Guide to Delta First Class and Delta One

Ramsey QubeinMar 19, 2021
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Delta Air Lines offers either “Delta One” or “first class” premium fares on its flights. Somewhat confusingly, first class is not the most premium class — Delta One is. In particular:

  • Delta One is the most premium product, available (mostly) on long-haul international flights. It offers lie-flat seats and premium food and beverage service.

  • Delta first class is typically available on shorter or domestic flights. It offers a larger but not lie-flight seat.

There are several exceptions, like Delta One to Hawaii from Atlanta or Minneapolis/St. Paul, which has the same bedding and flat-bed seats, but less elaborate meals than international flights.

First class

At the airport

Delta offers several perks to first class customers including SkyPriority check-in lines and accelerated security queues at some airports. Travelers can check two bags, up to 70 pounds each, without charge. During boarding, first class customers have priority boarding through the SkyPriority lane at each gate.

Onboard amenities

On board, passengers will find a small bottle of water at each seat, and Delta offers pre-departure beverages to first class passengers. Other airlines are not as consistent as Delta in this regard, often bypassing pre-departure beverages for first class even when there is ample time to offer them.

Each of Delta’s aircrafts vary when it comes to onboard amenities and seat size and space. First class can offer up to eight inches of additional leg room when compared to economy class. It also has up to a 5.4-inch recline. Waiting at each seat is a pillow and blanket (rare these days on other airlines).

Delta offers power outlets at each seat in first class, and on most planes (Boeing 717s and MD88/MD90s are exceptions, although that might be changing) there is a television screen offering movies, TV shows, music and often live TV. Seat screens in first class range in size with the largest being 11 inches wide. Earbuds, distributed by flight attendants, are free for first class passengers.

This is quite a differentiator between Delta and other airlines. American is in the process of ripping out onboard seat screens in favor of entertainment programming accessible via Wi-Fi signal. This, however, requires travelers to bring their own mobile device for viewing.

Almost all Delta flights offer Wi-Fi, which means travelers can stay productive in flight, although it comes with a surcharge.

Food and beverage

Delta offers in-flight service on all flights, although it varies by flight time. On Delta’s shortest flights (under 900 miles), a full beverage service is available. This includes a long list of refreshments including Starbucks coffee, wine, beer, Coca-Cola products such as Minute Maid juices, and a full range of spirits and other soft drinks.

Along with libations comes a range of snacks. On flights under 350 miles, a snack basket is passed around with Biscoff cookies, Cheez-Its and salted almonds. These selections can change during different times of the year. On flights over 350 miles, passengers can enjoy a wider range of choices in the snack basket including things like potato chips and chocolate.

Flights over 900 miles in distance provide meal service to first class passengers depending upon the time of day. Customers can pre-select their meal 72 hours before departure via the Delta app or through a link emailed to passengers.

Breakfast is served between 5 and 9:45 a.m., and lunch options are available on flights between 9:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Dinner is offered on flights of over 900 miles between 4 and 8 p.m. On flights over 1,500 miles in distance, meals follow a similar schedule but tend to be more filling given the flight time.

There are a few exceptions to this rule on some longer flights, but Delta does not publish a full list of these. This can include late-night departures from Atlanta to the West Coast where instead of “refreshments,” Delta lists “snacks” for first class. It is usually a sandwich with dessert, and there is no choice (on other flights, there would be a choice of two dishes).

Delta flight attendants lay table cloths down before serving trays with the meal. Food is plated on stylish Alessi servingware. Delta typically does not offer an aperitif service before meals; drinks are served just before the meal tray is served (Alaska, American and United offer ramekins of nuts before the meal on most mealtime flights in domestic first class).

Delta One

This is Delta’s 180-degree, lie-flat business class international service (it also operates on a limited scale between select domestic cities). Since it is available on Delta’s longest flights, it is more lavish in its scale and amenities.

At the airport

Delta One customers are treated to the same amenities as domestic first class passengers with the addition of enjoying access to Sky Clubs on their day of departure. Unlike American and United, Delta does not offer dedicated lounges for its international premium cabin passengers.

Onboard amenities

Almost all Delta One seats have direct aisle access (the Boeing 757 is the only plane without it), but many of Delta’s seats can be narrow with smaller TV screens than its primary competitors American and United. The airline has a convenient online chart allowing customers to compare what’s available on each aircraft.

Most seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration across the aircraft, but lucky passengers on Boeing 777-200LR and Airbus A330-900 neo or A350 aircraft enjoy the new Delta One suite with full-height doors that slide closed for maximum privacy and 18-inch entertainment screens. All Delta One customers enjoy noise-reducing headphones waiting for them at their seat.

On board, passengers will find a bottle of water and TUMI amenity kit stocked with LE LABO toiletries waiting at each seat. There is also a Westin Heavenly duvet and pillow. Delta offers pre-departure beverages to Delta One passengers, which typically includes orange juice, water, beer and sparkling wine.

There is variety when it comes to seat style and space. All Delta One seats have power and USB outlets in addition to remote controls for the onboard entertainment screens. A wide variety of movies, TV shows, audio programming and often live TV is available. There is more personal space too, with side tables or storage nooks built into the seat.

Food and beverage

Delta invests quite a bit into the culinary experience on Delta One flights. Printed menus give guests a guide to what meals are offered and in what order they will be served. Multi-course meals begin with an aperitif service with mixed nuts. Drink refills are plentiful and followed by a tray of appetizers, salads and soup. The meal is served atop table cloths using designer Alessi servingware.

Travelers can choose from one of several main courses, usually a beef, poultry, seafood and pasta option. Meals and beverages are served via carts in the aisles, but the main dish is delivered by hand from the galley. Dessert includes an impressive fruit, cheese, dessert and ice cream sundae cart rolled through the aisle and prepared at each seat.

Customers can pre-select their meal 72 hours before departure via the Delta app or through a link emailed to passengers. This list includes numerous special meals like Asian vegetarian, diabetic and kosher options. All of these special meals must be ordered at least 24 hours before departure.

On certain flights, Delta partners with specialty chefs who are representative of the origin or destination to prepare meals for Delta One passengers. For example, on Delta flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Rome or Stuttgart, travelers can enjoy Southern-inspired cuisine from Linton Hopkins. Flights from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo enjoy cuisine by chef partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. Certain regional culinary dishes are available on trans-Pacific flights to China and Japan as well.

The wine list, detailed in the printed menu available before takeoff, enjoys special attention, too, thanks to Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, who has overseen the airline’s wine program since 2007.

Frequently asked questions

Delta has two separate versions of its highest-end fares,  first class and Delta One. First class is generally available on shorter and domestic flights, while Delta One is available on longer international flights and includes more luxury perks.

Delta One is Delta’s most premium fare type, usually only available on international flights. It includes a lie-flat bed, premium food and beverage, and other luxury perks. It is not the same as Delta’s official first class fares, which offer fewer perks and are available on shorter and domestic flights.

Technically, first class and Delta One are separate fare classes, but — confusingly — Delta One is technically a business class fare. Still, it offers what most people associate with a “first class” ticket, including lie-flat seats and premium food. Some flights offer first class cabins and others offer Delta One cabins, but no flights offer both.

Yes, Medallion members can use upgrade certificates to upgrade to Delta One. Medallion elite members are also eligible for complimentary same-day upgrades to Delta One.

A wide variety of products

Delta offers a wide variety of products that depend upon aircraft type and route, but the airline is very transparent about which amenities and services are available on each flight. Those traveling in the Delta premium cabin are in for a treat, no matter where they are headed.

Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for: