First Time A350 ✈ First Time Delta Premium Select ✈ DTW-ICN
Background: Philadelphia to Bangkok is a very difficult citypair to fly, requiring more than 24 hours of continuous travel, a minimum of three connecting flights, at least two airlines, and typically high fares. All these considerations already make it a challenge to put together a good itinerary, but when your employer authorizes your trip only a week in advance, the challenge becomes even more significant. By then reduced seat selection and absence of low advance-purchase fares are added to the list of difficulties.
After extensive research, I decided to fly for the first time a new aircraft in a new class of service. The routing was PHL-DTW-ICN-BKK with Delta Air Lines. Delta offered the B737-800 to Detroit and then the brand-new A350-900 to Seoul. On this aircraft Delta introduced their brand-new premium economy class, Premium Select, and I was fortunate to find good seats available for a decent upgrade over the Main Cabin. I don't know if I'll ever truly look forward to an itinerary which involves traveling for more than an entire day through 12 hours' worth of time zones, but given that I had lined up my first-ever A350 in the brand-new Premium Select seats, I was at least looking forward to experiencing this flight for the first time.
Please enjoy the reports, and I look forward to your comments.
Departure: 12:42 (actual 12:41)
Arrival: 16:30+1 (actual 16:15+1)
Actual Block Time: 13h34
Actual Flight Time: 13h14
Seat: 24G Delta Premium Select
My flight PHL-DTW on the Delta B737-800 arrived 20 minutes early at 11:10. Boarding to Seoul was set for 11:47 and departure for 12:42.
At the gate in DTW:
My first-ever Airbus A350 was N504DN. Boarding commenced on time. Delta One, rows 1 to 9, was invited to board first, followed by Premium Select, rows 20 to 25. The first positive impression of Premium Select: Sky Priority boarding. Anxious to see the Premium Select cabin for the first time, I was among the first to board in my group. I boarded through L2 into the galley, made a right onto the second aisle, and entered the cabin.
Delta's A350-900 Premium Select includes six rows of 2-4-2 seating, for a total of 48 seats. My seat was 24G, aisle seat in the second-to-last row. I had definitely not wanted one of the middle seats for such a long flight, and I had preferred an aisle to a window, which was just fine considering there were no window seats available. For this flight I had a travel partner who took the seat next to me, 24F. All in all, there would end up being two empty seats, 24E and 25F, meaning my travel partner was lucky enough to have nobody sitting beside her.
The new cabin made a very good first impression. The seats had a very nice design with dark blue leather. I found excellent legroom, more than domestic First Class. The seats included legrests, footrests, generous recline, and a very large screen. They were very comfortable and stylish, again, nicer than domestic First Class! The seats also came stocked with several amenities: Delta-branded slippers, an amenity kit, a pillow, a blanket, and headphones. Settling in and exploring the seat further, I found a storage chubby under the armrest. Additional magazine storage could be found under the screen, plus there was the seatback pocket. The tray table was stored in the armrest; release a latch and the table springs up for use. The overhead bins were extremely large, and could fit bags on their sides. And I got my whole compartment to myself. The cabin had a wide-open feeling with a high ceiling. Overall very impressive! And now pre-departure beverages were being offered: water or sparkling wine, sparkling wine obviously, to commemorate my good fortune to be flying in this beautiful cabin today. Pre-departure beverage refills were even offered! Then menus were distributed. They contained both a western menu and a Korean menu.
Safety card and PDB:
So far Premium Select made a very good first impression! I found it to be very premium, just like the name. The seat really was very comfortable. And a beverage service on the ground, amenities in the seat, and printed menus, all just like in Business Class!
The view from 24G:
An announcement advised a flight time of 13h5. Pushback occurred at 12:41. I thought I was going to be in for a very good flight. A brand-new plane, cabin, and class of service, a very comfortable seat, and so far, great service. We were number one for departure.
We took off at 12:54. It was very quiet, with no engine noise, despite sitting right in the vicinity of the engines. Bumps on the runway made the entire ceiling shake; I hadn't seen that before. As seems to be the nature of longhaul twin aircraft, it was not a particularly powerful takeoff. Well obviously it was powerful, considering only two engines can provide the power needed to get a large aircraft loaded with fuel for a 13h flight off the ground, but it does not feel powerful in the sense of being pushed back into your seat, feeling the power. Nevertheless it didn't seem like too long a takeoff roll. It was a smooth liftoff, and it remained very quiet. After liftoff I could already hear people chatting several rows away because it was so quiet onboard.
Curtains existed to the galley, forward of Premium Select, and then again between the galley and Business Class, however all curtains remained open the duration of the flight. Behind Premium Select, there was a physical bulkhead, but no curtains in the aisles between Premium Select and the Main Cabin. After takeoff I began going through my very large and high-resolution screen, a very responsive touchscreen. A remote was also provided under the armrest. The IFE said we had 13h15 of flight time remaining. The headphones were dual-prong; the provided headphones were noise-cancelling and of good quality, and covered the entire ear. Unfortunately, of the two holes for the dual-prongs, one was jammed, and it woouldn't plug all the way in, resulting in no sound at all. I used my personal single-prong headphones instead, but quickly found out that single-prong headphones result in sound in only one ear. In any case I found a very extensive movie selection, among the best I've seen. I decided to start with The Prestige
, with 12h30 to go. The gentleman seated ahead of me reclined, but I still had plenty of room, and could even cross my legs. The captain welcomed us aboard. We were flying due north, and expecting a smooth flight, and to arrive 15 minutes early, at about 16:15. Mood lighting switched to a yellow sunrise color, and most people seemed to be utilizing the excellent screens.
The inflight service schedule, explained in the menu, was to consist of the first meal service, a mid-flight hot snack/ice cream service, and a pre-arrival snack service. Both the first service and the pre-arrival service included a choice between western and Korean options. The First Service Western Menu
offered two entrees, either Pan Fried Chicken with Lemon Caper Picatta Sauce
or Black Truffle Ravioli Gratin
, and the Korean Menu
choice was Korean Beef Ribs
. The choices for the Mid-Flight Snack
were Basil Alfredo Margherita Flatbread Pizza
and Magnum Ice Cream Bar
. And the Almost There
pre-arrival choices were Truffle Leek and Mushroom Frittata
or the Korean option of Beef Bulgogi
. I thought the Korean menu sounded very appealing, and planned to get it both meals. Beers on offer were Heineken, Miller Lite, and OB Beer. I was disappointed to find them without Delta's usual craft offerings of Blue Moon and Sweetwater 420, one I particularly enjoy, or even perhaps a new craft beer. But on the plus side I had never before heard of OB Beer, so I decided to try it. There was also no tequila, and thus no cocktail margaritas, like on a domestic Delta flight.
Full-size water bottles began service, followed by hot towels. Tables were set with linen, and Korean immigration and customs cards were offered. I didn't need one, since after this flight, my itinerary had me connecting to Bangkok on a Korean Air A380.
Drink service started from the trolley, front-to-back, with one flight attendant on each aisle. My travel partner was interested in the wine selection, and was offered the red (pinot noir) or the white (chardonnay). Upon selecting the red, the bottle was presented for inspection, and she was then offered a taste first. I chose the OB Beer, OB Premier Pilsner
, "Rich taste with German Noble Hop" brewed according to the purity law. Everything else on the can was written in Korean. We were served packaged mixed nuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans, to go with the drinks. This beer from Korea was a new one for me, and I found it to be very cold and pleasant.
A short time after the beverage service, a second round of beverages were offered to go with dinner. I took one more of the same.
Dinner service started from the trolley, again front-to-back with one flight attendant on each aisle. Only the western options of the pasta and the chicken were available, disappointing as I was planning to order the Korean option. Instead got the chicken: Pan Fried Chicken with Lemon Caper Picatta Sauce - served with haricots verts and fresh ricotta tortellone
. My travel partner got the pasta: Black Truffle Ravioli Gratin - with creamy parmesan sauce, truffle bread crumb and fresh herb cherry tomatoes
. Both western options also included an appetizer of Finocchiona Salami and Goat Cheese with crostini and tomato jam
and the salad Baby Gem Caesar Salad with pecans, pomegranate seeds, shaved parmesan and caesar dressing
. The tray included a pretzel roll, which was very good; as I commented to my travel partner how good it was, the flight attendant suddenly showed up to offer a second.
My meal, the chicken option:
My travel partner's meal, the pasta option:
The chicken was decent and well-cooked, and the salad was also good. My seatmate loved the goat cheese appetizer and also liked the pasta. The small dessert was also good. So not only was the seat better than domestic First Class, the meal service was, too. But I did unfortunately have one complaint: On the other aisle, the meal choices were the Korean option or the pasta. I was very disappointed to find out my choice was, in fact, available if I was only seated on the other aisle. The flight attendant not mentioning this fact, instead simply saying it's not available, when it is available in the other cart, well I hope that's not the norm for Premium Select service.
Coffee service afterwards concluded the first meal service. Despite not getting my actually-available first choice, this was a good meal with nice presentation. Lights were switched off, but remained on in the Main Cabin, leaving two-thirds of Premium Select pretty bright as well. Eventually all the lights went off. By now I had become aware of the biggest issue with flying in Premium Select: the restroom situation. There were two restrooms in the forward galley, between Premium Select and Business Class, but they were in continuous use and there was a continuous line for them so far in the flight. I finished The Prestige
and decided to try my luck with the restroom. Not much luck, unfortunately, as it took a long time to make it in. By then there were six people on line!
My next movie was Ted
with 9h15 to go. No flight attendants were passing through the cabin the entire time since the meal. I finally had to go to the galley where I found the flight attendant from the other aisle seated there. I asked for water, which she very unenthusiastically gave me. I'm not sure if Premium Select is supposed to have flight attendants passing through the cabin or not, but roughly 5h is too long without any form of service.
It was soon time for another restroom break. There were still not enough restrooms for 48 seats. But the restroom was at least nice, with mood lighting and an auto-sensor faucet.
My next movie was Match Point
, and there was finally a water bottle service! At 6h to go, lights were switched back on (purple this time) and the mid-flight snack service began. It turns out you get both the pizza and the ice cream, a nice surprise, as I thought it was one or the other. The pizza hit the spot, and I believe it was my first-ever inflight pizza. The ice cream, though, was delicious, with a double chocolate shell and vanilla ice cream, it tasted very high quality. An excellent mid-flight snack! The drink cart followed. I ordered a sparkling wine because it came in a cute single-serve bottle. I was served Avissi Italian Prosecco. Unfortunately it was the most disgusting sparkling wine I've ever had. Lights were soon switched back off after the snack service.
Mid-flight snack in mood-lighting:
Single-serve sparkling wine:
We now had 4h to go. Despite the high quality, comfortable seat, my legs were becoming very stiff. These super-long flights are rough. I went to stand in the galley, where I chatted with my aisle's flight attendant, from pre-merger Northwest. Hanging out in the galley, it was clear to me that the last row of the Business Class cabin is not the right choice. Those seats are fully exposed to the galley, with the curtain open and lots of people congregating there to stretch, get a drink, or wait in the inevitable restroom line.
I took another fresh water bottle and headed back to my seat for my next movie, Forrest Gump
. It was now past 01:00 (EST), so I was getting pretty sleepy. I reclined the seat to full recline, still impressed with how much recline it had. I didn't fall asleep, because at 1.5h to go, hot towels were brought out and mood lighting set to yellow. For this meal, service would be from back-to-front, with drinks first, meals second. At the beginning of the flight 12h ago, I had planned to get both Korean entrees. In the first meal it hadn't worked out, and now the breakfast dish smelled really good, so I ended up choosing it: Truffle Leek and Mushroom Frittata - served with potato hash and bacon
. The bacon was the source of the delicious smell, and it was incredibly good. I'm not normally looking for breakfast after a long non-overnight flight arriving in the afternoon, but it was perfect this time. We had 45 minutes to go after the meal.
I joined the restroom line again, during which time the captain announced we were beginning descent. After making it into the restroom, I returned to my seat to find farewell mint dark chocolates.
Landing was at 02:08, and we parked at the gate at 02:15 (or 16:15 Korean time).
All in all, I was very happy with Delta Premium Select. There were a few hiccups along the way, including the first meal service entrees being "not available" and the lack of service for five straight hours, but the overall experience was very good. The seat was very spacious with better legroom than domestic First Class, and very comfortable with the legrest, footrest, and deep recline, again all better than domestic First Class. The high-resolution screen was full of content to keep my mind occupied during such a long flight. The meals were very good, including the welcome mid-flight snack service, and I liked that they came specially plated. The only real negative was the lack of restrooms. I would definitely recommend Delta Premium Select, and I am already thinking of flying it again in the future.
I also really liked the Airbus A350. I find it to be a stylish plane, with the swept-back wing tips and racoon mask windshield. It is sleek and futuristic. It provided a smooth ride and I really liked the plane. It is definitely going on my short list of types that I seek out.
My flight back was again in Delta Premium Select on the A350. My aircraft for that flight was N509DN. Here are some A350 shots parked at the gate in ICN:
I did not prepare a full trip report, but for this flight I tried the bulkhead Premium Select aisle seat 20G. I had no travel partner this time. The boarding process seemed extra long due to nearly everyone banging their clearly-oversized roll-aboard bags into my seat. The load was 100%. My headphone port worked this time, and I was happy with the provided headphones. The limited restrooms were still very much a problem. Seated in the bulkhead, some passengers would even stand right in my space while waiting. The bulkhead did offer good legroom, comparable to other rows, and nobody was reclining into my space, but then again that wasn't a problem last time.
The first meals included Korean Halibut
, or the western options of Penne Pasta
or my choice of Roasted Chicken Breast and Thigh Confit - served with saffron risotto, green beans and roasted cherry tomato sauce
. The chicken was extremely good, well-cooked with delicious sauce.
The mid-flight snack and ice cream service included Grilled Chicken Panini - with mozzarella, zucchini, eggplant and tomato
with Häagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream. Another good mid-flight snack, but the Magnum ice cream was way better! The beer selection was the same, and you can see on this flight I had each of the remaining beers, Heineken and Miller Lite.
The pre-arrival service included either Korean Bibimbab
or my breakfast choice of Mushroom Frittata with roasted potatoes and chicken sausage
After my second Premium Select flight, I remain a very satisfied customer looking forward to the next time I can take a Premium Select flight!