Delta recently introduced the Airbus A321neo into service. launching several routes from Boston starting in May. While the back of the bus features minimal changes, the neo introduces an innovative new First Class product. I couldn’t fly the inaugural, but a free September weekend provided a chance to check it out. So that I could maximize my time on board, I selected the longest domestic route option, Boston to San Diego. The verdict: while I like the new Delta A321neo First Class, seat comfort is a real issue on the longer routes featuring this aircraft.
I paid $629 cash for this flight. Because you really don’t want to know how many SkyPesos Delta wanted to redeem miles for this flight…
Delta Air Lines (DL) Flight 1108
- Saturday, September 17, 2022
- Depart: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Terminal A, Gate A20, 17:14, 9m late
- Arrive: San Diego International Airport (SAN), Terminal 2, Gate 47, 20:11, 16m early
- Duration: 5 hours 57 minutes
- Seat: 2A
- Equipment: Airbus A321neo
Check-In and Boarding
I flew to Boston from DFW in Economy Comfort, with a 4+ hour layover before my onward flight. Boston actually has several Priority Pass options, both lounges and restaurants, for long layovers. Unfortunately, all of these are in Terminals B through E, and Terminal A is the one concourse not connected airside to the others. So with that in mind, I decided to walk to East Boston for lunch and to stretch my legs. (I’ll have a separate post on that experience.) Upon returning to the airport, the Pre-check line took all of 3 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. Boarding began more or less on time, and I settled into my second row seat on the port side up front.
Delta A321neo First Class – Seating and Interior
Delta outfits its A321neo First Class with 20 seats in a 2×2 configuration. Pitch checks in at 37″, and the seats measure 21″ wide. That’s pretty much standard fare for Delta domestic First. What does make the seats unique, though, are the winged headrests and beefed up dividers.
The end result is an incredibly private space for domestic First. When seated and leaning back in your seat, you’re actually quite well shielded from your seatmate.
Of course, while that’s great when traveling alone, there is a noticeable drawback when traveling with a companion. Namely, it’s difficult to converse with your companion unless both of you lean forward. It’s essentially the same reason criticism I have of reverse herringbone business class seats. There’s no good options for couples traveling together.
Some also complain the winged seat design makes it difficult to see out the window. I didn’t notice that issue; in fact, with the oversized windows, outward visibility is good.
Meanwhile, those big windows and large overhead bins provide an open, airy feeling throughout the cabin.
Legroom felt typical for Delta domestic First.
The seat also includes a couple of useful storage areas. One is between the seats, with a good size storage bin situated around the seat divider.
The other is underneath the armrest, with a large cubby featuring plenty of space for a phone/tablet and headphones.
Speaking of armrest, it’s a large one, with a built-in tray up front to hold beverages.
As or seat comfort, I found it a mixed bag. On the one hand, the seatback itself felt comfortable for a 6-hour flight. Back support is reasonably good, despite the thin seat padding. In addition, the seats offer ample recline, making it easy to find a comfortable position. The recline itself is a bit awkward, though. Push the button and lean back, and the seat jerks backwards abruptly. So use caution when reclining.
On the other hand, seat cushion comfort leaves something to be desired. I fell asleep after dinner, and woke up – twice – with sore upper thighs. The cushioning simply isn’t adequate enough to ward off saddle sore. That’s a problem, given Delta assigns the A321neo generally to longer routes.
For starters, Delta includes both a 110V power outlet and a USB outlet at each First Class seat. Delta positions the power outlet at the back of the seat, in the shell. Personally, I like this setup, since you can then store the power cord in the cubby below the armrest. With that, you don’t have to worry about getting your feet tangled with the cord. This outlet also includes a standard USB outlet.
In addition, there’s a second USB outlet underneath the IFE screen.
Speaking of IFE, the A321neo features high resolution screens at each seat with a full complement of Delta Studio entertainment. I personally just prefer seatback entertainment to stream to your device setups, and so I prefer Delta’s approach. Disney’s “Bears” certainly looks good on these screens.
Delta is currently testing Bluetooth functionality on these screens, and so you could use your own wireless headphones to listen to seatback entertainment.
The A321neo features the same Delta Studio entertainment system, which provides a good selection of TV, games, and movies.
Delta A321neo First Class – Food, Beverage, and Service
No pre-departure beverages were offered on this flight, so service began about 20 minutes after take-off. I decided to give Delta’s Old Fashioned-in-a-can (the Tip Top Old Fashioned) a try. (Insert variation of the Prince Albert in a can prank here.)
It’s alright. Not nearly as good as the butter pecan Old Fashioned you can get at the Capital One Lounge. And in general, when I think cocktail in a can, I immediately think of Buzz Balls. I’m guessing that’s not the impression Delta is hoping for.
Anyway, the FA took meal orders prior to pushback, and I chose what she described as a “beef tart”. (The gentleman behind me misheard this as “beef heart”, which prompted laughter throughout the cabin.) The FA then served dinner about 15 minutes after drinks. I wouldn’t describe what I received as a “tart”; more like a pot roast with mashed potatoes. The meal came on a single tray, with a side salad and what looked and tasted like a panna cotta.
Whatever the main course was, it was legitimately delicious. My last pot roast in the air came courtesy of British Airways, with an unfortunately subpar cut of beef. This one, though, was tender and wonderfully flavorful, with the tender veggies an excellent complement. I ended up not leaving a trace. Historically, Delta’s First Class meals haven’t rated very highly, and they were by far the slowest to restore meal service post-pandemic. But if this is representative of their new offerings, they’ve upped their game significantly.
To cap things off, I ordered a Woodford.
And since we missed the PDB, I saved the selfie for the post-meal Woodford.
Meal service took about half an hour from start to finish, concluding about 75 minutes after take-off. That’s a decent pace for a daytime westbound flight. And at that point, I nodded off for a good two hours.
Delta has a reputation for superior service among domestic carriers, and this flight proved no exception overall. While the First Class FA did skip pre-departure beverages, she took good care of the cabin otherwise. She personally introduced herself to each passenger, and came through several times to refill drinks throughout the flight. And she just seemed to genuinely enjoy her job in general.
I always enjoy planespotting at BOS, and today provided no exception. As we pushed back, we passed another A321neo, this one coming in from Denver.
As we taxied out, we then passed an Air Canada Boeing 737-MAX8, my first time seeing one of AC’s MAX8s.
Of course, no visit to BOS is complete without encountering a jetBlue A320.
And finally, as we reached the runway, an ITA Airways A330-200. ITA itself might be a basket case, but that blue livery sure is gorgeous.
A few minutes after take-off, we passed what I think is Nahant, to the south of Lynn, where Boston Harbor transitions to the larger Massachusetts Bay.
Later, it was a quiet evening for flying over the Upper Midwest, with just some puffy clouds below.
Finally, the final approach into San Diego is simply spectacular, with a low fly-by of downtown. I only wish it were daytime to get some better pictures.
Despite getting out of the gate a little late, we arrived in San Diego a full 16 minutes ahead of schedule.
Delta certainly has come up with a unique new First Class product, one which provides an excellent level of privacy and storage for a domestic narrowbody flight. And Delta continues to deliver with super service compared to its domestic rivals. The setup isn’t idea when traveling with a companion, though. Given that this aircraft is increasingly used on leisure-heavy flights to Hawai’i, that’s something to keep in mind if splurging while traveling with a companion. The bigger problem I have, though, is that the seats just aren’t all that comfortable, with poor bottom cushioning a problem. That really is a problem, given this aircraft’s typical use on longer domestic routes. Though that’s also easily fixable just by improving the padding.