On Delta, All-Suite Business Class Flights

Private pods, a common feature on international first-class flights, are to be part of the Delta One business class for long-haul flights.

Suites in the skies — airline seats with doors that slide shut to give passengers total privacy — have become de rigueur in international first class: Emirates and Singapore Airlines are two of the carriers that offer them on long-haul flights. But an all-suite business class? It has yet to be heard of, according to Delta Air Lines, and the carrier wants to be the first in the industry to change that with the fall 2017 debut of the Delta One suite in its Delta One business-class category.

“This product is meant to be as close to a private jet experience as possible and is driven by our customers, who were telling us that they wanted more privacy,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s chief marketing officer.

The suites will not be an additional category on top of Delta One business class, but a replacement for it entirely on some long-haul flights, primarily those with a flying time of more than 12 hours, like the 14 to 15 hours it takes to reach Sydney Airport from Los Angeles International Airport (besides Delta One, the airline has one other class, main cabin — its name for economy).

The suites are expected to debut on Delta’s first Airbus A350 plane in September 2017, and although tickets for the new aircraft are to go on sale in November, the route it will fly is still being determined. “Right now, we are focused on what these suites give our passengers, and that’s more privacy and much more personal space,” said Robbie Schaefer, Delta’s onboard product manager.

The initial all-suite Delta One cabin will have 32 seats, compared with the 26 to 38 seats on Delta One classes. Besides a fully flatbed seat with direct aisle access, which the airline introduced eight years ago in Delta One, each suite will have a door that slides shut and is as high as the seat.

Delta worked with the London-based aviation design firm Factorydesign to create the suite, and the company’s managing director, Peter Tennent, said that travelers concerned about feeling claustrophobic when the door is shut needn’t worry. “Passengers will have several feet of personal space around them and won’t be banging their elbows against the walls,” he said.

Other amenities in the suite include seats that are wider than the average of 21 inches on existing Delta One classes (for competitive reasons, the airline did not release the specific width); roomy stowage compartments for shoes, headphones and laptops; two consoles so passengers can comfortably spread out their drinks, reading materials and laptops; and an 18-inch-high resolution entertainment monitor, the largest among United States-based carriers, according to the airline, and bigger than the 11- to 15-inch monitors in Delta One classes.

Not everything will be new in the all-suite cabins. Passengers on Delta One classes are now served meals created by notable chefs like Linton Hopkins from Atlanta, can choose from wine pairings courtesy of master sommelier Andrea Robinson and receive Tumi amenity kits. These features won’t change.

The airline plans to introduce a second all-suite Delta One cabin in spring 2018 in its new Boeing 777 plane and will roll out additional all-suite cabins over the next several years until they are on the airline’s entire fleet of 25 Airbus A350 aircraft and 18 Boeing 777 aircraft. These planes should be in service by the end of 2020, Mr. Schaefer said. Meanwhile, the Delta One class in the skies today will continue stay in service on all existing planes.

And while the suites are designed to be a more premium product, customers won’t have to pay any more to fly in them than they do for a typical Delta One ticket on the same route. “This is a product upgrade, not a price upgrade,” Mr. Mapes said.

Delta serves nearly 180 million customers a year, and of that number, around two million fly Delta One, according to the airline.

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