Delta Brings Cocktails, Hot Towels and Better Food to International Economy

Jul 2, 2019

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The long overlooked economy traveler is finally getting some of the hospitality usually reserved for the front of the plane: drinks, hot towels and better food.

Beginning this November, coach passengers on many of Delta’s international flights will notice a marked change in the onboard experience — particularly when compared to rival US carriers. Long overlooked, the hundreds who fill the rear of the cabin will soon be treated to gratis cocktails and hot towels shortly after takeoff. Plus, the airline is promising a major upgrade on the food front, with mix-and-match options for premium appetizers and larger entrees.

Delta's enhanced main cabin meals, coming November 2019 to Main Cabin and Comfort+ passengers (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
Delta’s enhanced main cabin meals, coming November 2019 to Main Cabin and Comfort+ passengers (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

TPG reviewed a flight between Tokyo and Portland where this upgraded economy experience was being tested last year. After some 14,000 hours of flight time, Delta is fine-tuning the process using more than 1,800 customer surveys as well as crew feedback for a system-wide rollout later this year. For example, rather than serving Bellinis from a vanilla beverage cart, they’ll be served from a tray.

Welcome cocktails are no longer reserved for business class (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
Welcome cocktails are no longer reserved for business class (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Per our conversation with Delta, minors and those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages will be served as usual during meal service.

Not your typical coach meal on Delta (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

“The thoughtful touches we’re investing in throughout the new Main Cabin experience were designed by flight attendants with one goal in mind: delivering an exceptional experience that our customers will rave about and one that our team, the best in the business, is proud to deliver,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s senior vice president of inflight service.

Chocolates will be handed out in the economy cabin prior to landing (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
Chocolates will be handed out in the economy cabin prior to landing (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Welcome Bellinis, bolstered amenity kits and meals you won’t turn your nose up at are the kinds of things that we’ve come to expect on certain carriers like Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and Emirates. It has long been understood, however, that legacy US carriers simply weren’t willing to compete with international carriers when it comes to impressing coach passengers on long-haul flights.

The aforementioned perks will come to Comfort+ passengers alongside Main Cabin clients, though a Delta representative informed us that there are no plans to implement a separate version of this for those seated in the Premium Select cabin.

Delta's bistro-style dining, coming November 2019 to international coach passengers (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
Delta’s bistro-style dining, coming November 2019 to international coach passengers (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Delta sees that as an opportunity to further differentiate itself from the other carriers. Although it’s glamorous to hop oceans in business or first class, it’s not always practical. In fact, some — like TPG Points and Miles Backpacker Brian Birosprefer to fly economy in order to squeeze more trips out of their miles. We’d prefer that Delta also add legroom and pitch to make the economy experience better, but touches like these are appreciated.

For international flights 6.5 hours or longer (as well as select shorter flights where Delta One and Premium Select are offered), you’ll also see pursers make preflight introductions in the gatehouse and personal greetings at the boarding door. Delta hopes to build bonds between passengers and the flight crew by adding a layer of warmth and hospitality.

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