Delta 767s in Delta One

Delta Air Lines puts just four seats across (1-2-1) in its international business cabin on the narrowest of widebodies, the 767 airplane, but it still feels tight. I thought all those Delta 767s were about the same, but recently I flew in Delta One on two of Delta’s 767 models, the 300 and the 400, and I was surprised to discern a comfort difference.

Delta Air Lines calls its international business class cabin “Delta One” to infer it is First Class, the luxurious way we used to fly going overseas.  Of course Delta One is not international First Class. That level of service is mostly dead now, and certainly gone from Delta, which only half-heartedly offered it when they began flying across the ponds that separate the continents.

Nonetheless, Delta One is quite comfortable on most aircraft equipped with the biz class chairs and service, so maybe I grouse too much.  I certainly love flying Delta One over any coach option.  My impressions of flying on two Delta 767 aircraft equipped with international cabins follows.

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Delta 767-300ER Delta One cabin showing staggered seats

767-300ER – In the Delta One cabin, I selected 1A. Seats are staggered on all Delta 767 aircraft to make them fit in what some analysts call a herringbone pattern.  Thus only the odd-numbered rows have windows directly adjacent to the windows on the port and starboard sides.  Even-numbered row seats are spaced about an arm’s length away from the windows.

The interior of the plane I flew was tired and wearing out. IFE (in-flight entertainment) system appeared to be an early generation with tiny screen and poor resolution. Looked like an old TV monitor. Blurry. How quickly I have been spoiled by the very large, razor-sharp, high-def LCD screens in more modern cabins.

The standard Delta One headphones are not noise-canceling on any Delta flight, but I always take my superb Bose headphones on long flights. I turned the standard issue headphones back to the flight attendants as soon as I boarded.

Cheap “Champagne” was barely chilled and had a repulsive flavor like I imagine hair tonic would taste. Plenty of legroom, but the seat was not comfortable: It was too narrow. SeatGuru.com says mine seat was 21” wide.  Maybe so, but it felt cramped.

The LA-based crew were all very nice and efficient. All smiles. They made it a good flight even if on a tired airplane that badly needs refreshing.

767-400ER – In Delta One, seat 3A. JFK to Rome.

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767-400ER Delta One seat 3A

Much more modern interior than the 767-300 aircraft. And with a bigger front cabin. Ancient tiny screens were too far away, not bright enough, and too fuzzy to watch movies easily.

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767-400ER Delta One cabin

Seats, like the -300 airplane, were too narrow, but the cabin somehow felt roomy and comfortable. The hundred year old Flight Attendants (in other words, close to my own age) up front were friendly, competent, and really cared. I find Delta FAs, always very senior on long overseas flights, usually make a positive difference in the overall experience.

Really great dry Prosecco was served as boarding “Champagne” and properly chilled.  Real French Champagne (Gardet) was popped open after takeoff. 8 hrs, 48 mins to Rome meant lots of time to watch a movie and then sleep.

A nit: I was the first person to board in biz class, but five seats were already occupied. When I asked a flight attendant who they were, I got a shrug. I assumed the FAs were embarrassed to admit Delta nonrevs upgraded to Delta One had snuck on early. The one in 2A ahead of me had already taken all the overhead luggage space over my seat, which irritated me.

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767-400ER Delta One cabin

Not much surprises me on planes any more, but the meal was delicious, as good or better than one in a fine restaurant on the ground. Better than the meals on Qatar Airways or Cathay Pacific, and those airlines really put on the dog in business class. Wonderful carrot soup and cold shrimp starter. Was this really Delta?

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Excellent Gardet French Champagne complemented the plump and tasty Maryland crabcake entree with mashed potatoes and asparagus and a decent remoulade sauce. Cherry vanilla ice cream followed with hot chocolate-caramel topping. One scoop was plenty, and plenty good.

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Watched a movie (“Green Book”)—or, more accurately, listened to it while squinting at the faraway, tiny screen. Then put the seat flat and slept for a few hours. Joe Brancatelli warned me the business class seats on Delta 767s were short, and I didn’t think it would bother me because I am short. But it did. I barely fit into the space in front of me.  Same on both 767 models.

The cabin was quiet and dark wearing my Bose headphones and heavy Tumi eye shades (part of the strange Tumi hardcase amenity kit Delta provides to Delta One customers).

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767-400ER Delta One cabin with itty-bitty screens

SeatGuru.com reports that Delta has four 767-300 international configurations (26-36 Delta One chairs), but just a single 767-400 layout (40 Delta One seats). I must have flown in one of the oldest 767-300ER airplanes.

Delta just announced new non-suites seats for its 767-300 and 767-400 airplanes that are actually an inch narrower than current (20” rather than 21”).  This seems like a step backward in comfort based on my recent experience. And the length of the new seats is no better.  Yet somehow the overall dimensions limit the 767-400 cabin to just 34 new Delta One chairs versus 40 seats now.

Present or future configuration, I prefer Delta’s 777, A350, and A330 Delta One cabins and seats to either of the 767 models.  But of the two I just experienced, I’d eagerly opt for the 767-400ER over the older model.

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