Flying is now such a routine thing for some of us business travellers that it is like taking a car journey. So how do you think Delta stacks up in my experience?
Let’s be honest I am someone who has taken a lot of flights and I really mean a lot! I’ve lost count. Since May 2000 to the present day there has hardly been a month when I haven’t got onto a plane. In the months that I have I could maybe take up to 6-8 flights in that trip or over that month.
I can’t tell you how many flights I’ve taken but it is in the thousands. Of those I would say I’ve taken the most flights with KLM however Delta would surely be the second most frequently used airline.
My flights with Delta are due to my need to visit various locations in the US. The Manchester to Atlanta flight is one I’ve taken so many times over the last dozen years it is untrue. With all this experience I can truly say that my flights with Delta have never been great.
So what do I think of the Delta experience as a frequent business class traveller:-
The first time I flew with Delta I was in slight awe to see what appeared to be large leather seats. Great luxury I thought. However overall I’ve never found them overly comfortable and not a great inducer of sleep when I take an overnight flight.
With so many competitors upgrading to flat bed seats I’m baffled as to why it appears that Delta have not moved towards this with Business Class seats. The foot space is pretty reasonable in Business Class so at least that is something. Although with a window seat on some older aircraft it can be quite tricky to make your way to the toilet if the seat in front has been reclined.
I admit I’m fortunate that my company pays for me to fly Business Class. To be fair if this wasn’t the case for my long haul flights then I don’t know how I could have done this job for so long.
So as a Business Class traveller I know my tickets cost thousands of pounds rather than hundreds. For this price you’d expect some luxurious privileges. Somehow though when it comes to the in-flight entertainment I think Delta certainly come up short. I find the selection of films relatively limited and can often not be tempted to watch any of them. Compare this to competitor entertainment systems such as ICE from Emirates then you can see what the standard can be.
There is also a limited selection of TV programmes and offerings from such as Showtime and HBO. Yet when I choose one of these I receive a message of “This programme is complimentary”. Gee thanks I didn’t want to pay for it anyway when so much money has been paid for my ticket.
The screen is often quite small. On one of my recent flights on a Boeing 767 I had one of the typical small screens which means that you can’t read any writing on the screen. My flight with Delta a few weeks prior to this one did have a larger screen yet sadly I can’t recall which type of aircraft this was.
The headphones are certainly nothing special. They look and feel quite cheap, if not in fact tinny. The sound isn’t great but at least it managed to drown out the sound of the guy sat behind me who seemed determined to sniff throughout the 8 hour flight.
I will say though that Delta have recently updated their flight safety video. This is actually quite funny and definitely worth watching if you want a chuckle. Hold on, it’s the safety video, you should be watching it anyway.
Flight announcements and cost cutting
On my most recent flight from Manchester to Atlanta I was surprised with some announcements. Whilst trying to watch a film my viewing was paused as an announcement came over the Business Class cabin informing us of the meal choices for the Economy Class Cabin. Do we really care? Why can’t the Economy Cabin receive a leaflet with the options like I did? Oh yes, of course it is cost cutting. Just like the charges for alcohol on the flight when other airlines from other countries can provide a complimentary drink.
Charges for drinks is even more complicated when they announce that they only accept credit cards for payments, not cash. So wait, there are people, particularly some Americans who don’t have a great credit score so they don’t have a credit card. There are also people who as a lifestyle choice don’t have a credit card. Okay, they won’t be drinking alcohol (I hope) but what if a teenager is travelling alone and wants to buy something from your Duty Free? All these people have been excluded. Good work Delta.
Airline food often gets a bad press and in my view this is sometimes (yes I said sometimes) unfair. When it comes to Delta though I’m not exactly jumping for joy to eat their food.
Most recently I ordered a chicken dish for my main dish for dinner. I found the chicken very dry. It was tough to chew and even with a covering of some sauce the food was far from enjoyable.
Breakfast is another joke with Delta and indeed many airlines from the US. You’ve tried your best to get some sleep on an overnight flight and need some nourishment to help you get through passport control once you get on the ground.
Delta’s cost cutting really strikes here. My choice involves either a bowl of cereal or a hot dish. Yes that is right “either”. You can have one or the other but not both. Numerous other airlines of a higher quality provide a tray which includes a bowl of cereal, bowl of fresh fruit then you have a choice of a hot dish. Effectively you can have both. I don’t want to land at the airport and be focused on trying to find some food to fill me up prior to a 2-4 hour journey home. Thanks Delta for your generosity.
Disembark at your peril
I’ve already explained that many of my flights are Business Class. With a premium price ticket you expect a certain level of service to come with this. Okay I’m a bit of a travel snob, (I admit this) but crikey at thousands of pounds for a ticket I think I can expect that.
It simply boils down to disembarking the plane once we’ve landed. Tradition (and indeed expectation in Business Class) is that the premium cabin leaves the plane first. Yet time and time again I am near the back of my cabin to leave the plane and see numerous Economy Class people being allowed off before me. In fact some of them are jockeying for position with me to get off! Give it a rest will you Delta and sort it out. If Economy Class are to disembark before the Business Class cabin then let them pay a premium for the privilege.
Oh hail the great leader
The safety video begins with a little speech from the CEO of Delta, the charming Richard Anderson. He speaks of how Delta have the “Worlds Best Employees”. Excuse me but you haven’t got the best airline, certainly not from my extensive experience so how did you managed to have the best employees?
All this bigging up of how great we are (that “we” means Delta) is quite off putting to us customers, well certainly for a conservative Brit such as myself. Stop being so full of your own self importance and let me tell you how good or bad you are as opposed to you telling me. No, hold on a minute, maybe you are right? Didn’t you know that I am the best ever passenger and every airline ever is just desperate to get my business. (Sickly, isn’t it?)
Mr Anderson also failed to endear himself to me in the last few years. This dates back to 2011 when my luggage was delayed for more than 24 hours after I arrived in the US. In need of clothing and toiletries I had to make some basic purchases so that I was suitably attired to go to work. Keeping track of my costs I submitted my receipts in line with the airlines procedures for compensation.
Time passed and then a little more time passed. I heard nothing back from Delta other than a standard acknowledgement letter saying that they would process my claim within a set period of time. Unfortunately this was very misleading as it took a far greater period of time than this.
After a couple of months I’d not received my compensation. I followed this up with a rather expensive call from the UK to the US where my claim was to be processed. Over the next few months I made this call numerous times. The explanations I received included apologies that my claim was for some reason not processed and it would be now or that the cheque was already in the post. Well no, it wasn’t. Remember of course this is Delta, the worlds best employees.
After many months of phone calls, re-faxing my claim and even writing in to try to get my claim processed I tried to elevate the matter. Yes, you guessed it I wrote to the CEO of Delta, Mr Richard Anderson. This leader of such a great team of employees did not even acknowledge my letter! Does he not have a PA or a team of people to send out bog standard and impersonal acknowledgement letters? Of course not, this is a great company.
After around 10 months waiting for my standard delayed luggage claim I was almost ready to give up. Breaking with the advice of only directing my queries to the US processing centre I actually contacted Delta of Europe based in France. I found a sympathetic and supportive voice here. They investigated and processed my claim within a month and I finally received the money to which I was entitled. This was rounded off with my Delta friend e-mailing me an apology and saying very briefly that it wasn’t worth going into the detail as to what went wrong with my claim but it was all the fault of Delta. Of course this struck me as a surprise since Mr Anderson keeps telling me that they have the “Worlds Best Employees”.
The cabin crew of Delta for me fall into three categories. From my experience of over a decade I would say around 30% are sincere, considerate and helpful. They are genuine in their approach, have a smile with meaning and a courtesy which is admirable.
There are then around 25% who are truly annoying. They are over the top, loud and full of false nicely nice conversation which nobody but those involved really want to hear. Their smile is so fake and insincere it is almost vomit inducing. It is possible to be warm, friendly and welcoming without being overbearing, such a shame that these individuals can’t find that level.
Then I would say the remaining 45% of the cabin crew don’t know how to smile at all! Working in the service industry seems quite lost on them. A warm welcome is not something they are able to do. It is just so visible that they just love their job, they really do. Occasionally they forget to bring that glass of water you requested or they just forget to ask you if you want something when they’ve virtually asked the rest of the cabin. I am always polite and remember my P’s and Q’s yet somehow they don’t. Oh it must be tough being the best employees in the world.
To restore some balance there are some gems in the Delta cabin crew. Yet somehow I tend to find these on the US domestic flights rather than international ones. One of the best ever announcements I heard was from a flight attendant on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas. On arriving she announced “Please be careful when opening the overhead cabins as shift happens”.
After years of experience this is my view of flying with Delta. The flights are at risk of frustration for a range of reasons. At best Delta are average as an airline to travel with and should learn more from their foreign competitors on what good service is all about.
What are your thoughts on Delta? Do you like or loathe them? Please leave your views in the comments box below.
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