Delta Air Lines 767-400ER Delta One
Atlanta (ATL) — London Heathrow (LHR)
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is among the easiest of US airports to navigate, with all the concourses lined up like dominoes and connected by a speedy underground Plane Train. It would have to be; since the airport handles more passengers than any other in the world, anything less would spell chaos.
As I was making a connection, I was not required to check in at the main terminal or pass through security. Coming from my domestic flight, I headed for Concourse E to find a Delta Sky Club and await the London departure. The club was spacious and quiet with a fair selection of food for that time of night, and complimentary wines and beers from the bar.
BOARDING: About 10 minutes before the scheduled boarding time, I made my way to the gate, only to discover that boarding was already well underway. However since I was a Delta One customer, I was able to avoid the lines and board without delay.
Once seated, I was offered a glass of Champagne, the Deutz Brut Classic, together with some tasty spiced Georgia pecans, just the right note to start the trip. This flight seemed to be old home week for several passengers as they were welcomed back personally by the crew. I too received a warm greeting by name, but it was clear these folks made this trip regularly.
THE SEAT: The business class cabin is configured 1-2-1 with seats that extend into a fully flat bed. The seat was comfortable in both the sitting and the sleeping position. Maybe I just missed it, but I was surprised at the lack of stowage around the seat for my briefcase; it was either underfoot or in the overhead. The seatback screen was smaller than I’d experienced on other airlines, and the entertainment selection, while extensive, offered mostly movies and shows I’d seen before. About 20 minutes into the flight, the IFE died completely and took a few minutes to reset.
First a word about the service aboard the flight: It’s a standard refrain among frequent fliers that the cabin service on US carriers perhaps lacks a certain refinement and efficiency one might find aboard foreign carriers. Well, kudos to the crew of Flight 30. I found the service to be thoughtful, punctual and entirely satisfactory. Either this crew was exceptional, or – we can only hope – Delta is hitting its hospitality stride in these premium cabins.
The dinner service started soon after we reached cruising altitude. From celebrity chef Linton Hopkins’menu I selected the red wine beef short ribs, a juicy and flavorful choice, accompanied by the Wente Riva Ranch pinot noir. After the double chocolate ganache cake, I felt the bed calling me and fell into a deep sleep from which even the promise of breakfast several hours later would not stir me.
ARRIVAL: We landed about a half-hour ahead of schedule, so sat on the tarmac for several minutes. Once off the plane we were given an invitation to relax in the Revivals lounge of Delta’s codeshare partner Virgin Atlantic. Immigration lines were relatively painless thanks to an expedited lane for premium passengers and I was soon en route to Paddington via the Heathrow Express.
VERDICT: Contrary to popular myth, great service has not completely disappeared from US airlines, and this crew is proof. I could wish for a tad more luxury or convenience, but the service more than made up for it.