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Delta's New International Main Cabin Service

While most airlines are eliminating amenities on flights (especially for coach passengers), Delta announced today that it is taking a shot at enhancing the Main Cabin experience. A greeting from the purser in the gate area, a welcome cocktail, hot towels, dining enhancements, and farewell chocolates. Hopefully, this will make international travel in coach a little more humane. Sorry, no extra legroom.

https://news.delta.com/welcome-cocktails-hot-towel-service-bistro-style-dining-delta-debut-wholly-reinvented-international

I'm interested in seeing how this plays out when rolled out to all international flights in November.

Posted by
6011 posts

Well, to be fair, when other airlines discontinued complimentary alcohol on International flights, Delta did not. They also start drink service very early in the flight anyway, so not much difference there. The meal enhancements sound nice, I think it is good that they are increasing the mix and match aspect, and serving a dessert after the meal is cleaned up is good, I always feel cramped with a tray full of items, it would be nice to have fewer items at one time. Plus, who wouldn't like some chocolate.

As a disclaimer, I am a devoted Delta guy from when they bought my other airline, Northwest, so even a small improvement is appreciated.

Posted by
5697 posts

Hmm ... wonder if that will extend to basic economy (Economy-Minus) as well.

Posted by
3079 posts

I forgot my usual disclosure: I'm an enormous Delta fan and fly them almost exclusively. No stock ownership. Not employed. Just have been treated incredibly well by the airline over the last decade (after a decade of filthy planes, surly staff, and terrible operations at US Air).

I'm a fan because of things like this: My 7 am flight out of LEX was delayed 4.5 hours two days ago due to the captain being sick. Another pilot flew in from Atlanta on his day off so that the flight would not be cancelled on a day when nearly every other flight out of LEX was full. Before departure, the replacement captain came out of the cockpit to apologize for the delay and to thank the passengers for their patience. Near the end of the flight, one of the incredibly pleasant flight attendants stopped at my seat and said, "Mr. B, thanks for your patience today. We appreciate your business and your loyalty. Actually, everybody on this flight has been lovely despite the delay."

Posted by
4590 posts

Their definition of "Creating magical moments in-flight" differs from mine, but I'm happy to see this news. Thanks, Dave, for sharing!

Posted by
6011 posts

Yeah, I agree on being a fan, I have flown over 40 segments so far this year, yup, issues here and there, but overall great performance. The other plus to Delta is that I fly through MSP, DTW, and ATL, Atlanta is big, but I like it, the others are manageable, and I rarely have delays...but do when I fly through Chicago on other airlines...nearly every time.

Posted by
7205 posts

If they would just get rid of that economy class slip they call food and replace it with something simple and higher quality that would be a pig plus! Whole wheat roll, Gruyere cheese, etc...much better than that prepackaged heated slop that obviously took some effort but remains gross.

Posted by
1217 posts

They've been testing out parts of this on different flights- we got the chocolates going into Zurich, and the've brought back the paper menu cards as well. I think they've had some version of the hot towel service for a while now.

I think it's easy enough to offer the cocktails at the point where they already do the first water service so that timing's already been worked out

Posted by
5262 posts

This is nice to hear about, though legroom would be my top priority. I used to like Delta till they declared war on Alaska Airlines at SeaTac and elsewhere. Now I avoid them whenever possible.

Posted by
3707 posts

Except for seat selection and no flight changes, basic economy and economy are the same on Delta. Same baggage, same food, same alcohol.

Posted by
613 posts

We are old enough to have been flying well before deregulation. Current first class is inferior to coach back then. My wife will not fly now unless in business class.

Posted by
2916 posts

A greeting from the purser in the gate area, a welcome cocktail, hot towels, dining enhancements, and farewell chocolates.

None of those interest me in the slightest. I'd rather have a lower fare and more legroom. If the schedule matches what I'm looking for and the fare is right, I'll fly Delta. If not I'll fly another airline, whether or not they have any of these amenities. I almost never eat airplane meals, and rarely drink alcohol on board. I love chocolate, but I have my doubts that Delta will be serving high-quality European chocolate.

Posted by
492 posts

None of those interest me in the slightest. I'd rather have a lower fare and more legroom. If the schedule matches what I'm looking for and the fare is right, I'll fly Delta. If not I'll fly another airline

This is in no way a criticism of that approach! Merely an observation - but I think your view on it is very widespread (and entirely understandable). I mean, I appreciate what Delta is doing and that they're actually putting some effort and thought in to their main cabin, but the usual approach by airlines seems to be to put that effort and thought in to premium cabin hard and soft product, and go as bare bones as possible with main cabin. They likely know most people are motivated by price alone, and know they often can't compete with carries like Norwegian and IcelandAir on that front internationally.

Posted by
6876 posts

For a more balanced look at Delta, look at their frequent flier mile seat availability odds compared to other airlines. Pathetic (and declining since 2018). They've also been one of the most opaque and non-transparent with their rewards charts for a long time. I'm not a fan. Turkish Air can beat all their gimmicks (and has on the flights I've been on, in economy class no less) and still offer a very competitive price. Domestically, Southwest's mileage program is the easiest to use and much more transparent (plus they always send me free drink coupons, so I'm set). Jet Blue is also great. I've flown both internationally (although obviously not to Europe). Well, on the upside, all kinds of tinkering and experimentation even on the margins is a good thing though (although legroom is obviously the more significant pain point for most people).
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-best-frequent-flier-awards-programs-of-2019-11561541406

Posted by
492 posts

Agnes - some of my travel-buddy friends like to rip on Southwest whenever they get the chance, so I always make it a point to mention every positive, hassle-free experience I ever have with Southwest to them (we have a messaging app group travel chat). I always have plenty of ammunition - I love Southwest and can't sing their praises enough! If only they were an option to Europe :D

Turkish Airlines is also a good option for Europe travel. Prices are often quite good - if not the best available. Sure, you end up going through Istanbul. But it's a great airport, and Turkish Airlines' long haul international and intra-Europe service is excellent. Especially when traveling to Eastern Europe, I don't mind that Istanbul is a wee bit out of the way - I find it an easier airport to get through than Heathrow, and the overall experience more than makes up for any additional flight time.

I have no real complaints about paying for Delta flights, but yes their miles have been rendered near useless. Same can be said for some other US legacy carriers - such limited inventory, so many hassles, such poor redemption value that I'm at the point I simply shop around for price regardless of airlines, when in the past I was committed to American. I much prefer being a free agent. :)

Posted by
1217 posts

I love chocolate, but I have my doubts that Delta will be serving high-quality European chocolate.

Our Zurich flight had Toblerone, which is mass market, but geographically correct.

We've given Southwest a few tries over the years, but the route map is limited, their IT system is awful and won't let me book what seems like a straightforward Pensacola-San Francisco round trip if a connection time is more than something like 4 hours, and we've hit about 60% delays on our flights because if you're flighting to a lightly-used outstation, their all-737 fleet means that your plane will get poached for the higher value Baltimore-Chicago route if need arises.

I've got a six figure stash of United miles that's nearly impossible to use under the old saver rules because: outstation, and they make redemption on United Express routes so limited, leading a transatlantic trip to price out at non-saver rates for the whole ticket due to that first hop to Houston.

We largely stick with Delta because the airline tries to make a trip reasonably pleasant and lower stress than their peers. The employees are generally polite and friendly even if they're not over the top "fun" like Southwest seems to go for, they hardly ever cancel flights, and their IRROPS recovery work is tops in the industry. There will be problems when you travel; Delta does a good job of empowering and encouraging employees to fix problems beyond the minimum and most of them use that power for good.

And for some reason, my local outstation is some sort of sweet spot for redeeming Delta miles at reasonable rates despite the SkyPeso reputation. (Granted I don't redeem for international business class tickets but if I did, that's what Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic miles are for)

Posted by
2278 posts

Well, I'm not going to turn any improvement down, but I'm having trouble getting excited about this.

A greeting in the gate area - oh please, who cares?
Welcome cocktail - I don't drink on flights
Hot towels - offers maybe 10 seconds of minor pleasantness
Dining enhancements - I'd have to see what these are, but any improvement is welcome
Farewell chocolates - I'm not that into chocolate, but if it's good chocolate, it's a nice, but very small, touch

Posted by
1017 posts

I'd rather have a lower fare and more legroom.

Well, yes, that would be nice, but how exactly are they going to have fewer seats per plane (allowing more legroom) and then lower the fare?

The buying patterns of the flying public as a whole have--in the past decade plus--consistently told the airlines that a rock-bottom fare is the most important driver of a ticket purchase. Unless this changes, economy cabins will continue to offer less space. In the meantime, if you want more space, Delta (and most other airlines) have at least 2 other cabin options that one can pay more for.

Posted by
3079 posts

I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses, including those who don't share my enthusiasm for Delta. A few thoughts...

  1. Regardless of the perceived value of Delta's Main Cabin tweaks to any given traveler, I think it's pretty cool that an airline is talking about and seeking to improve the experience for those in the back of the plane.
  2. It's fun for me to see what my fellow forum members prioritize when choosing an airline. For example, frequent flyer mile use and program redemption transparency seem really important to Agnes. It's not even on my radar. Which is okay... there's no absolute truth here... we're both evaluating airlines from our unique perspectives and doing what is right for each of us.
  3. More legroom, lower price would be awesome, wouldn't it? As Eric notes, extra legroom is available on almost every airline for an upcharge. As for price, let's look at some of the low-price players. Primera Air... ceased operations October 2018. WOW Air... ceased operations March 2019. Norwegian... required a $353 million cash infusion "to avoid breaching financial covenants" and to keep flying earlier this year.
Posted by
3335 posts

I wonder what they'll do for Delta Comfort as the dining enhancements seem close to what is served on int'l flights currently in Comfort with the exception of mixing/matching food items. From the hot towel to the goodbye chocolate, it sounds like Delta Comfort service is being expanded throughout the back of the cabin.

I'm curious if there will be any enhancements in Delta Comfort.

Posted by
3079 posts

Continental,

I agree that it sounds like Delta Comfort+ service is being expanded to the rest of the coach cabin. There are still a few small differentiators between Comfort+ and Main Cabin, but I think for international flights, Comfort+ is essentially Main Cabin + extra legroom, especially now that Premium Select is starting to be rolled out on some of the older aircraft (777's).

Since a scorecard is now needed to keep track of the differences in Delta's cabins, the company provides one... click "Compare Experiences" at the bottom of the page that opens with this link.

Posted by
443 posts

Delta Comfort+ also boards before Main Cabin and most important to me provides overhead bins dedicated to it's passengers. It's definitely easier to maneuver into the aisle even though it's just 3 or 4 more inches of leg room. So I suppose enough perks remain to make Comfort+ nearly essential. The 2 outer seats by the window are perfect for us. I avoid the 4 center seats after being pestered nonstop by a chatty passenger. It also makes it more likely that my traveling partner will join me. Of course I reside near DTW so Delta almost has a captive customer and McNamara compares favorably to nearly any terminal. I like food options better on Air France but the new Delta A350 flagship tromps all others when it's an option. Detroit to Amsterdam on the A350 is probably the fastest most pleasant transatlantic flight I've had. The Delta / Air France partnership does allow a choice.

Posted by
6782 posts

One of the benefits of Comfort+ is supposed to be "dedicated" overhead bin space for that section. Imagine my disappointment after I had paid for Comfort+, and found the "dedicated" bin at my seat was full of safety equipment, and the opposite one was full of an (oversize) carryon bag belonging to a crew member.

Posted by
443 posts

Stan, that's disappointing and I've never seen that happen myself. I hope you made a comment about it in your feedback afterwards. That doesn't seem to be an appropriate spot to store equipment. On the positive side Comfort+ passengers board before the main cabin so I suppose you could step back several rows and use an overhead there. You are still nearly guaranteed overhead storage.

Posted by
1017 posts

RE: overhead bins in Comfort Plus filled with emergency equipment. This is where a site like Seatguru can be invaluable. If you look at the use comments for Delta's 764, you'll see mention of the row 16 overhead bins being taken up with said equipment. And, this isn't just a Delta thing, have seen it on other airlines as well.

Yes, we as passengers shouldn't have to do this extra research. But since, say, asking that the equipment be moved is a non-starter, it becomes a necessary extra step to try to reduce surprises while flying. Also, as noted above, you will still have space in an overhead bin since you're boarding before Main Cabin, it just won't be right above you.

Posted by
443 posts

Seatguru has no mention of Comfort+ overhead bins being used to store equipment in Delta's A330-200's.

Posted by
2916 posts

I'd rather have a lower fare and more legroom.
"Well, yes, that would be nice, but how exactly are they going to have fewer seats per plane (allowing more legroom) and then lower the fare?"

I didn't say that it was realistic, just that I'd like it.

Posted by
2916 posts

Our Zurich flight had Toblerone, which is mass market, but geographically correct.

Not only geographically correct, but actually pretty good for mass produced chocolate. On our recent visit to the Valais region, the woman who owns the AirBnB we stayed in drove us to a nearby town to visit a couple of wineries. When we arrived in the town, she saw man she knew who was a salesman for a chocolate company. He opened up his trunk, which was full of sweets, and brought each of the 3 of us the largest Toblerone bars I had ever seen. I hadn't eaten a Toblerone in decades, but it was quite good.

Posted by
6782 posts

Eric & Silas, I didn't mean to start a personal rant about my most recent Delta experience, but in the context of their "enhancing the main cabin experience" I am always hoping that all airlines will address carryon-baggage-abuse. Its very frustrating and not just to me. Dedicated space was a primary reason I paid for Comfort+ in this case, and yes, boarding early got me a space further down the aisle. But that just screws someone else down the line. I was more upset by the crew member's bag (taking up most of a bin) than the emergency equipment. Dedicated should mean dedicated, not that you still need to scramble for space.

Posted by
1017 posts

Stan, not to worry, I understand the frustration. As I said earlier, we shouldn't have to do the extra homework to prevent surprises.

As to Silas' comment of no mention of emergency equipment in the bins of the A332's on seatguru--if one has encountered this, it would helpful to others to post in the user comments what your experience was.

Posted by
3079 posts

Forgot about Comfort+ having earlier boarding and dedicated carry on space. There is some value in that beyond leg room.

Posted by
443 posts

Stan, I completely agree with you that your experience was not acceptable. I wasn't aware that equipment might be stored in overhead bins so I am glad you mentioned it. I guess I've been lucky that I haven't seen it on my Delta Airbus or Boeing transatlantic flights so far.

Posted by
3241 posts

my biggest problem with Delta (as my husband is rapidly closing in on Diamond status) is their awards policy-they do not allow the use of frequent flier tickets on flights to Orlando-and this was for early Dec which is not a real busy time there. Im now wondering what other destinations this policy applies to

Posted by
3079 posts

Cala,

I just looked at delta.com for BHM to MCO; there is a lot of availability for award tickets to Orlando in early December (as there is from my home airport [GSP], my parents' home airport [LEX}, and Atlanta). I searched a couple of variable date grids for BHM to MCO for December and there were award tickets (often 20,000 per ticket for coach -- as low as 14,000 for Basic Economy) available for every departure/return date pair on the grid from Thanksgiving to Dec 15. I'm not sure why you were not seeing availability. What dates are you searching?

Posted by
3335 posts

I agree that it sounds like Delta Comfort+ service is being expanded
to the rest of the coach cabin. There are still a few small
differentiators between Comfort+ and Main Cabin, but I think for
international flights, Comfort+ is essentially Main Cabin + extra
legroom, especially now that Premium Select is starting to be rolled
out on some of the older aircraft (777's).

Since a scorecard is now needed to keep track of the differences in
Delta's cabins, the company provides one... click "Compare
Experiences" at the bottom of the page that opens with this link.

Dave, when I clicked the compare experiences link, nothing happened. No chart, the page just stayed as is. I did this in both Safari and Chrome. Maybe it's down today?

I see that Premium Select is an option out of DTW where you are. I haven't seen it on any DL flights I've taken between JFK & Amsterdam, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, or Brussels. I can see that it's a different product than Delta Comfort. What I'm curious about is if Premium Select is on par with "Premium Economy" of foreign carriers like Lufthansa, Singapore and Cathay. American carriers are lacking in that department and I have no idea why.

Still for the time being, I'm ok with Delta Comfort and hope that Delta spruces up DC as they are doing so with Main Economy.

Forgot about Comfort+ having earlier boarding and dedicated carry on
space. There is some value in that beyond leg room.

Absolutely, I value both. But mostly the legroom believe it or not. :-)

Posted by
3079 posts

Dave, when I clicked the compare experiences link, nothing happened.
No chart, the page just stayed as is. I did this in both Safari and
Chrome. Maybe it's down today?

I noticed the website was a little buggy last night when I was making some reservations. Just checked the Compare Experiences button now, and it worked using Chrome on my MacBook.

I haven't flown in the Premium Select cabin, but it is supposed to be like premium economy on international carriers. Wider seat.
Increased pitch (38" for PS on A350 vs 34-35" for C+ on 767), greater seat recline, foot rest, plated food served on china.

Posted by
1017 posts

I haven't had the change to fly Delta's Premium Select either. However, Delta says the product will be in their entire wide-body international fleet by 2021, so won't have long to wait before we can all try it.

Posted by
375 posts

We flew what I think was the Delta premium out of Toronto to Paris in 2016. We haven't been able to find it out of Detroit since then. We had splurged because we had been giving a large gift certificate when I retired. We usually fly Comfort Class, and this was one step up from that.

Delta classes

Posted by
3079 posts

Premium Select has primarily been available on the new A350's that go to Asia out of DTW. There is one flight daily to Amsterdam on an A350.

Retrofitted 777's are starting to roll out now with Premium Select cabin. Originally, the plan was to have Delta One, Premium Select, and Main Cabin/Economy products on these planes (and there are a few with this configuration), but the most recent retrofitted 777's have Economy Comfort, too.

Here's a review from the Points Guy website of the 777 Premium Select experience: https://thepointsguy.com/reviews/delta-premium-select-777-refurb/

Posted by
3241 posts

Dave, thanks. I will show your post to my husband when he gets home, since he's our travel expert.

On a different note, today we visited the Delta Museum in the Atlanta Airport area. I had rolled my eyes about the planned visit-to me, if you've seen one plane, you've seen them all-but they really did do a good job with it.