In praise of an aging lie-flat and stellar crew on Delta 767-300

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Who doesn’t love a surprise? Sure, there are bad surprises, like the time China Airlines surprised me by going on strike and canceling my flight. But there are definitely good ones, and thankfully this passenger experience falls into the latter.

It was an otherwise normal experience checking in at the Sky Priority counter in Seattle for a recent Delta Air Lines flight to Seoul, South Korea. My three checked bags were tagged and whisked away, and my Comfort+ ticket printed out. A visit to Delta’s lounge in Terminal A yielded a nice breakfast. Delta is nothing if not consistent.

Yet while checking the message board at the gate, I noticed that my seat had been given away to someone on standby. I checked at the counter, and discovered I’d been upgraded to seat 1D, in Delta One. It turns out that the airline had oversold coach, and a few frequent fliers had become lucky winners. I was thrilled.

I settled into the seat, partook in a preflight orange juice, and the purser took my order for lunch. The flight, operated on a Boeing 767-300, took off 30 minutes late. The tardy departure was worrisome given I had a connection of 60 minutes in Seoul, but that was 12 hours from being your writer’s problem.

The first of two meal services began not long after departure. I opted for the Korean service for lunch. A trio of appetizers was absolutely delicious, with the seasoned beef in pine nut sauce being the star of the show. The entree, bibimbap, was just so-so.

Dessert followed not long afterward, and after waffling on which one to choose, the crew gave me both the classic Delta ice cream sundae and a mango cake. The sundae took the win.

A jaunt through Delta’s inflight entertainment proved worthwhile, as it almost always does. The airline delivers its ‘Delta Studio’ content via both seatback screen and a streaming app for passengers’ own devices.

While the app offered more of the type of content I’m interested in watching, I confess I hate having to hold up my phone for two hours, and instead chose seatback IFE. The system was well-stocked and easy to use. I watched a few movies and a handful of TV shows. The only real drawback was the screen size, which on Delta’s Boeing 767-300s are woefully small.

The seat itself is not Delta’s latest and greatest. I really didn’t count how many seats there were since I was in row one, but it was arranged in a 1-2-1 direct aisle access for all configuration. All seats face forward and alternate in a staggered fashion, with the footwell under the seat in front of you.

Installed nearly a decade ago, the seats show their age both in scuff marks and against Delta’s own high hard product standards. The screens are small, and storage space poor. But the international power port and USB charger worked. The tray table was pleasantly clean, and the seat controls worked well albeit noisily.

The seat’s best feature is that it lies flat, something I put to use a handful of times on the long flight. Combined with Delta’s Westin Heavenly bedding, I slept a total of three hours.

Some find the seat tight and short, owing to the forward facing layout and tapered footwell, but I’m a side-sleeper and can’t say I found it bothersome.
Wi-Fi was provided by Gogo, but per usual I passed up the obscene pricing that started at $8 for 30 minutes of browsing, and used the free messaging instead.

Rotation
The second meal service began roughly an hour before landing. Looking for something light and easy, I chose the fresh fruit, granola, and yogurt. The granola was thoroughly bland and half of the fruit was still frozen. I should’ve chosen the quiche.

The real standout on this flight was the crew, which could not have been more on point. Friendly, available but not overbearing, they were an absolute delight. Plates were removed quickly, drinks refilled, and the gallery chat engaging. They even tracked down my connecting gate in Seoul before landing, and they might have passed me an extra bottle of bourbon in case it didn’t pan out. Lucky for me, I didn’t need it.

Overall, Delta’s Boeing 767-300 isn’t the cream of the crop in terms of hard product and hasn’t been for several years now. Do I wish I’d [gotten even luckier and] been on the Airbus A330 or A50? Definitely. But a free upgrade is a free upgrade, folks. And I’ll take a surprise bump up to an aging lie-flat with a stellar crew over economy class every time with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

All images are credited to the author, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

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3 Comments

  1. Todd Peterson

    I’m also based in SEA. I’ve taken DL 198 from ICN-SEA twice in the past six months. Both times have been in business class. I wholeheartedly agree that even an aging lie-flat seat is dramatically better than even the Comfort+ economy seats on Delta’s 767-300ER (or most any eco seat), and even more so when it’s a free upgrade.

    However, my experience with the crew has been much different. On my last flight, just a few days ago, I was seated in 7D. The crew is a mix of American and Korean FA’s. One of the two American FA’s that serviced me on the flight was apathetic and carried an attitude. For example, when I boarded she asked if I wanted champagne or another drink. I was thirsty from a hot and humid day in Seoul, so I asked for water. She picked up the small Evian bottle placed at each seat before the flight, held it up and shook it as to say, “here you are,” then set it down and walked away without saying a word. She was similarly indifferent during meal services and other interactions. Other FA’s were nice enough, but none as courteous and helpful as those you regularly find on other Asian carriers (even Delta’s partner Korean). When combined with the worn out seats, too narrow for my shoulders to lie flat seats, loud and dry cabin (compared to modern airliners), these flights on the Delta 767-300ER have been the least comfortable that I’ve taken in years, and that includes AirAsia X’s A330 lie-flat angled seats and shameful soft product. As a heavy traveler paying for a premium fare, I expect a lot more.

    Delta was due to start running their new A330neo on this route August 1, 2019, but that has been delayed until later October 2019. The new plane will vastly improve the hard product, but without an equally big upgrade to the soft product and crew service, next time I will be flying either Korean or JAL, despite the stopover in Japan.

  2. Tom BLUM

    Interesting. You got bumped UP and are complaining. Ungrateful. Next time go back to the seat you paid for.

  3. Fred Kopec

    All of Delta’s international fleet is getting all new cabins. It takes a bit of time to do almost 400 airplanes. The 777 & 767-400’s are almost done next comes the 767-300 and the 330’s. The A350 ,A220 & A330-900 come delivered with Delta One.

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