One of the US airlines who are repeatedly proving themselves to be the best in market are Delta, with rapid improvement of their fleet, as well as the services they offer on and off the aircraft. Little things like being able to track your bag in their fantastic App will finally remove the question, “did the bag make this aircraft?” that has plagued us for eons. New lounges are popping up around the U.S. and a partnership with T-Mobile means all customers on equipped planes enjoy free messaging on board. And then there’s the return of free meals on trans-continental flights!
For Australian travellers, their code-share arrangement with Virgin Australia is among the most generous internationally. I daresay that Velocity (Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer reward program) customers enjoy better benefits than Delta’s own. Combine all these factors and Delta are easily the most improved airline in the US. Earlier this month I flew on the transcontinental route, from JFK in New York City to LAX in Los Angeles, to find out exactly what that looked like in 2020. Here’s my review of that service.
Carrier: Delta Air Lines
Seat: 23C (2-3-2 layout, aisle in the centre)
Route: JFK (New York City) to LAX (Los Angeles) – DL447
Flight Time: 5 hours and 55 minutes
On Time? Departed on time and landed 15 minutes early
Check in at JFK Terminal 4
Check in couldn’t be easier for Sky Priority passengers who have a dedicated check in lounge. There is a separate queue at security technically but makes little difference. Between the delays to walk past a bomb sniffing dog and the mania of the lines without barriers, it’s not a quick journey through security. But the staff do their best with the room they have.
The Lounge at Terminal 4
As a Gold Velocity member, I was able to enjoy a spot in the Delta Sky Club lounge for myself and a guest. Located by gate B32 it’s a bit of a walk but luckily it was right by our departing gate. The lounge is a massive space with plenty of seats and tables for everyone.
The food on offer here is excellent. They were carving a freshly cooked salmon, served with vegetables, and there was someone walking around with antipasto to serve to your table (the first time I’d seen this at any lounge). The bar service is excellent and the liquor pours extremely generous (it is New York after all – just remember to tip!). In the self service department you had a couple of types of soup – a minestrone and a Thai chicken. There’s salads (from Singapore noodles to kale), sweet plantains, yellow paella rice, with Cuban style picadillo beef and a vegetarian pasta.
A very comfortable stay indeed as you await your flight.
Seat and Aircraft
Since I purchased a “Main” ticket (rather than “Basic”), and was a Velocity Gold Member, I went on an upgrade wait list for a “Comfort Plus” seat, in which you’ll enjoy a dedicated cabin (on select flights), extra legroom and other extras like free beer, wine and spirits, or extra snacks. Sadly I didn’t get the upgrade this time – Gold doesn’t quite have the same upgrade power that Platinum does – but it was nonetheless a comfortable seat.
Being a 767-300ER, one of their older planes, I was impressed to see the plane so clean and well kept, from the seat down to the bathroom, even if it was showing some basic signs of ageing. My head rest was a bit shaky, for one, but comfortable all the same. It’s impressive how much care they give to the interior of the aircraft; it’s a far cry from memories of flying Delta 10 years ago. While they’ve taken many of their older aircraft out of service, the ones that remain have been made to look the part.
The economy seat had less legroom than Comfort Plus, but there was still everything else at the seat, including international AC plugs under the seats (2 to be shared between 3 in the middle, or 1 between 2 on the sides) and a screen on the back of the seat in front of you, with standard headphone jack and a USB plug. I lucked out with no one in the middle seat which helped make this a comfortable and enjoyable flight.
Ceilings are high in the centre seats, though you can still get up and control the air. Lights are accessible via the touch screen. As is the attendant call button.
Food & Drink Service
Menus are provided before takeoff, with dinner being either cheese and fruit or a sesame noodle salad. I went for the latter. The noodle salad is tasty and filling, and they do a drink service alongside it. It all started 45 minutes or so after takeoff. They offer an additional tea and coffee after the service and then they regularly bring waters down the aisle.
Non alcoholic beverages are free, or it’s a $9 or less fee for alcoholic beverages for standard Economy passengers.
A second food and beverage service came through an hour 45 before landing with some free snacks like almonds or cookies, and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. This is more the standard service you’ll get on shorter flights around the USA.
In Flight Entertainment and Wi-Fi
Headsets are sold shortly after takeoff, or you can use your own with a regular headphone jack. The entertainment units are great and filled with lots of film and TV options, including a wide range of international films – though no live TV on this flight. Likely because it’s an older plane. It does have wi-fi however, and T-mobile customers enjoy an hour of free internet. Everyone gets free texting for the entire flight, too, and there are plenty of options available for purcase. I love too through their app you can track your bag, which tells you that it’s on board. So you don’t have to worry about things like that!
Arriving at LAX
Are you connecting to a Virgin or Delta flight to Australia? They have a shuttle to Tom Bradley to get the international flight with Virgin Australia, or if you’re at Terminal 2 for Delta you don’t need to go anywhere and can stick around and enjoy the lounge.
If you’re staying in LA and want a taxi or an uber you now have to get a bus (The “LAX-it”) to a new pick up location. They run regularly, and my bag came out in minutes and I was on the bus a minute later. I’ve written more about that experience HERE.
For a lowly Economy flyer, there really are few better ways to fly from coast to coast in the US than by the service offered by Delta Air Lines. With not just improvement of their offerings but continued improvement, there’s nothing not to love about the experience. They are surely the best airline in America right now. Though, let’s be honest, after years of devolving service in the sector, it’s about time we see U.S. airlines putting this much into their in flight experience, and their customers.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
To book a flight with Delta, who have regular services of their own from the East Coast of Australia, and code-share with Virgin Australia, head to delta.com.
The author flew at his own expense. Pictures by the author, except the header image which is from WikiCommons.