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Delta Air Lines is hosting its Investor Day for institutional investors, and is talking up its incredible run of profitability and plans for the future.
One chart they’ve released is very, very relevant if you’re a frequent flier.
It shows how many First Class and Comfort + seats Delta plans to have in the future, and more important, how many it expects to sell outright, rather than leave empty or available for complimentary upgrades to SkyMiles Medallion members.
The numbers in Delta’s charts above let you back into the number of seats left for upgrades (or simply to fly empty) in each cabin if Delta’s goals are met, and what percent of total seats in each cabin they represent.
When you factor in the seats Delta is planning to add to the cabins, you get a grim picture of what’s left for upgrades or other non paid access.
We backed into those numbers in the charts below:
Comparing the goals to 2013, the trends are stark.
In just 5 years, the number of First Class seats left for upgrades will have plummeted 37%.
And while from 2013 to this year, there was a 17% reduction in the number of First Class seats remaining for potential upgrades, the number of Comfort+ seats available for complimentary assignment grew 12%.
That softened the blow for Delta’s Medallion frequent fliers, who get free upgrades to First Class and Comfort+.
And that softening factor won’t be there if Delta’s goal plays out, since the number of Comfort+ seats it hopes to have left over in 2018 will be about flat versus this year, while the number of seats left over in First Class drops 24%.
So if you thought it’s been harder to upgrade lately, buckle up because it’s about to get even harder if Delta’s plans play out.
The upshot to this is First Class is often more affordable than it was a decade ago. You can get a lie flat international style seat from New York to Los Angeles for under $1,500 roundtrip on many days, while some First Class fares run less than $500 roundtrip.
And if there’s a drop in demand, either via a slower economy or more seats on competitors, Delta will be left with a lot more premium seats on its planes than today, which could mean more upgrade opportunities or cheaper prices for them.
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