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Even as Delta Air Lines officially unveiled an upgraded trans-Atlantic business class last week, it called the step an interim move and said a more dramatic change is coming within 18 months.

"We can't distinguish ourselves just by buying seats off the shelf," said Gayle Bock, Delta's VP-consumer marketing, referring to improved cabin seating. "We're working with automotive and furniture manufacturers who know about ergonomics" for customized seats in phase two.

No partnerships have been solidified yet, but when asked what other areas were ripe for change, she responded, "the whole cabin environment."

In conjunction with the current upgrade, Delta last week broke an estimated $40 million print, TV, and radio effort behind its global "On top of the world" campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York (AA, April 14), and also revealed plans for a branding effort to hit in September.


In the current spots, stylish, dreamy sequences portray passengers on a bed of feathers and in a theater before showing business-class features such as reclining seats. Along with a booming Enya-like sound track, the voice-over says: "We know how to treat you like an individual." The music has been used for nearly two years in Europe.

Trans-Atlantic business class features include power outlets for laptop computers, Sony Video Walkmans with tapes in five languages and new seats with adjustable headrests. The carrier also introduced its Vinum wine program, with featured wines available only in the cabins and accompanying educational booklets.

Though far behind British Airways, Air France and American Airlines in upgrading, Delta has beaten United Airlines' unveiling set for late May. US Airways introduced similar efforts in March.

"Timing was urgent," said Ms. Bock, who noted how unusual it was for the airline to immediately accept its ad agency's concept.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

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