Among the major U.S. airlines, Delta has long had the best economy class product. In fact, their major competitors, United and American, really aren’t close at this point.
However, in the premium cabin market, things aren’t as clear cut, and competition has been heating up lately. One key item to note up front is that while the name Delta One sounds like a name for a first-class product, Delta One is actually a business class product. This applies to both the transcontinental and international versions. Therefore, when making comparisons to other premium cabin products, business class is the proper benchmark.
First class service is being phased out completely by United and significantly reduced by American. On the routes and planes where first class service remains, you can often find a better product than Delta One, but it isn’t a true apples to apples comparison.
In this post, we will cover Delta One service on transcontinental and international routes, as well as compare them to their major competitors.
Delta One Transcon Service
Delta’s transcon version of Delta One is a solid product, but has some inconsistencies based on the type of aircraft. Delta operates this service on its JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX routes. There are three types of planes, each with its own configuration:
- 757 – This is most frequently operated aircraft and the Delta One cabin has 16 seats in a staggered 2×2 configuration with fully lie-flat seats. Window seats do not have direct aisle access, so if you can schedule your flight on one of the other two options below, you will likely find the experience more enjoyable.
- 767 – The Delta One cabin has 26 seats in a staggered 1x2x1 configuration. Every seat has direct aisle access.
- A330 – This is the best of the three options. There are 34 seats in a 1x2x1 reverse herringbone configuration. This cabin has the most privacy and in fact is operated on international routes as well.
Comparing Delta One Transcon to United and American
American is the only one of the three legacy airlines that still operates a first-class cabin on its transcon routes. American also has the most consistent offering with all flights being operated by A321 aircraft. There are 10 first class seats in a 1×1 configuration with all seats angled toward the window. The business class cabin has 20 seats in a 2×2 configuration. The seats are staggered and slightly angled toward the window, so there is some privacy, though not as much as in first.
United operates most flights on 757 aircraft. Its premium cabin has 24 seats arranged in a 2×2 configuration and slightly angled toward the windows, similar to American’s business class product described above.
Our ranking of these options is as follows:
- American first-class
- Delta One A330
- Delta One 767
- American business-class A330
- Delta One 757
- United p.s. 757
Delta One International Service
Delta operates a plethora of aircraft on international routes and the type of seat, configuration, level of privacy, and comfort can vary considerably. One thing that is consistent is the level of service. Delta One cabin crew are very well trained and attentive. Regardless of the aircraft, you can expect the crew to be proactively trying to make your experience enjoyable. This consistent “soft product” separates Delta from both United and American. United has significant service inconsistencies left over from its merger with Continental, as does American from its relatively recent merger with US Airways.
Another area where Delta One receives high marks is their sleeping amenities. Delta One passengers receive Westin Heavenly In-Flight bedding. This includes a hypoallergenic sleeping pillow nearly the size of a full size pillow, a lumbar pillow for flights over 12 hours, as well as an oversized comforter. To many passengers, it feels more like sleeping in a hotel than a plane.
The 747 (aka Queen of the Skies) is being phased out by almost every airline in the world in favor of newer, more efficient aircraft. Delta still operates this plane on a few routes, and the Delta One product on the upper class is one of the best and most spacious business class products in the world. It may be worth scheduling a trip to enjoy this bird before she is retired forever. They are scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2017.
The Delta One cabin is spread across both the lower and upper decks. There are actually three total configurations with the lower deck containing a combination of 1×1 and 1x1x1 in the nose cone, the standard 1x2x1 reverse herringbone configuration in the main portion of the business class cabin.
However the real treat is in the upper deck: All seats are in a 1×1 configuration. Many airlines with business class on the upper deck use a 2×2 configuration, so you get to enjoy a cabin that is twice as spacious, while also enjoying the views from the upper deck windows.
The remainder of Delta’s long haul fleet is a bit of mixed bag of newer and older aircraft with different configurations.
The most numerous plane in the long haul fleet is the 767. The Delta One cabin has an odd 1x2x1 staggered configuration. For the window seats, every other seat is either close to the window, or closer to the aisle. Those that are close to the window are much more private, but also have much small foot cubbies, which makes them less comfortable, especially for sleeping. The 2 center seats are arranged in a similar manner.
Delta also operates a smaller number of 777s, which offer a 1x2x1 herringbone configuration with all seats angled toward the aisles.
The A330 is a growing part of the fleet, with many planes on order and scheduled to replace older 767s. These planes tend to have the most modern version of the Delta One cabin, with a private 1x2x1 reverse herringbone configuration.
Comparing Delta One International to United and American
American has the most consistent hard product of the 3 carriers, with the vast majority of its long haul fleet using a 1x2x1 reverse herringbone configuration in business class. United has by far the worst business class offering with very tight 2x1x2 seating on its 767s, ridiculous 2x4x2 on its 777s, and 2x2x2 on its 787s. This will get remarkably better as United takes deliveries of new planes with updated “Polaris” business class, but until then, it’s a product to avoid.