I’m skipping ahead in this trip report, going next to my flight in Delta One on the new A350. Delta seriously hypes up their “suites”, even charging a $500 premium each way to fly their flagship aircraft. (It appears Delta reduced the surcharge to $100 each way, though.) While a seat with a door certainly sounds nice, I remained skeptical of the allegedly “game changing” seat. In the end, I found it a decent business class seat, but my initial misgivings proved warranted.
Note: this post is part of my trip report series about my quick weekend trip to Belgium. Click here for the trip report index and introductory post.
Delta Air Lines (DL) Flight 133
- Monday, August 13, 2018
- Depart: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS), Gate E8, 11:01, 1 hr 41 min late
- Arrive: Detroit Metro – Wayne County Airport (DTW), McNamara Terminal, Gate A40, 13:15, 1 hr 32 min late
- Duration: 8 hours 14 minutes
- Seat: 3A
- Equipment: Airbus A350-900
Check-In and Boarding
This ended up being a lot more “fun” than I bargained for. I woke up at my airport hotel about 6:30 to find a text from Delta advising of an hour and 10 minute delay. No problem – more time to get caught up on e-mails and check out the lounge, after all. KLM handles all check-in duties for Delta at Schiphol, and I found only a few passengers in the Business Class line. The agent processed my check-in efficiently, and had me on my way in a few minutes.
The “fun” started when I noted the dreaded “SSSS” on my boarding pass while sipping on my coffee. Note that US-bound passengers must present themselves to a Delta security agent prior to boarding. You can either do this at a station outside the lounge, or at Gate E1. (Your boarding pass will always show E1 as the departure gate – that’s only so you’ll go through the security
theater questioning there first.) I decided to get it over with outside the lounge. This officer took forever asking questions of everyone, and seemed especially suspicious of me due to my short stay and separate tickets. We ended up having a lengthy, fun chat about travel bloggers making pointless trips to review products.
But wait, there’s more! Upon arrival at the departure gate, the agent asked all passengers with the “SSSS” to approach the podium about half an hour before boarding. Everyone (perhaps 30 people) was then made to wait in a tiny holding pen with seating for maybe 10. All taken up by the crew waiting to board, of course. Luckily I found a spot on the floor by the window. At least I had a good spot to take in some KLM plane porn while waiting.
Anyway, one positive of the process was that all selectees got to board first. I headed left to 3A, my home away from home to Detroit.
Delta One A350 – Seating and Interior
The Delta One cabin in the A350 consists of 32 suites in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. This is the same setup as Delta’s 767-400 fleet, and in fact, the bones of the suites are basically the same Thomson Vantage XL seats. First impressions – the enclosed suites and lack of center bins creates an airy cabin that looks great.
At first glance, the seat also looks very nice. Though traditional, Delta’s simple finishes seem especially elegant in this new cabin.
One thing to keep in mind – rows alternate between “true” window seats (odd rows) and offset windows (even). If you value privacy with a view, select a window in an odd row. The seat really does feel cocoon-like with the door closed. And you can easily see out the window.
I did find the door a little tricky to open. It requires you to push up on the door, and then swing it slightly out before sliding it back. The door is a tad heavy, so it’s not the easiest to maneuver.
The limitations of this seat became apparent pretty quickly, however. While the cocoon-like privacy is nice, I found the suite very tight. You can see the footwell narrows considerably at the end. That not only makes your feet feel tangled up, it also restricts storage space. My laptop barely fit in the cubby, for example.
In addition, the suites suffer from a narrow exit out to the aisle.
Add it all up, and you get a space that feels quite claustrophobic, even more so than the Delta One seat in the 767. Keep in mind, I’m a small guy at 5’7″/145. If I find the space tight, you know there’s a problem.
Anyway, the seat features two storage areas. The first is an oversized armrest on the door side. While not exceptionally large, it is wide enough to hold a laptop. This section also contains the main seat controls. I found these fairly intuitive and easy to use. Note the “do not disturb” button in the corner, which you can use with the door closed. The FAs won’t disturb you for meal or drink service with the light turned on.
If you only need to make basic adjustments, a panel with simple controls is on the side of the seat. This is quite easy to reach while seated or lying down, a nice touch.
Meanwhile, the front of the armrest flips up to reveal the IFE controller and a small mirror.
Behind the armrest is a combo 110V and USB power port, a handy shelf for small items, and a small open console. There is a cup/bottle holder inside the console, but this has limited practicality in my view. It’s too far away and at an odd angle to easily access while sleeping, for example.
Finally, the seat includes a lamp on the side of the door, should you need more light for working.
The seat is fully lie-flat in bed mode. Amenities (not shown) include an excellent Westin Heavenly blanket, though the pillow is so-so. Unlike the flight over, the cabin temperature was fine on the return.
I found seat comfort good in both seated and bed mode. I slept soundly for about 2 1/2 hours. The problem, as alluded to earlier, is the narrow, tapered footwell. If you tend to roll on your side as I do, your feet uncomfortably bunch up.
As for the amenity kit, Delta provides its familiar Tumi kit.
Personally, I prefer the hard-sided Tumi kit offered on my transcontinental Delta One flight. There’s nothing wrong with this soft-sided one, but I find the hard-sided one unique. But my bigger gripe? The kit’s contents were exactly identical to the domestic kit. It’s a pretty solid kit for a domestic kit, but rather subpar for an international one. There are no pajamas and slippers, for example.
Delta One A350 Suite – In-Flight Entertainment
The A350’s Delta One suites feature an excellent in-seat screen with great resolution. Passengers can watch “Delta Studio” entertainment on the screen, or via streaming on a personal device.
Delta uses its familiar LSTN headphones in Delta One. Unfortunately, while these look nice, they are rather poor quality. They just don’t do the whole “noise reducing” thing very well.
I talked about the solid selection in my Main Cabin review; Delta One features the exact same lineup. I enjoyed a couple of “NCIS” reruns, then switched to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. While I found the screenplay a bit plodding, it’s still interesting and makes for good plane viewing.
Delta also offers WiFi, and it’s fairly reasonably priced, at $21.95 for a flight pass. T-Mobile customers receive one hour free, just like on domestic flights. I found speeds inconsistent, however. It would run smoothly for a few minutes, then slow to a crawl, then speed back up again.
Delta One A350 – Food and Beverage
After boarding, the FAs offered a pre-departure beverage of water, juice, or champagne. I selected the obligatory champagne. Delta serves Lanson Black Label in international Delta One.
The FA also handed out menus, collecting breakfast orders prior to take-off. Below is the menu for this flight.
Meal service began about 45 minutes after take-off. I ordered the signature “Sunrise Cocktail”, the same one I sampled in transcontinental Delta One back in March. Rather amusingly, the FA had no idea how to make it, the second time this has happened on Delta.
For the appetizer, I chose the maple glazed salmon. I generally don’t do fish, but I’m starting to take a liking to smoked salmon.
Both the crostini and the bagel seemed a little stale, but the salmon was tasty, and the fruit fresh. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the mango coulis, though. I love mangoes, but the taste doesn’t really go with salmon. Anyway, I found it a decent start to the meal.
For the main course, I selected the “chilled plate”, basically a selection of meats and cheeses.
I know cold meals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when in Europe, I really enjoy munching on cold cuts and cheese. This selection was pretty tasty; then again, I’ll never complain where gouda and camembert are involved. Bonus points for a solid presentation. I ordered a chardonnay to complement the meal. Though a little tart for my liking, it did pair fairly well with the meat and cheese.
For desert, I kept it simple, with an ice cream sundae.
The entire meal service took about an hour and 15 minutes to complete – quite efficient, especially for a westbound sector.
About 90 minutes before landing, a light pre-landing meal was served. Like former UPGRDr Matthew, I count the United cheeseburger as a guilty pleasure. So, I decided to take my chances with Delta’s version.
I liked the brioche bun, and I give Delta bonus points for two slices of cheese. But the hamburger itself was terrible. It brought back memories of the old elementary school cafeteria burgers. The potatoes were likewise overcooked and tasteless. Passengers did receive a small chocolate after the snack for desert.
Overall, I’d rate the food & beverage as mixed. A poor pre-landing snack downgraded a decent breakfast service.
Delta One A350 – Service
Like the food and beverage, I found service a mixed bag. Things started off well enough. The purser personally greeted each passenger, asking if they needed a tutorial for the new suite. Both of the FAs serving my side of the aisle provided friendly service, if a little unpolished. None of them addressed passengers by name, for example.
What bothered me a little, however, was how every FA completely disappeared between meals. After nodding off following my meal, I awoke about 3 hours before landing. I literally saw nobody until pre-landing drink service about an hour and 15 minutes later. They then quickly rushed through the meal, despite plenty of time remaining, and disappeared again until landing.
Delta likes to claim they provide superior service to other domestic airlines. To some extent, it’s true; I generally find Delta flight crews more pleasant than the other legacies. But I expected better than the disappearing act, especially in international business class.
Delta One A350 – Flightseeing
As we taxied along the apron in Amsterdam, I enjoyed spotting a couple of nice birds. First up was an Air Canada 787; I like the livery on this plane.
But when you’re at AMS, nothing beats a glimpse of KLM’s Queen of the Skies. I love the 747 in any form, but I think they look especially great in KLM’s simple but elegant livery.
After takeoff, we enjoyed a cloudy view of the Dutch countryside.
Later, we passed a cloud-shrouded Ireland, with just a sliver of land peeking through.
Apparently, we picked a busy air corridor that day, as I noticed three separate condensation trails out the window over breakfast.
I really hoped we’d fly over Greenland, but alas, we took a southerly route this time. That meant no more sightseeing until we reached Canada. It was a beautiful day over the farms of southern Ontario.
Later, we passed over the south end of Lake St. Clair on final approach to Detroit. Looking south provided a unique view of the area between lakes, with Lake Erie in the distance.
Finally, a fascinating view of the Detroit River emptying in to Lake Erie at Grosse Ile.
I wrote some initial thoughts shortly after my flight, expressing disappointment but wondering if additional time would soften my thoughts. After about a month to reflect, I feel the same way. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing objectively bad about this flight. Delta One on the A350 provides a good, comfortable seat and friendly service.
But I can’t help but shake the feeling that it’s a Vantage XL seat with a door, that actually feels more claustrophobic than the original. What’s so special about that? Add in hit-or-miss service, and it almost feel obnoxious that Delta charges a premium for – the same seat as the 767 with a door. I probably expected too much, but I definitely left a little disappointed.