 Main Cabin coach class seats. The premium economy seats will be added to Delta’s Boeing 777s starting in 2018.

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