Delta DL41, Los Angeles to Sydney.
The newly retrofitted Boeing 777-200LR has had a complete overhaul of its interior, with the Sydney-LAX route launched on April 1, 2019.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Delta is in partnership with Virgin Australia, so passengers can earn Velocity Frequent Flyer points.
Premium Select, a new premium economy class, with 48 seats available in a 2-4-2 configuration.
13 hours 59 minutes; my flight departs 30 minutes late, apparently to comply with Sydney's morning curfew.
I begin my journey in Seattle, checking my luggage through to Sydney and receiving both boarding passes. I'm surprised by the ease of transfer at LAX; I simply board a shuttle bus transferring passengers via the tarmac to the Delta terminal, with no extra security screening or passport check.
Premium Select passengers are entitled to two items of checked luggage (23 kilograms each), with Priority tagging.
I'm seated in an aisle bulkhead seat, 20C. The shiny new leather Premium Select seats are, at 47 centimetres (18.5 inches), marginally wider than main cabin seats (18 inches), with a deeper recline and extra legroom, a pitch of 38 inches (96.5 centimetres). The bulkhead allows me even more space to stretch out, with an integrated leg and footrest all adding to the comfort.
There are a few design flaws, however – there's no storage for water bottles or books, for instance, with the back-of-seat (or in my case, bulkhead) pouches too tight for anything wider than a mobile phone. The remote control for the entertainment system is difficult to access, jammed into a slot against the seat; and the headphone jack is so well hidden even the cabin crew can't find it. "That's the stupidest place!" my steward says when we eventually discovered where to plug in. "These are new planes, not everything makes sense."
With the extra recline and footrest, Premium Select is the perfect compromise for passengers wishing to get a little shut-eye on the overnight long-haul. A decent pillow, blanket and a TUMI amenities kit are a nice touch, reminiscent of business class; the thin blanket, however, is a little ineffectual – I'm freezing throughout the flight and have to don my winter coat.
The new cabin features the impressive Delta Studio entertainment system, with a huge selection of new release movies, TV series and games all shown on a larger, 13.3" screen. I'm also delighted to be given LSTN noise-cancelling headphones that actually fit my tiny noggin and provide crisp, clear audio. WiFi is also available, with free messaging for all passengers, an hour's free Wi-Fi for T-Mobile customers or pay $28.95 for full Wi-Fi for the whole flight. Wireless connection means you can even stream on board, though I'm happy with the selection of Oscar-nominated films on offer. Unfortunately, the touchscreen on my system stops working and I have to dig out that annoyingly located remote.
The Premium Select cabin has its own dedicated flight crew, who are charming and friendly throughout the flight. On boarding, they present a printed menu that lists not only meal selections, but also timings of service. Hot towels and complimentary bubbly are another surprising touch, as are tablecloths, real cutlery and fancy serviette holders – it's just like being in business class, with the only disappointment being plastic cups rather than glass.
Premium Select has its own menu, featuring meals created by award-winning LA chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Detolo. The main course selections on my flight are marinara braised meatballs, chicken piccata, and spinach and ricotta rigatoni, all made from ingredients sourced in Los Angeles or Australia. However, not realising there would be a vegetarian option, I pre-ordered an Asian vegetarian meal; it's a delicious curry with rice, with generous proportions served on Alessi tableware. My neighbours' meals also look halfway decent, and substantial. Coffee is from Starbucks (meh, but better than your usual airline fare), and I pair my meal with a glass of Oyster Bay Pinot Noir.
ONE MORE THING
Delta's Premium Select seats do not come cheap – they are at least double what you'd pay for a regular economy seat, even up to $2000 more. But as a bridge between Economy and Delta's swish new Delta One business class suites, it's a worthy contender and well worth considering if you want a decent sleep and personal service.
Despite a few teething problems (namely, design issues with the seats), Delta's new Premium Select has raised the bar for US-Oz flights, offering near-business class service without the hefty price tag. All that's missing is a flat bed, really.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Julie Miller travelled as a guest of Delta Airlines.