How Are Delta’s First Class Meals?

Filed Under: Delta

The past few years I feel like we’ve seen a significant decline in the quality of catering in domestic first class. While internationally many airlines are upping their game (including with catering), domestic first class catering has gotten to the point where I try to eat before or after a flight instead. At least that’s the case when flying American, as I’ve written about in the past.

Yesterday I flew Delta first class form Los Angeles to Seattle to Chicago. The first flight was a lunch flight, and the second flight was a dinner flight. I’ve taken a few longhaul international flights on Delta and have found their catering in Delta One to be above average for US carriers, but what about on domestic flights?

Before I share my opinion, let me emphasize that two meals hardly makes me an expert on Delta’s catering, and it could be that this is representative of the normal offerings, or it could be that these were one-offs.

For the Los Angeles to Seattle flight there was the choice between a kale and farro grilled chicken salad, or hamburger sliders with potato salad. I selected the salad. It tasted reasonably good, but was a small portion. It actually looks much bigger in the picture than it was. For dessert was a packaged oatmeal raisin cookie.

For the Seattle to Chicago flight, there was the choice between chicken milanese with zucchini and rigatoni with bolognese. I chose the former. While the side salad was good, the chicken was awful. Not only was the chicken low quality and dry, but the dish was so tasteless. It needed a sauce or something. It’s one thing if the chicken were flavorful and moist, but it was almost like eating chalk. For dessert there was a container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Here are a few of my other takeaways from the food & drink service, especially compared to American:

  • I was impressed that on both flights pre-departure beverages of choice were offered, which Delta apparently does consistently, in addition to the bottle of water at every seat on boarding; on American you’re lucky to be offered water or juice, let alone drinks of choice
  • While taking meal orders, the flight attendants on both flights described the meals in great detail, much more so than I’ve experienced on American
  • While American lets you pre-order your meals, Delta doesn’t
  • American serves warm mixed nuts before the meal, while Delta serves nothing before the meal; it’s nice to have something with a drink, though I guess I don’t need the calories from the nuts
  • American offers freshly baked cookies or other fresh desserts after meals, rather than the packaged desserts I was offered on both of my Delta flights

So to be honest I was disappointed by Delta’s catering. Much like with American, I think it’s worth eating before the flight. Fortunately Delta’s SkyClubs actually have good food, so that’s not too much of an issue. This generally matches what I’ve heard as well. While there are many good things about Delta, it doesn’t seem like domestic catering is an area where they differentiate themselves.

To Delta flyers, what do you make of Delta’s domestic first class catering?

  1. It’s inconsistent qualify, but overall better than UA and AA, I find. While they’re not great I haven’t had completely inedible dishes like on AA in particular.

  2. I flew DeltaOne from SEA-AMS in September. Food was the worst I’ve ever seen on any airline in any class ever (OK, I admit the jelly-like, greasy fried fish dough-balls I was once served on a tiny airline in Indonesia was perhaps a bit worse…). The DeltaOne food on my SEA-AMS flight was downright disgusting, and I’m not picky. Thank god I had some snacks in the Delta lounge before boarding. Lesson learned: if flying DeltaOne, eat on the ground, and decline the meal.

  3. It’s also worth noting that some Delta midcon/Transcon flights domestic first class meals have actually gone done a bit. However, some routes with huge competition get better catering though.

  4. Alaska Airlines first class meals are worse: On a recent flight from Anchorage to Seattle we were served a soggy turkey sandwich with what looked like Camembert cheese on a bed of Cole slaw. I think everyone around us did not take more than a single bite before having the plate removed. Usually Alaska serves a cold potato salad. You are correct eat before you fly.


  5. I recently did two transcons, one in AA First and one on JetBlue Mint. Food was mediocre on both, to be honest. That said, on AA, the best parts about the meals remain the bread with butter and the cookie (i.e. anything except the meal) In my experience, Delta catering is pretty utilitarian in first, nothing much better. Delta’s food for purchase in economy is actually decent though.

    Bottom line, you shouldn’t really be choosing these airlines based on food in the air.

  6. It’s highly variable but definitely nothing too exciting, and as you noted, other than the special domestic Delta One routes, they don’t do any sort of multi-course dining in domestic first the way AA still does (with serving the dessert separately, at least).

    It also feels like portion sizes have gone down with the introduction of the new Alessi plates earlier this year, but hard to say for sure.

  7. I tend to eat in Delta’s lounges rather than on the plane. They generally have some healthy selections and if you have food allergies, I’ve found the cooks are often genuinely excited to try to make something special, as long as you aren’t annoying about it.

    That said, the Delta first class snack basket isn’t too bad.

  8. In my opinion,
    Delta International Economy = Good, better than UA
    Delta International Business = X
    Delta Domestic First = XX

  9. I actually think that UA has the best domestic meals at the moment! Their breakfasts are great (such as the french toast bread pudding or southwestern omelet), and I love the lobster mac and cheese and burger!

  10. I’m vegetarian and I absolutely love that delta lets you pre order special meals. While AA often has a vgml option, I’ve had mixed experience having pre-orders come through and the sides are often NOT vegetarian. The DL special meals are decent quality and have never failed to arrive.

  11. I also think UA has the best domestic meals at the moment. We’ll have to see how far downhill they go with the recent cutbacks.

    I flew DL about 6 months ago on PDX-ATL-HAV and also PDX-LAX-CUN, all flights in first. Meals were absolutely terrible on all legs. Bland/tasteless entrees of poor quality, and usually a sticky/melting ice cream cup placed on the tray as the dessert. The DL first experience actually made me long for UA.

    International is a somewhat different story, but I think they try to hard and fall flat. The current winter menu has sweet potatoes and/or mushrooms in every single dish. They need to broaden the appeal a bit.

  12. Ok. I give up. What does PDB stand for? I have now read it used in two separate comment areas and I am at a loss.

  13. I frequently fly the LGA-PBI route, generally in First Class. I always used to laugh when the Delta agents used to say something to the effect of, “We know you have a choice when you fly, thank for flying with Delta,” because if you want to fly FC from LGA to PBI, Delta is the only choice, and has been for several years. (Okay, American sometimes has seasonal service, but one flight per day.) Occasionally, if I’m on a star alliance RTW ticket, I fly UA PBI-EWR in domestic first. At any rate, the food is generally truly atrocious on the Delta flights in FC, and the planes are often quite dirty. Delta allows itself a very quick turnaround time at PBI, and if the arriving flight is anything other than early, the cabin is often quite filthy. On the other hand, I find the UA food to be slightly tastier and the planes somewhat cleaner. Lucky, I think you’re going to be quite disappointed with DL domestic first in the long run.

  14. I flew this past week on a red-eye from Anchorage to Seattle to Anchorage in first class. I was pleasantly surprised to be served a choice of 2 hot breakfasts. I had the southwestern omelette with roasted potatoes, sausage, a bagel with preserves and butter and a large bowl of fresh, very good tasting blueberries and strawberries. All components of the meal were quite good. (The other choice was hot oatmeal with quinoa and the fruit.) I’ve generally had FAR greater meals on Delta first class than on other carriers domestically in first class. I’m sure that as you fly Delta more, Lucky, you’ll find their food overall is the best for domestic travel. I most prefer the breakfast flights, though.

  15. I think the meals on domestic first class for delta are very inconsistant….
    a couple weeks ago i had an amazing korean beef lunch on a SLC to YYZ (it’s not inter continental, even though it’s international…. maybe a difderent type of service???)
    But als some very sub par meals on SLC to ATL…. go figure….
    all i know is that i would eat that korean beef dish any day on the ground!!!

  16. Thanks Scott and John for the ask/answer about PDB. Now I can talk like you pros. On 6 Oct. I flew Delta from JFK to SAN in First after enjoying 3 hours at the Sky Club with my long time friends returning to UK on VA. They had never been to a Sky Club so I scheduled my departure to match theirs, and brought them in with my Lifetime Delta card. It was a nice experience for them and there was a hostess waiting at the top of the escalator (before check-in) pouring glasses of wine. Nice touch, Delta. After boarding, I was waiting for my PDB which never came. I was about to ask, but realized that after 3 hours in the Club…I really didn’t need one. After a long departure, and a rough beginning, the FA took drink and food orders at the same time. My steak (which was good) came slightly before the drink. That doesn’t really work for me, but when the FA presented the bottle for my approval (like in a fine restaurant), I appreciated the gesture. All in all, a nice meal this time, but we should partake of the Club food just in case you only get a choice of dry chicken.

  17. Just did MSP- SMF today (on that leg twice a month) and they did a very nice kale/chicken/quinoa salad with tiramisu/cheese/fruit on the side. Delta breakfasts still blow and I absolutely eat before flying morning flights, but their lunches have improved dramatically to the point where I would say they are delicious.

  18. JFK -SFO on Oct 30 over lunch time hours The appetizer serving was good, nice tasting salad and very good soup. The entree selection was beef or duck. I got the beef which was a little dry, but the sauce more than made up for it. My SO preordered a gluten free meal… chicken breast and vege’s for app, chicken breast and vege’s for entree. She ended up eating part of mine. Overall my meal was great, but I’d skip the GF offering if GF by choice and not necessity. The cab that was served was very good as well. I was more than pleased.

  19. The hamburger is actually really good. I haven’t had the sliders, just the single burger, but it’s my favorite of any of the Delta lunch options.

    I flew AA for the first time in years last week and was really surprised by the warm nuts and warm cookie. A nice touch that I wish Delta would employ.

  20. Not eaten on DL recently but I find their aircraft interiors nicer than AA and the staff uniforms look more professional.

    The food in AA F is ok,,well lets say I’ve not had a bad meal recently.

  21. We flew LAX to SLC return last month. On both legs “snacks” were served rather than a meal. It consisted of a selection from a basket of foil packaged supermarket snacks. Very nasty, I was disappointed, no domestic carrier’s premium cabin in Australia would serve anything like that. The drinks service, however, was fantastic and the staff were great. Wouldn’t take much to put a restaurant style snack on a plate. At least on the return journey we knew to have something in the lounge before we boarded!

  22. I believe DL does not offer any “meal” service for flights under 3hours, which may explain the food basket on the LAX-SLC flight.
    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  23. I order VGML meals exclusively (for food allergy reasons). At least your regular meals include a variety of recognizable food. FC Delta meals are either a blob of green or tan mush with a pathetic side salad, a rock hard roll and the ubiquitous three slices of fruit. The mush literally has the consistency and texture of wallpaper paste. No matter the route, no matter the meal it’s always the mush. For breakfast once, I got a box of cereal (no bowl).

    Or the caterer will totally not understand VGML and include cheese-covered mush. Or real butter for the roll. Or dairy milk for that cereal. None of the condiments (except the salt & pepper) are VGML. 90% of the time, pre-packaged items do not have the ingredient label on them, so I can’t eat it without knowing if it contains an allergen.

    To be honest, ALL airlines have inedible VGML meals.

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