Over the weekend, Delta Air Lines announced it would be adding three new routes with its Delta One service, which offers lie-flat seats on domestic flights. I find it a bit overkill if you’re not traveling on a red-eye, but it’s definitely a competitive factor when you’re looking at several carriers for the same trip. One positive is we’ll see Delta One return to Seattle, which had — then lost — lie-flat seats a few years ago.
New flights from New York-JFK to Seattle and San Diego will start on April 1, 2018. Flights from JFK to Las Vegas will start on May 1, 2018. Delta One will also be offered from Honolulu to Atlanta and Minneapolis on April 1. Existing flights are already operated between Boston, Washington-DCA, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Delta One seat on a Boeing 757-200ER (75S). – These images are protected by copyright. Delta has acquired permission from the copyright owner to the use the images for specified purposes and in some cases for a limited time. If you have been authorized by Delta to do so, you may use these images to promote Delta, but only as part of Delta-approved marketing and advertising. Further distribution (including proving these images to third parties), reproduction, display, or other use is strictly prohibited.The bigger news is that Delta is changing its upgrade policy to make Delta One available to its elite Sky Medallion members. (HT to One Mile at a Time) Often carriers block such lie-flat domestic seats from their normal complimentary upgrade policies, requiring customers to redeem upgrade vouchers or miles to get at them. There are a couple of explanations for Delta’s change of heart.
First, with so many long domestic routes now offering Delta One, the airline could see a backlash if these are also blocked from upgrades. Many passengers would surely want a chance at a free upgrade in a regular first class seat than be forced to redeem miles for a lie-flat seat.
Second, complimentary upgrades are one way to let customers try the product, so they might be willing to pay for it later. Lie-flat configurations often have fewer seats overall. The traditional logic is that you’re only giving away the unsold inventory. This requires that the upgrades aren’t too easy to get, since people start assuming they will get it anyway.
Third, and borrowing on the previous point, Delta’s moves in past years to adopt a revenue-based program and pare back (slightly) the number of Medallion qualifying miles you can earn with a credit card, mean that elite status is a little harder to earn. Reducing the number of elites will limit the number of people who earn an upgrade, and they’re more likely to be high spenders who, in Delta’s eyes, actually “deserve” it.
The key distinction between the new Delta One upgrades and traditional first class domestic upgrades, however, is that they will happen much closer to departure. First class upgrades can happen as early as five days before departure depending on elite status and fare class. Delta One upgrades will only happen on the day of departure, providing the airline much more time to sell that seat to someone for full price before giving it away.