Delta Air Lines, the dominant commercial carrier in the Twin Cities, announced Wednesday that it is overhauling the interior of many aircraft in its domestic fleet, adding space for carry-on bags and gadgets.
The Atlanta-based airline said the improvements will be phased in through 2016 at a cost of more than $770 million.
Among the enhancements, dependent on aircraft model: larger overhead bins, roomier bathrooms, electrical outlets at every seat, in-seat video screens, improved cabin lighting and seats with adjustable headrests.
The changes match those Delta has made in recent years on its international fleet and bring its entire fleet closer to the accommodation standards of airlines such as Singapore, Cathay Pacific and Qatar, which have industry-leading reputations for comfort and service although they have a smaller number of planes.
Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec said that while he can “never say never,” the airline has no plans to create fees for any of these improvements.
“The focus is not doing things to increase fees at this point,” Skrbec said.
Since airlines first began charging for checked bags as a revenue source, many passengers have countered by bringing as much as possible on the aircraft. This strategy has strained demand on the overhead bin space and at times resulted in passengers being rebuffed moments before takeoff because their carry-on pieces were deemed too large.
Delta said it will soon become “the first carrier in North America to install the new bin system, which will increase passenger carry-on baggage capacity by more than 50 percent.”
Skrbec said that passenger feedback has been strongest for a place to plug in.
“Generally, our customers have been very clear that having access to power has been a priority for them,” he said.
Twin Cities-based airline analyst Terry Trippler, of www.theplanerules.com, says Delta’s announcement is “a direct result of Delta realizing there is a third strong global airline now” among its competition, with the merger of American and US Airways last month. United is the other rival.
Given that the fuselage of each aircraft can’t change, the added space for overhead bins and bathrooms had to be found somewhere in the interior. Skrbec said the galley areas will be smaller but will make for a more efficient workspace for flight attendants.
He added that something seemingly as minor as going from a “hard wall” between first class and economy to a “soft wall” also gave Delta some space to use.
Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s chief revenue officer, said in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s announcement, “We’re continuing to make smart long-term investments in our products and services to meet the expectations of our customers.”