Delta Air Lines is planning to equip each of its 16 Boeing 747-400s between summer 2011 and 2012 with new fully horizontal flat-bed seats...

Delta Air Lines is planning to equip each of its 16 Boeing 747-400s between summer 2011 and 2012 with new fully horizontal flat-bed seats in their BusinessElite cabins and with new Economy-class seats featuring personal, on-demand entertainment, increased personal space and added under-seat storage.

The 16 747-400s – all of which Delta Air Lines inherited in its merger with Northwest Airlines – fly primarily from Delta’s Tokyo Narita hub.

The airline says the interior-renovation investments in its 747-400s represent the latest move in Delta’s plan to invest more than $1 billion in enhanced global products and services through 2013.

When the $1 billion investment program is complete, says Delta, it will offer full flat-bed seats on more than 100 transoceanic aircraft, including all Boeing 777s, 767s and 747s. The carrier will also offer personal, in-seat entertainment for both BusinessElite and Economy class customers on all widebody flights.

“The multimillion dollar investment we are making to completely revitalize our transoceanic fleet speaks to our strong commitment to the Asian market,” says Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines’ president. “While we have solidly positioned ourselves as the leading U.S. carrier across the Pacific in terms of flights and destinations, we are now taking steps to enhance the products and services offered across our Asian-Pacific network to position Delta as a leader in in-flight service.”

Delta Air Lines inherited a fleet of 16 Boeing 747-400s from Northwest Airlines upon its merger with the Minneapolis/St. Paul-based carrier and in its summer 2010 schedule is using them to increase capacity on a number of transpacific and transatlantic routes. In 2011 and 2012 the airline will outfit all its 747-400s with new flat-bed BusinessElite seats and new seats in Economy class

According to Delta, the 747 upgrades will bring substantial changes to both decks of the aircraft’s BusinessElite cabin. The aircraft will feature 48 horizontal flat-bed seats with direct aisle access at each seat. Window seats will face the window for improved privacy and center seats will be angled toward each other for the convenience of customers traveling together.

The new flat-bed BusinessElite seat, manufactured by Weber Aircraft LLC, will be 81.7 inches in length and 20.5 inches wide, similar to the flat-bed product currently offered on Delta’s 777-200LR fleet. It also will feature a 120-volt universal power outlet, USB port, personal LED reading lamp and a Panasonic 15.4 inch personal video monitor with instant access to 250 new and classic movies, premium programming from HBO and Showtime, video games and more than 4,000 digital music tracks.

“The design of our flat-bed product meets customers’ desire for comfortable sleep, direct aisle access and ample storage and work space when they travel on long-haul flights,” says Bastian. “We have had great success from a customer service and business standpoint with flat-bed service since it first rolled out on our 777 fleet, and we expect similar results when customers experience our new trans-Pacific 747 and 767 BusinessElite product beginning next year.”

This is how Delta Air Lines is arranging its new full-flat beds for privacy at window locations in the BusinessElite cabins in its Boeing 747-400s

In the past year, Delta has improved meal service in BusinessElite across the Pacific with the introduction of personal, hand-served entrees, signature dishes created by celebrity chef Michele Bernstein and master sommelier Andrea Robinson, expanded dessert options and improved Japanese meal options created by Delta’s flight kitchen in Tokyo.

Customers in Economy class on the 747-400 will find what delta claims will be the industry’s first seat designed collaboratively by a seat manufacturer and an in-flight entertainment company – Weber Aircraft and Panasonic Avionics Corporation, respectively – to fully incorporate seat and entertainment functionality into one product. Using a nine-inch screen, the new seat’s embedded touch-screen entertainment system will offer each customer access to 250 movie titles, hundreds of television shows, 4,000 digital music tracks, personalized music playlists, more than a dozen interactive games and a USB port to charge iPods and other personal electronic devices.

The new seats offer up to 1.5 inches more personal space and increased under-seat storage through a slimline design that uses cabin space more efficiently than the older, heavier seats they replace. The upgraded seats also feature adjustable headrests and deliver environmental benefits through Panasonic Eco 9i Integrated Smart Monitors that use 30 per cent less energy and are 60 per cent lighter than entertainment systems installed on other Delta aircraft.

Delta’s 747s are dedicated largely to transpacific and intra-Asia flights to and from its Tokyo Narita hub, including routes connecting Tokyo to Detroit, Honolulu, Manila, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK and Shanghai.

This is how Delta Air Lines is arranging its center-suite full-flat beds for customers traveling together in the BusinessElite cabins in its Boeing 747-400s

When reconfigured, the 747s will accommodate 386 customers with 48 BusinessElite seats and 338 Economy-class seats.

In the past several years Delta has significantly increased its service across the Asia Pacific region, expanding from 222 weekly departures in summer 2006 to 275 in summer 2010. Recently added routes include Tokyo Narita to New York JFK and Salt Lake City (June 2009); Shanghai to Detroit (June 2009); Sydney to Los Angeles (July 2009); Osaka to Seattle (June 2010); Beijing to Seattle (June 2010); Seoul-Incheon to Detroit (June 2010); Hong Kong to Detroit (June 2010); Nagoya to Honolulu (December 2010); and Tokyo-Narita to Palau (December 2010).

Delta also has announced plans to begin new nonstop service between Tokyo Haneda and Detroit and Los Angeles in 2011.

“As the leading U.S. carrier to the region, we are solidly positioned to continue to expand convenience and choice for Asia-originating or Asia-bound travelers in one of the world’s fastest growing travel markets,” says Bastian. “Our history of investment in the region is underscored by our more than 2,300 Pacific-based employees in nine countries and our continued commitment to expansion and product renewal.”

Delta also continues to expand its alliance relationships across the region, with Vietnam Airlines joining the SkyTeam alliance in June and the recent announcement that China Eastern Airlines will join the alliance in 2011.