Check-in and lounge
When I emerged from the tube at Terminal 3 a little before 1300 on a Wednesday for my 1450 flight, the Delta/Virgin wing was not crowded, and I was immediately approached by staff who directed me to a stand to answer questions about my trip. I was then sent upstairs to the fast-track security queue, which I got through in about 5 minutes (barring a brief interlude in which I tried to play it cool and pretend I had not got lost at the top of the stairs, despite there only being two directions I could have gone in).
I then made my way to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, this time managing to stay on course by following the signs to all the other lounges at Terminal 3 and heading up a marble staircase.
It was busy, though perhaps bustling is a better description as there still felt like there was plenty of space. This is helped by the lounge’s many separate areas including an upstairs ‘den’ with a pool table, a quiet working area sectioned off by a glass wall, a kids’ section, spa, and various seating options on different levels. I did struggle to find a spot with a plug for a few minutes, but eventually did in a bar-type area where a waiter quickly appeared to take my order. I only had time for a quick glass of wine but the menu was extensive. We have reviewed the lounge in more detail here.
While mentioning lounges, I should say that on my return from Atlanta a few days later, I also tried the Virgin Rearrivals lounge in Terminal 3, which was thoroughly appreciated as I was heading from red-eye to office. It’s obviously much smaller and less luxurious than the Clubhouse, but on the Friday morning I was there it was quiet, calm and would be a nice place to read the selection of newspapers or catch up on emails. There is a choice between bar seating, dining tables and comfier armchairs. A small counter offers cereal and pastries but there is also table service and a breakfast menu including a fry-up, eggs royale and smoothies. The shower was great, with towels, lots of changing space, Bumble and Bumble shampoo and conditioner, and both shower gel and body wash from Cowshed (though I couldn’t tell you the difference.)
I underestimated how far the lounge was from the gate and ended up being just about the last person to board, grabbing a paper from the selection in front of the jet bridge before jogging on. That minor stress was quickly forgotten with the warm Southern welcome from the Delta crew.
This isn’t the Delta One suite, which offers a full-length slider for privacy and seats that lie fully flat, but they do go just about flat. It’s comfortable to sleep on but at one point I did long for that last bit of tilt that would put my neck completely level with my feet (unless I was just using the buttons wrong).
I had plenty of legroom, but I am 5’2”, and if anything my only concern was that it was quite difficult to prop my feet up or use the armrest. I have read some grumblings to the opposite effect. For reference the seats are 21 inches wide with 80 inches of pitch.
The seat space overall is not exactly roomy. There’s a small side table with space for a drink, book and a phone, plus a lower pocket where you can stuff some newspapers and a water bottle, but a place to stash small objects like a phone and glasses would be useful. However the retractable table is large enough for a not-too-bulky laptop and easily fits both the meal tray and a couple of drinks.
The in-seat USB and charging points are convenient, and the Tumi amenities kit came with a useful set of eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, pen, earplugs, and Kiehl’s hand cream and lip balm. The washbag came in different styles (blue cloth on London-Atlanta and a hard case on Atlanta-London) which I appreciated. You can even take the hard-shell case to get monogrammed for free. The comfortable pillow and blanket are by Westin and a good set of headphones is by LSTN for Delta.
Which seat should you choose?
The A330-200 has 34 seats in Delta One, 32 in Delta Comfort+ and 168 in economy.
The Delta One seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, so there’s no need to stress about securing aisle access.
Still, I definitely preferred the window seat I had on the way out to the middle one I had on return. Why? Well the window seats are directed away from the aisle, allowing you to enter full hermit mode and forget the rest of the plane behind as you look out onto the London drizzle.
The middle seats, meanwhile, are angled towards each other, giving you a good view of your neighbour’s legs and hands. The tilt of the screen (which pops out of the seat quite dramatically when you want to make it face you) means their viewing options are not too distracting. If you’re nosy like me, it does make it quite tempting to keep checking what your neighbour is up to.
Rows 7 to 9 are near the galley and furthest from the toilets, so best avoided if you dislike noise and have a weak bladder. Row 6 might also find the galley disturbing.
The Delta crew are exceedingly friendly and make conversation like you’re an old friend. Some also have fairly loud voices, so if you prefer to sit in stony silence you might also prefer a seat a few rows from the front so you don’t catch snippets of conversation. I thought mine – 4A – was spot-on.
Champagne and orange juice were offered while we were waiting for takeoff. Drinks and a bowl of warm nuts came around after about 15 minutes in the air followed by a hot towel and then dinner.
The wine list has two whites from the US, reds from France and Spain, dessert wines from Australia and Portugal and Lanson Black Label Brut Champagne. I thought the Chardonnay/Pinot Gris blend was lovely, with a nice mix of summer fruits coming through. People I met on my trip who had also flown Delta One from Amsterdam and France were also praising the wines they tried.
My starter of prawns, Parmesan salad, a brown bread roll and a spicy Thai soup was a tasty and interesting mix of contrasting colours, flavours and textures. The opposite was true of my main of spinach and cream stuffed chicken – it tasted nice and the chicken was tender, but it was a bit samey, with moist potatoes, moist veg and a very creamy chicken. The grapes with my dessert looked a little sad but the cheese was good.
Delta has just launched a pre-select meal service on all international flights so you won’t be in danger of your preferred order running out.
The seat layout made it feel like there were fewer people than there were (22, including me) in my section of the cabin. The lights were lowered shortly after dinner, and the calm atmosphere made it tricky to avoid the temptation to nap and become even further out of kilter with the impending US timezone. The warm cookie brought around halfway through the flight helped perk me up a bit and fuel my film binge. The media selection was a fairly standard mix of recent Oscar nominees, blockbusters and classics, plus American TV series and a small handful of Bollywood and Anime.
A pork sandwich and warm crab cake salad were offered an hour from landing, but I thought I’d save myself for something at the hotel. I regretted that slightly once I realised how long I would spend walking through the endless corridors of Hartsfield–Jackson airport to get to customs, my media visa precluding me from any fast-track queues.
Some might find the space cramped, and if you bring a lot on board it can be hard to keep your items in order. The design is more functional than soothing. But the layout is very convenient, the food, drink and amenities are great, and the service will make you feel like a VIP.