Details: Delta Air Lines Restoring Inflight Service

Filed Under: Delta

Virtually all major airlines have reduced service during the pandemic in order to minimize contact between flight attendants and passengers, and also to maximize the amount of time passengers spend with their masks on.

We’ve seen airlines continue to adjust service as time goes on. Delta Air Lines has just announced how it will be improving its inflight service in the coming weeks. The timing of this is no coincidence, as Delta will stop blocking seats as of May 1, 2021. On top of that, Delta has also announced that it will be easier to earn SkyMiles Medallion status in 2021.

Delta’s current inflight service details

Delta has historically been known for providing some of the best service of any major US airline. During the pandemic the airline has cut back service more than its peers, all while blocking seats on flights.

For some context on the current state of Delta’s domestic inflight experience, here’s what the economy class experience is like:

  • For all flights, passengers are offered a snack bag with two snacks, a bottle of water, hand sanitizer, and a napkin
  • For flights of 1,500+ miles, passengers are offered an additional snack bag prior to landing

Delta’s current economy snack pack for all passengers

Then here’s what the first class experience is like:

  • For all flights, passengers are offered a snack bag with two snacks, a bottle of water, hand sanitizer, and a napkin
  • For flights of 500+ miles, passengers are offered beer or wine
  • For flights of 900+ miles, passengers are offered a snack box
  • For flights of 1,500+ miles, passengers are offered a second snack bag

Delta’s current first class snack box for first class passengers

There are a few interesting things that set Delta apart:

  • Delta offers economy passengers nothing but water, even on transcon flights (American serves economy passengers drinks on request on longer flights)
  • Delta doesn’t offer any coffee or tea, soft drinks, or liquor, even in first class (American offers all of those in first class on most flights)
  • Delta doesn’t offer a meal service in first class, even on transcon flights (American offers hot meals in first class on transcon flights)

While a lot of people have complained about how Delta is uncompetitive with its peers, I respect Delta in this regard:

  • The airline has made it clear that it’s not looking to its peers to decide what kind of service will be offered, but rather is taking its own approach based on safety
  • There is something to be said for minimizing service to maximize the amount of time people keep their masks on
  • I don’t think anyone can claim Delta is doing this just to be cheap, given that the airline is blocking seats, which is more costly than a 25 cent can of soda
  • That being said, I do recognize that Delta has at least been arbitrary with its service restrictions, like serving wine but not soft drinks in first class, for example

Delta’s modified inflight service

Delta has revealed how it plans to progressively add back service in all cabins, starting on April 14. As Delta’s SVP of Inflight Service, Allison Ausband, describes these changes:

“Our flight attendants are excited to continue doing what they do best – warmly welcoming, serving and connecting with the world’s best customers. These single-serve options are the first step in bringing back food and beverages even better as more customers return to Delta, and we’ve worked with our trusted partners at Mayo Clinic to ensure we safely serve these items as we continue to deliver on our promise of safer travel.”

Let’s get into the details of what’s changing.

Drinks & snacks return to all cabins

As of April 14, Delta domestic and select short haul international flights will feature expanded beverages and snacks in all cabins:

  • Delta will start serving coffee and tea
  • Delta will restore soft drink service, with new 7.5 ounce mini cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and Seagram’s Ginger Ale; these cans will be served unopened, and a cup of ice will be available upon request
  • Delta will bring back liquor in the form of canned cocktails from Tip Top Proper Cocktails; for those in economy, payment can be made using a new contactless system
  • Delta will roll out a new snack lineup including almonds, Cliff Bars, Goldfish crackers, and Biscoff cookies

Delta will be improving its food & drink selection in April

Hot food returns to first class

Delta will be bringing back more substantial food for Delta One and first class passengers starting in a few months:

  • As of early June, Delta One and first class passengers on select domestic and coast-to-coast flights will see hot food options return
  • As of early July, first class passengers on other key US routes can expect fresh boxed meals

Those are all the details we have as of now, though I’m sure more information will be revealed soon. In the meantime, first class passengers will continue to receive a snack box.

Some sort of hot food will return to Delta first class in June

Delta SkyClubs get more substantial food

Starting in May and continuing through the summer, Delta SkyClubs will gradually evolve their food and beverage offerings:

  • Clubs that can accommodate assisted service will bring back full hot & cold fresh food stations
  • Other locations will reintroduce chef’s tables, featuring a hot, seasonal feature of the day, in addition to an enhanced grab-and-go selection of fresh foods, hot breakfast sandwiches, and soups

Expect more substantial food to return to Delta SkyClubs in May

Questions about Delta’s service changes remain

While these updates are great news, there are still several questions we don’t know the answers to:

  • How long does a flight have to be to feature this enhanced service?
  • What routes will receive hot food in Delta first class?
  • When will Delta resume its standard liquor service, even just in first class?
  • When will Delta start serving beer & wine in economy?

I’m sure we’ll get the answers to these questions eventually, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any info about this just yet.

Bottom line

Delta has outlined how it will be adjusting service in the coming months, and it’s definitely a significant improvement. Of course it’s worth keeping in mind that Delta made the most cuts to its inflight service among major US carriers, and also that the airline will stop blocking seats as of May 1.

It’s nice to see that as of April 14, soft drinks, coffee, and tea, will be returning to all cabins, along with a new selection of cocktails. On top of that, we can expect new SkyClub food offerings as of May, and hot food on select first class flights as of June.

What do you make of Delta’s inflight service adjustments?

  1. @Ben
    Might be worth covering Delta’s “Status Accelerator” promotion, just announced this morning and beginning tomorrow through the end of the year…it is confusing, but interesting; especially the part about earning MQMs on Award Tickets

  2. “new snack lineup including almonds, Cliff Bars, Goldfish crackers, and Biscoff cookies”

    Odd, that’s exactly what was in my different snack “bags” during SEATPA flights this month, not sure its really “new” despite what DL PRPR says.

  3. Let’s be clear. This is only a PARTIAL restoration of service as they’re still refusing to service any juice and the list of available soft drinks continues to be substantially curtailed. And, yes, this IS cost cutting. Please put down the pom poms and stop the cheerleading.

  4. Actually, James, and Ben might want to update this as well, Delta will be bringing back Juice as well as coffee and tea as it says in bottom of press release. Also alcohol in main cabin will resume.

    “Starbucks coffee and tea service, as well as juices and mixers, will return to all cabins. Alcohol sales in Main Cabin will also resume with new contactless payment technology and digital receipts.”

    Delta is not brining back full meal and snack service to and who knows if airlines will ever be same at this point

  5. Status accelerator deserves a special article. But DL will probably start leading the pack again, now with skymiles and award flights being more valuable if chasing status.

  6. Honestly, Delta’s SkyClub offerings at JFK in February were not bad for the breakfast service I saw. Cereals, yogurts, fruit, eggs and even some breakfast sandwiches. Everything was pretty good. I’d definitely rather them place a focus on increasing onboard service.

  7. Interesting comment about the Biscoff’s, which I haven’t seen for several months now, but am glad to see the last of the cheezits, though goldfish are pretty close.

    While overall this is certainly good news, I would still argue that those who think they are going to catch the cooties from someone eating a hot meal on a plane are not going to get on the plane to begin with. Same w/the self serve food in the clubs-anyone who thinks they will get the cooties from touching serving tongs touched by someone else isn’t going to be there in the first place. I don’t know what it’s going to take for those hunkering down in their caves & binge watching Netflix to come out, but at some point, companies need to stop pandering to them & start getting back to work.

  8. Snack bag in a first class? They must be joking.

    Come on, just serve proper food. If restaurants can do it, so can Delta. Everyone is welcome to decline the catering if they feel unsafe.

  9. Wow re the status accelerator and awarding on award redemptions. I’m eating my words from my comment earlier today

  10. Well, the status accelerator is great news. Would’ve been nice from the beginning of the year, as I already have $6900 MQDs (not including the flights today and Friday). I’ll have Diamond status be August, and that’s with not flying May and June (birth of my son). Curious as to how this with affect rollover MQMs going into next year.

  11. Ben, have you looked at Delta’s pricing during reduced seating period compared with normal full occupancy? I don’t think that they are losing any money at all.

  12. @TL-I do take science seriously and that’s why I know I won’t catch these specific cooties from someone eating a hot meal on a plane or using serving tongs in a buffet line.

  13. More DELTA vaporware – why are you regurgitating their ‘on our terms’ marketing spin. It’s cost cuts plain and simple. Least competitive food and beverage program.

    When they match or beat JetBlue Mint catering then they’re ‘on their terms.’

  14. The new service will include our standard liquor and a variety of mixers.

  15. I flew Delta One coast to coast twice within the last week. The food offerings were a joke. Snack boxes are no substitute for a decent meal. Chips, almonds, mini clif bar, etc. not substantial at all. Very few food vendors in airports open either. Rec bring your own meal. I also brought my own pillows and blankets.

  16. The F updates especially seem quite underwhelming.

    I just booked two cross-country F tickets for leisure trips in the fall – refundable fares with exactly this in mind.

    With the pace of vaccinations being what it now is, if they can’t get their customer-facing staff protected by then and well on the way back to full service I’ll just cancel/rebook and forget about paying for F.

  17. obvious to anyone with a working brainstem, this is just more us empire hustling for profits, while blaming the COVID etc…for bare bones joke “premium” service–e.g., a snack box for “First Class”! Typical cheap, us nonsense.

  18. Funny how Delta doesn’t ‘feel a need to match a competitors level of Service ‘ but the Delta Fanboys feel the Other Carriers need to Bow at the feet of Delta and match anything Delta does/doesn’t do. Let’s Call that BS at it’s Best. I fly All the Major Airlines and Delta is no better than Anyone else on Any Given Day or Metric and I sure as will will never be a Cheerleader for this nonsense. All comes down to Who meets Your Travel Needs but Stop Propping Up an Airline that is No Better than the Rest…..payola at Work, Influencer behind a Keyboard.

  19. Lets be truthful here also. I flew on American from Atlanta to Miami and wasn’t service NOTHING not even a glass of water and then on Delta I got a nice baggie with bottle water and 2 snacks and when I asked for a another bottle of water the flight attendant brought me 2 extra bottles. When on American I ask for a bottle water and was told sorry we are not serving and any drinks on this flight and also same on a 2 hr flight from DFW to ORD in American Premium Economy section. I think Delta has done a lot more then American has. Ben why don’t you do a article about American stingy service?

  20. Does Delta do a status match? I’ve been 1K with United for some time, and would like to switch to Delta. Do you see ant downside?

  21. @Mike-DL won’t match to your current 1K; the most you’ll get is Platinum & then there will be minimum spend/travel you’ll have to meet w/in a specific time frame in order to keep the Platinum status beyond the initial match.

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