Delta has upped its arms race against the ME3, the term reserved for the big three airlines in the Middle East: Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways.
On Tuesday, Delta announced its Delta One business class option that will start rolling out in its planes in 2017. The new business class option provides passengers with a cosy room that comes with its own door for flights that are 12 hours or more. The airline is calling the option a first for business class.
The move to prioritise comfort on international flights could be seen as a way to give Delta a competitive edge over the ME3, all of which have been expanding routes in the US.
Delta has championed a complaint that Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad are unfairly supported by subsidies in violation of the US’s Open Skies agreements with their governments. Delta isn’t look to kick the ME3 out of the US market, but it is looking to restrict the routes and destinations foreign carriers can fly into the US.
Qatar Airways and Delta, in particular, have been publicly feuding for the past two years. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker specifically said its decision to fly to Atlanta was to “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta, and Qatar’s inaugural flight to Atlanta led to a feud between the two of soap-opera-level proportions.
But as the ME3 continues to expand into US territory, Delta is introducing new options to give it a competitive edge in a crowded market space — in this case, its new business class suite with private rooms.
Emirates and Qatar Airways offer cosy pods in business class so passengers can kick back and relax on long flights, but there’s no option for a suite with its own door. Etihad does offer a “sliding privacy screen” for its business class suites, but only for those who sit on the aisle.
It could be that if Delta is having trouble restricting the ME3’s routes into the US, it’s fighting back by offering nicer amenities.
Delta, Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad all did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.