Delta to invest $1b in fleet and lounge upgrades by mid-2013

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Delta Air Lines plans to spend roughly $300 million annually through mid-2013 largely on fleet upgrades and winglet installations for a total investment of close to $1 billion.

The SkyTeam alliance member will add a first class cabin to 66 Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft operated by its regional partners SkyWest and Atlantic Southeast Airlines and its wholly-owned regional subsidiary Comair. Once the installations are complete, Delta will have 219 regional aircraft with first class seating.

Other enhancements include installation of lie-flat seats in business class on 90 long-haul aircraft including 14 Boeing 767-400ERs, 52 767-300ERs 16 747-400s and eight 777-200ERs. Delta says once the installations are complete, each fleet type will feature full flat bed seats on all aircraft.

Delta by mid-2013 also plans to complete modifications on 269 pre-merger Northwest aircraft to feature leather seats, updated lighting and enhanced cabin amenities, such as enlarged overhead bins on Northwest 757-200s. Delta and Northwest merged in October 2008.

Delta also plans to install winglets on more than 170 Boeing 767-300ERs, 757-200s and 737-800s. A carrier spokesman says the 767s and 737s are Delta pre-merger aircraft, and the 757s are a mix of pre-merger Delta and Northwest aircraft.

Additionally, Delta intends to add in-seat audio and video on demand (AVOD) in economy class on 16 747-400s and 52 767-300ERs, which will result in the carrier offering in-seat entertainment in both business and economy class on all its wide-body aircraft.

The carrier continues installation of the Aircell Gogo Wi-fi product, and says more than 340 aircraft now feature Gogo, which allows passengers to connect to the internet. Delta plans offer internet access on more than 540 aircraft by mid-2010.

Delta's other target for the $1 billion it plans to spend by mid-2013 is a renovation and expansion of its lounge at Los Angeles, and the introduction of lounges in Seattle, Philadelphia and Indianapolis.

Sticking to a theme expressed by Delta's senior management during the last few months, Delta's president Ed Bastian says: "This investment will be made while staying well within the level of our historical capital expenditures, rather than invest in new aircraft, Delta will be spending its capital to improve the quality and consistency of the on-board product and efficiency of the aircraft we already own."