DELTA AIRLINES (London Heathrow Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport), ECONOMY COMFORT CLASS, BOEING 767-400ER
Delta Airlines is a major American airline company with its headquarters in the city of Atlanta, Georgia State. Founded on the 30th of May 1924, the airline has a rich history of over 80 years, and has gone through a global expansion by merging with the former Northwest Airlines to serve 247 destinations using 719 state-of-the-art modern, and young aircraft (155 of those aircraft are leased). The average of the fleet is 17 years, which is still relatively acceptable compared with the number of aircraft they have in service. The airline is part of the SkyTeam Alliance program, and has fruitful partnerships with KLM Air France. Amsterdam and Paris are two of the airline’s major hubs outside of the USA.
For flights between the U.K. and the U.S.A. Delta Airlines flies non-stop between six American cities and two British cities. At the time of writing these were: Between Manchester and Atlanta (1 non-stop daily flight), London Heathrow and Atlanta (3 non-stop flights daily), London Heathrow and Detroit (1 non-stop daily flight), London Heathrow and Boston (1 non-daily daily flight), London Heathrow and Minneapolis/St Paul (1 non-stop daily flight), and London Heathrow and New York JFK (3 non-stop daily flights). With its unsurpassed global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer services to more than 300 destinations in nearly 60 countries on six continents.
This was my first time I had come to the US, and the first time I had come to Detroit (out of all places). It was a trip to remember. I was on the flight from London Heathrow to Detroit on Delta Airlines’ Boeing 767-400ER to check out their Economy Comfort Class seat (another word for Premium Economy Class), cabin, and service:
Route: LONDON HEATHROW (LHR) to DETROIT (DTW)
Departure date and time of flight: April 2013
Flight number: DL19 (ICAO callsign: “Delta 19 heavy”)
Flight duration: 8 Hours and 25 minutes
Class: PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 767-432ER (21 aircraft in service)
Unit cost of each Boeing 767-432ER: US$200.8 million (2013)
Aircraft registration: N844MH (First flight 4th March 2002)
Engine Type: GE CF6-80C2B7F (x 2 mounted under the wings)
Aircraft Serial Number: 29717 - line 871
Frequent flyer programme: SkyMiles
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
Business Elite: 40 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration,
Economy Comfort: 28 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration
Economy Class: 178 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration
Comments on the check-in process, and any issues:
The check-in process is pretty smooth and easy. Delta Airlines flies from Terminal 4 at Heathrow, which is not as busy as the other terminals. Terminal 4 now handles most of the airlines under the SkyTeam Alliance Group, and hence why Delta Airlines is based here.
One thing I did notice about flying with Delta is that they are very strict about security. This was my 2nd time in my life I have flown with an American airline company. I once flew with United Airlines from Singapore to Hong Kong and vice-versa in 2003 and sadly did not document that flight. However, the security for the flight I took in 2003 was not as stringent as for this flight simply because 1. I was flying in a post-terrorism era, and, 2. I was flying to the U.S.A. from the U.K. (two countries on the attack list for terrorist organisations).
Even though I had been checked by airport security, and given the all clear, some passengers (including myself!) were asked to take our shoes, belts, and jackets off AT the gate just before boarding. Sadly, gone are the days when you could make a tongue in cheek remark at the security staff, and even if you say things like ‘Hey, come on chaps, cut me some slack, I’m a nice guy…not a terrorist!’, you bet your bottom dollar that you’ll get an ugly stare back (I did!). They asked me to take my shoes AND socks off, my belt, watch, cuff-links…and anything that set off the magnetic hand scanner. I was carrying my Canon DSLR camera with me in trademark fashion. They searched the camera bag and the camera inside out (including the lens, sim-card, battery, and the lot!). I can say that after all those checks it was a nice feeling to know that we were one of the safest planes in the sky that morning. No wonder why the crew looked so happy, and they seemed to be enjoying their job so much.
While it was all embarrassing for a well-dressed Asian man to go through the humiliation of being searched right at the gate of an aircraft (by the way I have to add that most passengers, irrespective of colour, were passing by without being stopped), I could understand their reasons for being paranoid, and extra vigilant about security.
I don’t blame them. You may recall that on December 25th 2009, a Nigerian man called Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (nicknamed the ‘Underpants Bomber’...check this report), took a Northwest Airlines (now part of Delta Airlines) flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Abdulmutallab, a graduate of University College London (UCL), attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while the aircraft was on it’s decent into Northern Detroit.
Sadly, and out of bad coincidence, the Boston Marathon bombings happened the same weekend that I had arrived in Detroit. This meant that MOST passengers flying into American cities from that day onwards, (including Detroit), were grilled for longer than usual at customs. I saw quite a few sniffer dogs at the baggage carousel too – much more than I had seen than any other flight I have taken before. I was thinking to myself ‘wow, so this is America!’.
Any baggage issues:
The first luggage bag up to 23KG (for Economy and Economy Comfort Class passengers) is free, and the same applies for the first bag up to 32kg for Business Class passengers. There are extra charges on luggage carried beyond that, and if the weight of the bag exceeds the listed amount. Out of most of the airlines I have flown with in my experience, I have found that Delta Airlines is very particular on this policy and quite regimental on it. For example, my luggage exceeded by around 1kg and the check-in staff gave me the option of either paying an extra USD$75 or take the extra 1kg out of the luggage.
It didn’t matter how nicely I spoke to the check-in lady, she was determined to stick to the company policy. Whereas on other airlines (cannot give names) sometimes they are a bit more flexible. On this occasion the interesting thing was that the flight was not even full (only around 70% full). I assumed that either this was how Delta Airlines operated or that the check-in person may have had a tough day at the office. I obliged and took the extra 1kg of luggage out (my gym shoes and a jacket) rather than pay the extra USD$75.
Punctuality of the flight:
The flight departed on time from Heathrow’s runway 27R heading straight out towards the West of England over Cardiff, and then over to the Republic of Ireland. After passing Shannon control, we entered the busy Atlantic Ocean airspace. After around 6 hours, we entered Canadian airspace over Gander, then over the Gulf of St Lawrence, before making a straight approach through Quebec State and down towards Detroit (coming in from Lake Heron, Sarnia, and Lake St. Clair). ‘Delta 19 Heavy’ landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule on Runway 21R at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
A choice of welcoming drinks and champagne was served for those in Economy Comfort Class.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
I drank plenty of water and orange juice as this was an early morning flight (to keep me from being dehydrated). The orange juice had a pleasingly fresh-squeezed flavour. Mini-pretzels and lightly salted peanuts were served in cute little Delta branded plastic packets (complete with the Delta logo).
Comments regarding the first meal:
Inspired by culinary treats from around the world, Delta Airlines in-flight dining experience offers mouth-watering dishes created by award-winning chefs. A light snack was served around 45 minutes after take-off. Since this was a late morning/early afternoon flight, so the meal service was not so heavy.
There were two options for the main meal:
1. Italian style Tuna Pasta with Italian herbs, garnished with plenty of homemade tomato sauce.
2. Beef Lasagne with basil and tomato, sautéed green bean, and carrots
I opted for the tuna pasta option. It was nice to see a creative dish such as this being provided as an airline meal. What you normally tend to find on some other airlines is that the quality of the ingredients’, the style of the cooking, and the type of the meal is not well cooked and nothing special (normally it’s just simple like chicken with rice, beef with rice etc.). Airline companies, such as Delta, have been cutting down on in-flight meals in recent years to cut costs. So therefore, it was no surprise that the meal tray was not as full of food as you may have got in years gone by.
Accompanying the main dish was a bowl of fresh seasoned salad, Jacob’s crackers and cheese, and a warm bread bun from the basket.
For dessert, there was a helping of chocolate chip cookies from the brand Café Bronte. In Economy Class, Delta Airlines still provides plastic cutlery to the passengers.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
A second round of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (including any coffee, tea and beverages) were offered. I opted to drink plenty of still mineral water. Most people don’t realise but drinking water is the best option when flying because it helps to keep you dehydrated as well as keeping your skin fresh and naturally moist (this can also help with the effects of jetlag according to some medics).
The drinks offered on Delta Airlines include:
· Coca-Cola® Classic
· Diet Coke
· Coca-Cola Zero
· Bottled Water
· Seagram's Club® Soda
· Seagram's Tonic Water
· Seagram's Dry Ginger Ale
· Seattle’s Best regular and decaffeinated coffee
· Starbucks® coffee (flights between JFK and LAX, SFO or SEA)
· Minute Maid® Orange Juice
· Minute Maid Cranberry Apple Cocktail
· Minute Maid Apple Juice
· Motts Tomato Juice
· Mr. & Mrs. "T" Bloody Mary mix
Comments regarding the second meal:
The second meal, a very light snack, was offered around an hour and half before landing at Detroit. A warm ‘three-cheese calzone’, and a tub of ‘dame blanche choco cream’ by MIO were presented to the passengers. I am not sure if the hot/cold and the sweet/salted taste contrasts would have gone fine with the 200-odd passengers taste-buds, but I just stuck to eating the warm pasty, and politely left the cold ice-cream for later. It was no doubt good stuff nevertheless.
A final round of drinks was completed. This included a selection of beverages, soft drinks, juices, tea, and coffee.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
Pocket sized headphones were offered in the Economy Comfort Class cabin. The PTV screens on the Boeing 767-400ER are placed behind every Economy Comfort Class seat. The Delta Airlines advanced, touch-screen digital entertainment system, located right at of the seat, puts you in charge of your entertainment options. The user friendly system allows the passengers to watch, listen or play - choosing from up to 300 movies, HBO, SHOWTIME, 18 channels of live satellite TV on select flights, 4500+ songs, TV and games, including in-flight trivia.
The good thing is that Delta Airlines gives passengers the chance to have access to Wi-Fi (there is a fee). Since August 2008 Delta passengers have had access to the Aircell mobile broadband network, Gogo, which enables customers travelling with Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, smart phones and PDAs, to access the Internet for a fee. Delta has the largest fleet of Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft in the world. The airline announced that it will offer Wi-Fi on international flights beginning early 2013.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
The cabin crew on Delta Airlines came across to be very friendly, caring and knowledgeable about all things to do with not just the flight or aircraft, but also the destinations as well. Immediately as you enter the plane, you can tell that you have already arrived in America without leaving the ground. That amazing American accent just hits you straight, and it feels very international. I think Delta’s crew are a great symbol of unity. I have nothing bad to say about the crew, they were awesome, and very professional.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
Delta Airlines have three cabins in their Boeing 767-400ER (76D) aircraft. The Business Elite cabin (Business/First Class) has 40 flatbed seats, each with a width of 21 inches, and can stretch out to 81.6 inch (around 6 feet).
There are 28 Economy Comfort Class seats, and each seat has a width of 17.9 inches (narrow by most airline standards), and a pitch of 35 inches (50% more leg room than in Economy Class).
There are 178 seats in the Economy Class cabin, and each seat has a width of 17.9 inches, and a pitch of around 32 inches maximum (not comfortable for anything over 6 hours). While the Economy Class seats are generously spaced out in a 2-3-2 layout, the comfort of the seat is only beneficial if one person has allocation to 2 seats (in most cases this would not be the fact- especially if the flight is full). It would make it even more of an uncomfortable flight experience if the passenger is pregnant, elderly, disabled, tall (leg room may become limited), or slightly oversized. On the whole the seats are comfortable, but like any other Economy Class seat, if you wish to go to the toilet during a red-eye flight (i.e. night flight) and your neighbour is happily snoring away, it can be tricky to bypass that situation,
It goes without saying that these are facts that airlines are taking into account, and airline manufacturers are always looking into improving so that the flight experience (which is equally important as the safety of the flight. Note: everything else including in-flight entertainment/food etc. is secondary when it comes to flying.)
Safety and passenger comfort should always be every airlines number one priority. As Delta Airlines is one of the world’s biggest airline companies used by so many people every day, it would be interesting to note how Delta Airlines plans to improve the seat comfort aspects on their planes. The harsh reality of aviation is that seats are getting narrower, flight tickets are becoming more expensive (except perhaps low-budget airlines), and added in with a few other factors it could end up in a positive way or a negative one.
Delta Airlines logo and livery:
Back in the days, Delta Airlines was a pioneer when it came to having an airline livery. Delta's current livery, "Upward & Onward", uses four colors (navy blue, light red, dark wine red, and white. It features a "widget" (triangle) on each aircraft's vertical stabilizer to refer to Delta's origins as a carrier in the Mississippi Delta. All aircraft have a white fuselage; the underbelly is colored in navy blue in a wavy shape with the wave reaching its peak underneath the wings. The word ‘DELTA’ is painted in dark blue capital letters on top of the windows in the forward fuselage (over the business class cabin). The ‘widget’ is painted just after the cockpit windows, and before the DELTA titles.
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This is a special section on Airline Branding, and Airline Public Relations written by me on all the flights I have been fortunate enough to have been on. These are not records taken from somewhere else, but are actual flights I have been on. Most of the flight trips are officially sponsored by the airline companies in order to promote their certain routes, and aircraft. Airline promotion and PR related work in the aviation industry is one of my expertise.
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