Review: Delta A321 First Class

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, Delta

While domestic flight reviews might not be as exciting as some international ones, I figure they’re still useful. In this post I wanted to review my Miami to New York JFK flight in Delta Air Lines’ A321 first class, which helped me position for my review trip.

When it comes to domestic and short haul flights on Delta, I’ve already reviewed their first class experience on the 737-800, A320, and CRJ-900. Let’s take a look at how the A321 compares.

The A321 is still fairly new for Delta, as they only got their first such plane in 2016. They already have nearly 100 of them in their fleet, with many more to come (including the A321neo in the future).

Booking Delta First Class

I outright paid for first class on Delta. In my experience Delta prices first class quite reasonably, and the one-way first class ticket cost about $400, compared to the cost of about $250 for an economy ticket.

I figured it was worth the extra $150 to confirm first class, since I figured I had no shot at an upgrade. I’m only a Delta Silver Medallion, and upgrades are very tough to come by if you don’t have higher status.

So while I didn’t mind paying, I should note my absolute shock that everyone ended up clearing the upgrade on this flight, so I guess I would have gotten it as well… wow!

Delta First Class A321 Review

After a visit to the SkyClub, I headed to gate H9, just a short walk way. Boarding for the flight was scheduled to start at 6:55AM.

Delta departure gate Miami

Those needing extra time were invited to board first, followed by active duty military, followed by first class (unlike at American and United, Delta doesn’t pre-board select elite members before first class).

Delta 2732
Miami (MIA) – New York (JFK)
Tuesday, January 7
Depart: 7:35AM
Arrive: 10:24AM
Duration: 2hr49min
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 5A (First Class)

Delta’s A321 first class consists of a total of 20 seats, spread across five rows in a 2-2 configuration (note that Delta will be introducing a new first class product on their A321neos). That’s a nice size first class cabin — as a point of comparison, American only has 16 first class seats on their A321s.

Delta A321 first class cabin


Delta A321 first class cabin

While Delta has nice cabins overall, they also have an “efficient” way of going about it. There’s no real bulkhead between cabins, but rather they just have a small divider between first class and economy.


Delta A321 divider between first class & economy

Legroom in first class on Delta’s A321s is on the tight side (as it is on many Delta planes), and the seat pitch is allegedly 36″. While the space is plentiful when seats are in the upright position, the seats also recline more than they should (in my opinion), and it can feel downright tight when the person in front of you reclines and you’re trying to use your laptop.


Delta first class seats A321

I selected seat 5A, the window seat on the left side in the last row.

Delta A321 first class seats

As is the norm on Delta mainline planes (with the exception of MD-80s and 717s), each seat had a personal television, which is a nice touch.


Delta A321 first class seats

Power outlets (110v and USB) were in front of seats, in the center.

Delta first class power ports

The tray table extended from the center armrest, and could be folded over in half. The seatback also had four different pouches, which is nice for being able to store things.


Delta first class tray table

Each seat also had a reading light and individual air nozzle.

Delta first class air nozzles & reading lights

Delta has larger overhead bins on the A321, though passengers never seem to really grasp how these work, so they rarely end up being used efficiently.

Delta A321 overhead bins

Waiting at each first class seat was a pillow and blanket — American and United don’t have pillows in “standard” domestic first class, so I appreciate that Delta does.


Delta first class pillow & blanket

There was also a small bottle of Dasani water at each seat.

Delta first class bottled water

Despite the flight being full, the crew did a full round of pre-departure drinks of choice. I had a coffee with milk.


Delta first class pre-departure coffee

We were also offered complimentary earbuds.

Delta earbuds

I found it interesting that the flight attendants were based in Miami, as I didn’t even realize Delta had a base there.

While the flight attendants were friendly, I wasn’t sure what to make of the “flight leader.” He was super nice during the service, but his announcements were endless.

He made a total of nine announcements before the door closed, all telling people how to store their bags, to move out of the aisle, etc. It was almost like he was providing commentary of the boarding process. “I see people putting coats in the overhead bin, please don’t do that.”

I can appreciate an announcement once or twice, but listening to him talk for so much of the boarding process was tiresome.

Next, he definitely had some Southwest Airlines style humor, for better or worse. He made the following PA shortly before the door closed, while urging people to sit down:

“We’re going to play a game… who wants to go to New York? Everyone has to be a participant.”

He also announced that passengers shouldn’t put their feet on video screens. 2020 is a sad time to be alive, eh?

https://twitter.com/OneMileataTime/status/1214526994131623939

Anyway, at 7:25AM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 2hr9min, and our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

The door ended up closing ahead of schedule, and we pushed back at 7:30AM, at which point the safety video was screened. The crew turned on the mood lighting at this point as well.

Delta A321 mood lighting

As we taxied out, the flight leader took breakfast orders. We had a short taxi to the runway, and were airborne by 7:45AM. Unfortunately we didn’t take off in the direction of the water, so the views weren’t that great.

View after takeoff from Miami


View after takeoff from Miami

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection — you’ve gotta love that Delta has personal televisions on most of their planes.

Delta entertainment system


Delta entertainment system

I was planning on working, so I just kept the flight tracker on for the entire flight.


Delta entertainment system

Map enroute to New York

Delta has Gogo 2Ku high speed wifi on their A321s, which is quite good, though I still strongly prefer Viasat.

Delta wifi

I have a Gogo subscription so don’t have to pay extra, but for what it’s worth, the “streaming” pass cost $10 for one hour, or $25 for the entire flight. If you don’t have a Gogo membership, you can save by buying a wifi pass in advance.


Delta wifi

Service began about 20 minutes after takeoff, with warm towels being distributed.

Delta first class warm towel

Delta now lets you select meals in advance. The choices for this flight were as follows:

  • Oats n honey granola cereal with Chobani Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and a croissant
  • Scrambled egg sandwich on a pretzel roll with Swiss cheese and turkey bacon


Delta breakfast options

Ordinarily I would have gone with the cereal and yogurt, but I figured I should order the other option because it would be more interesting to share my thoughts on.

While there are many things I commend Delta for, their domestic catering isn’t among them. In my experience they’re no better than American in that regard, which is saying a lot.

The breakfast came with a side of fresh fruit and some Chobani Greek yogurt.


Delta first class breakfast

The sandwich itself was… very bad. The “pretzel roll” was hard and tasteless, and clearly Delta defines “scrambled eggs” differently than I do.


Delta first class breakfast

I worked for most of the flight, and shortly before the descent started I visited the lavatory.

Delta A321 first class cabin

The lavatory was at the front of the cabin, and the only notable thing was the Malin+Goetz soap and body lotion, which I like.

Delta A321 lavatory

Delta Malin+Goetz toiletries

At 9:30AM the captain announced that we should be landing at 9:55AM, and would be at the gate 10 minutes after that.

View approaching New York


View approaching New York

Sure enough we landed on runway 13L at 9:55AM.


View approaching JFK

We ended up arriving at our gate at Terminal 2 at 10AM, well ahead of schedule.

Arrival gate JFK

Delta First Class Bottom Line

Of the “big three” US carriers, Delta offers the most consistently pleasant domestic first class experience, in my opinion — service is consistently friendly, all seats have outlets and most have personal televisions, they have pillows, blankets, and bottled water at each seat, etc.

Their food continues to be a low point of the experience, in my opinion, but then again, that’s the case with most meals on domestic flights.

If you’ve flown Delta’s A321 first class, what was your experience like?

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Comments
  1. These DL A321s are awful in FC when you have a DYKWIA go full recline the entire flight. First row of Comfort Plus has more legroom and space to work on a laptop. That’s just pathetic. DELTA : END THE RECLINE OR ADD MORE SPACE !!

  2. Not having a divider between first and coach is one of my biggest pet peeves about these new setups. I actively try to avoid it if I can.

  3. It is definitely possible to get upgrades on Delta as a Silver Medallion if you fly from non-hubs and during off-peak time periods (as you did).

  4. I got an upgrade as a Silver on Thanksgiving day flight. Domestic First on Delta is cool but if I’m just trying to get a short nap then I’m nearly just as good on Comfort+

  5. I just got back on an LAS:ATL paid first class flight. I had a GF lunch which, based on the last four of these I’ve had, is a turkey meatball on polenta with tomatoes and eggplant cubes in the sauce, green salad, fruit plate, and various GF “bread” options in sealed packages. It’s not a great meal, but that fact that I know that it’s GF and can order it ahead of time makes a big difference for me.

    I was in row five, the last of first class and had Comfort+ directly behind me. I didn’t have a problem with it and actually prefer it to the other rows as the first row of C+ have armrest mounted TVs so I don’t have someone poking the back of my seat during the flight. Not a problem with entertainment except for the games which require enough tapping to drive anyone crazy.

  6. I stopped drinking brewed coffee on airplanes long ago. It is probably safe but I can’t help but think about all the crap T&L articles about the dirty water on planes.

  7. I agree with DB. The lack of a divider makes this first class pathetic. It’s quite similar to AA Oasis, other than some minor bells and whistles.
    To me. It sounds like this was just as bad as any other first class flight on AA or United other than a bit better service. Food was crap, seats some are the most important thing to me when I judge a first class and I don’t see how Delta deserves more praise than the others.

  8. Other than the talkative flight lead, this pretty much describes the Delta domestic first class experience consistently across most of the mainline fleet. The primary exceptions are the 717s, which still has no IFE in any seat, and every so often you get an older plane that still hasn’t had the updated IFE installed.

  9. Do you ever wonder if all these lotion brands you love are actually just Proctor & Gamble products with totally made up names?

  10. For those upset about the divider, I usually sit facing forward on a plane, especially in First Class, so I never see the divider to get upset about it.

    I suppose watching the stopped traffic on the Shula Expressway isn’t a nice view? As a kid in the 70s, we used to waterski on those lakes, but I suspect it would be too polluted now. My dad would take us to a parking lot that used to be on the access road by that lake to watch whenever the Concorde would land, or Air Force One (when Nixon was in the WH).

    As for the price differential, for those of us without status (or Delta Amex) and who would check their luggage, the $150 difference drops when you think of free luggage check. Then the premium is not as big of a deal and Delta does do a good job of pricing their First Class so its premium, but not crazy priced. YMMV

    Nice review!

  11. The relative lack of legroom gives me pause about even considering Delta. I recently got an AA Oasis flight (in domestic first) and there was less legroom than United’s Economy Plus. For me, at 6’5″, I’d rather have simplistic food and plastic cups than to have my knees fighting with the seat in front of me.

  12. Ben, if it makes you feel any better about the “no feet on the screen” announcement, I had my first experience flying Spirit the other day. The highlight of the trip was one of the FAs making an announcement that each of the bathrooms did in fact have a baby changing table, so to please change your babies in there and “not in your assigned seats.”

    Gotta wonder what prompted Spirit to make that a standard announcement…

  13. You’d be surprised how many times you’ll clear upgrades as a Silver out of AA and United hubs. Also on routes that SW dominates. Same with short hauls. I’m silver and get upgraded regularly on LAS-SAN and LAS to SNA routes.

  14. @Ben,

    Great detailed review! Indeed Silver upgrades are hard to come by. Your flight may have been an exception. From the photo of First Class, I see most of the monitors on. So much for AA thinking that passengers would rather bring their own device. Not sure why some of the posters feel the lack of a hard wall divider is a big deal on a domestic aircraft? The service from the flight attendants was probably better in Delta first class than what you are accustomed to on AA? Thanks!

  15. Delta’s domestic first-class is just gosh awful. Ironically, sometimes Delta mainline is worse than Delta regional connection. I’ve received a choice of what you had or a small bowl of cold cereal without even yogurt. I’ve gotten much better breakfast meals on Endeavor. In fact, Endeavor consistently has the best flight attendants. Republic, another regional carrier for Delta, is the worst. SkyWest seems to have massive turnover and is horribly inconsistent. It would be nice if Delta copied Air Canada and had grab-and-go breakfast options in the Sky Club lounges. Yogurt parfaits, egg white wraps, etc.

  16. I have regularly had pleasant experiences in F on Delta domestically and in between the States and Canada, where I live. Those MD-88s and 717s sure aren’t modern, but the seat (while totally ugly!) is very comfortable; snacks and meals are better than none and typically tasty; and the FAs take their work seriously, but don’t take themselves seriously, making for nice conversations, frequent refills, and a feeling that these people like their jobs and care about their passengers. As a Platinum Medallion, I usually get upgraded, and I never feel like the FAs treat me differently than a paid F customer – in fact, they always go out of their way to thank me for being a Medallion. Comparing this all to what I experience as a AA Platinum, or what I experienced as a UA Platinum and…no thanks, sticking with DL. Also love that they are partners with WestJet!

  17. @stogieguy7 I’m 6’3″ and am very comfortable in the DL A321 first class seat. Pick the aisle and do what you can to put your bag in the middle (of three sections) of the row in front of you and you’ll have more room for your feet than you’ll ever need. DL’s also reduced the recline in their A321s vs some of the other DL aircraft which helps with the laptop issue many of us have experienced in the past.

  18. @Mark F.

    Generally an F divider results in a quieter first class cabin with less foot traffic. I think most can agree there is nothing wrong with that.

  19. So what difference does having a wall divider make?
    I’ve sat on both sides of the bulkhead and don’t even see how a wall would make the F experience worse. It gives a nice legroom in the back too.

    I can only think that a wall only serves you social class ego.

  20. Completely agree with you. Considering the significantly more costly investments that Delta has made in its product, it baffles me that they can’t get their Supply Chain department to negotiate better catering contracts. Domestic First meals on Delta remain the worst: McDonalds serves a better breakfast than Delta. Lunch and dinner aren’t much better with those weird Dancing Reindeer package cookies for dessert.

  21. I’ve not flown it, but I’m pretty sure I would not like the lack of a divider. I like some physical separation and to feel like I’m in a special place.

  22. DB, thanks for the explanation. He never mentioned excessively foot traffic. I have never noticed the difference between the faux divider and an actual divider. As for noise, it’s a plane. I’m not expecting a library. I have headphones

  23. I last flew DL F in 2017 (JFK-FLL). My breakfast meal was EXACTLY the same. They clearly don’t change up those meals frequently…

  24. It’s amazing how Delta offers first class on a small aircraft like this while Qatar Airways only manages to offer business class on their small aircraft. Well done, Delta!

  25. @john
    domestic vs long haul first class its a big difference.
    @ben and a few others
    Delta’s food is fairly inconsistent generally good on the flight from a hub and bad on a flight to a hub, that’s generally true with most airlines as its hard to get good pricing, volumes, and inforcement on the setup at each outstation, and you often have to make do with fairly limited modifications to the productions setups they have already set up. Whereas in hubs delta has a lot higher quality control and has more options.

  26. Funny how you bitch about the same lack of a bulkhead on American… But on delta you call it “efficient”… You’re a LOSER

  27. “Well that’s a first for me. Delta flight attendant explicitly made announcement telling passengers not to place feet on video screens”

    Well, they keep making the screens bigger and bigger, taking up the space where I usually rest my bare feet on bulkheads and the seat in front of me.

  28. John, while Qatar offers “only” business class on their small aircraft (A319/320/321), with pitch of 45-60″, width 20.5-21″, vs 36-37″ and 21″ for their airbus and 737’s a/c, not to mention the seats recline much more and have leg rests. Short haul catering is worlds apart, no comparison their. Service from Qatar FA’s very comparable to their long haul product.

  29. Not sure how you all get such good first class deals.

    Probably because I’m in a fortress hub

    But for me a round trip 1st class ticket MSP to wherever is often $800 to $1000 more than coach for short trips

    Example was Puerto Vallarta
    They wanted $400 extra one way
    It’s a 4 hour flight.

    I also paid $400+ extra each way Palm Springs msp

    I love Delta
    But we need far more competition
    Thus I fly Sun Country and Spirit Big Front Seat more often

  30. I agree with Will … the Breakfast sandwich totally looked like an ice cream sandwich.

    I love Delta, but this meal looks pretty weak … that being said, I think DL breakfasts are always very weak.

    Thanks for sharing!

  31. Delta is my choice for first class I don’t fly a lot any more so I’m paying the freight and I live near Seattle which means Alaska rules. Delta’s prices for F class are better than anyone’s so if there is a Delta flt available I will use that. Agreed food not the best but I’ve been lucky so far. Not being in the back is more important to me than whether everything is perfect and I am aware for those of you who fly all the time it’s a different ballgame. I like reading Ben’s reviews because I do use them when I have to fly

  32. Removing the first class decider allow customers in main cabin bkhead to place their personal items under the seat in front of them.
    Having substandard meals on domestic first class is something to be expected, as you can clearly se, most passengers are upgrades and the revenue first class seat sells for cheap.

  33. Great review, Lucky- it sums up my experience flying Delta’s first class domestic product as well- many positive highlights but a few minor negatives. Meals are so-so – dinner service is usually better but marginally so. Like you, I’ve never cleared an upgrade as a silver flying Delta but have cleared on AA with gold and platinum in the recent past.

  34. I fly Delta 1st class domestic all the time. Mostly ABQ – ATL – BQK. And I reply to their surveys.

    The food leaving ABQ is way better than the food leaving ATL. That’s because Delta uses a local restaurant at the airport for catering. A chicken chile soup, sandwich or salad for lunch. On the return, the food is not so great, and on the latest flight there is no food service only snacks. Why can’t they find a good caterer in ATL? Too bad they can’t work with One Flew South in E Terminal. A fabulous restaurant!
    In 1st class, the wine used to be way horrible, but has improved considerably. I’m hoping the food will follow suit.
    I am a big Delta fan for domestic flights. The FA’s are always pleasant, I have never had a rude one. I think the seats are comfortable and have plenty of room, but now that you mention the recline, I’ll be sitting in the bulkhead.

  35. @danapopemanning Just flew back to MCO from ABQ on Monday, 20 January in Delta First. Sure enough, on the ABQ-ATL leg, we were offered the chicken green chile soup, and boy was it delicious!!! Thanks for the information that they are using the airport restaurant for catering there. The entree choice was a very nice chicken salad or a ham and cheese croissant.

  36. @Markymark Glad you enjoyed it! The turkey n cheese sandwich is even better. REAL turkey not processed. Restaurant is Black Mesa.

  37. JK -I used to sell to cosmetics makers. On several occasions helped customers invent a new ‘historic’ name for a new brand. ‘Barton Harley Finest Quality’ was one. Est. 5 minutes ago…

    Lucky, you want maybe an onboard chef to lovingly prepare your scrambled eggs to order? Crissakes, it’s a 2-hour domestic. Bring a McD’s egg MacMuffin with you next time. I suspect the omelette like egg ‘patty’ is made like that to stop small bits of egg falling out of the sandwich. Eggs are usually a disaster area on planes but, yes, Delta could do better, perhaps by forgetting serving huevos y bacon in a sandwich.

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