Delta launched its newest plane, the A350XWB in October of 2017. Included with the new plane was a new class, Premium Select. Premium Select is meant to lie somewhere between business class and premium economy. Delta One seats on the A350 are now suites and received a major upgrade from their last iteration on the 777 and 747.
I recently had the privilege to fly in Premium Select on one of their longest routes for the A350, Seoul to Detroit.
I arrived at ICN about four hours ahead of my flight. To my chagrin, however, the check-in desk didn’t open for another hour. Another passenger and I asked where the Sky Priority line would be and waited there. The line behind us grew rapidly as we got closer to the opening time.
The line opened on time. But before we could check bags in, we had to go through a preliminary security screening where contractors asked a variety of questions about our activities in Korea. A green sticker was placed onto my passport. Check-in went smoothly. I was lucky that I was flying Premium Select since the baggage allowance is up to two 70 pound bags as my bag weighed in at 63 pounds.
I made my way slowly through security, where both my carry-on and laptop bags were searched. Getting to the international terminal was straightforward via a quick tramline. After arriving, I made a quick pass through duty free and the proceeded to the Asiana Business lounge. My Priority Pass card had expired during my time in Korea, so I had to download the Priority Pass app and download my new virtual card to get in.
The Asiana Business lounge is nothing special. It is rather dark and has a limited selection of food and drinks. The TV areas are interesting in concept, but only golf was on. The food was nothing special, but the lounge was large and quiet enough to pass the time. About twenty minutes before boarding was due to start I made my way towards the gate. Surprisingly, my name was called to come up to the desk. Apparently, I had forgotten my external battery in my checked baggage and South Korean security had not only found it, but marked it and sent it to the desk to be returned to me. That’s something you’re unlikely to ever see in America.
Boarding and First Impressions
My boarding group was called and I made it past the secondary security screening without being selected. Once on the plane, I saw the Premium Select cabin immediately to the left of the boarding door. The atmosphere in the cabin was immediately and noticeably different than most long haul planes I have flown on. The light was softer, and the air already felt much more moist than a 777 or 747 cabin.
The blanket, pillow and amenity kit were neatly arranged on the seat. However, there was no place to stow them prior to use, so they ended up on the floor. The seat itself was fairly comfortable. It’s pretty similar in feel to a regional first class, but wider with more recline. The IFE screen was large, bright, and clear. The touch functions worked well as did the remote. After boarding had completed, I was surprised to find the seat next to me still empty. A Delta employee came by and said that that would be his seat for the flight. Upon further conversation, I found out that he was on the A350 transition team to help the flight crews learn the plane.
Takeoff and Lunch/Dinner
Takeoff was uneventful. After four months in Seoul, I wasn’t too sad to see it fade into the distance as the plane headed North. One thing I did notice, was that the usual loud pump-like sounds from Airbuses during takeoff were much quieter on the A350. After we reached cruising altitude, the cabin noise was so low that noise-cancelling headphones are likely unnecessary.
After about an hour, dinner was served despite it being only about 11 AM local Korea time. The food was plated nicely, and came with metal utensils, a nice touch for not being in full business class. The food was adequate, but not exceptional. One problem I did have was figuring out how to take the tray table out of the armrest. It was less than intuitive and embarrassingly, I ended up needing instructions from a flight attendant.
In-Flight Entertainment and Amenities
The IFE system was bright, fairly large, and had a good selection of both movies and music. The included noise-cancelling headphones were effective, although the ear cups were a little on the small side. The amenity kit included a Tumi-branded bag, earplugs, the obligatory sleeping mask, and slippers.
After watching two movies, I managed to sleep for about six hours with the seat reclined as far as it would go. The seat controls were inconveniently placed deep in the side of the seat which led me to adjust the seat through trial and error. As the flight progressed, the lighting changed to help stimulate sleep and keep people’s circling rhythms in check. Beyond feeling fairly effective, it was also a nice aesthetic touch.
Landing and Customs
In a first for me, we landed in Detroit before Customs was open. We ended up having to wait about 20 minutes at the gate before we were let off. I managed to get to the Global Entry line first and made it to the luggage carousel and out of the airport in about 10 minutes.
Overall, the flight was greatly above average. The crew was still learning the plane and it showed, but they took it in stride and with good humor. The plane was quiet and comfortable, although the seats still felt narrow and slightly haphazardly designed. I really appreciated the plated food and the Tumi amenity kit. The plane took off on time and got me to where I was going for 65,000 Skypesos.
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