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Meh: My Second Time with Delta’s New International Main Cabin Experience – Review (Part 2)

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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.


I wrote yesterday about my first time encountering Delta Air Lines’ new Main Cabin international experience (which is the same in Comfort+, too).  For the most part, I was quite impressed with the food and wine during my SLC to CDG flight last week.

But my trip back to the States — a London Heathrow to Atlanta hop — wasn’t very impressive.

Based on reader reaction to yesterday’s post as well as Twitter comments, it seems many people are underwhelmed by the new product — and displeased with the slow service times.

Here’s what my experience was like during the ride home.

Just like the first time, sleep kits awaited boarding passengers. Flight attendants distributed the menus much earlier than the SLC-CDG crew did on that flight.

Here’s the menu:

The food menu of Delta's Main Cabin international experience is seen on an Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

This was a veteran crew. One said she logged over 30 years on the job.

The crew offered Peach Bellinis. As I mentioned yesterday, I passed up the opportunity. I wasn’t crazy about the drink the first time it was offered. We received our hot towels and place settings, as well.

The flight attendants were visibly flustered, though, once it came time to actually start plating meals. For a couple of flight attendants, this was their inauguration into the new Main Cabin experience. (My flight was several days after the experience’s debut, so perhaps these particular FAs were in Delta One on the flight over to London or had an extended layover?)

Everyone!” a flight attendant called out while nearing the front of Comfort+, “Have your tray tables ready and placemats spread out for us!” Her voice carried an edge. But passengers grew tired of waiting for service to start (although this group commenced meal service faster than my SLC-CDG crew) and some put away their tables and rolled up their placemats.

Lunch Time in Delta’s International Main Cabin Experience

I chose the fruit & cheese appetizer and marinated chicken breast (though the gnocchi was a close second).

Marinated chicken breast, green beans, rice, bread, and fruit and cheese with almonds are featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

Even though I raved about the red wine on the flight over, I opted for club soda with my meal this time.

The cheese was fine. Not great, not bad. But fine. The almonds were chewy and seemed a bit moist.

The “fruit” part of “fruit and cheese” consisted of a small tomato and a few grapes. More grapes would have been nice.

A fruit and cheese appetizer with almonds is featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

The marinated chicken breast meal wasn’t as good as my delicious chicken marsala on the previous trip.

Marinated chicken breast, green beans, rice, and bread are featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

The meat was somewhat dry. The green beans weren’t particularly tasty; just sort of bland. The rice was good, though.

The meat was somewhat dry. The green beans weren't particularly tasty; just sort of bland. The rice was good, though.

This was an improvement from the international coach meals I’ve had on previous Delta flights, though.

I skipped the ice cream dessert. Passengers around me gave it plenty of “Mmm!”s and other compliments through mouths full of ice cream.

An Unacceptable Delay Picking Up Trash

Well over an hour passed from the time meals were distributed to when their trash was collected. Most people finished their lunch in about 15 minutes. So we sat there with garbage on our tray tables for about an hour.

Granted, it’s not like we had anywhere to go.

On the other hand, people wanted to use tablets or laptops on their tray tables or simply put them away — but couldn’t because of trash.

So they started putting it on the floor.

Meal trash on the floor during Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

Two people in my row resorted to placing their garbage at their feet. One of them visited the lav and reported she saw others doing the same.

Speaking of which —  tardy trash pick up is also an inconvenience for rows where someone in a middle or window seat needs to use the restroom, as may be expected relatively soon after eating. Everyone in the row must carefully balance their trash while stowing the tray tables. Then they either hold the garbage while standing up or place it on their seat while the passenger is at the lav. The rubbish rhumba takes place in reverse when the passenger returns from using the restroom.

When the flight attendants finally commenced trash pickup, I heard one say to another “I just finished the last row.” So it’s not like the flight attendants were sitting around not doing anything; they were busy serving everyone.

Reader FNT Delta Diamond suggested yesterday, “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.”

Bethfrommichigan added, “[Service] for meals (is) slow at best.

“Almost There” Small Meal

About 90 minutes before landing in Atlanta, flight attendants served us the “Almost There” small meal. I selected the Barbecue Chicken Pizza Twist.

A barbecue chicken wrap is featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

It’s reminiscent of something one might find available at a convenience store.

A barbecue chicken wrap is featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

The chicken was OK. The sauce was very spicy. Thank goodness there was some chocolate mousse to put out the flames!

Chocolate mousse is featured as part of Delta's Main Cabin international experience as seen on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

The mousse was sweet, a little rich, and quite good.

When the flight attendants returned to take everyone’s plates and trash, they overlooked me because they were so rushed. A couple of fellow passengers looked at my table and simply shook their heads after the cart moved down the aisle.

I pressed the flight attendant call button.

After seven minutes of no response, I bussed my own plate to the Delta One galley. The D1 flight attendants looked a little surprised and frustrated trash collection was not going well.

Why So Many Hiccups?

This is what I find rather confounding: Delta said it “had a design team comprised of more than 20 flight attendants who’ve been leading the charge, rigorously testing and refining the service along the way to get it just right. The airline tested this service on more than 1,200 flights – making it the longest-tested service in Delta’s history.” – bold mine

So why does it seem so many flight attendants are having difficulty with the new service created by their comrades who made sure the experience is “just right”?

“I’ll have to go on Facebook tonight and see what everyone’s saying,” a flight attendant on my flight grumbled. “I’m on two or three of those flight attendant groups. I’m sure there will be plenty (to read).”

When asked what she thought of the new Main Cabin international experience, a different flight attendant was overhead simply stating, “Hate it” and later added, “It’ll just take some time to work out the kinks.”

I don’t blame the flight attendants. They’re going as fast as they can while getting used to a new system.

But I’m curious which flight attendants Delta employed to help design this process; how much experience do they have actually working flights? Are they recent graduates on reserve? Or maybe a sharp crew of FAs contributed great suggestions, only for Delta to go another direction while giving them the backhanded credit. I understand that no product rollout is perfect. But if this were tested over a thousand times, wouldn’t it be almost down to a science?

Overall, Though

I couldn’t care less about the hot wipe towel service or Bellinis. But if passengers as a whole love it, hey, great. The upgraded food and wine certainly is impressive. If Delta can get the service’s timing down — and I mean way down — they’ll have a quality product for coach passengers.

— Chris


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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3 Comments

  1. I sat 3 rows from the back on Sunday and let’s say that the 45 minutes you waited for trash was the 45 minutes we waited for food once the carts rolled out. Also, they ran out of our first choice of everything: the meal, the appetizer, and the snack. I wouldn’t say it was a great experience. It was better in a row or two behind comfort+ where service seemed faster (it wasn’t, but the time between serving a trash pickup was reasonable) and all the food first choices were available.

  2. sandie knopf

    just flew back from Paris to LA on Delta. Worse airlines ever. Yes, the food was good, but the seating (like comfort? they call that comfort? ) it was misery

  3. I’m old enough to remember when that food would’ve been unacceptable in first class on a continental airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas.

    It’s unbelievable how much the bar has been lowered to consider your service/food/seat even remotely acceptable for Delta’s flagship international service. Meanwhile Delta leads the league in asking for an absurd amount of miles to be able to experience their lovely international service. I received the email this week for a Delta flash sale on award trips to Europe. I dropped what I was doing and checked flights for December using all the required parameters. As God is my witness, the “flash sale” showed me 480K miles required for a round-trip on Delta one. That is traveling on a Tuesday and returning on a Wednesday. I went to the United site and quickly booked 2 Biz class tickets on United and Austrian air for 130K per ticket.

    2020 will be my first year in 25+ years that I will be a free agent flyer.

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