Every Delta Air Lines premium seat ranked from best to worst
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Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines gets high marks from flyers thanks to its (typically) reliable operations, great customer service and myriad flyer-friendly initiatives, which most recently includes the airline’s policy of blocking middle seats for a longer period than any other airline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years, the airline has made a big push to renew its fleet with state-of-the-art business-class cabins, which started in 2017 with the introduction of Delta One Suites on board the airline’s Airbus A350 aircraft. Since then, Delta has worked to bring the rest of its fleet more or less in line with the standard set by the Suites product introduced on the A350.
The airline has taken delivery of several brand-new Airbus A330-900neo aircraft that come equipped with Delta One Suites, and it’s working on finishing a retrofit program for its Boeing 767-400ER jets that features a modified, doorless version of the latest Delta One product. And, it completed a retrofit program of its entire Boeing 777 fleet not long before it made the decision to retire that aircraft entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic. And on all of its newly delivered and retrofit widebody airplanes, it has installed a new premium-economy product known as Delta Premium Select.
Still, though, there is some fragmentation in Delta’s fleet, which means not all premium experiences are created equal with the airline. Make sure to continue reading so you know which Delta premium seats are best, and which ones you should avoid if possible.
1. Delta One Suite
As of late 2017, the Delta One Suite became the king of the hill in terms of Delta aircraft seats. They’re arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and provide ample space and privacy thanks to the sliding door found at each suite. Since their introduction, other products have come onto the scene from airlines like ANA of Japan and Qatar Airways, but Delta’s suites remain a top option for long-haul flying. You will find Delta One Suites on the carrier’s Airbus A350 and Airbus A330-900neo aircraft.
Where to find them: Due to irregular flight schedules and massive cuts in international capacity, it’s been difficult to pin down where exactly Delta One Suites-equipped aircraft are flying. However, things are starting to stabilize and it looks like we’ll begin to see more-regular service introduced as countries begin to lift travel restrictions. As a general rule, you can expect to find Delta One Suites on flights from the carrier’s hubs in Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA) to both Europe and Asia.
2. Delta One on the Boeing 767-400ER
While Delta’s retrofit Boeing 767-400ERs (764) don’t technically feature Delta One Suites, the new Delta One product is about as close as you’ll get without having a sliding door. Flyers can expect thoroughly modern design, entertainment systems, lighting, lavatories and more. The updated Delta One product for the 764 is essentially an updated version of the Thompson Vantage seats it has installed in its 767-300 aircraft, meaning seats are on the narrow side and there isn’t a ton of storage to speak of. However, it still represents a massive upgrade over the previous version with its tiny IFE screens, creaky seats and hardly any privacy.
Where to find them: The 764s can generally be found on flights from Delta’s hub at New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) and various destinations in Europe, as well as some flights from Atlanta (ATL) to cities in deep South America including São Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU) and Santiago de Chile (SCL). We expect to see more destinations served by the 764 as Delta adds cities back to its international route network.
The easiest way to determine whether or not your flight will feature the new interior is to peek at the seat map. You’ll want to find 764 (as opposed to 76D) aircraft, and seat maps will show 34 Delta One seats as opposed to 40 on the old variant. The new 764s have a Premium Select cabin too, while the old version lacks that cabin entirely.
3. Reverse Herringbone
After Delta One Suites and Delta One on board the 764, Delta’s reverse-herringbone seat is the next-best option for premium flyers. This 1-2-1 configuration affords a good amount of privacy, personal space and storage. The one downside of this product is that the physical aspects of the IFE system are outdated with small and somewhat laggy screens.
Where to find them: The reverse-herringbone seat is exclusively found on Delta’s Airbus A330-200 and -300 fleets. Currently, they’re flying on various international routes from across Delta’s hubs.
4. Thompson Vantage
The Thompson Vantage seat found on Delta’s Boeing 767-300ER aircraft (all of these jets are set to be retired by 2025) is the least-desirable all-aisle-access business-class product the airline offers. The seats are not very private and when the bed is fully flat, you feel very close to the floor of the plane. Furthermore, the IFE screens are woefully small and laggy and can be very frustrating to operate and see, especially in bright light.
Where to find them: These non-retrofit Boeing 767s can be found on various international flights including destinations in northern South America like Lima (LIM) and Bogotá (BOG). You’ll have this product if the flight is marked as operated by a 767-300, or you can tell by looking at the seat map. These aircraft have 40 seats up front versus 34 in the new variant.
5. Boeing 757
Arranged in a 2-2 configuration, these seats go fully flat, and sport an in-flight entertainment screen, USB ports and power outlets. While these seats aren’t private in any way and there is limited storage, they’re more than adequate on relatively short hops including transcontinental routes
Where to find them: Delta’s 757s equipped with the Delta One cabin regularly fly between New York-JFK and San Francisco (SFO) as well as some other longer domestic flights and even some short transatlantic routes to Europe.
6. Delta Premium Select
Delta introduced its take on a premium-economy product (it calls it Premium Select) at the same time it debuted the Delta One Suite. Each seat comes with its own footrest, power port, adjustable headrest and a large IFE screen. On Airbus A350s, the seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, on the A330-900neos it’s a 2-3-2 configuration and on the 764 you’ll find a 2-2-2 configuration.
Where to find them: Delta Premium Select can be found on board the Airbus A350 and A330-900neo as well as the Boeing 767-400ER.
7. Delta Domestic First Class
While Delta’s domestic first class is nothing to write home about, it’s comfortable for short hops and most domestic flights. And Delta announced early last year that it will introduce a new version of its domestic first-class product on its forthcoming Airbus A321neos.
Most of Delta’s domestic first-class seats have seatback IFE monitors, which is more than can be said for some of its U.S. competitors. In general, you can expect a similar experience across the majority of its domestic fleet, but there are slight differences among aircraft types with regard to seat width and recline.
Remember, though, when it comes to choosing a domestic plane, seats aren’t everything. For those seeking a complimentary upgrade, you’re better off choosing a plane with a higher ratio of first-class seats.
Where to find them: On most routes within the US as well as some shorter international routes to Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada.
How to Book
If you’re looking to book an award ticket in any of these seats, there are thankfully a few options. While SkyMiles aren’t highly valued per TPG’s own valuations, you can of course book premium flights with Delta through its own loyalty program. Unfortunately, you can expect sky-high award rates for the overwhelming majority of its flights in premium cabins.
If that’s the route you want to pursue, though, remember you can boost your SkyMiles balance by applying for one of Delta’s cobranded credit cards (terms apply):
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on and up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within your first 3 months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: 50,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
You’ll likely get more value for your hard-earned miles if you book flights through one of Delta’s partners, however. Two of your best options are Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club and Air France-KLM’s FlyingBlue.
Virgin Atlantic recently devalued its award chart for Delta-operated flights, increasing the price of awards to Asia by as much as 175%. Thankfully, though, it reversed course on significantly changing redemption rates for flights between the U.S. and Europe.
If you are considering booking a Delta One flight through Virgin Atlantic, remember the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it’s relatively easy to boost your balance. Not only that, but both Amex and Citi offer occasional transfer bonuses, meaning you’ll need even fewer points than normal to book awards.
However, you’ll only be able to use these miles to book saver-level awards on Delta, so expect extremely limited availability. Second, you will typically pay more taxes and surcharges on these tickets than using Delta SkyMiles.
Delta’s been working hard to modernize its fleet and give premium flyers a truly premium experience at the pointy end of the plane. Its new and retrofit aircraft provide a thoroughly modern experience with features that flyers expect in 2021, and these products really can compete with some of the best in the world. However, there is still some variation in the airline’s fleet, and knowing which aircraft to seek out and which to avoid remains an important “to-do” on the checklist before booking a ticket.
Additional reporting by Darren Murph and Steven Ganeles
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