Delta’s inferior ‘new’ A350s are coming sooner than expected — and to a 3rd route

Apr 12, 2022

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Delta Air Lines is gearing up to take delivery of some additional Airbus A350s — and they’ll be flying sooner than initially expected.

Right now, the airline has 19 of these jets in its fleet, but that number will shortly grow to 28, as Delta adds nine used A350s to its fleet.

At the outset, Delta had originally planned to deploy the first batch of these additional jets on two long-haul routes beginning with Atlanta (ATL) to Santiago, Chile (SCL), on July 1, followed by ATL to Dublin, Ireland (DUB), on Aug. 1.

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However, the airline is now accelerating its plans to bring these used jets into service. The carrier will start flying its first used A350 to Santiago beginning on June 7 — three weeks earlier than initially planned — as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.

Furthermore, the airline will deploy the jet on a third route. This one, however, is a transcontinental hop from ATL to Los Angeles (LAX). Delta now plans to fly its latest A350 once daily on the 1,946-mile route from July 1 through Sept. 5.

While additional aircraft deliveries don’t always make news, this one is noteworthy since Delta’s “new” Airbus A350s are going to be a big downgrade for many customers from a passenger experience perspective.

When the carrier retired the Boeing 777 fleet during the pandemic, it dubbed the A350 its flagship aircraft. After all, the swanky Airbus jets feature the carrier’s fanciest all-suite business-class cabin and Premium Select recliners, too.

But, this latest batch of A350s won’t sport the sleek Delta cabins — at least not at first. Instead, these widebodies are being picked up from LATAM, the South American mega-carrier which is now partially owned by Delta. (LATAM is in bankruptcy protection and is retiring its A350 fleet.)

Delta says these planes will eventually be updated with its new interiors, though the carrier has not given a timeline for that. Instead, putting these planes into service now allows the airline to capitalize on quicker-than-expected return of travel demand in the U.S.

LATAM’s A350 economy cabin (Photo courtesy of LATAM)

While the additional A350s will enable Delta to grow its long-haul network (especially without the 777s), the carrier has opted to keep the legacy outdated LATAM cabins in the interim, as first reported by TPG last month.

These A350s feature a total of 339 seats spread across 30 business-class pods, 63 extra-legroom coach seats and 246 standard coach ones. The one possible upside for passengers is that these planes will have nearly twice as many Comfort+ seats as compared to Delta’s other A350s.

LATAM A350 business-class seat (Photo by Emerson Gomes/Shutterstock)

Still, this sub-fleet of jets, internally called the “35L,” will be the only widebodies in the fleet to not feature direct aisle access for every Delta One passenger. Plus, the planes won’t have a Premium Select cabin.

LATAM’s A350s have the same business-class seats as its Boeing 787s, pictured here (Photo courtesy of LATAM)

While Delta isn’t changing the product on these A350s, it will repaint the jets in Delta livery, and add its logo and other branding elements, including Delta seat covers and inflight entertainment systems, throughout the planes.

TPG reached out to Delta to ask about the schedule changes related to the LATAM A350s and was provided with the same statement that was first communicated last month.

This summer, Delta will incorporate the first three of nine pre-owned Airbus A350 aircraft into our global network. The aircraft feature a temporary seating configuration pending further modification to one consistent with the A350 aircraft currently in our fleet. The integration of these aircraft into our fleet will allow for an important increase to our flying capacity to help get our customers where they want to go this summer and beyond.

Unfortunately, the carrier still doesn’t have a retrofit timeline to share as to when these jets will ultimately be converted into Delta’s far superior cabins.

Until then, business-class flyers are going to need to keep an eye on their upcoming reservations to watch out for the ex-LATAM Airbus A350.

Delta is now marketing the forward cabin on this jet as “Delta One” (not “Delta One Suites”), and taking a look at the seat map should quickly help confirm whether you’ll experience Delta’s top-notch product or the outdated 2-2-2 LATAM business class.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

Interestingly, Delta is selling the cabin as “first class” on the domestic hop between Atlanta and Los Angeles, though flyers will need to beware that there’s currently no Wi-Fi on these jets — a big drawback to flying this plane for nearly five hours during the business day.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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