Earlier this month, I travelled to the US for the weekend with Delta Air Lines to cover the Foo Fighters’ Cal Jam Festival in Los Angeles. You know, the one that “Nirvana” reformed at. Yes, with flights to the US more affordable and more frequent than ever, the idea of a weekend getaway to the US is a feasible option for someone who doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to witness a once-in-a-lifetime experience likt it. And flying on Friday morning, which lands you in LA on the same morning, and flying back on Sunday night, which lands you in Sydney early Tuesday morning, means you don’t have to miss more than a day of work to make it happen.
Airline: Delta Air Lines
Route: Sydney to Los Angeles (LAX) – DL40
Seat: 42F – aisle middle of a 3-3-3 layout
Flight Time: 13 1/2 Hours – Delayed 30 Minutes, Arrived 30 Minutes Late
Baggage and Boarding
Two pieces of 23kg checked baggage is included with every ticket, and it’s a quick and easy check in process – especially as a frequent flyer. Though there weren’t really many lines to speak of when I arrived at LAX. Though they so seem to be doing passport interrogations now before you even line up to check your bag in now, which is surprising. But given so much is automated at the airport, this may just be a requirement of the airline, rather than the airport itself.
Frequent Flyer Benefits
Delta will match your Virgin Australia (Velocity) frequent flyer status, so whether you’re a frequent flyer with Delta or Virgin – or one of their other partner airlines – you’ll be well looked after with “Sky Priority” status on your ticket. Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers will get access to the SkyTeam Lounge at Sydney International Airport. The lounge has everything you’d expect from an international lounge – a large buffet that’s regularly restocked (and with a great selection of breakfast items for this morning flight), drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – and plenty of comfortable seats with oodles of plugs available for the discerning business traveller.
As a Sky Priority “Platinum Medallion” customer, they automatically put me in for a “Delta Comfort” upgrade, which would see me get some more comfortable seats with extra leg room. Sadly, I was 5th in line for four available spots and didn’t make it. But I had an aisle seat with an empty seat next to me, which is the dream scenario (other than a full row to yourself of course) on a busy flight. So there were no complaints.
In Flight Service
Due to weather and a backlog of flights taxi-ing, we took off about half an hour late, and had a similar arrival delay, but it wasn’t too bad. The in flight team were very helpful closer to landing to answer any questions anyone had about their connecting flights, and the pilot kept us updated too.
Before we took off, a full menu for the flight was distributed, as well as Billboard sponsored headphones, eye mask and ear plugs. A bottle of water and a hot towel was distributed after take off, and there were three meal services throughout the flight. A lunch service shortly after take off, a snack service halfway through the flight and a breakfast service shortly before landing. In the past, the airline has woken passengers up for the snack service, and while they turn all the lights on and there’s enough noise to wake most people up, that didn’t seem to be how they were operating on this service which was welcomed.
All in all, the in flight service was excellent.
The Economy Seat
There’s movable headrests, decent leg room and recline, the standard Economy seats offered by Delta are far from the best in class, but they definitely do the trick. You’ll find a USB plug under the seat, and there’s a touch screen on the back of the seat in front of you with no controller. So things like light control and help request are available via the settings menu on the screen – which doesn’t seem overly intuitive and did confuse a few passengers. A pillow and a blanket is waiting for you on the seat when you arrive.
In Flight Wi-Fi
Before you fly, make sure you download the FlyDelta app, which has some excellent functionality including bag tracking, flight tracking and the ability to see where your upgrade sits (it’s how I knew I was 5th in line for an upgrade). If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you will get one hour of free wi-fi, and enjoy free messaging for the entire flight. The Wi-Fi connectivity was a bit spotty on the flight – it’s always hit and miss when you’re flying across the Pacific. But when it worked, it worked surprisingly fast. I got through quite a lot of e-mails and work.
You can get yourself Wi-Fi for the entire flight for US$21.95, which is actually incredibly reasonable – and there are no download restrictions. I know airlines who barely give you 100MB for that price. I took a chance with it and used Wi-Fi for the entire flight. I had troubles the first half of the flight, but it was better the second half of the flight.
There’s also free messaging app usage available to everyone – so thats WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. You just can’t send photos or videos. You can also watch movies and TV shows on your device instead of on the screen on the back of your seat, should you want to. The FlyDelta app will also update as long as you’re connected to the Wi-Fi. If you were watching @theaureview on Instagram the day I flew you would have seen some live updates in flight. Now I’m in two minds about whether or not I like the ability to be contacted while I’m on a long International flight, but it’s terribly handy now that it’s here.
Food and Drink
Delta offer Economy passengers Complimentary Prosecco as well as beer, wine and spirits are available for the entire flight, and a first drink service comes shortly after take off, with a snack mix and a “biscoff” cookie. There were three options for the first meal, and I had the braised beef shortrib with gnocci and carrots.
Drinks would take a bit of time when you ordered them but they were super courteous and there was never a problem in ordering one – though as they had three or four drink services naturally in first couple of hours of flight, so requesting one was almost unnecessary.
Piping hot cheese pizza and a small ice cream were delivered halfway through the flight and delicious – I was pretty happy to have woken up to it I have to say. Lights turned on a little over two hours before landing for breakfast meal service. There were two options for this one, and I had the eggs with baked beans. It came with fruit, a croissant and juice – and of course a drinks service.
Since I last reviewed the DL40 service, meal sizes are definitely smaller than they used to be, and about on par now with Virgin’s offerings. But the quality was great and there are some excellent sides to ensure you’re never hungry on the plane. They also have snacks they can grab you throughout the flight.
In Flight Entertainment
There’s a really impressive movie and TV selection on board. Most series are complete series and you’ll find brand new series too! I have my usual gripe of many films being censored, which is a feature of many airlines – just look out for the “This Film Has Been Edited For Content” at the start to be sure. You’ll enjoy hate to gate entertainment on the 9″ seat back screen.
On Arrival at LAX
It was surprisingly breezy through customs, and they did a lot to help everyone who had connections. Someone even left their bag on the plane and a representative from the airline was at the carousel waiting with the bag. So extra points to the airline for that one.
Though it’s in the works, there’s no train service just yet to LAX, but there is a regular bus service called “FlyAway” which can take you to a number of destinations including Union Station and Long Beach for under ten dollars. Otherwise your best transport bet is to get a Lyft or an Uber from the top floor.
There’s little not to love about the Delta trans-Pacific experience. With excellent food and service, both on ground and in the air, it doesn’t prove difficult to arrive in LA well rested and ready for your American adventure – be it 3 nights or 3 weeks.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
To book your next trip to the US with Delta, who fly daily between LAX, Sydney and Melbourne – and connect to domestic services in the US with their own aircraft, and within Australia with Virgin Australia, head to delta.com.
The author flew as a guest of Delta Air Lines.