Delta Air Lines economy review

Quick take: A mixed ground experience at Heathrow, but an above-average onboard economy experience, including excellent food.


  • It offered an intuitive, well-rounded app and inflight entertainment.
  • The airline served delicious food served in sustainable packaging.
  • The Boeing 767 has only one middle seat per row in economy.


  • Passengers might have to board via bus at a remote stand, even on a flagship route.
  • No food or drink menus were provided.
  • The aircraft operating this flight was more than 20 years old.

London to New York City is one of aviation’s most competitive and lucrative routes. Seven carriers operate more than 70 nonstop flights between the two cities daily. While innovations like seats with closing doors and “business-plus”-style options like the JetBlue Mint Suite have elevated comfort, luxury and privacy in premium cabins across the Atlantic, how do economy passengers fare?

As an avid Virgin Atlantic passenger and collector of Virgin Points, I decided to try Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture with SkyTeam partner, Delta Air Lines; I flew on its Main Cabin economy service from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

Here’s what the experience was like.


How much does economy class cost to book on Delta?

Delta operates two to three daily flights from London Heathrow to New York, on both older Boeing 767 and new Airbus A330-900neo aircraft. It sells three economy fare types.

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Basic economy No changes allowed 60 euros ($63) for the first bag, 85 euros ($90) for the second bag (differs by route) Seats assigned at check-in Basic economy (Zone 10 of 10)
Main Cabin No change fees (difference in ticket price may apply) 1 free checked bag up to 50 lbs Choose a standard seat at no charge Main Cabin 1, 2 and 3 (Zone 7-9)
Comfort+ No change fees (difference in ticket price may apply) 1 free checked bag Any available seat in the cabin (including Comfort+ and preferred seats) Delta Comfort+ (Zone 5)

All passengers can bring a personal item and a full-size cabin bag on board. Delta’s dynamic award pricing means redeeming SkyMiles on this route is usually a poor value since the number of miles you need goes up along with the cost of airfare in dollars. Here’s a look at round-trip airfares and award prices on this route.

Round-trip prices Basic economy Main Cabin Comfort+  Premium economy Business class 
Airfare (range) $462-$2,344 $614-$2,495 $803-$2,683 $880-$3,406 $2,234-$10,567
Delta SkyMiles (range) 44,000-60,000 plus $560 taxes/fees 60,000-79,000 plus $560 taxes/fees 82,000-198,000 plus $560 taxes/fees 136,000-172,000 plus $693 taxes/fees 230,000-735,000 plus $693 taxes/fees

Instead of using Delta SkyMiles, we redeemed 15,000 Virgin Atlantic Points plus $195 for a one-way Main Cabin ticket. Delta only releases economy class seats to partners on this route, which book into Main Cabin.

Virgin Points are among the easiest to earn since Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of several major credit card points currencies. The following cards all currently offer strong welcome bonuses with points that you can transfer into your Flying Club account:


Checking into and boarding economy on Delta

Delta’s impressive app allowed me to quickly check in online 24 hours before departure, skip the airport check-in lines and change my seat up until 60 minutes before departure. Another neat app feature showed me exactly where my plane was in its progress of arriving at the airport from its previous flight to keep me updated on potential delays.

Delta departs from Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, sharing a check-in area with Virgin Atlantic. Kiosks were available for passengers to check in, the lines for bag drop or assistance were short, and plenty of friendly Virgin Atlantic agents were available to direct passengers traveling on either airline in the right direction. The general security line took only a few minutes to clear.

I was surprised to see my flight, number DL 2, would be boarding from a remote stand at Gate 24. It was a spacious and quiet waiting area; however, this gate setup required all passengers to take a bus to the aircraft. It was a relatively long distance and made for a mildly inconvenient start to the flight as we lurched across the tarmac with passengers struggling to balance themselves and their cabin bags.

With plenty of empty seats on the flight — and despite passengers taking the bus in groups — we boarded and departed on time at 11:30 a.m.

How comfortable was economy on Delta?

The aircraft for my eight-hour flight to New York was a 23-year-old Boeing 767-400ER with the following seat count and layout in economy.

Number of seats 156 (Main Cabin), 28 (Comfort+)
Cabin layout 2-3-2
Seat pitch 31-32 inches (Main Cabin), 34 inches (Comfort+)
Seat recline 3-4 inches
Seat width 18 inches
Screen size 10.1 inches

This aircraft had two large economy cabins behind the business class and premium economy sections. I selected a window seat toward the middle of the rear cabin. While the aircraft was two decades old, the seats felt fresh and well-padded, and the blue leather upholstery looked smart.

A quick peek in the scuffed overhead bins did remind me how old this aircraft actually was, though.


The 2-3-2 economy layout proved great for passenger comfort — taking advantage of the space of a wide-body aircraft, but with only one middle seat per row so passengers don’t feel crammed in and with a decent amount of legroom. I preferred this cabin layout to the 2-4-2 configuration on Delta’s A330 aircraft and the 3-4-3 configuration on American Airlines’ and British Airways’ Boeing 777, which can feel tight on this route.

I briefly sat in an empty Comfort+ seat to try out the extra legroom. While there was slightly more personal space, even at six feet tall, I didn’t think the additional room justified the extra cost. I would only recommend this if you are very tall or have a large laptop you need to use during the flight — the extra inches of pitch will allow more room to work.


Pairs of window seats in economy shared a single universal charging point and USB-A plug between them, while the three middle seats shared two power-point combos among them.


Each seat could recline slightly via a manual button on the left armrest and had an adjustable headrest with folding wings, which unfortunately quickly drooped when my head rested against it.

The tray table wasn’t large enough for my 15-inch Macbook, especially as it could be damaged if the passenger in front reclined their seat without warning, as happened to my TPG colleague on a recent Delta flight.


There were only four bathrooms to share among the 204-seat Main Cabin, Comfort+ and Premium Select cabins. While there were rarely lines to use on my lightly loaded flight, and they were kept clean, I suspect this would be a different story if the flight were full and in more constant use.


Amenities in Delta economy

A large, plush business-class-quality pillow and a thin blanket were waiting for me on my seat. The crew also distributed earplugs and an eye mask — a nice perk for a daytime flight in economy. The basic earbud headphones didn’t offer great sound quality; unfortunately, the inflight entertainment system does not allow Bluetooth connection to your wireless headphones, though you can always bring a pair of your own regular headphones to use.

The seatback inflight entertainment system was easy to navigate and had a crisp display. It also included a USB-A charging point embedded in it. There were 508 movies available, along with 84 television series, including “The Last of Us,” “The White Lotus” and “Veep.”

Wi-Fi was also available on this flight, from $8.95 for a one-hour browsing package to $28.95 for a full flight option. Messaging was free for all passengers. I registered acceptable speeds of 9.67 Mbps download but just 1.00 Mbps upload, which dropped out several times across the Atlantic.


How was the food in Delta economy?

Immediately after takeoff, the crew distributed Harrogate Spring bottled water and wooden cutlery in sealed bags, which seemed like an odd service flow.

Less than an hour after our 11:30 a.m. departure, the crew served lunch. Without menus, the crew only verbally gave the menu options as “chicken or pasta.” I chose the chicken, served on an oval tray with an Italian salad appetizer and chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks (including Coca-Cola from Delta’s hometown of Atlanta) were available at no extra cost.


I was initially surprised at the small size of the meal with no bread, cheese or crackers offered; however, the taste more than made up for it. All three items were delicious and of high quality for economy, from the fancy heirloom tomatoes and bocconcini balls in the salad appetizer to the creamy, buttery, saffron-tinged risotto and moist pesto chicken in the entree.


This was one of the best economy-class meals I have eaten.

Between meals, plenty of snacks were available in the rear galley, including Biscoff cookies, muesli bars, and cheese and crackers, as well as water and orange juice.


Ninety minutes before landing, travelers could choose between a chicken or vegetarian spring roll and a double chocolate mousse as a pre-arrival snack.

Pre-arrival meals on flights of eight hours are rarely something to get excited about in economy, but the chicken spring roll was decent, both in serving size and taste.

The crew was lovely on my flight to New York. During boarding, there were plenty of smiles as they informed me the flight was not full. I told them I hoped I might have an empty seat next to me for a bit more space, to which they replied that if I didn’t, they would happily find me another seat with no neighbor.

Unusually for economy service, the crew also found time to come through the cabin, offering a second round of drinks before collecting the lunch trays. When I complimented them on the taste of the meal, they thanked me for my kind words and immediately asked if I wanted a second portion.


Would you recommend Delta economy?

On a route I fly regularly, Delta’s economy service from London to New York impressed me. The slick check-in experience on the app or at the shared Virgin terminal area made for a smooth start to my journey.

While a remote gate requiring a bus was a bit of a surprise, this may not be a regular occurrence. Once on board, this was one of the better transatlantic economy-class experiences I have had.

The food was outstanding for economy, and the aging Boeing 767, with its comfortably configured 2-3-2 cabin, still felt mostly fresh. Delta could further elevate the experience by offering menus displaying the food and beverage options or by integrating Bluetooth into the inflight entertainment system. However, that might not be likely on planes that airlines would likely retire rather than retrofit.

I would recommend Delta economy across the Atlantic as both a great use of Virgin Points and a comfortable way to travel between New York and London.

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