Among the world’s three major airline alliances, SkyTeam is probably the least well known, at least in Germany. This image impacts US carrier Delta Air Lines – One of the world’s three largest airlines in terms of passenger traffic. What’s the quality of their onboard economy product – the one which most passengers will experience? Travel-dealz editor Adrian completed two trips on Delta’s Boeing 767 aircraft. This is a translation of his originally German review:
I had the opportunity to test Delta’s economy class on a business trip from Munich to the world’s largest airport in Atlanta, which serves as Delta’s main hub. This route is operated by members of Delta’s large (and old) Boeing 767 fleet. There are two types of cabins you can expect on these trips – newly refurbished planes or those whose interiors already felt outdated fifteen years ago. Sadly, I got to know the latter.
I travelled from Munich to Atlanta aboard a Delta 767 once again. Delta further increased the value of their economy class. You can get further information in the Update section of this article.
Table of contents
Delta Air Lines’ departures from Munich are handled in Terminal 1, section C. Even without any priority treatment, I didn’t have to wait long. Six counters were open to handle Delta passengers, and the staff were as competent as they were quick. Before I got to enter the queue, I was subject to the security interview that has become routine on trips to the US: “Did you pack your bags yourself?”, “What is in your bag”, “Do you travel with ESTA or visa?” and “What are you planning to do in Atlanta?” were some of the questions. The interview took two or three minutes and afterwards I got a little sticker on my passport. Probably some code telling that I was ‘Murica approved.
Unfortunately, the security check in Munich’s Terminal 1 is usually pretty busy. It took 15 minutes to get through security and border control, which is still a pretty decent time.
Delta Air Lines flights depart – just like American Airlines flights – from a recently built terminal extension that cuts into the apron. As soon as you enter that part of the terminal, a bunch of TSA (Transport Security Authority) officers awaits you. And they are not alone, as they always bring further questions with them. Expect to be asked if you’ve bought anything at duty free or somebody gave you a present in the meantime. He who dares to say yes will get an additional security screening as a reward. The same will happen without any questions if the dreaded SSSS is printed on your boarding pass.
Aside from the boarding gates and corresponding waiting areas, the extension hosts a small diner with spectacularly inflated prices. You do not need to pay that much, as you can return to the main building at any time. Just remember not to take any gifts from strangers while doing so.
Said terminal extension does not offer any fingers to board aircrafts. As a result, you need to take the bus. Delta divides its passengers into seven groups, as there are:
- Pre-Boarding: Passengers in wheelchairs
- Pre-Boarding: Passengers with small children and active US military personnel
- Diamond tier members and business class passengers
- Economy Zone 1
- Economy Zone 2
- Economy Zone 3
The separation into groups was gloriously ridiculous in this case: After passing the gate and getting their boarding passes scanned, all passengers entered the very same bus. This bus took us to a construction which may be unique to Munich airport. MUC is home to a series of isolated, tiny buildings hosting just an escalator and a jet bridge, located in the middle of the apron. The bus stops right in front of them and you have no way to go but into the plane.
Comfort and Equipment
I had bad luck – this was definitely a Boeing 767 that carried an older version of Delta’s cabin around the globe. The plastic coverages were turning yellow, the in flight entertainment monitors were small and an unpleasant smell lingered within the cabin. The seats reminded me of my first flights as a kid in the 1990s: Looking old-fashioned, very thick, and rather comfortable. Like all planes of this type, it featured a 2-3-2 seating pattern
Blankets and pillows lay readily prepared on every seat. Headphones were given out by the crew after take off and a refreshment towel came alongside every meal service. The toilets were visibly old, but kept clean by the staff. Amenities like hand or facial lotions were not offered.
Entertainment & WiFi
The entertainment system’s hardware was a bit outdated. As a result, it reacted slowly to any input. The selection of movies was wide and available in different languages. Delta uses regular 3,5 mm adapters for headphones, which enables you to use your own if you’ve brought them with you.
I’m under the impression that US carriers are for more advanced in digital services than European airlines. The Delta app allows you to change seats, track your luggage and request upgrades quickly and conveniently. Even within the aircraft, the app is free to use and works flawlessly.
The onboard Wi-Fi seems to work pretty smoothly, as well. While I decided not to invest the $28 needed for a one-day pass; messenger services like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are available for free. Surprisingly I was unable to send pictures via WhatsApp. But audio and video calls were not only possible, but worked in astonishingly great quality. Why these data heavy features weren’t disabled left me baffled.
Board Service & Catering
The quality of board and meal service surprised me in the best possible way! In my eyes, Delta’s service is superior to what esteemed carriers like Lufthansa have to offer. The flight attendants were remarkably friendly and most of them were able to speak at least one foreign language besides English.
Update: Delta has further improved its service. Passengers may select three main courses from a printed menu. Additionally, you’ll receive an amenity kit made of plastic, containing ear plugs and a sleeping mask. The selection of free beverages is one of the best on transatlantic services.
Just a few minutes after take off, you can choose from between different snack and beverage options. I warmly recommend the almonds.
Within a short time, dinner was served, complemented by a second round of beverages. We were presented with three possible meal choices – instead of the usual two in economy class:
- Chicken filet topped with cheese and mashed potatoes
- Pasta in tomato sauce topped with cheese
- Chicken breast salad with cheese biscuits
So here’s the deal: I strongly dislike cheese. This is important information, as you might recognize a certain pattern within the meal selection. While it is certainly a humorous complaint, Delta doesn’t exactly target people who don’t eat cheese with their dining plan. On my connection flight, the choice of either a cheese sandwich or a cheese platter (seriously!) left me knee-deep in conspiracy theories about a cheese eating secret society controlling the world (or at least Delta’s catering).
Following a few more rounds of beverage services, a snack box was served half-way through the flight. It contained – of course – hard cheese, cream cheese, what-the-f-do-I-know-cheese, crackers and – thankfully – chocolate.
Following even more beverage services, we were offered another round of hot snacks before approaching Atlanta. This time two choices of pies were offered: Mac’n’Cheese or chicken in leek-cream-cheese-sauce. My hunger made me try the latter and I was pleasantly surprised again. The last part of our culinary trip came in the form of completely cheese free chocolate ice cream. An awesome way to cap off this flight!
- Check-In & Boarding
- Cabin & Comfort
- WiFi & Inflight Entertainment
Delta’s economy class cannot keep up with airlines from the Middle East or Asia, but is certainly one of the best the Americas have to offer. Its strengths are friendly, competent staff and an almost excessive meal service. Three meals and ice cream on a ten hour trip – most European airlines cannot compete with that for a basic economy fare. Only the overly generous use of cheese on each and every course prevents me from giving the full monty in this category. Sadly, I cannot give more than two stars for the smelly, old 767 that Delta deployed on this flight. A major upside is the free use of messenger services during the entire flight.