2014 has started off with another Delta devaluation announcement. This Delta is making it more difficult to redeem miles for business class tickets by reducing the number of Business Class seats available on their 767 and 777 aircrafts. Delta has already reduced the number of seats available on their B747 from 48 to 57 when they replaced the angle flat seats for full flat beds, but now Delta is actually removing seats that are already installed to make room for more economy seats, packing planes fuller than ever!
Boeing 777 aircrafts will reduce business class seats by 7 and replace them with 24 economy class seats and B767 will replace 12 business class seats with 20 economy class seats. Currently the B777 has 45 seats and the B767 have between 36-40 seats. Meaning only 38 and 24 seats will be available on each aircraft, a reduction by 16% & 30 respectively!
With less seats available, this mean those new fancy system wide upgrade (SWU) certificates from Platinum and Diamond members will be even more difficult to use and business class fares will continue to climb on international routes.
Delta claims they are doing this to increase revenue and to increase the number of people who are actually paying for the business class seats. Per Bloomberg, chief revenue officer Glen Hauenstein said that the share of passengers not paying the full business class fare dropped from a percentage in the low 90s on Saturdays, a slack day for business travel, to the high 40s on mid-week days, the peak time for business travel. This means that currently most business class passengers are flying on either an upgrade certificate, a miles upgrade, or an award ticket. I personally do not believe that these statistics are true for the international segments, but may be true across the entire Delta system, which is heavily focused on markets in North and Latin America and also currently provide unlimited complimentary upgrades for Elite flyers. After all, current SWU are nearly useless and award space on Delta metal is nearly impossible to obtain.
It was only three years ago that Delta was expanding the first class offering on several planes (mainly domestic flights) and introducing First class on routes that had never before had the offering. Now Delta is reducing the number of seats available in their most premium and exclusive cabins, long haul International Business Elite. With fewer seats, expect fewer awards. After all, what else would we expect from our friends over at Delta.