Hello and welcome to the second review in this new short series of flights.
This year for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we decided on a trip to Iceland. There would be 6 of us meeting up in Iceland, with 3 flying from Washington, DC. There is no shortage of nonstop flights to Iceland from the DC area, with 2 daily back-to-back Icelandair flights from Washington-Dulles (IAD) and 2 daily WOW Air flights along with 4X weekly Icelandair service from Baltimore-Washington (BWI).
Being a oneworld loyalist, I don't often venture out-of-alliance, but as new American Airlines service from Dallas wasn't due to begin until June 2018, we decided to go with the most convenient option for the outbound flight, a nonstop with Icelandair from IAD. For the return from Iceland, however, we burned some Delta Skymiles which routed us through New York JFK.
This report will cover the first leg of the return with Delta Air Lines in the premium cabin of a domestic equipped Boeing 757-200, recently re-branded as Premium Select on short Transatlantic routes.
After an awesome long-weekend in one of my favourite places in the world with some great friends, it was time to head back to the U.S. For anyone who is interested, I have Iceland tourism bonus photos at the end of this report.
As mentioned in the last report, we'd held on to some Delta Skymiles for a few years since we switched to American, and have been watching their value drop more and more over time without finding any good use for them. Being that Delta flies to two of its hubs from Reykjavík-Keflavík, we decided this would be a good opportunity to finally burn some Skypesos for a return flight from Iceland in the premium cabin.
At the time of booking, Delta had recently decided to re-brand the premium cabins on some shorter Transatlantic routes operated by domestic-equipped B757-200s to "Premium Select" (Premium Economy) rather than "Business". A few routes from the U.S. to Iceland, Ireland, and Scotland were affected. I thought this was a good move on Delta's part as it feels more honest to call a domestic First class recliner seat "Premium Economy" on a long-haul flight, since it's essentially the same seat. One thing that sets Delta Premium Select apart from other carrier's Premium Economy products is that domestic U.S. connecting sectors are booked in domestic First class. Despite the lofty name "First class," this actually makes for a very consistent experience between the long-haul and short-haul flights.
With this re-branding to Premium Select came slightly lower award pricing for this route. We booked the one-way from KEF to DCA via JFK for 54,000 Skymiles. Of course, I remember when you could redeem 100,000 Skymiles for a round-trip in transatlantic Business class, just a few years ago, but in the new world of devalued miles, this was an OK deal.
As mentioned earlier, Delta operates domestic 757s to Reykjavík from its JFK and MSP hubs. Over the past several years Delta has overhauled older aircraft, like the 757, to install brand new interiors featuring more spacious overhead bins, mood lighting, and nose-to-tail IFE. However, in retrofitting the 757s, Delta has reduced the size of the premium cabin. Previously, the domestic First class cabin took up the entire space between the 1st and second set of doors with seats laid out in a 2X2 configuration over 6-7 rows. Since the retrofit, the premium cabin has been reduced to 5 rows of 20 seats with 2 1/2 rows of Comfort+ (Extra legroom economy) added behind.
It will be interesting to see what this odd configuration looks like in real life.
Airport & Check-in
With the Delta JFK flight scheduled just before 11AM, it it thankfully well after the big Icelandair and WOW Air morning departure banks. Whereas there had been a good 2 hour wait to pick up our rental car upon arrival, right in the middle of the morning rush, dropping off the rental car was thankfully much faster.
We arrived at the terminal right about 2 hours prior to departure. There wasn't much of a line for the regular Delta ticket counters.
Though the SkyPriority lane, to which we had access, was a bit busier.
It took about 15 minutes to get through the queue as there were security agents asking each passenger some very in depth and personal questions, such as "what is your profession?" and "how long have you been with you present employer?" I've been through this security questioning prior to a U.S.-bound flight before, but these were particularly thorough.
Once past the security questioning, the check-in was very fast with a friendly agent who also happened to be French, so we got to be checked in in French on our Delta flight from Iceland to the U.S.–what a small world.
Being that we were outside of the peak departures banks, there were very few people at the security checkpoint and we were through in minutes.
After some quick duty free shopping it was time to head to the gate.
It was a very rainy and windy day, making it impossible to get a good shot of our aircraft with the sideways rain hitting the windows.
As we were headed out of the airport's Schengen zone, we had to go through passport control prior to arriving at the gate. We were through in seconds as there was no one in line at all.
As we got to the gate, boarding had already begun a few minutes early. We queued up in the Sky Priority lane, and once again there was a short round of security questions–they are very thorough in Iceland!
A man with an American accent, who I think may have been the Delta Station Manager, stood by the boarding door wishing everyone a pleasant flight and thanking passengers for flying Delta. A nice touch.
The wind was howling as we boarded through the glass jetbridge.
It's always nice to turn left when boarding a 757! However, with the additional rows of Y+ between the door and the premium cabin, it felt a bit cramped.
Here is my seat in the last row of the premium cabin. As you can see there is no bulkhead wall dividing classes, only a small plastic partition hanging from the overhead bins. I'm definitely not a fan of the lack of privacy up front. More and more carriers are getting rid of bulkhead walls between cabins on narrowbodies, which is an unfortunate trend.
Pre-placed on the seat were a bottle of Icelandic water and Delta's signature Westin Heavenly bedding, which consists of a full-sized pillow and quilt. In my opinion, while the Westin Heavenly bedding is nice, it's too bulky for a domestic First/Premium Economy configuration like this.
Nice sized IFE screens.
Decent legroom with the standard Domestic First/Premium Economy 38" seat pitch.
Each passenger has a universal power port below the seat in front as well as a USB port by the IFE.
Shortly after we settled in to our seats, a Flight Attendant came by with pre-departure drinks. Options were sparkling wine, mimosas, or water.
Menus were handed out a few minutes later.
I'm impressed that Delta makes an attempt to translate everything into Icelandic for their KEF routes.
As boarding had begun early, it was completed well ahead of scheduled departure time. We pushed back a good 15 minutes early.
The safety video played as we taxied. Delta was known for humorous safety videos, but this latest video was mostly serious.
At the same time one of the friends who had joined us on the trip was boarding this UA 757-200 to EWR
We later learned that the UA flight, and all other flights departing right after us were delayed following a ground stop due to the very high winds.
After the safety video, the IFE system kicks on.
A cool #AvGeek feature of Delta's IFE, although the numbers aren't quite right before takeoff
Today's flight time will be a short 5 1/2 hours.
WOW Air A330 taking off just before us
Lining up for departure on runway 19
And we're off for a 5.5 hour flight to New York.
As is to be expected, the Delta IFE offers a robust library of movies, recent and older, as well as TV series, and music.
Shortly after takeoff, the service began with drinks. I had more sparkling wine.
Although flight attendants took main dish orders from the front of the cabin, meaning we were the last to order, I was pleasantly surprised that my preference was available. This is almost never the case on AA if I don't pre-order.
I was very impressed with the meal tray, keeping in mind that this is a Premium Economy product–the quality appears more on a Business class level.
Grilled chicken and pinneaple skewer Prosciutto and melon
The chicken had an interesting curry flavour.
Roasted Salmon with Lobster Mousse Asparagus, roasted potatoes, and lobster sauce
Cheese and dessert plate
Everything was delicious, fresh, and well presented.
By the end of the lunch service, we'd overflown the southern tip of Greenland and were almost over Labrador, Canada.
Almost the halfway point of the flight.
I had a nap after lunch and woke up as we were beginning to make our descent over Boston.
BOS Logan in all its glory
FAs ready the cabin for landing
Some aerial views of southern New England and Long Island
Just prior to landing, the lead FA thanked each passenger in the premium cabin for flying Delta and passed out dark chocolate mints. AA does a similar thing, so it was nice to see this on DL.
Looks like a nice neighbourhood
We landed early after the short flight.
We pulled in to the gate 30 minutes early. Not bad! Early arrivals are always a good thing.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the Iceland bonus below!
↓ Iceland Tourism Bonus below ↓ 🇮🇸
View from AirBnb of Mount Esja across the bay
Tjörnin lake in central Reykjavík
Hallgrímskirkja - the largest church in Iceland
Statue of Leifur Eiríksson in front of Hallgrímskirkja, the Icelandic Viking who discovered North America
Midnight sun - photo taken after midnight
The Golden Circle - Natural wonders close to Reykjavík
Waterfall and rapids near Reykholt
Krauma - new geothermal spa new Reykholt
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) - One of the largest waterfalls in Europe
Haukadalur Geothermal Park - Home of Geysir, the geyser which gave its name to the English word.
Strokkur erupting. Geysir has rarely erupted since the 1990's; however 50 metres away, Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes
Bubble of superheated water rising the moment an eruption begins
Þingvellir National Park - located at the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the Þingvellir valley was also the location where the Icelandic national parliament, the Alþingi, was established in the year 930.
Öxarárfoss waterfall and the Öxará River in Þingvellir National Park
South Coast of Iceland
Reynisfjara Black beach
Panoramic view of the beach
Beautiful rock formations and cliffs at Reynisfjara beach
Beautiful scenery along the Route 1 Ring Road on the south coast
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the edge of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
Panoramic view of Jökulsárlón
Eyjafjallajökull - The glacier volcano made famous for disrupting air travel in 2010
Skógafoss waterfall near Eyjafjallajökull
Delta Air Lines
Reykjavík - KEF
New York - JFK
As a Premium Economy experience, Delta's Premium Select offers a solid product. U.S. carrier cabin class branding can be confusing, with names such as "First class" on domestic flights, and "Business" or "DeltaOne" on international flights, but I think that Delta's decision to call the premium cabin "Premium Select" on these short transatlantic flights operated by domestic-configured aircraft is an honest move in a sea of confusing branding. The cabin crew were friendly and did their jobs with a smile. The catering is particularly impressive for a Premium Economy product. In my opinion, it is basically Business class level catering, and in fact, I've had worse meals in long-haul Business class. The only aspect that resembles more Premium Economy than Business is the fact that the entire meal is served on one tray.
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