Hello, and welcome to another trans-Pacific flight-report from yours truly — this time, it will be an as-quick-as-possible jaunt with Delta from Toronto to Seoul, Korea, in a mix of business and premium economy.
I’ll start off with a bit of an apology — this is going to be a little bit shorter and less thorough than my usual reportage. I had meant to have this done long ago, but then life got in the way. I hope I’m still able to capture a sense of the Delta Premium Select experience, as it hasn’t had too much written on it as of yet.
DL6285 - YYZ-DTW - 11/20/2017 - Bombardier CRJ-900 - F - Check it out here DL159 - DTW-ICN - 11/20/2017 - Airbus A350-900 - J - Check it out here DL158 - ICN-DTW - 11/22/2017 - Airbus A350-900 - PE - You are here DL6197 - DTW-YYZ - 11/22/2017 - Bombardier CRJ-900 - F - Quick review below
With the “main event” of trying the new Delta business class behind me, I was still quite interested to see how the brand-new Premium Economy — errr, sorry, Premium Select — experience held up to my minimal experience in international premium economy offerings.
While “W” seems to be the common fare code for premium economy on many airlines, Delta’s opted for its domestic First Class codes (FPAG) to do double-duty as Premium Select, although I’m not sure F gets converted — both because of the potential for confusion, and because they probably don’t need four PE fare classes. But PAG — definitely Premium Select on international flights.
I had “put in” for a global upgrade on this flight — deciding at the last moment that since I had one open and available global upgrade, I may as well try. I ended up #4 for one seat upgraded at the gate — not a surprise given the hype and excitement around the new J product, and the small J cabin relative to the 744 that the 359 is replacing on this route.
Check-in, security, etc.
I stayed the night after arrival in a lovely little Airbnb about 15 minutes from the airport, which was very reasonably priced and included pickup and dropoff at ICN. The host was an amazing and friendly young woman who was lovely to chat with, despite the fact that her English wasn’t very good, and my Korean is non-existant. There’s not much to say other than that — I got in, I went out for some amazing fried chicken and beer at a local place — I came home, I went to sleep.
I got back to Incheon right at 9:00, already checked in for my flight and with my boarding pass on my mobile device. It was a cold but lovely morning, not entirely dissimilar to what I’d experienced at home the days before the trip.
Inside, Incheon was busy, but I quickly found my way into a rather long queue for security. Yes, it was a long lineup, but it was handled very efficiently, and 17 minutes later, I was airside at one of the best airports in the world, Seoul Incheon.
Of course, departing on a foreign airline, it was down the super-long escalator, and over to Terminal A. On the way to the airport, I was chatting with my hostess about the new terminal, slated to open (and be inhabited by KE, DL, et al) early in 2018, hopefully in time for the Winter Olympics.
A few minutes later, I popped up in Terminal A, with about an hour to kill before boarding.
I didn’t do a lot of spotting, but I just had to grab a picture of this beauty in its rather unique livery.
This is what I found at the gate for my flight. Just the day before (and for that matter the day after) it would be a DL 747 replacing this TG 747. If you squint real hard, you can actually see my ride back to North America in the distance, over the number-four engine of this 744.
I made a quick stop by the KAL Lounge at Concourse A, which was packed to the point of no seating being available. The buffet also didn’t grab me very much, so I pretty much had a coke, turned around and left. I had a much more thorough report on this lounge when I flew this flight earlier in 2017 — you can find that here, if you need to know more about this lounge.
After that, I got some steps in making my rounds of the terminal, returning to the gate in time to capture my ride replacing the previously-photographed 744 at the gate. Hello again, new/old friend!
I walked around a little more, and by the time I returned, lines were starting to form, so I joined the “Premium” line, after getting the mandatory “you’re flying to the U.S.” interrogation from a lovely young Korean (nationality, not airline) agent, who at once seemed to have mastered doing this, and seemed very uncomfortable bothering each of the 200-plus passengers lining up for the flight. Fortunately, she didn’t press too hard on why I was just in Korea for like 18 hours, or from where I had come beforehand, because I didn’t really want to get in the “I came to Korea just to ride a new airplane” discussion. Some people might think that’s crazy or something!
Boarding started about 10:30 — after another couple of agents made sure each passenger had been interrogated. Fortunately, no additional security check for me.
The Flight Report
Flight: DL158 From: Seoul Incheon (ICN) To: Detroit Wayne (DTW) Date: 11/22/2017 Aircraft: Airbus A350-900 Registration: N503DN Seat: 22A ATD (STD): 12:21 (11:15) ATA (STA): 09:48 (10:06)
For this flight, I was sitting in 22A, a window seat about half-way back in the the rather large Premium Select cabin just behind doors two. My first impression is that this seat is a bit narrower than my only other premium economy experience, on AC. This isn’t a surprise, given Delta’s somewhat-disappointing decision to go 2-4-2 in PS on the 359, where 2-3-2 would lead to much greater creature comfort. Other than that, we’ll get into seat comfort more a bit later.
Waiting for me at my seat was the equipment for the flight, not a bad haul for Premium Economy. The slippers and headphones are the same as Delta offered in J. The amenity kit is pared down a bit, but still decent. The blanket was the same as is offered in Domestic F. The pillow is nice upgrade — a small “business class pillow” rather than the standard Y-class pillow that PE passengers get on Air Canada.
Legroom shot — I found it quite adequate, although not extraordinary. All in all, the seat experience looks and feels a lot like Delta domestic F. That’s not a bad thing, really. Notice also the power outlets are located near the base of the console between the seats in front.
Big beautiful windows are big and beautiful. Our Finnish twin is still at the gate I can see from here.
The Premium Select IFE screen is MASSIVE for Premium Economy, and looked great. Note also the small “toss your cellphone here” storage area just below.
Which is all the more important, because the seatback pocket is tiny and doesn’t have much space left in it after the safety card and magazine. Storage is definitely at a premium in Premium Select. Yes, the pun was intentional.
There’s a small IFE remote control that I felt no reason to use, given the screen is relatively close to the seat in front of you. The remotes are simple enough, but located inside the armrest — I think I reclined myself a bit more than I intended to a couple of times, but nothing too major.
At the base of the armrest, you’ll find your headphone jack and a very, very small storage area that I didn’t really find any use for.
Service began pre-departure beverages — your choice of water, orange juice, or sparkling wine. (Just water and OJ on AC, as I recall.) No glass for you, Premium Economy scum!
And then, the menu. Nothing really appealed to me. I was tempted to order the bibimbap just to compare the PS bibimbap to the Delta One bibimbap I had earlier in 2017. I ended up going with the chicken.
They kept us at the gate for quite a while just due to congestion on the ground at ICN — no big surprise. During this time, I got to know my seatmate, a nice guy who, as it happens, was #3 on the upgrade list. We had a very nice chat, although it stayed in my mind for some reason that I was surprised that a Diamond described this premium economy as “much nicer than premium economy on the 747,” referring, of course, to Delta’s “Comfort Plus” “economy with more legroom” product. Here the one problem with the 2-4-2 setup became obvious. I’m a fairly large guy at about 5’11” and 220, and my seatmate was significantly larger in both dimensions. I found his elbow frequently to be in “my space” in the window seat. This wouldn’t be a problem when I was sleeping, but did seem a minor annoyance particularly during meals. Another inch between seats would have made a big difference, IMHO.
We finally pushed back about noon, and began a rather long taxi out to the runway, as it started to lightly rain outside.
A little Boeing heading home to Taipei taxiing past us.
About 12:19, we lined up. And away we went.
It wasn’t long before we were above the early afternoon rain, where the sun always shines.
Service began with a (better than economy-class) hot towel about 20 minutes after takeoff.
The flight attendant who did just about all the service on our aisle was very nice. Attentive, respectful, kind and friendly. Not personalized — and one shouldn’t expect that in PE — but consistently “Would you care for a drink, gentlemen?” or “More bread, sir?” I would guess him in his late 30s or early 40s, and seemed to be used to serving in premium cabins. Or maybe the training for this brand new cabin was still “fresh” that bad habits had not yet sunk in. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt — I thought the service level was great for premium economy.
Tablecloths were set, and then drinks offered — some water and a Bloody Mary for me, accompanied by packaged mixed nuts. This was about 35 minutes after takeoff.
About 20 minutes after that, lunch was served. As expected in PE, it’s a one-tray affair, using the same Alessi serviceware Delta uses in F and J. Another round of drinks was offered with the meal service.
The offered salad was small, but at least it wasn’t just mixed greens and maybe one sad cherry tomato. I enjoyed it.
The starter didn’t really grab me too much, and the bun didn’t seem very fresh. Definitely the low point of this meal.
The main course was actually surprisingly good — the chicken tasty and moist, and the gnocchi nicely done. I enjoyed this dish a great deal more than I had expected to.
Apparently, I failed to get a picture of the dessert by itself — but it was simple and good enough, but seemed very mass-produced and uneventful.
All in all, the meal service was about what I expected from premium economy service.
With my meal dishes quickly cleared up, and the house lights brought down, it’s time to take a quick look at the amenity kit. It’s simpler than the business class kit, and the contents aren’t as good. The socks are cheaper. The toothpaste is “single serve” rather than “small travel size” The Tumi-branded “leather” bag has become my go-to kit for keeping my mobile power bank, travel dock/USB hub, and various cables organized when I’m on the road.
With lunch over, we were still nine hours out of Detroit, just over northern Japan.
Time to pick a movie. I’d not heard of this one, but it was pretty good… dark, and more than a little depressing, but a well-told story. The IFE interface is the same as every other Delta IFE interface, although it looked great on the much bigger and higher-rez screen. Full-size Evian water bottles were distributed after lunch.
With the movie over, I decide it’s time to get a little shut-eye. This seems like a good time to talk about comfort. Aside from the aforementioned issues with neighbours’ elbows, I found the seat very comfortable, with soft, giving leather that gave just enough and supported just enough. The seat has a lot of recline, and I really loved the rising leg rest for lounging and sleeping. Overall, despite probably being a bit narrower, I thought the seat was notably more comfortable than AC’s premium economy product, and I slept really well. I was aided by the fact that we got a good pillow, which made it easy and comfortable to put the pillow up against the window, and lean into the window at full recline. I found it quite a comfy way to sleep, and woke up about 4 hours later over Fairbanks Alaska.
Just in time for the mid-flight snack. This was the same as what was in offer in Y on this flight — a simple “croque monsieur” with strawberry Haagen Dazs. I think I enjoyed this mid-flight snack more than the J-class snack on DTW-ICN, for what it’s worth.
It was accompanied by drink service — in my case a rather generous pour of Woodford bourbon on on the rocks. I was surprised to be presented my drink in a glass. At its best, AC had only offered “real” serviceware in PE on the main meal service after departure. After that, it was all Y-class plastic. And on my most recent PE flight on AC, my drinks were all presented in plastic cups, part of a space-saving effort, as it was explained to me.
After the snack, my neighbour got up, so I took the opportunity to hop up and check out the lav. Yep, it’s a lav. It’s tiny. But it sure is a lav.
After the snack, I napped for a while longer, waking up as we crossed from Saskatchewan into Manitoba airspace. I puttered playing some games and listing to podcasts for a while.
About an hour later, the house lights came up, and it was time for the pre-arrival meal. Service began with a kind “good morning,” and another hot towel.
And then my typical breakfast drink order. I’m impressed that we’re still in glass and ceramic here. Meal service was held to pretty last-minute — beginning just over 60 minutes out of DTW.
For the pre-arrival meal, I went with the Korean option, having had the omelet offering in Delta One on a PVG-DTW flight a few weeks before this. Again, served on the full Alessia tray and serviceware. That’s a nice touch, given that meal contents and presentation are exactly the same as in Y on AC’s premium economy. I liked this meal very much. The beef wasn’t super-tender, but was very tasty. And the gochujang wasn’t the best gochujang I’ve ever had, but it was pretty good, and even bad gochujang is pretty good, I think.
With the meal over, we quickly began our descent into Detroit, with morning looking quite nice out my big beautiful window.
And touchdown at about 9:41 in the morning — almost three hours before we left Seoul.
We taxied a little bit the long way, pulling into the main concourse of the McNamara Terminal about nine minutes later, with our older sister (an A330) a couple of gates over.
Arrival, Immigrations, etc.
I’m getting good at the international-to-“domestic” transfer at DTW. With Global Entry courtesy of my Nexus Card, I was through customs in no time. I skip the transit security line because it doesn’t offer PreCheck, and head landside just long enough to go upstairs, and go through PreCheck. I was back through and airside at the McNamara Terminal just 22 minutes after we pulled into the gate.
And indeed, that’s where we’ll wrap up this flight-report, as just beyond the entrance into the terminal was the A350 that had taken my to Seoul and back, getting a “salute” from the dancing fountain at mid-terminal.
Getting home - DL6197 DTW-YYZ
From here, it was up to the Sky Club for a quick breakfast and a shower, and then over to the other concourse for a short CRJ-900 flight home to Toronto. It was pretty much what I expected. Again, no snack service on this short flight. Pity.
And so ends this TPAC whirlwind trip. Thanks for joining me for my last adventure of 2017, and I look forward to seeing you when my 2018 travels start up. It may not be too long!
Delta Air Lines
Seoul - ICN
Detroit - DTW
All in all, Delta offers a pretty solid Premium Economy offering.
The seat is very similar to a domestic First Class seat, but more comfortable, and the addition of the rising legrest makes it pretty nice for lounging and sitting. Even though the seat could stand to be a bit wider — or separation between seats greater — I found it a a good sleep experience for PE as well, largely because of a good pillow and the ability to snuggle in against the window.
Service was well above average for PE, and the meal service was quite good — much more “Business Class Lite” than “Economy Plus.”
All in all, if the price is right, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another flight this long in Premium Select, and I look forward to seeing how it works out on the 777 when they start getting refurbs later this year.
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