Last June, when United announced it had installed flat beds on all of its long haul flights, I published a little guide so people could figure out which seats they would actually get when they flew. That went over well, so I’m doing it again, but this time it’s for Delta which has just made the same pronouncement.
Delta now says it has fully flat beds with direct aisle access in business class on all widebodies on overseas flights. Sounds like a lot of caveats, once again. In this case, however, Delta makes it easier to find what you’re getting. That’s good, because it has multiple different seats depending upon the aircraft type.
Let’s start with what this means overall. Like United it means Delta has fully flat beds in business class on all long haul, or as they say “overseas” flights. Unlike United, Delta guarantees direct aisle access for every seat. United doesn’t have that on any airplane it flies so that is a real differentiator.
Delta’s claim applies to all widebodies flying overseas. That includes the 767-300/400, 777-200, A330-200/300, and the 747-400. But on those aircraft, there are three different seat types. Let’s start with the easiest and work backwards.
777 – Herringbone
The 777s were the first to get the flat beds and they received herringbone seats. You know, those are the ones that angle in toward the aisle. The design was pioneered by Virgin Atlantic and a bunch of airlines ripped it off. Delta thought it was different enough, but it wasn’t. Virgin kept up the pressure in court and eventually, from what I remember, Delta and Virgin agreed that Delta could install the beds on all 777s in the Delta fleet but nothing else. This is all kind of funny now that Delta owns a big chunk of Virgin Atlantic, but what’s done is done.
747-400 and A330-200/300 – Reverse Herringbone
When the time came to replace the old Northwest World Business Class angled bed of torture, Delta opted to go with the reverse herringbone design that’s become very popular. This one has the seats angling away from the aisle. That means the person in the window actually gets to look out the window. It’s generally more private and considered one of the best beds on the market.
767-300/400 – Staggered
You would think that Delta would have gone with a similar seat on its large fleet of 767s, but you’d be wrong. The problem with the 767 is that it’s not that wide of an airplane. The density suffers dramatically when you install something like a herringbone seat. For example, on a 777, you can do 4 in each row, but on a 767 you can only fit 3. That’s a big hit, and Delta knew it. So the airline decided to focus on providing flat beds and direct aisle access and it went searching for a new seat that fit better on the 767.
The result was one of those staggered configurations you see on airlines like Austrian and Swiss. On this airplane it’s 1-2-1 across where your legs tuck in underneath the armrest in front of you. So sometimes the seats are closer to the window, sometimes closer to the aisle. Regardless, all have direct aisle access with nobody to step over. The biggest complaint I hear about these seats is that there isn’t enough room for your feet to get comfy.
That’s it. Easy, right? Hold your horses there, cowboy. Just because you’re on a 767 doesn’t mean you’ll get these flat beds. Delta has a subfleet of 767s that are dedicated to the domestic market and these just have regular old domestic-style First Class seats. These aircraft are almost entirely dedicated to flying between big cities in the US and that includes some long flights like Salt Lake to Honolulu. The good news, however, is that Delta makes it easy to know if that’s what you’re getting because it uses a different aircraft type code.
The domestic ones use the 763 code while the international ones use 76W. (If you’re on a 767-400, that’s 764 and those all have flat beds.) If you have access to the info in a reservation system, you can see that pretty easily. If you book on Delta.com, they show you what kind of seats you’ll have. And on a site like Kayak, it will show it being a 767-300 or a 767-300 (winglets). The latter has the flat beds. Most third party online travel agents, however, suck, and don’t really show you the difference. So make sure you’re double checking if you’re flying domestically.
What About the 757?
Delta has been doing a lot with its 757 fleet lately, but as a narrowbody, it isn’t included in this announcement. What’s up with that?
The 757 does fly some overseas routes, including JFK to Dublin, for example. By next summer, that should have flat beds as well. (It’s the same airplane that’s being used for transcon flying.) But these airplanes will not have direct aisle access. Again, it’s a function of the space at hand. It’s just not dense enough to give direct aisle access on a narrowbody like that, so it’ll be 2-2 across. At least it’ll be flat.
There you have it. Even though there are several different seat types, the basic promise is easy to understand. Delta has done a good job with the real estate it has.
[Delta 777 seat photo taken by me. All other Delta seat photos via Delta. Original armchair photo via Shutterstock.]