My flight from Seattle to Amsterdam in Delta One was exciting, because it was my first long-haul business class flight, and I had been looking forward to it for the past ten months (yes, I book travel way in advance). I got a taste of what long-haul premium flying would be like this past November when I flew in BusinessFirst on one of United’s “premium service” 757s from SFO to Newark. However, at just under six hours (and during the day), it was a truncated version of the long-haul premium experience I was psyching myself up for. My Amsterdam flight was on one of Delta’s A330s featuring their reverse herringbone configuration, which looks much nicer than the normal herringbone they have on the 777 or the staggered forward-facing seats on their 767. Most of the mixed reviews I’ve read of Delta focus on the 767 config, so I was hoping for an above-average experience with the A330’s superior product.
The seat: this was my first flight in a reverse herringbone seat, and I liked it. I thought it might be weird to sit diagonally, but it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it made it easier to look out the window, which is always my favorite part of flying. That being said, the seat did feel pretty narrow, and there wasn’t much storage space. There’s plenty of space to set things down, but it’s all on flat surfaces, so you have to be careful of your belongings sliding around and falling onto the floor. My only basis for comparison is that United 757 seat (which is used by tons of other airlines as well, including Delta on their 757s), and just in terms of comfort, I actually prefer it. Not only did I feel like I had more shoulder room, but the seat itself is thick and plush, kind of like sitting on a mattress, whereas Delta’s seat is fairly hard (I have the same issue with Virgin America’s first class seats). Of course, for a night flight, I’m willing to give up some comfort in order to have all-aisle access, since it totally sucked having to contort myself to step over my sleeping seatmate on that United flight. I did end up sleeping for a few hours, which is unusual, since I can almost never sleep on planes. After I took off my shoes, there was plenty of room in the foot cubby for my size-12 feet. As a result, I can’t fault the seat too much, since it did the job of giving me a nice surface to sleep on.
The food: Ooops, I guess I should say “food.” Given how Delta breathlessly touts their catering, and given that I was flying out of an up-and-coming Delta hub, I’m pretty surprised at how shitty the food was. One caveat is that I ordered a vegan meal, although my wife had the beef and thought it was terrible as well. I didn’t take detailed photos or anything, but I’ll give you an example of what was so bad about it: my appetizer had steamed vegetables served cold (zucchini, squash, asparagus, etc), and the main course had the SAME VEGETABLES served hot. Very imaginative, and also kind of gross to think about how many times those vegetables had been frozen and reheated. My wife’s takeaway was that it was still bad airline food, there was just a lot more of it. Blech. Breakfast was gross too – I don’t even remember what it was, but I remember not liking it.
(One quick aside: I realize I’m not the best reviewer, since I take anxiety medicine on long haul flights, which sometimes makes it hard to remember small details like what gross mush I was served for breakfast.)
The service: Pretty good, I have to say. I’m not much for service in the first place – in general, I prefer to be left alone, rather than to have someone asking me how they can wait on me every fifteen minutes. One positive example: right when the flight attendant served my appetizer, the plane hit some moderate turbulence, enough so that it would have been difficult to eat without spilling. I asked if I could give her back my food and have it served after the ride smoothed out, and she happily agreed. This is a little thing, but I appreciated that she was willing to disrupt the meal service routine to accommodate my request. I still find Alaska Airlines has the best service overall, but Delta was up there on this flight.
Other aspects of the “soft product:” Well, the softest part of the soft product was the bedding, which was nice. Because Delta has individual air vents, I was able to blast myself with AC and warm up under the blanket, while the pillow was pretty big and supportive as well. The amenity kit was dumb, but all amenity kits are dumb. Oh, and the Tumi logo peeled off the case before we even left the gate. Delta makes a big deal about their partnership with Kiehl’s, but that really only manifests itself in the form of grapefruit hand cream and some lip balm that’s weirdly packaged in a tiny toothpaste tube. I don’t get it. Do people in premium cabins look forward to slathering their hands and lips with goo the entire flight? As for the case it came in, I’ll keep it for a couple months while I brainstorm all the good possible uses for it, and then I’ll throw it away when I don’t actually do any of them.
Overall: I was hoping to be blown away, and I wasn’t. It got me over the Atlantic in a flat bed rather than an uncomfortable slim-line seat, so in that sense it was definitely worth it. And I didn’t have a seatmate like I would have if I had flown KLM, Air France, United, British Airways, and so on. Decent service, disgusting food, plush bedding, hard seats, okay IFE, blah blah blah. Is this review over yet?
Bottom line (which is different from overall): If award space on Delta is available at a low level and the flight fits your schedule, book it. If not, don’t go out of your way.
In conclusion (which is different from bottom line): Despite Delta’s marketing of their Delta One product, the service is decidedly middle-of-the-road, but since so many transatlantic products are subpar, they look good by comparison.