Twice this weekend I sampled Delta’s brand new international Main Cabin experience that debuted November 5. The first time was from SLC to CDG and the second from LHR to ATL during a mileage run to the UK.
In this post, I’ll detail my first flight that featured the new menu, drinks, food, and service.
This was a 767-300 ER flight from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). On this trip, I flew BUR-SLC-CDG-LHR-ATL-BUR during a weekend mileage run.
Welcoming each passenger at their seat is a sleep kit with eye mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, and earplugs. Remember not to brush your teeth with lav water, as it’s not exactly safe to ingest.
About an hour after our (three hours delayed) flight took off (a story for later this week), flight attendants distributed these menus to passengers:
We were advised to peruse the menu and be ready with our appetizer and entree selections when the flight attendants returned.
Each passenger also received a bottle of water and place settings.
”Hot Towel Service”
Flight attendants also served a “hot towel” at this point.
They’re more “hot wipes” than anything else.
Still, though, it’s a nice touch.
”Welcome Cocktail” — Peach Bellini
The Peach Bellini “Welcome Drink” was an item many news outlets trumpeted when covering Delta’s announcement of the new service. “Free cocktails to coach passengers!” (or something similar) was a familiar refrain in many pieces.
But here’s why I thought the hype was odd: beer, wine, and spirits have been complimentary during international flights for as long as I can remember. I don’t get why so people fell for the excitement of a free drink on an international flight.
The “Welcome Drink” title certainly has a pleasant ring. But don’t get these confused with pre-departure beverages — a perk still dedicated only to first class. If you board an international flight and before the door closes wonder, Where’s my Peach Bellini welcome cocktail?!, you’ll be disappointed.
Flight attendants pour the Peach Bellinis prior to service and dispense them from trays. Bellinis are the only drinks available during the Welcome Beverage service. Other drinks are served at mealtime.
How was the Peach Bellini?
Let me preface that I’m not a fan of sparkling wine or champagne. I probably had two flutes during the past 11 years.
So I wasn’t exactly wild about the Peach Bellini. But it was okay.
I found the room temperature drink to be a fine combination of sweet and dry.
I’d certainly never order it at a bar or restaurant. And on I declined it on my return flight.
I kept an ear open for fellow passengers’ reactions but heard none. No “Wow! This was great!” or “Yuck! Never again!” So I guess no news is good news for Delta?
Appetizer and Entree: Harissa Shrimp and Chicken Marsala
About an hour or so later (yes), the flight attendants finally pulled up trolleys and took orders.
I chose the Harissa Shrimp and Chicken Marsala. The appetizer and entree are served at the same time. Bread is also offered (but not served on its own plate — sorry, DJ Noah Mark!).
I was very impressed with the food’s quality.
Please accept my apologies for the shoddy lighting. The cabin was dark and overhead lights were behind my bulkhead seat.
There were three (I think — maybe four?) flavorful shrimp.
The Chicken Marsala was delicious. The chicken portion was perhaps a bit small and a tiny bit dry. But still quite good.
The garlic mashed potatoes were restaurant quality. Very creamy and tasty.
My only complaint about the meal is I would have liked more garlic in the mashed potatoes and mushrooms in the Marsala sauce. But I can never have enough garlic or mushrooms, so take that with a grain of salt (or a clove of garlic) 🙂
I declined the small container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was served after dinner.
I learned long ago not to expect anything special when ordering wine on airline flights. Never have I sipped a wine — even in Delta One — and thought Wow! This is great
This experience was quite different — for the better!
The red wine was quite good. Like, surprisingly good. So good that I’d order it at a restaurant or buy a bottle.
I didn’t find out what varietal or brand was poured. Sorry. #BloggerFAIL.
A flight attendant told me that some of the Delta One wine was brought back to serve coach passengers as part of the Main Cabin international experience.
Small Meal / Breakfast
The small breakfast meal served about 90 minutes prior to landing wasn’t so impressive.
I don’t love melon but do enjoy it from time to time. The melon served with breakfast, though, was disgusting. It tasted awful — and not like melon at all.
The egg and Swiss croissant sandwich was meh. Not bad, not great. Very bland. A sharp cheddar would be a much better cheese instead.
Where Delta’s New International Experience is Very Disappointing
Trash pick up after the main meal was quite slow to commence on both flights.
It took almost an hour on the SLC to CDG ride. It was well over an hour during my LHR to ATL leg (which I’ll detail in another post but say this now: people started putting their trash on the floor).
There wasn’t any turbulence or other obvious hazards keeping flight attendants seated.
And they completely forgot to pick up my trash after one meal; I bussed it myself to the Delta One galley during the LHR to ATL leg.
Based on my two flights of Delta’s Main Cabin international experience, I think the problem stems from several causes:
- Flight attendants getting used to the new procedures. And, really, you can’t fault them.
- Seemingly new equipment. I don’t know if Delta ordered new carts for the international experience or just moved a few things around on the existing models. But flight attendants had a devil of a time finding items in the cart. They also had difficulty controlling them, as the carts sometimes sort of seemed to have minds of their own.
- So many people — and multiple food options. Instead of choosing between just two main dishes, passengers now have to pick an appetizer, too. So to a degree, each passenger’s meal is customized on the spot — which means more work for flight attendants. Combine that with people who can’t decide what to order and/or ask the time-honored question of “What do you have?” (while holding menus in their hands, of course), all that time adds up — especially on long, wide-body aircraft. If each row takes a couple of minutes to serve and there are 30 or 40 rows…
Frankly, unless Delta starts adding flight attendants to international routes just to facilitate trash pickup (which would probably cost them a pretty penny), I think trash collection will take a while. I anticipate the crews getting used to the new bells and whistles. But, really, will it cut that much time?
Flight Attendant Reaction
The SLC-CDG crew was a little more excited about the new experience than the LHR to ATL group.
They made a peppy announcement about the brand new service and told passengers they were eager to hear feedback. One flight attendant (who seemed new — but endearingly so) was very psyched to offer the experience. Like, he tripped over his words because he was so enthused.
The LHR-ATL crew was not as thrilled. These flight attendants were comprised of, predominantly, “senior mamas.” One of them said she’s been a flight attendant for 34 years. She knows her stuff and has seen it all. But even she seemed a little flustered with all the new features. And she wasn’t the only one.
One admitted she wasn’t yet used to the new service. There’s a lot of on-the-spot assembly required, which isn’t popular with the flight attendants.
I read plenty who say words to the effect of “Delta is bringing first class touches to coach!”
Well…kind of. In a coach sort of way, I guess.
First class — or even business — isn’t just better food and beverage. Dedicated flight attendants (usually) react to each rattle of ice in an empty drink or napkin tossed onto a finished plate. They quickly refill your beverage and clear your table.
Some kinks must be worked out and it’ll take a while for flight attendants to adapt to the changes.
Except for the dreadfully slow service, I’m impressed.
The food was better than almost anything I’ve ever had in business class, and certainly coach. (The exception: Delta One meatballs from LAX to HND. Dear God, they were amazing.)
The Bellini feature is cute. But I doubt I’ll partake on future coach international flights. The food and wine, though, were very good.
This is a Delta enhancement that actually improves something — and I commend them for that. Well done.
Have You Tried the New Delta International Experience Yet?
Even though the new international product isn’t even a week old, I know a few Rene’s Points readers have already experienced it. If you’re one of them, please share your thoughts in the below Comments section. If you haven’t but have questions or reactions to what I wrote, please comment as well!
Make sure to check out Part 2 of this review!
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