Nearly 60% of Delta’s Long-Haul Fleet Has Outdated Business Class Seats from 2013 or Earlier

Despite its carefully cultivated image as America’s premium airline, Delta is flying a large number of widebody planes outfitted with old and dated business class seats.

According to an analysis by Thrifty Traveler, nearly 60% of Delta’s long-haul fleet has business class seats originally designed and installed over a decade ago in 2013 or earlier.

While Delta’s newer jets like the A350 and A330-900neo feature impressive Delta One Suites with closing doors, these make up just over a quarter of Delta’s international fleet.

The majority of its planes, especially those flying between the U.S. and Europe, have much older business class seats that significantly lag behind the competition.

Outdated Seats Persist as Competitors Modernize

As airlines like United and American have worked to update their premium cabins in recent years, Delta’s old business class seats stick out like a sore thumb. United’s entire long-haul fleet now features its new Polaris business class seats. American also has largely standardized around its flagship business class seat.


Meanwhile, even as Delta pulled planes out of service during the pandemic to install premium economy seats, it left the old business class cabins untouched on planes like the Boeing 767 and older Airbus A330 models. These planes are expected to keep flying for years to come.

Outdated Seats Mar an Otherwise Premium Experience

To be clear, Delta does a lot right with its premium services. The Delta One Suites on its newest jets are among the best business class seats flying today. Delta’s soft product like dining and amenities also tend to outshine competitors.

But for the prices Delta charges for business class, the seat itself is the main event — and on most of Delta’s fleet, the seats are long overdue for replacement. The 767s feature especially narrow seats with tiny screens, while the A330 seats look incredibly dated despite being a bit wider.

Betting on Business Travel Between U.S. and Japan

For business travelers and luxury-minded vacationers flying between the U.S. and Japan, Delta’s outdated seats are an important consideration.

While Delta does fly some of its newest planes on these routes, there’s a decent chance of winding up in old and narrow seats on a 767 for the long transpacific journey.

This is a major contrast to Japanese carriers like All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), which are known for their incredibly modern and luxurious business class seats and service. Many savvy travelers go out of their way to book with these airlines instead of Delta.

The Rise of Zipair as a Transpacific Alternative

For more price-conscious premium travelers, newcomer Zipair has emerged as an intriguing alternative for flights between the U.S. and Japan. This low-cost subsidiary of JAL flies modern Boeing 787 Dreamliners outfitted with impressive business class seats.

Fares on Zipair frequently dip down to around $1,000 each way — an incredible deal compared to typical business class prices. While it’s still a small airline, Zipair is expanding rapidly with more routes between the U.S. and Japan.

For many travelers, saving thousands compared to Delta while still getting a great seat on a Dreamliner is an easy choice.

Delta Needs to Up Its Game

Delta has built a reputation as an airline that caters well to business travelers and luxury-seeking flyers. But as competitors dramatically improve their premium products, Delta risks falling behind by continuing to rely on ancient business class seats that are a decade or more past their prime.

For anyone planning a trip between the U.S. and Japan and willing to pay for business class, it’s worth carefully examining the details of which plane and seat you’ll get with Delta — and considering alternatives like ANA, JAL, and Zipair, which often provide a far better and more modern seat for transpacific travel.

Until Delta makes serious moves to update its premium cabins across the board, it will be hard for the airline to live up to its luxury image.

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