Delta Air Lines announced yesterday that it is making big investments in the quality of service it provides to main cabin (read: economy) passengers on flights of 6.5 hours or more. Other, shorter international flights that offer Delta’s signature Delta One or Premium Select services will also see improvements to the main cabin.
Start off with a welcome cocktail just after departure. All customers in the main cabin will be offered a Bellini — a mix of sparkling wine and peach puree. While not quite the same as a pre-departure beverage of choice, it’s a nice gesture that adds a little bit of upper class glamor to the back cabin. Passengers will also receive a hot towel service.
Meal service has been upgraded with mix-and-match entrees and appetizers, as well as a separate dessert service afterward. This will be served with upgraded cutlery and dishes. It still looks like plastic tableware to me — let’s not kid ourselves — but appearances matter. Beer, wine, and spirits are already included on long-haul international flights.
Delta tops it off by passing out free chocolates during descent. It’s not going to have a huge impact on which carrier you book next time, but it can be memorable. I still think about the small chocolates that Swiss hands out on their flights, and about the chocolate that Alaska Airlines gives to its elite members.
This is great news because the state of U.S. air travel had been pretty poor for the last few decades. After deregulation unleashed competitive pricing and terrorist attacks prompted several bankruptcies, taking a flight on a U.S. airline wasn’t likely to impress.
That’s unfortunate in a country with one of the highest GDPs per capita and that seems to dominate in other hospitality and travel marketplaces. Many leading hotel brands are American, for example, even though ownership may be franchised. But if I had one piece of advise for people redeeming miles for the first time, it was usually, “Don’t fly on a U.S. airline.” The experience has previously been so much better on foreign carriers when flying abroad.
Delta does stand out for offering better service on the ground and in the air. I am not a fan of their loyalty program, which has led a race to the bottom, but I happily recommend the airline if you care more about your experience in the moment.
On a trip a few years back from Seattle to Singapore via Tokyo, I sat in their Comfort+ seats and was very pleased. Sriram flew from Detroit to Amsterdam last year. Much of my recent domestic business travel has mostly been booked on Delta. It’s good to see them continuing to invest in an area of strength.