Airline Review: Delta Airlines


After Cebu Pacific, Delta Airlines - the world's largest airline in terms of fleet size and number of passengers - is probably the airline that I fly most frequently. I've taken Delta going to the States three times, each passing through either Nagoya or Tokyo-Narita, then terminating in Detroit or Atlanta. I've also taken domestic trips via Delta, usually to/from St. Louis to other cities, such as St. Louis to New York, or St. Louis to Chicago. Because of Delta's hub-and-spoke arrangement, most of these flights pass through Delta hubs, such as Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago-Midway and/or O'Hare.

A Delta Airlines 747-400 in Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1

Aircraft
I have flown in different aircraft as I have taken both international and domestic flights. The Manila-Nagoya-Detroit flight, as well as the Manila-Narita leg, uses the Boeing 747-400. It continues to Atlanta on a Boeing 777-200. I've taken the New York-JFK-Narita-Manila flight twice, and once on a Detroit-Nagoya-Manila flight, with all three flights flown using the 747-400.

On domestic flights, they usually use small regional jets, such as the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ700, CRJ900 and CRJ200 models), and Embraer ERJ175. On several occasions, I've also flown in Airbus A320s, usually if I originate in from the hubs. Some of the domestic flights are serviced by Delta Connection, the Delta-branded regional airline. In this arrangement, regional airlines as Comair, GoJet and Pinnacle Airlines operate the routes under the Delta brand.

A Delta Connection CRJ900 jet in Detroit-Wayne Airport
Service Classes
I've flown in Business Class once, from Manila to Narita, and once in Economy Comfort, from Manila to Nagoya. All the rest are in coach. Economy Comfort is still classified as coach, but the seats have wider legroom (additional 3-4") and has more recline.

Booking and Fare
Booking can done through the website, delta.com. Fares for coach vary depending on destination and time of booking. I occasionally get an email of their promos; a round-trip Manila-LAX or Manila-SFO promo fare may cost around $900-1200. Round-trip domestic flights also vary in price. I once booked a round trip St. Louis-New York flight for $277, including taxes. 

Delta.com website

One time I missed my flight so I have to re-book. I was billed a service fee of $150 for rebooking. Like the fare, I paid for it using my credit card. 

On some flights, you can also pay, partly or in full, for your fare using your frequent flyer miles. The "Pay With Miles" option will appear if the flight you are booking is eligible. I paid 30,000 miles for my round-trip St. Louis-Chicago flight just recently.

If you're flying internationally (at least to/from Manila), you'll get a luggage allowance consisting of 2 bags weighing 50 lbs. each, and you'll be charged a flat rate of $50 if you exceed the allowance. On domestic flights there is a fee for check-in luggage, but the fee is waived if you are qualified through their Medallion program. 

You can check-in online using a downloadable app from iTunes and Google Play, or from any web browser. This only works for me if my flight is domestic. I still have to check in at the airport when flying internationally. If you check in using the app, it will have a QR code that serves as your boarding pass that you'll just can at the boarding gate.

Frequent Flyer Programs
Delta Airlines has a frequent flyer program called Sky Miles. You get one point for every mile flown (sometimes more, because of bonuses). You can sign up for the program in the website or by filling up a form during the flight or at the airport. Aside from flights, you can earn miles from other Delta partners. My Marriott Rewards card is linked to my Sky Miles account, and instead of earning points I earn miles for each night I stay in Marriott hotels. I am also using a BPI SkyMiles card, so I am earning miles from my credit card expenses as well. 

Flying in airlines that are members of the SkyTeam will may also let you earn miles. Delta also has other airline partners where you can earn miles, including Alaska Airlines, Gol, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Olympic Air and Virgin Australia. What I like about the Sky Miles program is that the miles do not expire.

Delta business class

Cabin
For Business Class, the cabin is out front and separated from the coach section by the galley. Seats, arranged in 2-2 and 2-2-2 layout, have wider legroom, up to 60", and they can be reclined from 150 deg to 180 deg position. The entertainment system is personalized, and a full-sized pillow is also provided. 

Being in the Economy Comfort section means that the seats have an additional 3-4" of legroom, and about 50% more recline. The seats are also located in the first few rows (rows 22-26, which means don't pick a seat at Row 27) of the Economy cabin. There is also priority boarding for the passengers. 

Seats and IFE in Economy Comfort

Flying coach is vastly different from flying in business class. The seats are narrower and have smaller legroom. On the 747 the seats are arranged in 3-4-3 layout. I get around this by choosing the last four rows at the end of the cabin, where the seats are 2-4-2. I would choose a window seat, so I'd only have one seatmate. On the 777-200, the economy seating is arranged in 3-3-3 layout.

Seats in 747-400 economy class

The regional jets are small, so the typical layout is 2-2 in the economy cabin, and 1-2 layout in the First Class cabin, which is just a curtained area in front, behind the flight deck. A small pillow and a blanket are provided during international flights. I usually pick the window seat so I can lean on the side when sleeping (plus the view is better, and you only have to deal with one elbow of your seatmate). 

Seats on a CRJ200 regional jet
Sleep is as comfortable as sleeping on a chair, since you can't really recline it all the way. There was one occasion when the flight from JFK to Narita was not full (this was a few days after the tsunami totaled the Fukushima nuclear reactor), and the middle and the aisle seat were not occupied. I stowed away the armrest for the two seats and I was able to use it like a bed.


Dining
Food and beverage service depends on the length/distance of the flight. For flights 250 miles or more (or up to 1.5 hours), only cookies or pretzels are served, plus a complimentary beverage, such as juice or soda. Breakfast, lunch or dinner is served for flights that are more than 1,500 miles or takes more than 3 1/2 hours.

Chicken or beef? Lunch in coach
For international flights, breakfast or snacks are served first, then lunch, another snacks, and dinner. Breakfast is served in Manila to Nagoya or Manila-Narita flight, while dinner is served going back.

Food in business class is noticeably different from that served on coach. It is also served on fine china, and accompanied by a selection of wine, beers and juices. Even the bottled water is Evian.

Breakfast in business class

The meals in economic class were OK though. For breakfast, my choice is omelette, with bread and butter, juice and dessert. For lunch or dinner, usually the choice is between chicken or beef, and it is accompanied by a salad, bread and butter, orange juice and dessert. If you have dietary restrictions you may request a special meal ahead of time and they will prepare it for you. Snacks are usually sandwiches, cheeses and fruits.

Amenities
On international flights, in-flight  entertainment (IFE) is provided using an on-demand system that delivers video, games and music on an LCD panel, and controlled through a remote or a touchscreen. 

New Delta IFE

I've taken one 747 in 2010 with an overhead entertainment system, but I noticed that on my last trip the 747s are upgraded and fitted with an AVOD system at the backrest of the seats. The 777 also has an IFE on the back of the seat.

In business class the headsets are better than the run-of-the-mill headphones that the flight attendants hand out in the economy section. I usually would just use my own earphones as the sound quality of those things are abysmal. There is a wide selection of movies and TV shows in the IFE, which is great especially if you are on a 16-hour flight. There are also games available, as well as music tracks for you to listen in.

Delta 777-200 IFE

There are no IFE in domestic flights, although most of the Delta planes now are outfitted with in-flight WiFi, provided by Gogo. I've tried the WiFi on my St. Louis-JFK flight (my review here).

For the spendthrift passengers shopping is available onboard. On domestic flights the Skymall catalog is provided, and you can also access the Skymall website and eBay for free using the in-flight WiFi. You can buy duty-free products on international flights.

Delta has several lounges in major airports, called Sky Club. I haven't used any of the lounges but this is something I would want to try in the future.

Schedule
I've only experienced two instances where I got delayed for more than 30 minutes, and both instances probably beyond the control of the airline. The first one was in a flight from Detroit to Chicago-Midway, when we have to stop to de-ice the aircraft, and the second, and the second time on a New York-Narita flight and there was something wrong with the plumbing. The flight was delayed for more than an hour and we have to go back to the boarding gate so they can fix the problem. While we were taxiing back, the FAs started going around the cabin to give each passenger a $25 voucher that can be used for future flights. I got another $100 credit in my delta.com account when I got back in Manila.

Customer Service
The first time I dealt with the Delta customer service was when I first visited the US. Somehow my luggage got lost somewhere between Manila and Detroit and I did not get it when I landed in St. Louis. I went to the Lost Luggage kiosk as soon as I found out and I promptly filed a claim. I was given a claim ticket, and a kit containing toiletries and a shirt (too large for me) to get me by while they are looking for my luggage. It was returned to me the next day, in the evening. During this time, I had to buy some clothes, and I was told that Delta will reimburse the first $90 that I spent. I also filed a claim for this and I got reimbursed a few months after, the check sent to me in Manila.

You get this if they misplace your luggage

The second time was when I missed a flight to New York, and I have to rebook. I have to call a number for this and the service representative was helpful enough to assist me on my predicament. I did pay a $150 rebooking fee for this though. As mentioned, Delta also gave me a $125 credit when my flight from New York was delayed due to a problem in the plane. The $25 was given while we were heading back to the gate, and the $100 was credited to my Delta.com account.

On my most recent trip, the crew announced, while we were on the boarding gate already, that the flight was overbooked and that Delta needed volunteers willing to be bumped off the next day in exchange for compensation. I was one of those who volunteered, and in return for delaying my flight for a day I got a $1000 credit for future flights, plus a free overnight stay at a hotel (Remington Hotel in Resorts World Manila), free meals and free transportation to and from the airport. I think it was not a bad deal at all.

The downside for this was that my luggage was already checked in, and it got misplaced (again) when I reached St. Louis. I filed another claim for it again, but luckily it was delivered to me the same day. They brought it to the hotel where I was staying.

Overall Impression
My impression on the airline is generally favorable. My only complaint so far is that Delta has misplaced my luggage twice, but I am satisfied the way it was handled. I also wish that they have more variety in the meal choices beyond chicken and beef. 

Useful Info
The airline's website is at www.delta.com

Other airline reviews:
Zest Air
Tiger Airways
Philippine Airlines
SEAir
AirAsia 

review by Kin Enriquez

Comments

  1. hi kin nice review for delta. i appreciate you straight to the point no bragging style of blogging.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi! Nice review! Very informative! Question. Did you pay extra for your choice seat in coach? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks!

      For the Economy Comfort seat, I got the upgrade for free. It was given during the time I gave up my seat because they overbooked, and I took the another flight the next day. Delta rebooked everything, gave me a voucher and also the upgrade for the economy comfort. I think it will cost between $40-180 per segment, depending on the flight.

      - Kin

      Delete
    2. for preferred seats, it will cost $9-59 per segment

      Delete

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