Timing can be a magical thing. I was just talking to my pal Jason Rabinowitz about airplanes (we do this often) and I was asking why the Airbus A330neo was such a big deal. I actually tracked down our high-end chat:
Me: “Why do we care so much about the A330neo? Just b/c that is all we have right now to celebrate?”
Jason: “It new. And it all we got.”
Don’t get me wrong. I have still been excited watching the new A330 go into service, but it doesn’t match the excitement of the 787 Dreamliner, 747 Intercontinental, or A350 XWB.
The day after my award-winning chat with Jason, I received an invite from Delta Air Lines to come check out one of their new Airbus A330-900neos at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Perfect.
The A330 has been a great international workhorse for airlines, but I have never gone out of my way to fly on one (okay, maybe domestically on Hawaiian once). “What’s the aircraft flying my route? An A330? OMG YES I LOVE THAT PLANE,” said no one ever.
Of course most passengers aren’t as concerned with the type of plane they are flying (yes, I know it is shocking to think there are people like that out there), but they are more concerned with the product. Although Delta has been upgrading the interiors of their 777s to the newest product, the A330neo is the first type that has the newest product coming from the factory. I hadn’t seen the updated interior yet, and even though this was going to be a short visit with the plane on the ground, I still excited to have an opportunity to get onto a plane!
GETTING SET AT SEA-TAC
I always love an airline event that doesn’t require me to get up at 3:00am. With this one, I just needed to be at the Delta counter at 10:30am and get my day pass, which of course is going into my AvGeek collection. You still get to go through security and it prompts fun questions from the TSA agents. “Uh, I am going to look at an airplane, but not fly anywhere, don’t worry, it is totally legit” (pretty close to my actual convo).
Needless to say, I made it through (otherwise this would be a very different story), and we headed to the buses to ride out to our A330-900neo, which was located next to Delta’s maintenance facility at the south side of the airport.
After de-busing (that is a thing), we walked through a hangar and saw a Delta Boeing 717. A few of us geeked out a bit. The funny part is one of the cameramen (not an AvGeek) started setting up his camera and a Delta employee was asking if they were going to push in the stairs for us to go in. Since a few of us AvGeek media types got so worked up over the plane, they thought this must have been the plane we were all there for. Nope. It just takes a long time to get AvGeeks to move through any airport facility. #sorrynotsorry
WE ARRIVE TO THE DELTA AIR LINES AIRBUS A330-900neo
As we walked up to the back of the A330neo, I was super excited to hear the APU going. Why? Because it was a really odd weather combo in Seattle: rain, sun, heatt, and humidity! It felt more like Atlanta than Seattle.
Most times when I am touring an aircraft like this, I first head to the back, and then make my way forward. This was no different! Here we go…
First stop was the galley in the rear of the aircraft. It was quite large. The plane we were on was being prepped to fly a scheduled passenger flight, so soon there was going to be plenty of food and drink.
I will mention again that we didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to tour the plane. Part of it was we spent a lot of time outside the plane (taking photos of the A330neo and of course that 717), and this plane needed to be prepped for people who mattered – customers. I really didn’t get to try out much of the product; I just sat, played a bit, asked a few questions, took a few photos, and kept on moving forward (I didn’t want to miss out on seeing the flight deck).
For cost comparisons that you will see below, I looked at some one-way fares from Seattle to Shanghai on the Delta Airbus A330-900neo between now and the end of the year. With the product really impressing me, I wanted to see how much it would actually cost to fly, so I figured I would share the numbers. I averaged those costs to give a basic comparison, but obviously check delta.com yourself before packing your bags!
DELTA MAIN CABIN (aka economy)
Next was the economy section, or as Delta calls it “Main Cabin.” This is the place where the majority of passengers will fly… and honestly that is not a bad thing. The inflight entertainment (IFE) screens were large, and reacted quickly to my input. The seats were comfy for my quick sit, but probably not as comfy after a 10-hour flight. Of course with the A330, best to try and get one of the two seats on the edge because sitting in the middle, of the middle, with strangers will make your flight feel even longer. Not wanting to spend too much time in Delta Main Cabin, I kept moving forward.
Average Delta Main Cabin A330-900neo cost flight: $435
DELTA COMFORT+ (aka “premium” economy)
The next product forward is Delta Comfort+. This is really your standard economy seat, with some additional legroom. You also get a fun little extra pocket on the seat back, and a red swath on your seat. I will admit that the addition of red in the cabin actually adds a bit of class.
Also, it’s a good time to mention that the aircraft has air vents!!! I love this. Too few international aircraft have them and as a guy who normally runs hotter, I like having some control of my temperature.
Average Delta Comfort+ A330-900neo cost flight: $485
compare that to $435 in Main Cabin
Hmm. Okay. So only $100 more for a round-trip ticket in Comfort+, I might actually be interested in that.
Delta Premium Select (aka domestic first)
Now we are talking! The Delta Premium Select seat is where I started perking up. I rarely pay extra for more legroom. It just doesn’t seem like a good purchase, even at 6’1″. What I do find helpful is width, especially at 250lbs. The Delta Premium Select product is the seat that took most of my time (even more than Delta One)… and that is a good thing.
The seat really felt like an updated and upgraded domestic first class seat. You have a better IFE screen, seat controls, and the ability to recline. With a 2-3-2 layout vs the 2-4-2 layout in the back of the (air)bus, that extra width really makes a difference.
Average Delta Premium Select A330-900neo flight cost: $600
compare that to $435 in Main Cabin and $485 in Comfort+
Dang. Now, I don’t have lot of extra money to spend on airfare, but $330 more for a round trip ticket in Premium Select vs Main Cabin might be worth it. Or at least paying $165 coming back home (so I can sleep before going back to work).
Delta One (aka business class)
You have arrived. Delta One is the best of the best from Delta and that is saying something. I appreciate that every “window” seat actually gets easy access to the window – not always the case with today’s business “suites” – and those in the middle of the cabin can easily put down a wall to chat with their seat mate, or put it up and stay private. You have the most room, best controls, lie-flat seat, and even a little slider door to up your privacy level.
Average Delta One A330-900neo flight cost: $3350
compare that to $435 in Main Cabin, $485 in Comfort+, and $600 in Premium Select
Hot damn that is a lot of money (but actually not a bad deal compared to other business class products)! But often it makes sense for passengers (or businesses) to shell out the money or miles to fly in Delta’s best product. Based on the extra cost, I think it makes Delta Premium Select even a better deal!
Airbus A330-900neo Flightdeck (aw yea!!!)
Had to make it to the very front of the plane, and I did! I was only able to chat with a Delta pilot for a small amount of time before I was given the bad news that our time on the plane was coming to an end.
Final Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-900neo Thoughts
After getting back to the terminal, we headed on over to the Delta lounge at the airport. I had never been and it was a nice place to sit down, talk airplanes, and think a bit about the A330neo. I was impressed. I think the first time that I fly on a Delta A330-900neo will be the first time I am legitimately excited to fly on an Airbus A330, and maybe (just maybe) I can say that the airline/aircraft combos has become one of my favorites. Maybe.