First look: Delta shows off new ‘flagship’ Airbus A350 in Atlanta

ATLANTA – Delta Air Lines showed off its newest aircraft Tuesday, offering an up-close look of a jet that the carrier says will become its new “flagship” aircraft for international service.

Delta’s first Airbus A350 widebody doesn’t begin commercial passenger service until Oct. 30, which is when it will debut on the airline’s route between Detroit and Tokyo Narita. But the carrier gave a preview of the plane to the media on Tuesday, allowing access to the plane amid a broader media event touting the A350.

Delta finished its preview tour of the A350 jet with a demonstration flight that departed Atlanta shortly after 2 p.m. ET. It returned to the world’s busiest airport about two hours later after completing a square-shaped loop across the Southeast and Ohio Valley.

For Delta — the first airline in North America to take delivery of an A350 — it was a chance put its new state-of-the-art A350 in front of media ahead of its launch. The 306-seat jet will be the first to feature two of the carrier’s new high-profile seating options: the Delta One suite and the new Delta Premium Select premium economy seat.

The 32 Delta One suites feature seats that convert into lie-flat beds. Though that’s become a standard option for most big global carriers, Delta’s newest suites come with a privacy door. The doors are released with the flip of a lever in the suite, allowing Delta One suite customers to close off their space for extra privacy.

The Delta One suites will make their debut with the carrier’s new A350s and are scheduled to be on all 25 of the new A350s Delta has on order. Delta also will retrofit its fleet of 18 Boeing 777s with new suites. That effort will begin next year and will take about three years to finish.

Also debuting on Delta’s new A350 is the carrier’s first true international-style premium economy seat. Dubbed Delta Premium Select, the seats are not simply coach seats with extra legroom. Instead, they’re entirely different seats that come with extended recline and footrests. The Premium Select seats also come with perks like enhanced meal service, priority check-in and amenity kits.

Delta also will add the new Premium Select seats to its Boeing 777s in its overhaul of those aircraft. For now, Delta has not revealed plans to add the new suites or enhanced premium economy seats to its other widebody jets that fly overseas routes.

As for the A350s, Delta intends to base its first models of the aircraft at its hub in Detroit, where it will use them for trans-Pacific flights to Asia. Following Tokyo, Delta will add its next A350s to its routes to Seoul and Beijing.