The holidays means the privilege of visiting family.
I have always flown United home for the holidays, but the price differential on the day I wanted to travel this time was ridiculous. United in economy was pricing out higher than Delta in First. With that kind of a difference, I couldn't justify being loyal to United. Interestingly enough, I believe this is actually my first time flying domestic first class with Delta.
Normally I get to the Austin Airport pretty much right as boarding begins for my flight. This time, I showed up more than an hour early because I wanted to review the new Delta Sky Club that had opened up earlier this year.
I actually checked a bag this time around, and so went to the Sky Priority desk. The passengers ahead of me had some issues with their bags, so it was a few minutes before I was helped. Once at the desk, everything was handled very quickly.
Most of the reviews I found for this lounge was around the time of its grand opening, I wanted to see what it was like day-to-day. I had access from my Amex Plat.
You can find the Sky Club at the east end of the terminal, up a set of stairs.
Right before the club is a public terrace - I would recommend this spot if you want to go spotting. The terrace in the Sky Club is quite small.
To the right of the stairs is the entrance to the Sky Club. There are two counters for check-in and I was quickly welcomed in with a smile.
Next to the counters is a departure screen showing just the Delta flights. A little further in is a row of seats in between the main sections of the Sky Club. I'm not sure why you would ever sit here though.
On your left is the main dining area.
Right besides the dining area is the outdoor terrace. As you can see, the views are somewhat more limited compared to the public terrace. It is a nice enough area anyways. The widebodies that service Austin were not here yet. Neither the BA 777/747 (it varies) nor the LH A330 would arrive until after I departed. It was also out of season for the DY 787. KLM is expected to start service here next spring. In any case, nothing but narrowbodies for me to spot today, so I didn't bother.
To the right from the entrance is the bar area. It is a circular room with the bar at the center and various table and chair setups surrounding it.
In the center on the opposite side of the bar are various beverage dispensers. When I visited, the soft drink machines were not working.
Further from the circular bar room is a work area. Again, there are various different setups with the work desks facing a few gates.
From the work area you can find the restroom. The hallway decor is keeping with the Austin theme. Delta uses Malin+Goetz amenities here. I appreciated that the restroom door has a motion sensor.
After walking around, it was time for lunch. The spread is rather small, but the food was good.
I opted to try the vegetarian pho and made a taco or two using the beer-braised chicken. It hit the spot.
After eating, I checked out the bar. There was a decent complimentary and premium selection available.
Here is the drinks menu - you'll note that the Dom is not available at the Austin Sky Club. As far as using SkyMiles go - it's actually not a bad value.
Speaking of using SkyMiles, I used 1,500 for a half-bottle of the LP, just to test it out. The bartender very quickly filled up an ice bucket to store the bottle while I sipped on it. To note, you can also tip using SkyMiles at 1 mile = 2 cents.
I hung around the lounge for about an hour before making my way to Gate 10, which was a mere ~3 minutes away even at my slow pace of walking.
Here is the bird: N303DN, a 3-years-old A321.
Preboarding began at 1:20pm CT, 4 minutes behind schedule.
Delta's A321 has 5 rows of typical U.S. domestic first seats in a 2-2 configuration.
Waiting for you at each seat were a bottle of water, a small pillow, and a thin blanket. This already puts Delta ahead of United and American.
The seat is fairly standard, with a crisp IFE. I like that the outlets are found in the armest in front of you - easier to find and plug in.
Legroom is decent - about what you expect nowadays in domestic first. Delta's website reports pitch is 37 inches.
In the seatback pocket was a package for earbuds, I think this was left over from the last flight though it was clearly not used.
It took a while before PDB orders were taken. My coat was also taken at this time (~15-20 minutes after boarding). The purser took orders for everyone in first using a tablet. Every passenger was addressed by name - though very clearly read directly from the tablet (nothing wrong with that, I don't expect names to be memorized for short flights and I appreciate the gesture of using names).
The IFE was fairly good despite its small size. The selection was strong.
Before service started I had a chance to check out the lavatory. It was normal-sized for an A321. I appreciate the inclusion of Malin + Goetz body lotion in addition to the hand soap. It's a welcome addition after washing your hands and often airlines skip out on the lotion for domestic narrowbodies.
Service began at 2:25pm CT with drink orders. I asked for the prosecco, which was served about 10 minutes later.
The purser brought out the snack basket at 2:47pm CT. I have to say I was expecting a bit more - sadly, the Air Canada snack basket from the sub-one-hour YUL to YTZ flight is still the gold standard for the snack baskets I've encountered.
I ended up choosing chips and asked for another bottle of water. You can see the flip-out tray below, there is only an indentation when used as a half-tray.
Before landing, the purser came around and thanked each passenger by name. It was a bit rote, but I appreciate the gesture.
We ended up landing at 4:47pm ET and arrived at the gate 12 minutes later.
Lounge: This is easily the best lounge in Austin. Admittedly, the competition is terrible. I enjoyed my time there though, and would definitely recommend if you have some time to kill before a flight. The best part is that it isn't very crowded (yet).
Cabin & Seat: These are fairly standard recliner seats. Delta's big advantage of course is the IFE.
Service: Service was friendly and I was addressed by name (though it was read off an iPad for the most part).
Meal & Catering: I believe this flight fell just beneath Delta's threshold for a meal. The snack basket was a little underwhelming though.
Bottom Line: I normally fly United out of Austin - fewer UA elites (or so it feels) and better chances of upgrades, but when the price difference is this large, it makes no sense to not fly Delta. The flight was comfortable and the new Sky Club in Austin is the best lounge for the airport - I would definitely recommend this flight.