***Update on 07/27/2020 @ 00:05 UTC- Inserted statement from Delta***
Delta Air Lines has made a move to increase business class capacity to China onboard its Airbus A350s. The airline, which cannot add more flights to China amid ongoing governmental restrictions, nevertheless saw an opportunity to increase business class capacity by scrapping its passenger cap in Delta One for flights to China.
Ending capacity limits
Delta updated its website showing that the airline had removed capacity restrictions in Delta One on its flights to China. The airline states that it is:
“Reducing the total number of passengers in cabins to 50% in First Class and Delta One cabins with one aisle; 60% in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select; and 75% in Delta One cabins with two aisles.*
*Excludes Delta One suites on A350 flights to/from China”
All other cabins onboard the A350, including Premium Select and Main Cabin, will continue to see blocked seats and limited capacity. While the blocked seating is scheduled to run through September 30th, the airline expects that will be extended.
Delta provided Simple Flying the following statement:
“Strict government restrictions on the number of flights Delta is authorized to operate to China means seat availability remains extremely limited. To meet high demand in this market while safeguarding our customers and employees, bookings on Delta flights between the U.S. and Shanghai will be offered up to full capacity in the Delta One cabin where the Delta One Suite provides more space and privacy with a full-height door at every suite and dividers between center suites. Middle seats in Delta Premium Select and Main Cabin will continue to be blocked.”
Why Delta One
The Airbus A350s feature the airline’s top-tier flagship business class product, the Delta One Suite. These seats are essentially forward-facing lie-flat business class seats with a door for additional privacy. These planes are going to be flying the airline’s most prestigious long-haul routes– once the 777s are retired.
The airline had previously been restricting capacity as a way to promote social distancing onboard its aircraft. However, Delta One Suites are, naturally, a little better for social distancing. The layout of the cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration– meaning fewer people seated next to each other. Plus, the seats are wider, giving passengers a little more distance from each other. The closed-off nature of the suites also provides for additional physical barriers.
This makes it a little easier for Delta to operate its flights without caps in business class. Delta now joins United in booking business class to capacity on flights to China. American Airlines plans on restarting China flights later in the year– also most likely without any capacity restrictions.
Has Delta seen improvements in business class demand?
China is one market where Delta was eager to resume long-haul flights. The carrier received permission to fly to China after a little spat between the US and China over air carrier rights. At present, Delta can only fly twice per week between the two countries.
If, however, demand has increased for business travel to China, then it would make sense for Delta to unblock capacity on flights to China. Shanghai is also an important economic center. There are plenty of businesses based in the US that have financial ties or offices in Shanghai.
While business travel continues to remain suppressed, those numbers could be consolidated into a couple of flights a week and lead Delta to end those caps. While the company is billing itself as a premium airline that cares about its customers in times like these, the carrier would instead provide capacity where it is needed.
Leisure travel, which would primarily occupy the back of the aircraft, remains depressed, and given substantial entry restrictions, there is probably not a lot of incentive for Delta to open up more seats onboard its planes. In other markets where demand is increasing, the carrier is adding more capacity or upgauging aircraft– neither of which is possible for the firm’s current flights to China.
Do you think Delta is making the right decision by ending its capacity restrictions in Delta One to China? Let us know in the comments!