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HomeUncategorizedHow Have Delta Air Lines' Classes Of Travel Evolved Over The Years?

How Have Delta Air Lines’ Classes Of Travel Evolved Over The Years?

Summary Delta Air Lines introduced various cabin classes over the years, from Aircoach to Royal Service, evolving with passenger preferences.
The airline’s two-class cabins became standard by 1962, offering First Class and Tourist Class, enhancing the onboard experience.
Modern-day luxury includes the Delta One Suite and Premium Select premium economy seats, adapting to passenger demand and comfort.
Since commencing operations in 1929, Delta Air Lines has grown to become the world’s second-largest airline by passengers carried. With its fleet of 983 aircraft, the airline now transports more than 190 million passengers per year, and those passengers have a choice of travel classes – how have they evolved over the years, and what do they look like today?
The early years
One of Delta Air Lines’ first variations from standard economy class came in 1949, when, according to the Delta Flight Museum, the carrier introduced its Aircoach discounted fare on night flights between Chicago and Miami. The service was later named The Owl. The flights were operated by the same Douglas DC-4 aircraft as its daytime flights, but without the added extras of the daytime service, such as complimentary meals.
In 1954, Delta Air Lines received the first of its Douglas DC-7 aircraft, which came equipped with the carrier’s first class Golden Crown Service. Passengers were able to select their seats when checking in at the airport, and, once onboard, were treated to white linen tablecloths, creating a dining-room atmosphere.
Four years later, the airline took its first class experience one step further with the introduction of Royal Service. Among the features of Royal Service were complimentary champagne, additional flight attendants for a more personalized service, and a selection of cocktails and canapés on afternoon flights. This was then replicated on the airline’s first jet aircraft – the Douglas DC-8 in 1959 and the Convair 880 in 1960.
Two-class aircraft as standard
Following the launch of services between the East Coast and California in 1961, two-class cabins became standard across the airline’s fleet of four-engined aircraft by 1962. The aircraft offered both First Class and Tourist Class, and at the time, Delta Air Lines’ Vice President of Traffic and Sales said,
“The move to dual-class configuration will be of particular benefit to us in our West Coast operations. We have heretofore operated four of five daily flights from California with all-first-class service in a market where demand historically has been predominately for coach service.”
The airline continued to enhance the onboard experience for its first class Royal Service passengers with additional features. These included gourmet four-course dining and the use of both warm, scented towels and china dishes.
Delta Air Lines’ 747 Penthouse
Delta Air Lines took luxury and privacy to new heights with the introduction of the Penthouse on its Boeing 747s in 1970. Only six seats were available on the upper deck, and the area came with its own flight attendant.
Eight years later, the airline launched its first three-class services on selected transatlantic flights from its hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). In addition to its existing first class and economy class offerings, Delta Air Lines also introduced its Medallion Service business class. Featuring its own separate cabin and upgraded amenities such as special menus and access to airport lounges, the Medallion Service became commonplace from 1981.
Back to two-class aircraft
From 1998, Delta Air Lines began refitting its aircraft back to two cabins, combining its first and business class offerings into a new service known as BusinessElite. This service was available on intercontinental routes, and the airline later introduced flat beds on its Boeing 777s in 2008. Meanwhile, on domestic flights, the combined first and business class cabin was called First Class.
The airline’s Economy Comfort seats were unveiled in 2011, and offered up to four inches of extra legroom and 50% more recline than its standard economy class seats. This was Delta Air Lines’ first foray into the world of premium economy cabins, something that it later went on to develop further, as passenger demand and travel trends changed in the subsequent years.
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Modern-day luxury
Delta Air Lines’ current flagship business class offering is the Delta One Suite, launched in 2017 with the arrival of the airline’s first Airbus A350. At the time, it was the world’s first all-suite business class, although many other carriers have since followed suit, such as fellow SkyTeam member and joint venture partner, Virgin Atlantic.
The A350s were also the first aircraft to feature Delta Air Lines’ Premium Select premium economy seats. Located in a separate cabin, the seats feature footrests and additional legroom and width, and the passenger experience is enhanced with dedicated service and plated meals.
Photo: Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines’ onboard offering has changed significantly, adapting to trends in passenger demand and the latest technological developments to ensure maximum comfort while maintaining cost efficiency. It remains to be seen how the carrier’s cabins and service levels will change over the years to come.
Which of Delta Air Lines’ cabins have you traveled in over the years? Do you have a favorite? Let us know by commenting below.

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