Delta Air Lines is shunning the cattle class herd to retain nine-across economy class seating as it undertakes a major renovation of its international Boeing 777 fleet.
The decision to stick with Boeing’s original game plan for its popular twin means Delta’s 777s will have the widest economy class seats in its fleet at 18.5 inches.
It bucks the trend among many airlines to add another seat to each row of economy class to make 777 seating 10-abreast and reduce seat width by more than an inch (2.5cm).
A similar tendency has afflicted operators of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, where narrower seats in a nine-across configuration have become common.
The economy class crunch is a reaction by legacy airlines to historically low fares and increased competition from low-cost carriers.
It is designed to boost the revenue generated by aircraft but has been offset partially by new seat designs that optimize available space for passengers.
Yet some airlines have resisted the temptation to cram in passengers shoulder-to-shoulder and continue to offer the more spacious nine-across 777 configuration.
Delta also offers an economy seat pitch of 31-32 inches on it 220 main cabin seats as well as 11-inch inflight entertainment screens, personal power ports and Gogo Ku Wi-Fi connectivity.
“The comfort of our passengers is a top priority,’’ a Delta spokeswoman told AirlineRatings.
“By maintaining 9-abreast seating in the Main Cabin as we modify our 777s, we’re able to offer wider main cabin seats and more preferable seat options.”
Delta’s first refurbished 777, a 296-seat 777-200ER, took to the air Monday on a flight from Detroit to Beijing.
The aircraft is also equipped with 28 Delta One suites giving each passenger a private space accessed by a sliding door, an 18-inch IFE screen and a 24-inch wide lie-flat seat.
In between are 48 Delta Premium Select seats that are 19 inches wide and have a 28-inch seat pitch. These come with a 13.3-inch IFE screen, adjustable head and footrests and elevated service.
The aircraft comes with full-spectrum LED ambient lighting that is customized to match the phase of flight as well as free in-flight entertainment in all cabins.
The airline plans to have all eight of its 777-200ERs and 10 777-200LRs retrofitted by the end of 2019.