Hello Everyone! This is a trip report modeled off of those done at The Points Guy which you can view here. I hope to work at TPG as an intern in college and write more flight reviews. This is the fourth trip report i’ve written and would really appreciate if after you read this one you check the other ones too!
LAX-ORD United 737-800 First
ORD-ALB United CRJ-700 First
LAX-ORD Alaska 737-900 First
Finally, feedback is welcome but please be kind. Enjoy!
I booked this flight around three weeks ago to go visit some family I have in upstate NY. The flight one way between LAX and ALB with a connection in Detroit was booked in first class for 46,500 miles, plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. I was exceptionally happy when I found this flight as the LAX-DTW leg was operated on Delta’s flagship A350, with the Delta One suites on board. I was also quite delighted that I found this award availability on the exact dates I wanted. Anyone familiar with SkyMiles knows how utterly frustrating finding award availability using the program can be. To put into perspective: this flight normally would have been well over 160k+ miles (one way!) United’s award charts typically release seats to MileagePlus members at 50k miles one way (in first), so this beats that and American is often around the same price but sometimes drops to 25k miles. Overall I was really happy with the deal I had managed to pull, and the first leg was a red eye, so having a flat bed should have been significant.
Check In and Ground Experience
Oh boy, here’s where Delta faces its biggest problems. If there was one word I would use to describe Delta’s ground experience at LAX during the pandemic it would be hell. Not only was it terribly organized, it was also understaffed and severely crowded. I checked in through the specific priority check in area, assuming it was the Delta One check in, and only after I had waited 20+ minutes in the priority lane and finally checked in did I hear an agent calling out that the Delta One check in was ‘over there and not over here’. The check in area was so crowded that I didn’t even get to take a picture of the Delta One sign at check in at LAX which was rather disappointing.
Due to the fact that I was seated in first I was told to use the priority lane: it didn’t make a difference. Security was another 20 minute wait, and when I finally got through I was still pulling my items out of the bin when the TSA agent was pulling the bin out from under my hands. So feeling harassed I walked barefoot over to a bench and tied my shoes.
Now onto the SkyClub. To get to the SkyClub you have to walk up around 2 flights of stairs that are literally right in the middle of the terminal so the experience already starts out awkward. If you’re lucky you won’t have a line, if you’re me you weren’t lucky. The line was again over 20+ minutes long, with agents coming out and talking to people consistently. One came up to me and asked me what I was using to access the lounge, I told her my boarding pass and she asked if I was ‘Delta One’, I nodded yes. Once I finally got to the front of the line the check in agent (Only one staffed despite having a line of 15+ people) asked for my boarding pass. After it didn’t scan she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry sir, access is only granted to those in first class”. She said all this despite my boarding pass saying “Sky Priority”, “Delta One” and my seat number, “7D”.
So I walked down the stairs, back into the noisy, hot, and crowded terminal and looked around for a seat. After about 10 minutes I found one. I enjoy the fact that Delta takes safety so seriously however, i’ve never felt less safe traveling during covid. The terminal was insanely packed, and I saw several people not wearing a mask at all, or not wearing one correctly.
Boarding is where the real problems occur. Our flight on the A350 and a flight to Atlanta on an A321 were both departing within 10-20 minutes of each other. Delta still blocks seats (until May 1st) so our plane was only operating at 65% capacity, and it was still shoulder to shoulder crowded. The gate area was ridiculously small and to have two departures that close to each other, especially one which is a wide body was very poor planning. This caused mass chaos, and no order for boarding, plus no rules or acknowledgment of social distancing on the passengers behalf.
Delta just put more than 300 million into remodeling this terminal, yet it’s still dysfunctional and too small for the aircraft they’re trying to operate out of it. It honestly made me wish I was in the lackluster United Terminal which has adequate seating, and enough space. Frankly I felt disappointed and unwelcome as a premium passenger with Delta at LAX and don’t look forward to a return any time soon.
Here is where Delta pulls through. The Delta One suite has some flaws but overall is a functional, smart, and well thought out business class seat. With a flat bed, and a sliding door you can encase yourself in a cocoon, and fall asleep. My one gripe with the hard product is that there are two control panels for the motor functions of the seat, and when you are in lie flat mode, and on your side your back or hip will hit the lower seat controls and you will start moving randomly. Other than that, the hard product of the seat was phenomenal, and I would have no problem sitting in it for the 13 hours to Asia or Europe.
![POV in the seat Delta One|450x600]
What it looks like when you are in Lie-Flat mode and the suite door is closed. It feels incredibly private.
Service, and Soft product
This is another spot where Delta made me feel not valued as a premium passenger. Not only was the soft product bad, it practically didn’t exist. To start Delta prides themselves on their A350 and they make sure you know it too. When booking it tells you “flagship A350” and on the app, and website it says your name in a different color when talking about your seat assignment because you are in “Delta One”. Yet, you’re not actually in Delta One, you’re sitting in one of the seats but that’s about it, none of the benefits of flying Delta One seemed to be available for this flight. You don’t have access to the Sky Club so already your not having the ground experience Delta wants to promote to their premium passengers, and then you board the flight.This flight was a red eye and left 15 minutes past midnight, yet you board and there is no bedding at your seat, not even a pillow or a blanket. On internationally operated Delta One flights (it appears) they offer their Westin Heavenly bedding which is supposed to be delightful. Yet on this redeye flight there was not even a whisper of it. There is also unfortunately no amenity kit, which is normally another Delta One strong point considering they are done by TUMI.
Once you sit down, no pre departure beverage was offered. My throat was rather parched and I had to ask a flight attendant for water, as opposed to it being at your seat already. Once in the sky snack packs and boxes were passed out. The pacs were less than what United gives their premium passengers, and same goes for the snack box. The snack box included, Hummus, Multi grain tortilla chips, roasted almonds, and a mini Toblerone bar. And the packs included water, a biscoff, and some almonds. Once we were in the air flight attendants passed out the snack boxes and disappeared. When I awoke from my nap, I hit the call button and asked for an apple juice. Delta isn’t serving anything other than water: “We don’t do that, I can give you water though”. This isn’t a big deal but carriers like United are going back to full service next month on some of their flights, and Delta’s only winning hand is that they are clean. Yet my experience at LAX would beg to differ.
Service on this flight was something that could be improved upon. Along with the flight attendants disappearing after they passed out snacks and water, they were dull and did not seem to want to be there. Everything seemed very informal and not professional which is not something I would expect from Delta at all. If you compare this to my Alaska flight where I was greeted by my last name the whole flight, it’s a big difference. Overall I didn’t get the rest I was hoping for. One good thing is that I was able to get some extra water from the crew before deboarding.
The snack bag served to the premium passengers onboard this red eye.
The snack box.
This flight was something that I had been looking forward to for months. Along with the hype Delta creates about their A350, it’s also a very well known and favorite aircraft among frequent travelers, and aviation enthusiasts, meaning the let down was even harder.
The sunrise in Detroit definitely lifted my mood.
The main problem with this flight is Delta sells it as Delta One, when it’s not. This flight would have been over $1,000 had I paid cash for the one way fair. Delta’s charging this because it’s "Delta One’’ and it’s their flagship aircraft, yet the only thing I experienced that was Delta One was the seat. Many other carriers sell “business class” seats as domestic first so the buyer knows what they are getting, Delta decided to not do that, which in my opinion is a big mistake, and feels like a swindle. The pandemic gave carriers a massive opportunity to fly their most recognized, and award winning aircraft domestically, and Delta took advantage of it. It’s a shame, that all they brought was the plane.
Overall I landed in Detroit tired thanks to the lack of any soft product, and disappointed in Delta. In my last review of United transcon service I whined about the inconsistency that plagues United. Yet I’m starting to worry that Delta caught a case of the same disease, when America’s most consistent airline is not consistent and leaves premium passengers out to dry, it’s a sign to worry. When you build a reputation like Delta’s it’s incredibly difficult to keep it, and as this pandemic continues to drag on Delta needs to make some major changes to make sure they don’t lose it.
For the Future
I also have my returning and second leg of this trip to write so look out for those trip reports too!