NEW DELTA ADS TO LIFT BIZ ELITE: AIRLINE IS LATEST TO SCRAP FIRST CLASS ON OVERSEAS; UPGRADE BUSINESS CLASS

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Seeking to promote its revamped international business-class, Delta Air Lines will launch a campaign in mid-April for Business Elite, shortly after unveiling details about one of the perks of the new service: an upgraded, four-entree menu.

A spokeswoman said Delta officials now are reviewing elements of the campaign, being handled by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. She declined to comment on details, including the budget.

"I'm not sure if it'll be TV, radio or print," said Katie Moussouri, manager-corporate communications. "It could be all three."

FULL FORCE BY LATE SUMMER

The effort won't be in full force until late summer, in part because it will take that long for Delta to alter the seating arrangements on each of the 57 planes it will use for the Business Elite service.

Positioned as a top-notch service at a business-class rate, Business Elite also will be offered on 14 new planes Delta has purchased.

The airline spent $42 million on advertising through the first 11 months of 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting; the Business Elite campaign is expected to get less than $10 million.

A Saatchi & Saatchi spokesman also declined to comment on spending or creative.

Business Elite will offer wider seats that can recline up to 160 degrees and a cabin layout with no middle seats. Passengers will have their own videoscreens and the facilities to hook up a laptop computer.

The upgraded menu offering, to be implemented later this month, is a choice of four entrees, one of which will be vegetarian, and a selection of international cheeses.

In launching Business Elite, Delta is the latest airline to eliminate its first-class service on overseas flights while upgrading business class. Continental now has no first-class service overseas, and the Northwest Airlines/KLM Royal Dutch Airlines alliance has no first-class service to Europe, except for flights between Detroit and Amsterdam. It began offering only business- and economy-class service in the early 1990s.

SAVE MONEY, BE COMPETITIVE

"Carriers are asking, 'How do we compete in this market?' " said Glenn Engel, an industry analyst with Goldman Sachs & Co. "They want to save money, but they also want to be competitive."

In contrast, airlines such as British Airways and American Airlines are making strong commitments to continuing with first-class service. In 1997, British Airways began a first-class service that offers travelers a seat that converts into a 61/2-foot bed and an individual semi-private compartment.

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