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It pays to be an eagle-eyed AvGeek sometimes. Thanks to a FlightRadar24 alert, a look at a seat map and a confirmation from Delta, we discovered that the airline’s first retrofitted Boeing 767 would begin operating well ahead of schedule. Of course we wanted to catch the aircraft on its first revenue flight, so we booked the last business class seat available.
The 19-year old Boeing 767-400ER, registered N828MH, is the first and so far only of Delta’s 767s to feature the airline’s flagship interior, with a brand new Delta One business-class product in the forward cabin and Premium Select — Delta’s spin on premium economy — right behind. Behind that, there are Comfort+ seats, or regular coach with some more legroom, and Main Cabin.
The plane (known as the 764 when looking at seat maps) was originally slated to serve flights to Europe and South America, with the inaugural being from Atlanta to London-Heathrow on Nov. 12, but thanks to a last-minute switcheroo, it made its debut on the prized New York JFK to Los Angeles route on Thursday. Despite the lack of prior notice, we weren’t all that surprised that the plane ended up operating ahead of schedule — Delta’s A330-900neo, retrofitted Boeing 777 and United’s Boeing 787-10 were all brought into service early because of last-minute swaps.
Unlike the retrofitted 767 flights scheduled from Nov. 12, onwards, this flight didn’t have the “New Interior” badge when scrolling through flight options on Delta’s website. However, we were able to distinguish it by its seat map — it had nine rows in the Delta One cabin instead of ten and featured the new Premium Select cabin, which has a 2-2-2 configuration, as opposed to 2-3-2 found in Comfort+ and Main Cabin.
After a brief stop at Delta’s flagship Sky Club at JFK’s Terminal 4 — currently being renovated to convert the outdoor Sky Deck into a year-round planespotting destination with a retractable roof, heaters and more — I headed straight for the gate. Unlike the party Delta threw for passengers on the de facto A330-900neo inaugural earlier this week, A220 inaugural or A350 inaugural, this launch was met without any fanfare.
What was out of the ordinary was that there were games, decks of cards, puzzles, coloring books and reading materials available for passengers to take as they boarded (more on that later).
Up front on the 764, there were 34 Delta One seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. That’s 15% fewer business class seats than before, meaning a tougher road for upgrades when using a Global Upgrade Certificate (a Choice Benefit option reserved for top-tier Diamond Medallion members), and possibly slightly higher fares.
Delta uses a staggered configuration for its business-class cabins. Although the seat map suggested otherwise, even-numbered rows have window seats directly adjacent to the window, while odd-numbered rows have window seats closer to the aisle. This was good news for me as I initially thought that my seat, 4A, would be one of the ones closer to the aisle.
If you have the choice, you’ll want to pick the even-numbered row to be more protected from the activity going on in the aisle.
Although center seats alternate as well — in odd-numbered rows, they’re positioned more to the left, while in even-number rows they’re more to the right — they’re all nearly identical. Unlike the center seats found in some other business class cabins, such as United’s 787-10, there’s no difference in separation between the seats, so you won’t accidentally get stuck in a “honeymoon” style seat.
While the middle seats are ideal for couples traveling together, it shouldn’t be a big deal if you end up next to a stranger as there are center privacy dividers that can be raised and lowered manually.
What was unique about the Delta One seats on this plane was that they were an entirely new product for the airline. Unlike the Delta One Suites found on the A339s, A350s and retrofitted 777s, these seats didn’t have sliding doors. This is because the 767 is much narrower. These seats do have higher sides than the previous Delta One on 767s, so they offer more privacy than before as well as more premium finishes.
The seats offer a bed length of 77 to 81 inches and are 20 inches wide, oddly an inch narrower than before.
I’m 5 foot, 11 inches, tall and found the footwell to be tight. There wasn’t much room to wiggle around once I was fully flat.
As is the case in most business-class cabins, the footwells are slightly larger in the bulkhead row.
The tray table pops out of the armrest compartment. While the table could slide forward, there was no way to get out of my seat while it was unfolded.
While offering more storage than the previous Delta One seats, I still thought that these seats lacked storage space. There was a place near the feature light for headphones, water bottles and small accessories and ample counter space, but that was it. It would’ve been nice to have a cubby by the footwell to store larger items like on the A330-900.
There were padded armrests on both sides, but like on the A339s, one of them felt uncomfortably narrow. Underneath the other one was a mirror and IFE remote.
The seat features were more or less the same as on the A339s. There were two USB (Type A) ports and one 110-volt power outlet for larger electronics. The seat controls were intuitive. There were various lighting options, a Do Not Disturb icon and four preconfigured layouts on the bed controls — upright, relax, lounge and bed.
There were also the same massive 18.5-inch inflight entertainment (IFE) screens.
At the rear of the cabin was a self-serve bar, which was stocked with various snacks and water bottles once we were in the air.
After Delta One you’ll find the new premium economy cabin. It has a total of 20 Premium Select seats, arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration spread across four rows.
The seats are practically identical to Delta’s Premium Select seats on the A339s, A350s and retrofitted 777s and similar to what you’ll find in Delta’s domestic first class cabins. Each one comes with its own retractable legrest and footrest, large IFE screen, USB port and power outlet.
They feature 19 inches of seat width, merely an inch less than Delta One, though the 38 inches of pitch and 7 inches of recline can’t compete with the lie-flat beds.
As with the Delta One cabin, seats in the bulkhead row are a superior choice as they provide additional legroom.
You might want to avoid rows 21 and 22 as they both lack windows.
Comfort+ and Main Cabin
In the back, there are 28 Comfort+ seats and 156 main cabin seats, overall 22 fewer than before. The cabin is configured in a comfortable 2-3-2 layout, meaning passengers have a less than 15% chance of ending up in a middle seat. Overhead bins were also enlarged for the refresh.
As with the rest of the seats on the plane, coach seats have memory foam cushions. The new seats are also slightly wider than before, but unfortunately, all Comfort+ and some main cabin seats lost an inch of legroom.
There are USB ports at every seat and power outlets beneath every other seat.
Amenities and IFE
The night before departure, I received an email from Delta notifying me that the in-flight entertainment system wouldn’t be functioning on this flight — which is why Delta provided passengers with reading material and games during boarding. This was a bummer as the plane was equipped with the new wireless entertainment systems like those on the A339s. The new systems are a lot lighter, don’t require those floor-mounted boxes and are supposed to be more responsive.
On the bright side, all passengers were compensated in the form of a voucher or Delta SkyMiles for the inconvenience. For reference, I, a Delta One passenger with no elite status, received 15,000 Sky Miles, which are worth $180 based on TPG’s valuations.
Wi-Fi was available, along with Delta Studio streaming entertainment. Delta didn’t upgrade the Ku-band Wi-Fi system to the much superior 2Ku system so the connection was slow and dropped several times throughout the flight.
Waiting at each seat were Delta’s old 19 Degree hardshell amenity kits from Tumi — stocked with socks, eye mask, toothbrush, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, ear plugs, tissues and small pen — along with a pair of LSTN headphones and the usual Westin Heavenly bedding. I was glad I brought my own headphones as the LSTN ones aren’t great. Just note that you’ll need a two-prong headphone adapter if you want to plug it into the IFE as there’s no 3.5mm headphone port.
As a part of the refresh, Delta installed an espresso machine in the forward galley.
While espresso capsules unfortunately weren’t loaded on our flight, the food that was catered was excellent. On my morning flight there was a choice of a Smoked Gouda Frittata, French Toast Bread Pudding and Vanilla Bean Five Acre Farms Greek Yogurt. The French Toast Bread Pudding I ordered came with Dill-Cured Gravlax and fresh fruit.
There are six lavatories on this plane. The one between the Delta One and Premium Select cabin has a bench that could be folded down over the toilet bowl. I appreciated the foot pedal to flush the toilet without touch.
Delta flyers have a lot to look forward to with the retrofitted 767-400s (764). Aside from the slight decrease in pitch in Comfort+ seats, overall, all of the changes are a massive upgrade to what was previously offered. Although it’s a bummer that the Delta One seats on this plane don’t have doors, the new seats still offer plenty of privacy and installing the full Delta One Suites would’ve led to an even steeper loss of seats.
This likely isn’t the only flight the retrofitted plane will operate before its official launch later this year so keep a close eye on your seat map for any upcoming Delta flights aboard a 767-400!
All photos by the author.
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