For my birthday this year, I planned a trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England, and since Delta had no award availability in coach, I decided to splurge and spend 62,500 Alaska miles to fly business class (since re-branded Delta One) for the first time ever.
My leg was from Atlanta (ATL) to Dublin (DUB) on flight DL176, which was operated by a Boeing 767-300ER. I have been watching, for years, others flying in a premium product and I was jealous. When I was a poor graduate student, I couldn’t really justify the expense in miles or money, but now it seemed like it would be worthwhile.
I was so excited that I planned my trip far in advance and I was looking forward to this flight for nine months. But when the time came, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed, as it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
Delta advertises on TV extensively in the Seattle area (where I live), which only served to raise my expectations even further. When the Delta One re-branding was announced, I was excited that I would get a chance to try the cushy quilted seat covers. Unfortunately, my aircraft didn’t have them yet.
The whole cabin looked like it had seen better days. I still had high hopes — after all, you can’t judge a book by its cover. But when my first impression was total disappointment, that didn’t get the flight off to a good start.
Since I was in the first group to board, there was plenty of time to get settled, which was nice. I didn’t realize that I would have to store both of my bags in the overhead bin, so there was some reorganizing that occurred before I buckled in (or maybe I didn’t have to, but I didn’t know where I was allowed to store bags in the pod-style seat, and I didn’t want to look like a novice by asking. I already had to ask how to operate the lie-flat seat, which was embarrassing enough as it was).
Having a window seat with direct aisle access was a good feature, even though I only got up once. I wish I had consulted the internet earlier, so I would have known to choose an odd-numbered window seat. As it was, I was in a window seat where the table is actually next to the window and the seat is on the aisle. Another rookie mistake — but I was learning!
After I sat down, I looked at all of the goodies at my seat. I did have their much-touted Westin Heavenly bedding, but I had envisioned something more than just a pillow and comforter. They were very nice quality, but the pillow was awkwardly large for a plane seat and the comforter was way too warm to be able to sleep. I should have just asked for a normal blanket from coach.
Also at my seat were the amenity kit in a small Tumi bag, Bose headphones, a bottle of water, and the Delta One menu.
The flight attendants came around to offer a drink and nuts before take off, but as I had just eaten so much good food at the SkyClub, I declined.
I had ordered a vegetarian meal ahead of time, which was too bad, because the food on the standard menu sounded delicious! It’s always a gamble for me whether to order a special meal or not.
If I flew in Delta One again, I’d probably go with the standard meal, since it seemed to have multiple good options. The food served was tasty, but unfortunately I can’t say exactly what it was. When the flight attendant brought me the appetizer I asked “what is it?” in the interest of accurately describing it in my review, and the response was “your special meal.” (I got the exact same response later, any time I asked what something was).
So I clarified my question, but it turned out that he really had no idea. I realize that the flight attendant wasn’t personally cooking my dinner from scratch in the forward galley, but it seems like Delta would be able to put a label on the special meals with a five-word description of what it is. I am going to say that they were lentils.
After the appetizer, the next course was a “starter” of soup, salad, a roll, and fruit, followed by the entrée. My special entrée was a pasta in cream sauce that I didn’t really care for. After seeing me pick at it and eat a little bit, the flight attendant offered to bring me the lasagna from the menu instead. I really appreciated the offer, and I would have liked to try the lasagna, but at that point I was so stuffed that I couldn’t think of eating anything else.
The most bizarre thing about the meal service is that it was completely dark. The lights weren’t dimmed — they were off. In business, the reading light isn’t overhead, it’s at your side, so I did my best to adjust it towards my tray, but it was very hard to see what I was doing. Even though the food itself was good, the lack of light ruined the meal experience for me.
The dinner service was slow, but it was because the flight attendants gave so much personal attention to each passenger. I totally appreciated the level of service, but it was also a bit frustrating to have to wait so long to go to sleep. The flight was only seven hours long and I know I could have stopped the meal service at any time, but I wanted to enjoy the whole experience.
During my meal, I noticed that the menu said that there’s an option to have your entire meal served at once. If I flew this product again, I would definitely choose the expedited option, knowing that I probably don’t need all of that food anyway. Yes, I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, but in this case dessert was ice cream and fruit.
Without question, the best part of the meal was the dessert cart. Fruit, cheese, ice cream, and “a tasting of sweet treats” actually would have been a pretty great birthday dinner. You’re probably supposed to choose one dessert, but in practice, you could have anything you wanted from the cart.
When I was done, I was surely ready to go to sleep, but no one came to get my plates. Eventually I got tired of waiting for a flight attendant to come by, so I awkwardly got up and took them to the galley myself (without dropping or spilling anything – me for the win!).
Yes, I am very aware of the call button, but I didn’t want to annoy the crew (or my fellow passengers trying to sleep), so I just decided to stretch my legs and take care of business.
One of the things that struck me about business class was how many bottles of wine were consumed. It made it seem like the only real reason to fly business class is to try to drink the entire price differential in free booze. I can only take credit for half a glass of wine, so I utterly failed at that mission.
With my tray folded away, it was now time to change the seat into the flat position and try to get some sleep. Despite numerous adjustments, I never quite got the seat into a comfortable position. This was my first time in a lie-flat seat, and it was nice to be able to stretch out, but I couldn’t help but wonder how someone would fare if they were taller than my 5’2” frame.
Unfortunately, there was turbulence on the flight almost continuously, which certainly wasn’t Delta’s fault. But once I was finally able to fall asleep, I was woken up by the movement of a flight attendant reaching over me to close the window shade. If it’s a requirement to have the window shades lowered before sunrise, they can’t take care of that during the extremely long dinner service, or just ask passengers to do it? I should have known to close it myself — another business class rookie mistake!
Only about four hours after eating my very large dinner, it was time for breakfast! The flight attendants served drinks before the meal service, so I started off with a glass of orange juice. My special meal was some sort of omelette, which was swimming in oil and did not look appetizing. The flight attendant took one look at my face, and asked if I’d rather have one of the choices from the menu instead. This time I didn’t hesitate to ask for the granola and yogurt, but I also took the potatoes and fruit from my original tray, so I ended up with the best of both worlds.
I wasn’t really hungry, but when traveling, I never know when I’m going to have access to food I can eat, so I knew I’d be crazy to pass up a delicious breakfast. After the breakfast trays were cleared, it was almost time to land, so I spent the rest of the flight admiring the green Irish countryside out the window.
I am glad I tried business class, but in the end, I do not think it was a good use of 62,500 miles. I am not one that has tons of miles to burn, and I’m much too frugal to regularly spend money on business class tickets. It was nice, but it wasn’t three times as nice as flying American in coach on the way home.
I also know that this was not the full Delta One product. However, I will say that Delta One might have been worth it on a much longer (10+ hour) flight. That would have afforded me the time to enjoy the full meal service, while still leaving enough time for a full night’s sleep. I don’t want this to ruin me forever on trying business class again (after all, I am an AvGeek!). It is not that this was a horrid experience or their product was bad, I just think that I had built it up to be more in my imagination
Either way, I will never again feel as envious of the people on the other side of the curtain!