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Delta expands A350 network ahead of introduction

Delta Air Lines will fly its new Airbus A350-900 to Amsterdam in 2018, as it prepares to introduce its latest product offerings and aircraft on long-haul routes at the end of October.

The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will fly the aircraft between its Detroit hub and Amsterdam from March 2018, says Delta chief executive Ed Bastian at a media event for the new aircraft in Atlanta today.

"The A350 is a significant step forward for us into the international competitiveness of our product and service," he says.

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Delta will introduce its new business class suites as well as long-haul premium economy product on the aircraft, which enters service as its new "flagship" long-haul jet between Detroit and Tokyo Narita on 30 October.

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Delta's new business class suite on the A350

The A350 will replace the airline's remaining Boeing 747-400s, which are scheduled to retire by December.

Delta will offer the A350 on six routes, including the Amsterdam and Tokyo services, by next summer: Detroit-Seoul Incheon from 18 November, Detroit-Beijing from 17 January 2018, Atlanta-Seoul Incheon from March 2018 and Detroit-Shanghai Pudong from 19 April 2018.

The carrier will replace 747s on the flights to Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo from Detroit, Airbus A330-200s to Amsterdam and Beijing from Detroit, and the Boeing 777-200 to Seoul from Atlanta, FlightGlobal schedules show.

Delta configures its A350-900s with 306 seats, including 32 in business, 48 in premium economy and 226 in economy. Its A330-200s have 234 seats, 747-400s 376 seats and 777-200s 291 seats.

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Delta's new premium economy cabin on the A350

With the A350, Delta joins American Airlines and United Airlines offering the latest generation of widebody aircraft. Its US mainline competitors both operate the Boeing 787 and have orders for the A350.

However, while American introduced premium economy on its 787-9s in 2016, neither it nor United introduced new business class products on their Dreamliners.

Chicago-based United debuted its new Polaris business seat on the 777-300ER in February.

Delta chief Bastian cites competition with foreign carriers, including British Airways, Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines, for driving the product improvements on the A350.

"We need to make certain our product, where we go internationally, is toe-to-toe and I think the A350 will be," he says.

Of Delta's first six A350 routes, it only has direct competition on the Atlanta-Seoul and Detroit-Amsterdam routes, schedules show. However, both are with fellow SkyTeam members: codeshare – and future joint venture – partner Korean Air on the former and JV partner KLM on the latter.

Delta has 25 A350-900s on order, with 15 due by 2019 and the balance of 10 from 2021. The first aircraft will replace its seven remaining 747s with the balance used for expansion.

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