Four Impressions from My First Delta Flight in Years

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2017 is the year that I become, or more accurately, return to being a bit of a free agent when it comes to booking air travel. For the last several years I had a high level of United elite status that was both a cause and a reason to book with United whenever possible, even when it wasn’t the most economical option. However, my current travel patterns aren’t consistent with earning or maintaining a high airline elite status, and frankly I have approximately 00.00% desire to fly around aimlessly just to earn status. I’m not totally a free agent as I do still have low level United elite status and top tier Alaska status that also gives me perks on American (and to a lesser extent Delta until May 2017), but I’m much more of an airline free agent today than I have been in previous years.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

While I absolutely do miss some of my United elite status perks, it is refreshing to again book flights 98% based on price and schedule rather than giving significant preference to a specific carrier because of elite status. As a result of this new-found ‘freedom’, my oldest daughter and I recently flew on a nonstop Delta operated flight to Salt Lake City instead of flying United as we usually do in our travels.

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It had been years since I last flew Delta, and while there’s only so much you can gleam from an airline based on taking two regional jet flights, I did still have some impressions of Delta that I wanted to share since my experiences really are consistent with what I have heard about Delta over the past few years.

Delta Flight Attendants and Gate Agents Were Friendly, Really!

Friendly flight attendants and gate agents should be the norm in a customer service industry, but that has been far from a given in my travels. I travel with a carry-on bag that I absolutely love since it fits in literally every overhead bin I have ever encountered, including the tiny overhead bins on regional jets. However, on my United flights I am pretty frequently told in a (sometimes) curt manner that it isn’t going to fit and that I cannot or should not attempt to bring it onboard regional jets. This exchange and instruction is not always pleasant, so I have grown accustomed to it often being a negotiation, at best.

However, on both of my Delta flights, I was not only permitted to bring my carry-on bag onboard without a big negotiation over whether or not it would fit, but I was actively encouraged to give it a try and no big deal if it didn’t work. As usual, it fit without a problem, but that wasn’t the real issue, the impressive thing to me was how polite and civil the whole process was.
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This friendly attitude continued on-board, even when my seven year old changed her mind mid-order on which snack she wanted. This wasn’t met with an impatient eye roll or sigh, but rather kindness and understanding. Speaking of snacks…

Flying With C

She enjoyed the Delta in-flight movies on her iPad!

Delta Serves Snacks

You guys, Delta lets you pick your snack, even on short regional jet operated flights. On the one flight we lucked into Economy Comfort+, we got to pick from a passed snack basket with multiple options early on in the flight, and on our flight in regular Economy we were given a choice between about three different snack options during the beverage service. I also loved the size of the cups for the drinks as they weren’t as small as United’s that we are used to, but you didn’t have to opt for the whole can either. It was a nice in-between sized serving between a shot and the whole can.

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Delta Economy Comfort+ is Comfortable

On our outbound flight we were seated in regular Economy and on our return we lucked into the last row of Economy Comfort+, likely thanks to an aircraft swap at some point since we were previously in the first row of regular Economy. You can see the difference between regular economy and extra legroom economy seat shown below.

Neither was horrible, but the Economy Comfort+ row was indeed comfortable with the few extra inches of legroom and the snack basket.

On Time Flying With Delta

Of course a sample size of two flights is totally insignificant, but both of my Delta flights were indeed on-time and uneventful. What is significant is that about 85% of Delta’s flights in 2016 were also on time, which is very good compared to similar airlines like American and United. Delta is known for their operational reliability, and my flights were no exception.

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Earning Miles with Alaska

Where Delta has taken hits over the years is usually with their SkyMiles program, though frankly I think that their program is no worse than similar programs these days. However, if you don’t want to credit your flown Delta miles to Delta you can still credit to Alaska for a few more months, which is exactly what we did.

It’s also worth a mention that the GoGo in-flight internet worked on both of our Delta flights, as did the Delta free in-flight selection of movies TV shows you can watch on your own device. I’ve also already booked another Delta operated flight to Atlanta since we returned home from our Utah weekend simply because it left at a better time than the otherwise similar United flight I could have and would have taken if I were still running hard on the elite status hamster wheel.

The world is not all bad when you leave airline elite status behind, in fact, it can be pretty great. Our two Delta flights were absolutely enjoyable for what they were and I look forward to more Delta operated flights later this year. Bring on the internet and snacks…

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Like you, I flew Delta for the first time in years and was thoroughly impressed. I flew Delta from LA to Puerto Vallarta (Punta Mita) and to San Francisco recently. The service was great – as mentioned even on a short flight to SFO, we were given a choice of snack and when we deplaned to and went to baggage claim for our luggage, there was a Delta rep handing out full bottles of water and breath mints. Most of the planes are newer than the other major carriers – I will definitely fly them again.

    While I never chased elite status, I did chase miles with United and American because I do book an annual trip using miles to Europe and such – this year we (hubby and kiddo) burned through our United miles for 3 r/t tickets on an open jaw to Zurich and return from Dublin. Right now, I have almost 100,000 miles with American and close to 45,000 with BA. I’ll use these for next years big annual trip but I flew Jet Blue recently to Austin and was gobsmacked by the free wifi, legroom and overall service. Instead of using my miles to book a trip to NY, I booked with Jet Blue. I even have a $100 gift card credit with American but by the time I sorted it all out, it was either too many miles or cost more with cash to fly tired old American.

    Now, I just want to concentrate on points like Barclay Arrival, close to 70,000 now where I can just redeem travel expenses, Chase UR and my Hyatt and SPG cards. At this point, I think there’s more benefits with these types of cards and programs than airline cards, chasing status or accruing miles which are getting harder to use with restrictions every year.

  2. Surprised a blogger such as yourself doesn’t know the correct term for the class of service you flew. It’s “Comfort Plus” and has had this name since 2014.

  3. I have a soft spot for Delta since my family flew the airline back in the 90s when I was a kid. I remember they had this awesome mascot geared towards kids: Dusty the Delta Air Lion! As a grown up, I had elite status on Continental for years (based in NYC area) and then United. Two years ago, I switched back to Delta mainly due to their on-time reliability. Little did I know that customer service goes a long way and it’s certainly something that I missed. I’m glad you and your daughter had a great time flying those two DL flights!

  4. I used to be a AA flyer for many years and became a million miler flyer and got Gold status for life. Then I moved to a NWA hub which then became Delta so I have been flying Delta for many years. I have to say that I hate their management for what they have done with the Delta SkyMiles program where now people just call SkyPesos because it is hard to get value of your miles. However, I have to agree that Delta managed to lead (based on the inability of its competitors) in many ways how the airline business is today in the US. Delta does an amazing job is having great and reliable planes, a fantastic on time operation and as you said friendly personnel by US standards (they are not even close to what you get in Asia but years ahead of what you get on AA and United). I never make to Diamond on Delta since I usually stop right before that threshold so I can rollover lots of miles to the next year to get a good start in keeping my Platinum status. As a MSP based hub I do not get many upgrades since almost everyone is a Delta elite member but I get amazing flexibility of flight options to almost everywhere I want to fly. Biggest problem I have with Delta is price. They are the most expensive option to fly out of MSP since they charge for the convenience of flying non-stop.

  5. Have to say I had a different take than you. Flew Delta for the first time shortly after Christmas, in business class, after mostly flying United for the pas several years with a little AA thrown in. For me, the flights attendants were no better than, maybe slightly worse than United. What I found worse was the food. For breakfast, our only choice was cereal. Oddly, my daughters vegetarian meal was exactly the same, but with different cereal. And I found lunch was also seriously lacking compared with United.
    I also didn’t see any difference in gate agents either.
    On the other hand, AA loses in virtually every aspect of the flight experience. I don’t know that I have ever flown on them that I haven’t had extended rolling delays at Dallas. I try to avoid them, but I am too cheap, so if they are cheapest, I fly with AA!

  6. Delta is great. They happen to be the most useful where I fly which includes SLC. I literally just signed up for their card as I’ll be needing free bags cause I have 3 upcoming flights booked with them.

  7. I agree that Delta isn’t as bad as it’s reputation can be…the only thing that drives me crazy about them is that every time I book a Delta flight, the times are changed after the fact. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes, but other times it’s been close to an hour different. And if you have a connection and both times are changed it can leave you with a too short or too long layover. Every single Delta flight that I have been on the last 2 years has been changed. But I do agree with you on service – I’m happy with them once I am on the plane : )

    • Katie, you’re looking at it wrong. A schedule change is the magic key to change your itinerary. Delta will usually allow, depending on the agent, almost any flight change.
      Booked the 6 am or red-eye to save money? Boom, if Delta Messenger informs you of a change, even as little as one minute, just request a better timing/routing for that day. I’ve been able to change actual DAYS of travel due to a small flight change. Heck, your class of travel might even be improved.

  8. I used to fly Delta a lot and I know how great the team was at making you feel welcome. There are some awesome flight attendants out there. I shifted my travel to American the past few years but now that all three alliances are the same in terms of the revenue model.

  9. I’ve been a Delta elite for years and overall Delta does a wonderful job at customer service and getting you where you want to be safely, comfortably and efficiently. My one criticism with the airline is their FFP and the difficulty in using upgrade certificates. They could just be a little more transparent about the whole thing .

    Oh, nice knees.

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