Last month, we noted that Delta’s plan to create a separate fare category for its Comfort+ section — a change that starts next spring — would mean SkyMiles Medallions could no longer expect an automatic free upgrade to those extra-legroom economy seats. And now it looks like elites’ access to first class upgrades might be diminished in the future as well.
At a presentation for investors and Wall Street analysts, Delta Chief Revenue Officer Glen Haustein said the airline has been having great success with its new “branded fares” concept, which rearranged in-flight classes of service into five categories, with levels of service and amenities more finely segmented based on the fare paid. (In some cases that meant a loss of some benefits, e.g., Medallion members no longer get paid or free upgrades when they buy Basic Economy tickets).
Haustein said as a part of that program, Delta expects to see a lot more first class seats occupied by paying passengers in the future, according to Delta’s summary of its investor day presentations.
Specifically, he reported that the percentage of first class seats occupied by paid passengers rose from 45 percent in 2013 to 57 percent this year — and that Delta’s goal is to increase that number to 70 percent over the next two years.
He didn’t say how Delta expects to achieve that, but the surest way to boost sales of something is obviously to cut the price. In any case, it stands to reason that if Delta sells a lot more first class seats to paying passengers, there will be that many fewer seats available for free upgrades.
Other tidbits from the investor day presentations: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Delta officials expect to boost their revenue from the sale of amenities from the current $8.30 per passenger to $15. The also paper noted that in the future, passengers on Delta can expect to see new physical dividers installed between the main cabin and its Comfort+ seats “to emphasize the difference between them.”
It also noted that Delta intends to expand the availability of its bare-bones Basic Economy fare category from the current 450 markets where it’s available to all markets by the end of next year.
It’s not that Delta wants to sell lots of cheap seats — but rather because the airline has found that it can successfully “upsell” those customers to a higher fare category 50 to 60 percent of the time. Because Delta’s website warns Basic Economy buyers — just before they hit the “purchase” button — about all the things their fare will not include, some critics are calling the new sales tactics “fare shaming.”
Readers: Would you be more likely to pay for a first class seat instead of trying for an upgrade if first class fares were discounted? Would you buy it in advance or wait for a last-minute paid upgrade offer? Post comments below.
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