Upon takeoff, enjoy Delta’s new Bellini cocktail with sparkling wine and peach nectar mix.
Delta adds more luxury to its Main Cabin experience
THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2019 - 12:00am

We all know the experience of boarding a flight and passing through the Business or First Class section towards our regular coach seats while enviously eyeing the passengers in front, already nestled in their seats, receiving hot towels and welcome drinks.

Well, Delta Airlines has just exported those touches of luxury to the Main Cabin on all its international flights. Three cheers for democracy!

That’s right. Starting last Nov. 5, Delta introduced a number of goodies and amenities on its international flights that make flying in Economy Class more enjoyable than ever.

I’ll be going through those added extras in a bit, but first things first: Delta came up with its game-changing Main Cabin Experience after a thorough review of customer service feedbacks surveys (some 1,800 forms over the course of 14,000 flying hours, plus input from 24 Delta flight attendants). The results were clear: people want a little more pampering in the air.

At least, that was my takeaway, checking out Delta’s upgraded Main Cabin Experience for myself during a round-trip flight to frigid Boston, Massachusetts, just in time for one of the season’s biggest cold snaps. Fortunately, the attentive care I received and all the upgraded service helped warm me up before my visit to the snowy northeast.

Your upgraded Delta service begins as you step aboard. Smiles and welcomes are the norm, which makes finding your seat in the main cabin a bit friendlier. As I entered and took my seat on the B767-300 bound for Narita, I noticed a Delta attendant wearing a different type of gray vest making the rounds with passengers. This was our purser, Richard. In another enhancement of Delta’s service, Delta has added some 3,000 pursers to the main cabin to give extra-personal service and meet most passenger requests. (Richard came up to me sometime after takeoff to greet me personally, asking me to call if I needed anything special; I explained I just wanted to blend in and enjoy the new upgrades.)

Next, before takeoff, I settled in to inspect the free Wifi. As part of its main cabin upgrades, Delta recently added free messaging, entertainment and in-flight Internet — and it actually works! Just turn your cellphone to Airplane Mode, hit “DeltaWifi,” and you’re good to go.

I fired off a few text messages, checked my email, then looked over the amenities offered by our flight attendant: instead of the keepsake cloth travel bag usually offered in Business, Main Cabin passengers now get a special travel kit (with eyeshade, towelette and refreshed earplugs), plus a set of cloth slippers (not paper). Those slippers lasted me all the way through three flights to Boston.

Once we were strapped in, and takeoff was complete, the real pampering began.

If you’ve traveled to any beach resort in the Philippines, you know that warm feeling that comes when someone hands you a welcome drink with a smile. 

On Delta flights now, Main Cabin passengers have that same experience upon takeoff: within minutes, Bellinis (for passengers 21 or older) and hot towels are passed around.

It’s details like this  something refreshing, like a cocktail or beverage, as you settle in  that can be key to flying comfort. Personally, I’m not much of a morning cocktail person, but for an early flight, it does make things more pleasant.

Bellinis are a switch from the Mimosas (guava or orange juice mixed with champagne) usually served in Business or First Class: it’s a cocktail curated with Delta Master Cuvee with Mionetto sparkling wine and infused with Hella Cocktail Co. Peach Bellini Premium Mixer. So we enjoyed our Bellinis, toweled off the morning sun, and settled in to the kind of luxury you find in the rest of the plane.

Next, we were presented with an upgraded menu, called the “Enhanced Dining Experience” for Main Cabin passengers.

The flight attendant laid out a placemat (this is new!) on the tray table, gave us each a personal bottle of Evian water and a set of folded cutlery (even this is an improvement: it’s still plastic, but nicer) while offering this invite: “Would you like to join us for lunch?”

Looking through the menu, broken up into segments, I noticed the enhanced menu now offers both a choice of appetizers and main entrees (for my first leg to Narita, it was between Roasted Vegetable Hummus or Antipasti Salad for appetizer, and Pork Katsu Don, Grilled Chicken Breast or vegetarian Penna Pasta for the mains). The entrees are larger, and the menu has adopted favorite dishes from the Delta One Business Class section, such as the Harissa shrimp appetizer. And unlike your old Economy meal experience, where dessert is crammed into the corner of a plastic cafeteria tray, dessert (usually a cup of Häagen-Dazs or Carmen’s Ice Cream) is now served separately with coffee or tea. Cool.

This bistro-style menu raises Delta’s Main Cabin dining to best-in-class levels, and they offer a rather extensive drink menu — everything from juices and soft drinks to Starbucks coffee and Courvoisier Cognac. This is a far cry from the “boxed sandwich” snack you’re presented with on typical short-haul Economy flight experiences; this was an actual meal.

The menu goes further, laying out your trip in segments: there’s Settling In (amenities, in-flight entertainment, WiFi service); Let’s Go (hot towel, bottled water, welcome cocktail); Wine & Dine (meal, drinks); Rest & Relax (dream or be entertained); Halfway There (for longer flights, including a variety of snacks, like Tillamook cheese, Oreos, Kind bars and the airline’s signature Biscoff cookies); Refresh & Recharge (hot towel, snack); and Fond Farewell (until next time).

For those who live and breathe by itineraries (basically, we in the media), it’s a welcome change to have your flight goodies and options all laid out in a special menu, point by point. It shows actual care for the customer.

So why this special attention to the Main Cabin?

“Delta is making a bold statement with this new experience,” says director of In-Flight Service Jaime Jewell. “There’s nobody out there doing what we’re doing in the cabin, and paying attention.”

Adds Quinette D., Delta In-Flight Service SEA: “It allows us to say to our customers, ‘Thank you for flying Delta,’ whether you’re sitting in the front of the craft, or the back of the craft.”

Long-Haul comfort

From Narita, I transferred to Delta’s Airbus A350-900 bound for Detroit and eventually Boston. Before boarding, I was met by Delta concierge Tamiko Ishimatsu, who led me to my gate where I also met Delta supervisor Wataru Ohya. “We’re doing our best to make the Delta flying experience even better,” Tamiko explained, before noting that Delta will be transferring its flights to Haneda Airport by March 28, 2020, to meet the expanding business traveler segment wanting quicker access to Tokyo.

There’s another thing that makes traveling on Delta easier now: the enhanced Fly Delta phone app helps you check in quicker, receive flight updates and notifications, and track your luggage en route to your destination (and by the way, being secure in the knowledge that your bag made it through all your connecting flights via Delta’s Radio Frequency Identification tracking technology, introduced in 2016 — that’s a big thing). Delta One passengers can even pre-select their entrée options for long-haul flights. You’ll even get text messages in the airport if they’ve changed your departure gate. It’s like having a Delta butler in your pocket.

Aboard the A350-900, with a bigger space to relax and unwind, I once again settled in to the “Welcome aboard!” greetings, and listened to the friendly banter of our two flight attendants as they distributed hot towels and Bellinis.

For my main meal, I chose between Braised Beef and Adobo, along with fresh fruit and Carmen’s Ice Cream. (The beef with sautéed mushrooms was yummy.)

After I settled in, I inspected the entertainment options for the long haul. New movies and TV series are a must for extended flights; I ended up watching Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Marvel series Legion, a documentary called Carmine Street Guitars, the ’80s Prince hit Purple Rain and the Jesse Eisenberg movie Art of Self-Defense (yeah, I like to hop around a lot).

I’m sure I passed out at some point, but had lots of time to freshen up with a hot towelette again, some goodbye chocolates (Toblerone) just before landing, and a brief greeting from Mary, our Delta Purser, who asked me about my flight as we prepared to descend. I said it was about as close to First Class comfort as I could ask for. And I raised a toast to democracy one more time.

 

 

 

* * *

Delta’s Main Cabin Experience service is now available for all international flights including MNL-NRT, NRT-DTW flights. See more details at https://news.delta.com/corporate-stats-and-facts.

Also, Delta is launching new service between Manila and Seoul-Incheon on March 29, 2020, when all Tokyo-NRT flights will move to Tokyo-Haneda. Philippines customers will now have better access to the US via Incheon next year. 

Cheers to all at Delta Airlines for smoothing my way to the US with their usual excellent service. 

BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHTS DELTA FIRST CLASS
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