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First Look: Delta’s New International Main Cabin Experience — Review (Part 1)

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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.

A sign at the Delta Sky Club in Atlanta's F concourse announces Delta's Main Cabin International Service.

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.

Sleep Kit

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.

The exterior of a Sleep Kit offered in Comfort+ on Delta Main Cabin International Service.

The exterior of a Sleep Kit offered in Comfort+ on Delta Main Cabin International Service.

Ear plugs, a sleep mask, and toothbrush with tooth paste from a Sleep Kit offered in Comfort+ on Delta Main Cabin International Service.

Menu

About an hour after our (three hours delayed) flight took off (a story for later this week), flight attendants distributed these menus to passengers:

The menu of Delta's Main Cabin international experience is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

The menu of Delta's Main Cabin international experience is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

The menu of Delta's Main Cabin international experience is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

The beverage menu of Delta's Main Cabin international experience is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

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.

Hot towel service -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience --is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

They’re more “hot wipes” than anything else.

Hot towel service -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience --is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

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.

Chicken marsala and Harissa shrimp dinner meal -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle

There were three (I think — maybe four?) flavorful shrimp.

The Harissa shrimp appetizer -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The Harissa shrimp appetizer -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

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.

The Chicken Marsala dinner entree -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

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.

Red Wine

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.

Melons and an egg and Swiss cheese croissant -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.Melons and an egg and Swiss cheese croissant -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

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.

Melons and an egg and Swiss cheese croissant -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

An egg and Swiss cheese croissant -- part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience -- is seen on a Boeing 767-300ER from Salt Lake City to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

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:

  1. Flight attendants getting used to the new procedures. And, really, you can’t fault them.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Overall Thoughts

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!

—Chris

Make sure to check out Part 2 of this review!


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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15 Comments

  1. Don in ATL

    Dear Chris, thanks for the mini review of the DL One meatballs from LAX to HND. I am flying this route on Wed and was torn between those meatballs and the chicken parmesan. Also, thanks for the thorough review of the new international service on DL. Good job.

    Quick question if you have time. In LAX, I know I have to check in for HND at Terminal 2, but if my flight leaves from B, which lounge do I use? Thanks.

    Thanks.

  2. Just went through the “improved service” this long wknd. ATL-CDG on 8 Nov on DL84 and now on DL83 CDG-ATL as I write this. Welcome drink not good at all. Returned it on outbound and declined it on inbound. Portions are smaller than before and bread still served cold as a brick. Can they at least do room temperature? On the current flight had the omelette which was dry and lacked taste. Croissant was a brick on this flight. I have had better omelettes on domestic flights in F. Didn’t have issues with delay in garbage pick-up yet unimpressed overall. Could have left things as they were and saved all of the hype!

  3. @Don in ATL: Thanks for the comment! Deciding between meatballs and chicken parm —- what a wonderful dilemma! 🙂

    I’d use the T2 Sky Club. Make sure to account for about 30 minutes to get from there to TBIT. If you hit the shuttle timing just right it’s half that time. But better to be safe than sorry —- especially with an international flight.

  4. Bethfrommichigan

    I also flew on November 5 in comfort plus , DTW to LHR. My experience was very similar. The caprese salad was much better than I expected and pasta also waaay better than my recent Delta international experiences. The peach cocktail was average in its little plastic cup, and service for meals slow at best. But still, I was impressed as compared to other main cabin delta international flights.

  5. I have flown it and disliked it. The tray of Bellinis is Instead of regular pre-dinner beverage service. Not very many people even took the Bellinis, (too sweet) and then beverages were offered only with dinner. If you like a cocktail or other beverage before dinner, too bad.— it will all come at once. I had the same experience of sitting with a tray full of trash for over an hour. Also, the later snack pizza was inedible, and was not the item listed on the menu. When the woman in front of me questioned this, the attendant was rude and abrupt. This was in Comfort Plus.

  6. FNT Delta Diamond

    On LHR-BOS now in comfort plus. Two of the three menu choices are chicken. One is pasta. Not exactly inspiring. Supposedly, the entrees are bigger than before but they don’t look like it to me. Service is way slow. I couldn’t imagine a red-eye at night from the East Coast. They would be much better off skipping the cocktail and making that the first drink pass. Delta should also have separate flight attendants to serve meals instead of the same flight attendants doing a pass of drinks and then coming back with the meals. They could save 35 minutes or 45 minutes right there.

  7. I understand the service and trash pick-up was slow…but in all honesty: did you have somewhere else to go that speeding up the service would be a deal-breaker?

  8. @Scott: It was a nuisance when people wanted to get out of the row and use the restroom — fellow passengers having to hold trash, stow their tray tables while balancing said trash, maneuvering into the aisle to let the passenger out (either while still holding the trash or maybe putting it on their seats), and then repeating the process in reverse when the passenger returns.

    For me personally, I wasn’t able to put my laptop or tablet anywhere and get any work done.

  9. So I’ll ask the newb/dumb question: How do we identify flights with this level of service in the main cabin? Are they phasing in over the next year(s), or will they brand it with a specific name we can identify while making reservations?

  10. @Reed: Not at all a dumb question. It’s available on international flights scheduled for 6.5 hours or longer. Some international flights less than 6.5 hours featuring Delta One or Delta Premium Select also have the “experience.”

  11. Cindy Harper

    Thank you for your review !!! Delta flight attendant .

  12. Senior mama

    Everyone’s so busy ranting on about these changes that they’ve failed to realize that (in typical Delta fashion) Delta has brainwashed everyone to believe these are improvements when in reality, they now offer less than what other airlines offer.

    At American for example, you actually get more in main cabin. I’ll break it down: First comes a full beverage choice and bag of pretzels. Then the meal cart comes to give a meal tray which includes a salad, cheese and crackers, main meal (2 choices), bread with butter and dessert. Then half the flight attendants pickup trash while the others simultaneously offer another full beverage choice.

    At delta, you don’t get a choice for the first beverage like you do at AA. Don’t drink alcohol or you’re a kid? No “welcome” drink alternatives & you wait till after you get your meal. You only get a salad OR appetizer with your meal along with a piece of bread. Maybe they cut some things out to spend more on higher quality food? Who knows, maybe.. but no matter what, they’re preservative-filled heated-in-plastic frozen meals. How good can they really be? And I get comments from people all the time “it was delicious”. I don’t know why they feel that way. Maybe they like those frozen meals from the grocery store too. But seriously — its airplane food!!! Don’t ever expect to be dazzled by it!!

    So unless you’re just tickled pink over a warm wet napkin and paper menu and don’t care that you’re actually getting less to eat and drink then sure go believe Delta Air Lines is really doing something cutting edge… to me it seems like a waste of paper and pain in the [rear] for the flight crew. Especially since they’re adding all these froofy frills and no more flight attendants to help with the extra work. I feel bad they have to go through that!

  13. Kathleen Souder

    I was a loyal American flyer for years, until this one where my work started taking me to Africa so I did the status match challenge and hopped over to Delta. And I’m so glad I did. Their planes and products are so much better than American, with service they doesn’t make me feel like a nuisance. I just flew this upgraded service from ATL TO LHR ILin Comfort+ and have a very mixed reaction. The experience feels friendlier, the food good. But the welcome cocktail is a sad replacement for a pre dinner beverage service, when I’d prefer a G&T or a red wine before my meal. That being said, if I want an additional drink, the “anytime snack” service makes me think I can grab a glass of red wine with cheese and crackers whenever I want? Will test it flying back to ATL this weekend.

    Also, perhaps because I was on a 10 pm redeye out of ATL, no appetizer offered.

    And have to say the fruit and cinnamon bun service was pretty good. Might miss that yogurt, but it felt like an actual meal vs. a frozen snack.

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