Our Europe trip with our Mom’s started on the Monday after the superbowl. We flew in Delta Economy on an Airbus 330-323 from Seattle and continued on to Basel, Switzerland on a KLM Cityhopper flight. We booked these flights utilizing our existing bank of Delta skymiles. My wife and I both signed up for the Delta Gold AMEX during a 60,000 mile sign up bonus period, so both of us had a relatively large bank of miles. Seems relatively straight forward so far right? Well we narrowly missed a disaster, because of a bit of ignorance on our end.
Getting to the Airport
To fully understand our near disaster, we start the day before. Super bowl Sunday and the game just started. I look the window and saw that it was snowing. In Seattle, it snows once or twice a year, but it is never in large amounts. It is rarely enough to cripple the City. Well the snow did not stop. It continued throughout the night and into the morning. No big deal I thought to myself, we are not leaving until 1:30pm and things should clear. Well, It didn’t stop (for days). We have now had the snowiest February in 50 years. I assumed our flight Delta would delay our flight. Airlines cancelled or delayed a vast majority of the flights out of Seattle. Ours wasn’t.
Normally, this would not be a big deal. I planned to leave early. Up to that point I had not left my house that day. I really did not know the extent of how bad the roads were. About 3 hours before my flight I went ahead and requested a Lyft. I started to worry. The nearest Lyft driver was 20 minutes away. About 15 minutes later he cancels. Still we have plenty of time to get to airport. 2 cancellations later a Lyft driver gets here. At this point we are about 2:30 before the flight. I was slightly worried, but we have precheck and there is never a precheck line a SeaTac.
I live about 20 minutes from SeaTac. It took an hour. I didn’t realize how bad the snow was, and people in Seattle (me included) don’t know how to drive in snow. Our driver was great, but everyone around him was struggling. We arrived at the airport 1:30 before the flight. *EEEK*
Normally, the check in process isn’t an issue. However, because I booked a one way flight to Europe Delta wanted to verify my passport before leaving. The bag drop line is not an appropriate line for this check. So I had to go to the longer “special requests” line. Given the weather, it was long. Given the number of cancellations, people needed to be rebooked. Delta had only 2 people manning the desk. We sat there for what seemed ages. Though really it was closer to 30-40 minutes, but I was freaking out. Delta closes check in 1 hour before the flight, and they were going to refuse to take our bags or issue boarding passes.
One hour before our flight 4 more people come to man the special requests desk. We got to the desk 55 minutes before our flight, and of course they were refusing to help. I know this is their policy and it was my fault, well mostly my fault, that we were so late. However, I really just needed the boarding pass. We could carry on our bags. They showed me as fully checked in, but because the app wouldn’t issue me an e-boarding pass I couldn’t get to my gate.
The agent at the desk wasn’t sure what to do and went to get a supervisor. All I could hear in my head was tick tock tick tock. During this time I pulled out my phone and accessed the website rather than the app. On the website, it was willing to issue me a printable boarding pass, but not an e-boarding pass. They could not print it, but it was sufficient to get through security
Now we had to get to the gate. Seriously how were we on the only flight without a massive delay. We sprinted to the nearest precheck lane and it was closed. The nearest open lane was on the other side of the airport. So off we sprinted again. By the time we passed through security we had 30 minutes left before departure. The gate closes 15 minutes before. Our flight flight departed from the South Satellite terminal. This requires 2 tram rides from security. Again, tick tock tick tock. We were off the tram 20 minutes before departure. We got to the gate 15 minutes before departure, right when the gate should have closed. Boarding had not started yet. *sigh of relief*
We were lucky, whether this was a last minute delay or they just didn’t post it I don’t know but I was so happy. In the end the flight boarded 40 minutes late. Which had me really worried about our connection in Amsterdam/
Boarding went smoothly, but Delta has a new boarding process. While it is not much different than previous processes, it had a huge impact on Delta AMEX holders. Delta AMEX holders’ now board “economy 1.” So we boarded after Delta One, Frequent Fliers, Economy Plus, and anyone needing assistance.
Almost everyone on our flight was economy 1, so we were among the last to board. Again, not a huge deal but something to note if you are considering the Delta AMEX.
Plane/Delta Economy Seating
The flight was on an Airbus 330-323, one of Delta’s widebody jets used mainly for international travel. This plane seats 293 (34 in Delta one, 40 in Comfort Plus, and 219 in economy) and has not yet been fitted for a true premium economy product. While the plane may have the capacity of 293, our flight was significantly less than half full.
With Delta Economy set out in a 2-4-2 set up, a majority of the flight got their own row. At worst they had an empty seat next to them. A few people were lucky enough to be living the economy dream. They had the entire row of four to themselves. The seats themselves have about 32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width. At about 5′ 8″ even full this seat would be pretty nice for me.
However that didn’t matter as the flight was empty. I ended up with my own row of two. While not the economy dream, it was absolutely fantastic.
The seats themselves were in great condition showing very little sign of wear, and tear. While, I am not sure when the last time this plane was retrofitted, its interior seemed relatively new.
Each seat had a newer high resolution seat back screen. Which had an extremely responsive touchscreen and sharp display. My only issue with this was it is not tiltable. If the person in front of you reclines, you will likely be forced to recline to have a good viewing angle. That being said it was not an issue on this flight as my wife was in the row in front of me and given the extra room did not feel the need to recline.
I am an avid movie goer. My wife and I tend to see 2-3 movies a week, so on flights it is hard for me to find enough entertainment that I have not already seen. However, Delta’s IFE contained close to 300 options, including hollywood new releases, international, and independent films and documentaries. I did not sleep much on the flight, but was able to find more than enough to keep me entertained.
Delta’s A330s are equipped with in-flight wifi. As a T-Mobile customer I get one hour of onboard wifi for free on delta, and was able to use it to good effect. We were still over US while I was surfing but the speeds were more than sufficient to browse the web and post on social media. One plus on delta that not all carrier allow, is delta will allow you to use the wifi to send text messages in the entire flight. More airlines really need to implement this.
Delta Economy Service/Amenities
Delta is head over heels the best the best US carrier for flights to europe. In the past year have flown internationally on each of the big three US airlines, there is no contest. Delta’s great service started with the handing out of the in flight amenities. While most airlines give economy passengers a shitty pair of earbuds, delta also provides an in flight menu, a blindfold, and ear plugs. The quality of the earbuds were pretty good for free earbuds, and as nice as the 25 dollar pair I brought with me (I don’t spend a lot on earbuds because I lose them so easily). While these amenities are minimal at best, as an economy passenger I am use to receive next to nothing. So these amenities go a long way to making me feel human.
Being provided an inflight menu really surprised me. Up to this point almost every international flight have been on (and i have been on many), I was basically asked “chicken or beef” and given no detail about what goes along with the meat. It also surprised me that they offered sparkling wine and liquor to economy passengers, and a really good selection while we are at it. I expected just red and white wine (maybe beer). Again, in economy the little things go a long way.
It did surprise me that both meat options were chicken, usually there are two different types of meat. That being said, I cannot understate how much I appreciate full knowledge of what I ordered. Especially given it was accurate, unlike on my flight on American to Shanghai which I was offered a bacon sandwich or noodles, and it turns out the “noodle” option was rice.
Dinner Service started off with a hot towel and drinks. I went with sparkling wine. Despite not being a wine person, I found it nice. They followed this with the meal and a second drink service. I had the Herb Roasted Chicken Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce, Creamy Polenta and Green beans.
Stephanie went with the Ravioli in Classic Pomodoro with Tuscan Tomato and Nut Free Pesto
Up to this point my best economy meal, was on Japan Airlines short haul. This surpassed that. You eat with your eyes first. This meal that looked really appetizing. Sure it was in an economy tray, but if I took this and plated it, it would still look good. It tasted even better than it looked. The chicken itself was not your typical dried up airplane chicken. It was seasoned. it was moist, and the kick of lemon really brought the dish together. The polenta was extremely smooth like a mashed potato in consistency and really flavorful. I literally ate every bitee. The biggest compliment I could give this meal is I did not have to drown it in salt and pepper like I do most plane food to want to eat it. The seasoning of everything was completely on point.
The drink cart came through the cabin no less than 3 times during dinner (maybe four but I can’t remember). I don’t know whether this is standard Delta practice or because we had a relatively empty flight, either way it was greatly appreciated. On most airlines you are lucky to get two. On my last United experience we got a drink before dinner service and 45 minutes later when dinner came we got a small thing of water and the flight attendants were not seen again for hours.
Mid-Flight Snack/Breakfast/Other Services
In general the mid-flight snack is nothing to write home about, and this was the case for this one. We got a small pouch that had a ham and cheese sandwich and a small packet of Milano cookies. Given that this a sub 10 hour flight, I wasn’t expecting much and really did appreciate it being offered. It kept me from being hungry during the flight.
Breakfast service also wasn’t much, but what was offered was extremely good. It consisted of a small box of Noosa yogurt, a muffin, and some Tillamook cheese. The yogurt was absolutely amazing, Stephanie and I are planning on buying some next time we go to the store. Breakfast was accompanied by another drink service.
Throughout the flight at about 45-90 minute intervals the flight attendants would walk through the aisles offering full size cold bottles of water to the Customers. Given that on most flights the flight attendants disappear, during non-meal service I found it nice that Delta has their flight attendants be proactive about offering water. Normally on older planes I get parched, and have to walk back to the galley to get a drink. It was a very good change of pace.
The flight itself was extremely smooth. The piloted warned us that we may have turbulence for the first hour or two due to the weather in area, but honestly I did not feel much. It really went without issue and allowed me to curl up in a ball on my row and get a couple hours of sleep. It also made for some really good picture taking.
We took off about 45 minutes late and landed around 30-40 minutes late. While this was nice because it helped me make the flight it made my connection extremely rough. We had about 1 hour and 20 minutes planned to go through customs and security and get to our KLM gate. By the time we were off the plane we had about 35. But that is for another post.
Of the big three US carriers, Delta Economy is by far the best international economy product. The service on our Delta Economy Flight was great from start to finish. The food was delicious, the flight attendants were friendly and proactive, and there was more than enough to keep me entertained. With a row to myself I had more than ample room to spread out a bit, and made for an extremely comfortable ride. If it weren’t for the weather causing delays getting to the airport and delays at the airport it would have been a perfect flight.