February 4, 2015 / 3:00 AM / 4 years ago

Delta Air Lines expands partnership with Starbucks

Feb 3 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines will serve Starbucks brand coffee on all of its flights, growing its existing partnership with the world’s biggest coffee chain, the companies plan to announce on Wednesday.

The Atlanta-based carrier has served Seattle’s Best Coffee, which Starbucks owns, for free since 2011, and now it will replace that with free cups of the Starbucks name-brand for all of its customers. It was not immediately clear how much the upgrade would cost the airline.

Airlines have been investing more in their products since posting profits after several entered bankruptcy in the past decade. Reduced airline competition and the falling cost of jet fuel have returned money to airlines’ pockets to decrease debt, pay its shareholders dividends and invest in new airport facilities, planes and amenities.

Delta has focused heavily on brand partnerships with the likes of Porsche for gate-to-gate transfers of elite passengers to Tumi for business-class amenity kits. The airline, which approached Starbucks about the coffee upgrade, likely will grow its partnerships further.

“Going forward we’ll be able to look at other parts of the travel experience, be it on the ground in our Sky Clubs or in other parts of the journey,” said Mike Henny, Delta’s director of onboard customer experience.

Delta currently offers Starbucks coffee in only a few of its Sky Clubs, Henny said.

More airlines may follow suit to offer Starbucks blends or other premium coffees in-flight. Alaska Airlines has already served Starbucks on its planes since 2012.

“We’ll continue to evaluate opportunities as they come to us in the airline and other sectors,” said Michelle Burns, vice president of branded solutions at Starbucks. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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