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Delta overhauls its flight classes, beefs up first class

Delta Air Lines planes at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
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Delta Air Lines planes at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

For passengers flying Delta, it won't be as simple as choosing between coach and first class. The third-largest airline in the U.S. is re-imagining the type of service that its passengers receive by expanding flight class options to five classes. Starting in March 2015, there will be three economy options and two first-class choices, depending on whether it is a domestic or international flight.

"We're providing Delta customers with a thoughtful, well-defined spectrum of options as they make decisions about travel," said Glen Hauenstein, executive vice-president and chief revenue officer in a release.

Here are the amenities broken down for each of the five tiers:

Basic Economy: It seems the airline's lowest and cheapest Basic Economy class may bear the brunt of the overhaul with no frills. Passengers can't select their seats in advance, upgrade to the higher economy class renamed Delta Comfort+, get refunds for unused tickets or fly standby. Basic Economy passengers still get the same food, beverage and entertainment options as the other two economy classes. You still get your free non-alcoholic drink.

Main Cabin: The only difference between Basic Economy and the carrier's next level, Main Cabin class, is that customers can choose seats ahead of time and gain flexibility to make flight changes. Delta's Gold and Silver Medallion members will still be able to upgrade to First Class and Delta Comfort+ seats for free.

Delta Comfort+: This, the highest economy level, grants four extra inches of legroom, priority boarding, special overhead storage space, free alcohol, snacks and entertainment. If you're flying Comfort+ from New York's JFK airport to Los Angeles or San Francisco, you also score a free sleep kit and snacks such as frozen yogurt. The Comfort+ during long-haul international flights adds meal service, a sleep kit and extra seat recline. This is the only economy-level class that will offer new quilted seat covers.

Comfort Plus seating options offered by Delta Airlines
Source: Delta Airlines
Comfort Plus seating options offered by Delta Airlines

First Class: The domestic first-class section will keep its name but its service has changed. First Class clients will be the first to board the plane and store their luggage in reserved overhead space. Before the flight takes off, passengers receive complimentary drinks and continue to receive free drinks, snacks and meals throughout the flight. In addition to free entertainment, First Class also gets power outlets on most aircraft.

Delta One: Delta's Business Elite will be rebranded Delta One, the highest class level, available only on long-haul international flights and routes from JFK airport to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Along with all the amenities enjoyed by those in First Class, Delta One passengers also get an in at Delta Sky Clubs at airports, receive a Tumi kit with high-end skincare, noise-reduction headsets and a chef-curated menu with wine pairings. The seats recline into a bed that can be furnished with Westin bedding.