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Earlier today, Delta announced an expanded partnership with Alaska Airlines as well as additional international and transcontinental domestic routes to and from Seattle.
Here are highlights from the official announcement:
- Proposed new nonstop Delta service between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport, pending approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
- Proposed new nonstop Delta service between Seattle and Haneda Airport in Tokyo, pending DOT approval.
- The deployment of Delta’s flagship Boeing 747-400 jet on flights between Seattle and Narita Airport in Tokyo, featuring a fully upgraded interior with full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite, individual in-flight entertainment in every seat throughout the aircraft, expanded overhead bins and other amenities (this is a huge upgrade from their current angled lie-flats on the ex-Northwest Airlines 747 that I flew last year).
- Newly upgraded Boeing 767-300 aircraft on Delta’s flights between Seattle and Paris, Beijing and Osaka, Japan, also offering full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite and upgraded amenities.
- Additional nonstop Delta service between Seattle and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
- Upgraded BusinessElite service on all Delta Seattle-JFK flights to match the product and amenities of Delta’s JFK service from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Sea-Tac airport improvements including a new Delta Sky Club, new power ports throughout Delta’s facilities, expanded ticket counters, lobby renovations and other improvements.
- An ongoing partnership between Delta and Alaska that includes codesharing in Seattle and shared customer benefits including reciprocal lounge access and frequent flier programs.
Delta’s flight schedule already reflects some changes in their routes. Starting June 1, Delta’s JFK-SEA route goes to 5x daily including 4x daily with 757-200 ETOPS with 16 BusinessElite seats, and 1x daily on the 767-300ER with the 36 BusinessElite flat bed seats. This means that the BusinessElite product will now be available domestically on New York (JFK)- Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), and Los Angeles (LAX).
Aside from the big news that Delta will hopefully be using Seattle as another West Coast gateway for its Asian routes, I think the most exciting part of the announcement is the additional nonstop transcontinental service between New York JFK starting in June with Delta’s BusinessElite product aboard the 757-200’s and 767-300.
I’ve flown transcon BusinessElite a lot, both on its own and as part of an international itinerary connection, and it’s one of my favorite domestic airline services, so I’m looking forward to having quality transcontinental route to take.
However, Delta rarely releases any advance upgrade space on its transcontinental routes, so it’s very difficult to plan ahead. You can always use tools like Expertflyer.com and Delta.com to help determine the upgrade likelihood, though many things can happen to upgrade space leading up to the list getting processed. When on Delta’s site you could make a mock booking to look at the seating map. It’s not always accurate, but it will give you a decent idea of how many seats are open. If you are a Platinum or Diamond you can leverage Systemwide Upgrades to enhance your position on the upgrade list, but this method is far from failproof.
The bottom line is, I think this is good news overall since it opens up more transcontinental and trans-Pacific routes, though it will likely still be hard to score upgrades on the JFK-Seattle flights since there are only 16 seats and I suspect Delta will indeed stop clearing advanced Medallion upgrades.