#930801 by SlimpyJones
02 Jan 2017, 15:58
Preamble

The story of this trip started with a general browse on Google flights, and by chance finding a number of heavily reduced UC fares to a select number of destinations in the US, such as PHX, PDX and DEN, all ex-MAN only. Keen to sample the Virgin offerings from Manchester, and thinking ahead to the need of winter sun, I went for a £1,300 offer from Manchester to Phoenix in VS Upper Class and DL First on the domestic legs, over the Christmas period. Typically, the price dropped by a further £200 within a matter of days, but hey ho.

Forward a couple of months and I received a notification that my MAN-ATL flight had been cancelled. I placed a call with Flying Club to discuss other options. With the only other ex-MAN option being routed via JFK, I proposed departing from LHR instead. The rep seemed happy to do this as it meant only changing one sector. Only two flights to ATL that day, the VS103 at 9:35am or the DL31 at 12:30pm. I opted for the latter as I had been keen to try the Delta One offering and the T4 Sky Club for a while. All booked, ticket reissued, seat selected, and only 6 months left to wait.

Forward another couple of months and it transpired that DL would be relocating all flights to T3. So while the T4 Sky Club was off the cards, the Clubhouse was always going to be the winner so I was pretty chuffed with the change!

With no further changes made (I guess that is one of the perils of booking 8 months in advance..), the day started at 3:30am at home in Huntingdon. Whilst I was tempted by DTCI, I decided to make my journey cheaper by taking the train & tube to LHR. An uneventful, but sleepy, ride to Finsbury Park followed, then the Piccadilly line.

At LHR!

I finally arrived at 7am to a fairly quiet T3 and headed straight for the Upper Class checkin desks. However, I was quickly, but politely, redirected to a small Delta desk in the middle of the checkin area, manned by a couple of Homeland Security gents who proceeded to ask me a series of detailed questions about my trip. I must have passed their little interrogation as my passport was adorned with a Delta Security sticker afterwards. I headed back to the UC desk and asked if this was a regular thing for all Delta flyers, and apparently it was.

The chap behind the desk seemed to have some issues with my booking as he needed a lot of assistance from his colleague. Eventually he was able to take my bag and issue only the boarding pass for my first leg. For reasons he couldn't explain he wasn't able to print my ATL-PHX pass and explained I'd have to get it in Atlanta. Never had that before. Odd, but wanting to get on my way I shrugged it off and headed up the fabled lift to the private security channel. Hearing that door click open is always the highlight of my check in process! :D

Security was quite busy, the busiest I have seen it. But nonetheless I was still through in five minutes, after a pat down, also for the first time. Seemed it was going to be a day of firsts. Having never been keen on the Duty Free mire I made use of a handy shortcut to get through the crowds, and straight to the Clubhouse.

Clubhouse Time

So I had four hours or so to kill in the Clubhouse. Not too much of a challenge I don't think. The usual procedure kicked in and my first stop was the Spa desk. The lady at the counter informed me that they were quite booked up in the morning but as I wasn't flying until 12:30 she had plenty of room to fit me in. After booking my slot I headed for the restaurant area. I don't often eat here so I fancied a change.
Suffice it to say I didn't stay long. Unfortunately the chap serving couldn't muster up a 'Good morning' or even a smile. Despite him laying my table for one I decided that I would find somewhere else to sit. Fortunately this was the only blip on the morning as my new location was being served by two lovely ladies who were all smiles! I decided to start with a cooked breakfast (sans mushrooms, ick!) and some crumpets. After musing the cocktail menu I decided to try a beetroot-based one (though the name and ingredients escape me, sorry!), it was very tasty indeed. I decided to rest up here with some book reading before my hair appointment:

ImageBreakfast time!

I always look forward to the hair appointment, mostly because my favourite hairdressers work opposite days, so I always wind up with one of them. Today it was Rachael's turn (permission given to use her name). It just so happened that I had seen her on a recent Youtube review of the Clubhouse, so she and I had a good laugh while I showed her the video, with a couple of the other Spa staff coming to have a watch as well!
It almost made me sad that I would likely not be back in the Clubhouse until May most likely. The Spa staff always make the visit very special.

The rest of the visit was spent in front of the large TV screens, however I had to mention to the staff working in that area that almost all the headphones were unusable as the padding on the earpieces were missing. I eventually found one of the few working headsets and sat and had a drink or three. And perhaps another cooked breakfast... :blush:
Sadly I didn't have time for the lunch menu this time!

As other recent Clubhouse posts have suggested the loft and skydeck were closed and so I was confined to the downstairs area.

The only busy period was before the early flights to JFK and ATL. Once these had been called in large part the lounge was fairly quiet. I spent the last hour or so sat up at the bar talking to the bar staff about their Christmas plans, as well as about quirky facts about the Lagos route.

I decided to head towards the gate prior to the boarding call. At this point the Delta services to ATL, JFK and PHL were set to depart within five minutes of each other.

Boarding

After saying goodbyes I headed over to Gate 18. Delta use 767-300s for all LHR routes. This would be my first time on board a 763. There was no queue in the priority line so I was scanned through nice and quickly.

ImageA view of the aircraft. You can just see the Clubhouse in the background

The boarding area was very busy indeed. Fortunately I had to wait less than a minute for boarding to be called. Boarding appeared to be well handled, Premium passengers were announced first, followed by Sky Priority customers, and then by Zones. All boarding was done through door L1. So alas, no "turning left" for me this time! :-P Politely welcomed and directed to my seat.

The Seat

ImageMy seat, 5D

My initial impressions were very good. The cabin is arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 layout, with odd-numbered seats having the seat adjacent to the window, and even-numbered seats having the table adjacent to the window. I'm afraid I didn't take a picture of the whole cabin as I didn't want to block passengers behind me! Wanting privacy I opted for 5D which put me between the table and the window.

On my seat I found a Westin Heavenly duvet and pillow, my Tumi amenity kit and a pair of headphones. There wasn't really anywhere to put the duvet and pillow so I stowed these in the overhead locker above me. It was nice to have one all to myself! I didn't take a picture of the amenity kit contents, but it contained the usual affair of eyemask, earplugs, socks, etc. There were also Kiehl's hand cream and lip balm. I like Kiehl's, and my hands were pretty dry so this was a nice find.

Width-wise the seat measures 21", so on-par with VS PE and one inch narrower than VS UC. Although I didn't really notice this slightly reduced amount. Legroom as you would expect was excellent, at 6'4" I was able to stretch my legs all the way under the seat in front of me.

ImageStretching out

The suites themselves are fairly low, or perhaps I am too tall. Either way I was able to see out over the rest of the cabin.

ImageMy view from 5D

The seat can be reclined back all the way to a horizontal position. There was also a leg rest that could be extended as well. Given my height I found the only thing lacking was a proper footrest. Instead you had to raise the leg rest.

The side table was very handy for general "putting" of things. This is something sorely lacking on VS in my opinion. It's so easy to lose small items in Upper Class (as I did yesterday) so this was very welcome indeed. The seat also features multi-config plug sockets, an ethernet port, a USB port, sockets for headphones and a reading light. These were situated in the rear of the seat. It was nice to have these here rather than tucked away down at the side.

Needless to say also, that having a window right next to my seat was very nice to have. I believe this is the first time I've had an easy-to-use window and a direct aisle seat!

Shortly after taking my seat, the flight attendant approached me with a menu. The menus are physically a lot bigger than VS, on high quality paper/card.

Image

Image

This was followed by a pre-flight drink offer. I was a pleasantly surprised to see an offering of a Heineken can among the OJ/Champagne, so I took a beer!

Boarding was still continuing, with announcements being made concerning efficient use of the overhead bin space. It reminded me of similar announcements made on internal DL flights. I wonder if this is a regular battle they have to deal with? At this point the flight attendant came over to greet me by name and introduce herself and the other FAs working with her in the cabin. A nice touch I thought. :) I was a little caught off guard after she asked what I'd like to eat! I barely had time to look through the menu, so I asked for a few more minutes. Initial impressions of the cabin crew were very good. They were noticeably older, but still very friendly. They all seemed in jovial spirits - perhaps heading home for Christmas?

The FA working on my side came back for my food order, and let me know that they only needed my choice for the main, as every starter would be served! I opted for the Pasta.

The Flight

Pushback started at 12:33, and a flight time announced of 9 hours 24 minutes. The flight was also apparently completely full, although I spotted 2 or 3 empty seats in Business. We taxied for what felt like ages. On the way we passed by some old Terminal 1 gates, which I had never seen before. There appeared to be a lot of building work going on opposite them. I wonder what for?

ImageOld T1 gates

I decided to have a peruse of the movies/TV on offer. Nothing really grabbed me TV-wise, and I noticed there was a lot more "Worldly" offer of movies. Lots of Asian films, lots of films with international subtitles, that sort of thing. Feeling unadventurous though, I decided to take in the latest Star Trek movie. The touch screen was a little on the small side, but was responsive and easy to browse and the picture quality was decent. Around this time the Tuna appetiser was served with the Gin & Cranberry cocktail. Both were delicious and a nice start to the service.

ImageSeven Pepper Cold Smoked Tuna and Signature Cocktail

While passing over Ireland we started hitting some bumpy air so the seatbelt sign came on. It was also around this time that some problems were being experienced with the IFE, so the crew conducted a full restart. I didn't mind so much, I could have used a break from the movie! The restart took about ten minutes.

Lunch time!

At this point the main meal was served. As mentioned above you can have every starter if you so choose! The soup was served into a bowl in front of you, along with a dollop of cream. A small thing I know, but it was a nice little touch rather than it being bowled up in the galley out of sight. Along with the soup was the butternut pumpkin & nut salad with vinaigrette, a bread roll and a glass of white. The soup had quite a smokey taste, and while the salad was ever-so-slightly on the limp side, both were very tasty indeed.

ImageRed Lentil Soup, Pumpkin & Nut Salad

After finishing my tray was promptly taken away and I tried to engage the FA in a little small talk - she seemed a little rushed but was responsive and happy to join in the conversation. Apparently she and the other FAs tend to work the international routes to Europe. I mentioned I usually fly VS and this was my first time in D1 and she said it was nice to have me on board. Next up was the pasta dish:

Image"Stracciatella Fagotto" Pasta

The Pasta was decent, if a little dry. I didn't spot much of the Sage sauce that was meant to come with it. It could have used a little more heating as the cheese is probably supposed to melt a little onto the pasta! But I am being incredibly picky here.

One plus point I noticed here was that it is easier to manoeuvre your way out of your seat even with the tray table up than on VS. It's requires a little bit of contortion but it's not too tricky.

I still hadn't decided on my dessert, but the FA mentioned that I was welcome to have all three if I liked! There is certainly no way you could ever go hungry on a DL flight. All the desserts were great.

ImageCheese selection, ice cream sundae, gingerbread & butter pudding

Nap time

Feeling completely stuffed I decided to un-stow my pillow and test out the flat-bad function. As mentioned above the seat can be reclined back into this position, or any position in between, without having to get out. My immediate first thought was that the seat is no good for wide-shouldered people with big feet who like sleeping on their back. My shoulders just wouldn't fit, or my feet! If I was genuinely looking for sleep it would have to be on my side, but with the straight-angle of the seats it would have made it feel like I was sleeping in a coffin. I decided to abandon this pursuit and recline my chair back the half-way position and settle down with my pillow. The seat was very comfortable, with the exception being the lack of footrest causing problems again.

More food....!

After a few hours of snoozing, I woke up to the smell of chocolate cookies. Now that is something I have never experienced on a flight. The FA came round to serve them, and they were delicious! I decided to eat mine while watching the rest of my Star Trek movie.

For the remainder of the flight the cabin lights remained dimmed. I've never understood why airlines do this on a day flight. VS did it the last time I flew UC, it was very frustrating especially if you want to stay awake. I decided to keep my window blind open a small amount to allow me to read my book.

Approximately an hour before landing, it was time for another snack. I opted for the Beef Panini as shellfish don't always agree with me. It was served with a rocket/arugula salad with apricots, goat cheese and cashews. I opted for another Heineken with my panini. Once again, all very nice. But it felt like a main meal in itself rather than a snack!!

ImageBeef Short Rib Panini

Time to land

The captain announced that we had begun our descent into ATL and the cabin began to come to life. Atlanta was looking cloudy, but a lot warmer than the UK was. We landed and taxied to Gate F2, and stopped bang on 5:30pm, so right on time. We parked up next to G-VKSS who had arrived as the VS103 from LHR a few hours earlier. I was through immigration in a breeze thanks to Global Entry again. A short wait for my bags followed and then it was off to the transfer desk to dump my bag and collect my pass for the trip to Phoenix!

Verdict

I was very impressed with Delta One. It was certainly worth the wait to try something different, whilst still being able to credit to FC and get the VS airport experience. I'd say it is a solid alternative to UC and would gladly fly it again.

Specific points:

  • The hard product wins. Both are very good, but I feel that I prefer the forward-facing D1 seat, and it's just set up more conveniently than UC, with the side-table being a real winner. However, if it were a night flight I have a feeling VS would have the upper hand (pun not intended) as the UC suites are slightly wider and better suited to more sleeping positions.
  • The D1 cabin is probably better suited for more kinds of traveller. The solo or business traveller would be fine with one of the window seats, whereas the middle two would be great for a couple (but not a solo/business person as it doesn't offer much privacy). However for me personally, the thing I greatly missed was the bar. For me the bar provides an opportunity to socialise with the crew, other passengers, or just have a chance to unwind somewhere else. On D1 I felt confined to my seat. There was also no use of mood lighting and so missed the calming ambiance. So VS wins it for me there.
  • Food. Well, quantity-wise there was no contest. Quality-wise I would say VS and DL are matched.
  • Crew. Very friendly crew on D1. No complaints at all.
  • IFE. In terms of physical IFE (screen size, picture quality, etc) - DL is as good as VS. Content-wise, I think I prefer VS. There just wasn't much stuff on DL that caught my eye, there were unsurprisingly a lot of US TV series, and a lot of the movies I had just never heard of.
The biggest drawback with flying DL is their lack of Premium Economy product. Or more specifically, lack of plans to introduce their upcoming PE product to their LHR routes when it is launched. I don't fly business all that often and so VS will draw my custom if my budget dictates PE or Economy only. But if I score some cheap Biz fares I'd happily consider Delta One again.

All in all it's making me feel very positive about the JV with Delta. There are two great products available.

Anyway, this has taken me a solid two hours to write, so if you have read all the way through, then I thank you. :D Hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. I think perhaps my ATL-MAN review can wait a day or two!!
#930805 by buns
02 Jan 2017, 16:58
SJ

Thanks for the detailed TR on the DL One product!! (greatly enhanced by the snaps, I must add)

Having had to take the early ATL flight in the past, with all the attendant issues about getting to LHR so early and the rather crowded Clubhouse, this DL later offering is worth bearing in mind if Mrs Buns and I use the route to get to Orlando in the future.

I really appreciate the "compare and contrast" of the two products and as you say, if VS miles and points can be earned, then the DL product is certainly worthy of considering - if only to have 3 afters ;-)

Thanks once again

buns

PS - if only super prices like you got were available all the time :cool:
#930838 by whiterose
03 Jan 2017, 14:37
What an interesting TR, thanks for taking such a lot of time. I've wanted to know what Delta One was like and you've given lots of information. The direct comparison with VS UC is invaluable and I'm guessing many of us will find it of interest.

And all the food! Did you have to give Christmas turkey a miss? ;-)
#930839 by pjh
03 Jan 2017, 15:04
Thanks for the detailed and well constructed TR. The compare and contrast verdict seems to echo that of others (Tonty and Sealink?) in terms of hard product and service offering.

I agree about the bar as it does give you a bit of freedom from the feeling of being chained to a TV set, though on our recent outbound to JFK it was occupied by a father and three early teens scarfing down every snack available and on the inbound I was too knackered after a day walking the streets and too much refreshment on the JFK CH.

I didn't realise there was another V-Flyer in the Huntingdon area...
#930845 by SlimpyJones
03 Jan 2017, 16:31
Thanks for the replies everyone, glad to hear that it was useful :D

Buns: I think nowadays there tend to be 2-3 DL flights daily to ATL, a couple around lunchtime and one in mid-afternoon, so certainly plenty of choice. And yep, have had my miles and TPs posted nice and prompty! 125 TPs in new money.

whiterose wrote:And all the food! Did you have to give Christmas turkey a miss? ;-)


Haha, considering I was fed another meal on the ATL-PHX leg I took it very easy the following day suffice it to say!!

pjh wrote:I didn't realise there was another V-Flyer in the Huntingdon area...


Yep moved to the area in October! Nice to hear there's another one of us knocking about nearby :D
#931061 by horburyflyer
08 Jan 2017, 19:16
Amazing TR and wonderful photos too. I must admit I have a soft spot for DL One myself. I have had some great crews, food has been great and plentiful, great service and it's always a serious option for me nowadays.

Thanks for helping to bring this to life for us. Much appreciated.

Jon
#931081 by Sealink
09 Jan 2017, 09:31
I agree that the food on Delta is excellent (I might even have called them 'feeders' on my last DL trip report.)

I found the crew distant however so glad to read that you had a good experience.
#939196 by clanger
19 Oct 2017, 18:33
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread...I've found it very informative. Who knew! I just never considered Delta as a viable option. I'm not sure why I had this preconception, perhaps because of the horrid US domestic flights I've had. Anyway, this might help me keep flying Virgin-ish. We miss the wonderful Clubhouses and great staff so much.
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