Great Service, Not-So-Great Product on a Delta 767-300ER From JFK (Trip Report)

Delta, Trip Reports

After our stay at the TWA Hotel at JFK, it was time to go home. Fortunately — unlike on the way out when we flew into Newark — this time we were flying home from JFK so we didn’t have far to go. We opted to take a mid-day flight on Delta, because I wanted some quality time in the morning at the hotel. This worked out perfectly since the 11:40am flight was offered for a mere 9,500 SkyMiles plus $5.60 for each of us. This was the opposite of the United experience on the way out. The service was great, but the onboard product left much to be desired.

Leaving the TWA Hotel, we had to walk back to the Airtrain and take it over to Terminal 4. Security was empty, and we were fortunate to be at a close-in gate. (You can’t take that for granted at Terminal 4.) It was a mere 25 minutes from our room to the gate.

Waiting for us with a wagging tail was an adorable husky, but he was clearly not a service dog. He was an emotional support animal, but I didn’t see him onboard so I don’t know how he behaved. At the gate, he kept whining at his owner to give him food.

Our 30-year old 767 had spent the night in New York, so it was ready to go at our gate. Behind, there were plenty of Delta aircraft on hardstands awaiting their turns to fly.

We were in the Main Cabin 2 group, and Delta sent me a push notification saying the following:

Lies! I never received a follow up saying it was time to board with my group. I just listened to announcements and boarded when called.


January 29, 2020
Delta 423 Lv New York/JFK 1140a Arr Los Angeles 312p
New York/JFK (JFK): Gate B22, Runway 31L, Depart On Time
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 21, Runway 25L, Arrive 45m Early
N174DN, Boeing 767-332ER, Standard Delta colors, ~80% Full
Seat 28G, Economy
Flight Time 5h24m

This airplane’s interior was definitely showing its age. We walked by the Delta One seats which appeared to be scratched up and worn. When we made it back to our seats just behind the wing, I found it really dirty despite the airplane having been there all night. Those seat tracks really get nasty.

The seatback looked like it had been spiffed up a bit (not enough) instead of being replaced, especially around the screen where it looked like cracks had been sealed over

The captain came on the PA to welcome us and tell us we expected a smooth ride most of the way across the country. The entire crew was friendly and got us going right on time. We were in the air after a short taxi, doing the usual corkscrew required to avoid nearby airport traffic. The clouds that had lingered most of that week finally parted a couple hours earlier, so we took off into a brilliant blue sky.

The flight attendants had handed out menus to everyone. I had forgotten that Delta now offers free food on transcon flights. That was a nice surprise.

I was planning on working on the flight, so I had bought a wifi pass for $16 via the Delta app at the gate. That was a good move since Gogo wanted me to pay about $50 if I bought it onboard. I fired up the laptop and connected, but it was miserably slow. I tweeted it out, and Gogo responded. They looked into it and said, “there is an issue that might affected the connection.” I don’t know what that means, but they refunded me right there. That’s good customer service, but I’d rather have a working product.

The wifi actually cut out entirely less than halfway into the flight. I was never able to reconnect to do anything. I just kept getting this screen on both my phone and computer.

That’s probably a good thing, because there are annoyingly no power outlets in the back half of this airplane anyway. I would have run out of juice at some point.

Instead, I decided to watch movies and went for a Brad Pitt-a-thon. I started with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which was a good long movie to help pass the time. (And man, was Brad Pitt good in that one.) The flight attendants came through with drinks and meals. I had a turkey sandwich that was actually really tasty.

I also love the Toblerone bar. There’s something about Toblerone that makes me feel like I’m traveling to far away lands. Weird, I know. Must have something to do with the trip to Switzerland I took as a kid.

After the movie ended, I tried again to connect to wifi in vain. When I gave up, I decided to flip on the flight map. Nope. It didn’t work.

I was feeling uncomfortable at this point. There was a very mild swaying motion that made me feel a little airsick. That never happens to me, so it was an odd sensation. I felt better when focusing on the screen, so I moved on to my next Pitt movie, Ad Astra. The flight attendants regularly came through with water and a second drink service. They were around frequently and were always friendly and smiling.

Unlike on the 787, they couldn’t auto-dim my windows here, so I stared out often. You can probably guess which row I’m sitting in:

With about 45 minutes to go, the pilots came on to tell us that we’d start our descent soon, and there were reports ahead of “very significant bumps.” The flight attendants were told to clean up the cabin early and put on their seatbelts. Those Santa Ana winds were howling.

It was mildly bumpy at first, but once we got over the Inland Empire, it got really rough. There was one particular stretch where the movement was so strong that there were screams echoing throughout the cabin. The girl immediately behind me was sobbing loudly for the rest of the flight.

As we got a little closer to the ground, the turbulence settled down but it was still far from smooth. We had a great view of the new Sofi Stadium on final approach.

It was still gusty when we touched down, and the second we did, many of the people onboard burst into applause. I too was happy to be on the ground, but I can only just shake my head when people do that.

We had arrived very early, and I was amazed to find we had a gate waiting for us. As we got off the airplane, I overheard one of the flight attendants asking another if anyone had thrown up. Then I saw the captain poke his head out, so I asked if that was what he’d call “moderate” turbulence. He said it was at least the high-end of moderate or possibly low-end of severe. An aircraft in front of us had reported it as severe, but he thought it might not quite be that bad. Either way, it was some hefty stuff.

Overall, this Delta experience wasn’t great. The lack of power, broken flight map, and non-functioning wifi combined with the general grime on the airplane wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Delta. The service, however, was great and more fitting with the brand.

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32 comments on “Great Service, Not-So-Great Product on a Delta 767-300ER From JFK (Trip Report)

  1. This trip report is 95% of all my Delta flights. Great service, old plane showing its age. Also props to Delta for the MCO, RDU to SEA meal service – I had no idea.

    1. My last several mainline Delta flights have been on the 737-900 or the A220 and both are really new inside. I guess it’s luck of the draw. I’m sure United and AA have some planes with really wretched interiors too.

        1. Just because a plane is “new” doesn’t mean that it cant have badly maintained interiors. All the majors are taking deliveries of new aircraft every month

        2. Have you ever flown on the ex-US A321s? I’ve heard they are horrible shape on the interior. Old and out of date. Again, every airline has old and out of date interiors. They can’t keep everything new and fresh.

  2. There is no excuse for dirty airplanes but worn furnishings is only as good as the frequency of cabin replacements and routine maintenance to the extent that you can replace individual components. Delta and most US airlines have about a 10 year cycle for cabin replacements. Delta is starting to turn its cabin refurbs to the 763 fleet after focusing on the 777s and 764s. As a result of Boeing’s indecision about a 737/757/767 replacement, Delta is reportedly identifying a portion of its 767 fleet that it will keep in service, including possibly for charters, for another 5 plus years. Delta just released their annual stockholder report and it shows that they have 24 new A330-900s and 350s due for delivery over the next 2 years which is the largest number of new widebody aircraft they have ever taken. There will be a lot of new flights or some significant restructuring of its fleet as well as some retirements.

    Also, keep in mind that American never put full aircraft AVOD on its 767 fleet and there are multiple reports of similar cabin conditions to what you reported on Delta on JetBlue’s A320s before they started their cabin refurbs. Other than its 321Ts, most AA domestic aircraft don’t or won’t have AVOD which is similar for UA. Few domestic airplanes for any airline offer full aircraft AC power.

    The Wifi issues aren’t unique to older aircraft either which is why Delta can’t offer complimentary access only to have it not work and further reduce expectations.

    Delta needs to fix these planes but you just happened to catch a plane at the end of the cabin life cycle.

    And, yes, you see Delta FAs in the cabin far more on long domestic flights than on just about any other US airline

    1. A_B – Great question. For this trip, I would take United over Delta. The functional wifi and better entertainment was more important to me than good service. That being said, the dimming of the windows knocked United down a peg.

  3. If that approach generated freak outs in a 767, just imagine what fun the people in RJ’s had landing at LAX, ONT, SNA or the others that day! As for the tiredness of the aircraft, I think Tim Dunn explains well above….but it does bear repeating that Delta’s frugality with purchasing aircraft over the past decade or so has served it well, but it’s past time for an updated fleet. Sounds like they are well on their way to doing that and within 5 years, they should have the newest fleet in the domestic US market. Once that happens, DL will be the one for everyone else to beat because they’ll have the best hard AND soft product of any US airline.

  4. Always a good experience with Delta flight crews these days and I seem to end up on an A321 or 737-900 which are fairly new and nice and clean. Glad they are continually getting new planes.

    1. Truth is Delta has the oldest fleet.
      S80s
      717
      737
      Old 757,767 and some 777.
      Airbus A350’s currently arriving at Delra were previous orders from USAIR/AA. Who opted for 787-900.
      Delta has NO 777-300 OR 787.
      DELTAS MAIN INTL AIRCRAFT IS 30 YEAR OLD 767.
      DELTA DID NOT PLACE A LARGE AIRCRAFT ORDER LIKE AA.
      DELTA IS Witing in the 797. Still on the drawing board.
      Delta made a deal with Cash crunched latam. In order to AQUIRE some of Latam’s airbus.
      DELTA STOCK PRICE HIGH BUT EVENTUALLY WILL HAVE TO PURCHASE A NEW FLEET$$$
      AA ALREADY HAS NEW PLANES, NEW FACILITIES,ETC.
      SO STANDBY AND WATCH OLD PLANES BREAK OR BE REPLACED!

      1. Delta’s A350s are not used aircraft though. They are coming fresh off the line from Toulouse, France. And just because an aircraft is new doesn’t mean it’s better. Delta’s MD-88s right now are doing a better job than American’s brand new Boeing 737-8 MAXs. What’s even more amazing is that American’s brand spanking new 737 MAXs have the exact same IFE as Delta’s 30+ year old MD-88s.

      2. You do know that the MD-88s are gone sometime this year.

        Not having a 777-300 or a 787 doesn’t make an airline better or worse. Delta really liked the 777-200 LR. I’ve been on an A350 (CX) and thought it was great. From what I can tell, in Y, it’s more comfortable than the 787 because of the wider cabin. Delta is getting those new.

        AA also has a bunch of 737MAXs just sitting on the ground right now. Even when they do fly, who knows how long it will take the flying public to not be scared of them crashing? Delta got really lucky in not buying any of those. Plus the AA 737-8MAXs and -800s have 172 seats in them compared to Delta’s 160. Which sounds more comfortable?

        I’m also pretty sure that Delta didn’t to a JV with LATAM just to get some planes.

        Plus, Delta got that A220, which neither AA or United want. I’ve been on it and thought it was great. But, they each have their reasons for taking certain planes.

  5. It has been forever since I was on a Delta 763. Seems like they haven’t touched the cabin since. I still prefer a widebody on a transcon over an A321. Just saying.

  6. My round trip JFK-LAX-JFK last month also had the wifi unusably slow on both flights and the moving map broken on one.

    I just simply do not understand why Delta flies these old birds on their most premium domestic route. They market it as “the only airline flying all widebodies from JFK-LAX” like it’s such a great thing, but the in flight experience is far superior on almost any other Delta narrowbody flying short hops around the country. Not to mention what the other carriers are flying on this route…

    I most often fly between New York & Florida on Delta, and consistently have a great experience with brand new or recently refurbished planes that are clean, modern, have 2Ku wifi, fantastic IFE with live TV and a moving map that works, mood lighting, etc, but then when I fly to fly to LA on a flight that’s 3 times as long I can’t have any of that? It doesn’t make any sense.

    1. Your point as well as CF’s that the 763s on JFK-LAX are not up to par w/ the rest of DL’s JFK product line is absolutely valid. It is worth noting that the most commonly used DL mainline aircraft at JFK is the 739 which is new, has as many amenities as any other narrowbody aircraft that anyone offers, and DL uses it on most JFK transcons except LAX and SFO. It is also the most cost efficient transcon narrowbody except for the new A321NEOs – which Delta will start putting on transcons in a year or so.
      It is also worth noting that JFK-LAX has now become Delta’s largest revenue route by O&D revenue (not including connections), Delta is the highest revenue carrier in the NYC (all airports) to LAX market and Delta’s average fares in the NYC-LAX market are second only to American which uses its A321T strategy which offers very few coach seats. It would have been unthinkable to have suggested 10 years ago that Delta would be the largest carrier on the US’ largest route but they have clearly done a lot of things right to get there.
      Everyone has priorities in selecting travel but I would far prefer to fly a 767 or any widebody other than a 9 abreast 787 or a 10 abreast 777 over a narrowbody on a 6 hour or longer flight; the personal space is so much higher on widebodies and I get tired of grinding shoulders with people next to me for 6 hours. I just flew on a 9 abreast 787 and then an A330 and the difference was very notable.
      As for new aircraft, Delta is in the midst of a massive fleet replacement program and they will also be increasing their average aircraft size (upgauging) as part of their fleet renewal. Southwest has an average aircraft size of 150 seats/flight right now (excluding the MAXs that are out of service) which is part of they are so efficient; Spirit is over 180 seats/flight on average. Delta is at about 125 seats/systemwide flight. American is at about 112 seats/flight and United is at 110. Delta’s use of larger aircraft (including fewer regional jets) a major driver of its higher profits compared to American and United and that is certain to be true on the JFK transcons.
      Delta should fix stuff like the Wifi systems on the 767 fleet until they do a full cabin refurb. And they need to clean planes better, esp. on long, high profile flights. I expect, though, that a number of DL’s 767s will get another set of cabins as Delta holds onto them until Boeing comes up with a truly new generation small widebody.

        1. They are using the international 757s on JFK-SFO (ex-TW) and the 763ERs on JFK-LAX. Both have lie flat seats. Both are dated. DL appears to have plans to refurb a subset of the 767-300ER fleet, get rid of some, and put some into a special charter configuration similar to some of the 757s that were retired from scheduled passenger service but converted for charter use. Word is that a subset of the A321NEOs will be configured with lie flat business class seats and used for domestic (transcon flights).

          https://theaircurrent.com/ says that Boeing is back to considering a small widebody as part of its new generation aircraft.

        2. David,
          just to add, Delta clearly sees the demand which is why they use the 767. They have used various types of widebodies including the 764 and A330-300 but they have now focused on the 767-300ER which is a 225 or so seat aircraft.
          Delta’s 767-300ERs have twice as many seats as AA’s A321Ts and about 50 seats more than B6 Mint aircraft.
          There aren’t a whole lot of markets that can support an all-widebody operation but JFK-LAX is one.
          Delta also carries several million pounds of cargo per month on the route according to DOT data.

  7. I’m trying to be facetious, not sarcastic, with this first observation: But to read any number of pundits and blog commentaries, one gets the impression that Delta can do no wrong, that its product, performance, and people are perfect 100% of the time. Obviously, that’s impossible, even for Delta.

    Now to the serious part: Personally, I’ve found that the in-flight experience doesn’t vary much from airline to airline. In all the years I’ve traveled on commercial airlines (and I’m 70 years old, so I go back a way) I’ve never sat in a comfortable airline coach seat. And I don’t concern myself with in-flight entertainment – it’s nice, but I can live without it. I usually take “high tech” devices called books onto longer flights. Maybe I’m crazy, out of touch, old, or merely think differently from most people, but to me, an airline’s main business is to provide safe, reliable transportation. It’s not serving gourmet meals, showing movies or otherwise keeping me fed or entertained. Given all of the things that can go wrong when people get into a tube and defy gravity (especially since scientists apparently don’t understand the physics of it with complete certainty), it’s remarkable that air travel is as inexpensive, safe and reliable as it is.

  8. The turbulence could have been moderate because the plane is bigger. What is moderate on a 767 possibly could have been severe on a smaller plane, e.g. MD-80, A320, CRJ, etc. That is why we always got aircraft types on turbulence reports and passed that on when I was a controller.

  9. I would take a 767 2-3-2 seating in coach ANY day over a 787 3-3-3 or (yikes) 777 3-4-3 seating.

    Call it old and worn all you want but i think the coach experience in a 767 is still much – especially if you are tall or have wide shoulders

  10. I remember when sandwiches used to be snacks, not called “dinner”. Really, how much more dumbing down can the airlines do ?

    1. It looks like a standard snack served on flights before all the cost cutting in the late 1980s; certainly not a lunch or dinner from that era.

  11. Aging and poorly dressed 767s seem to be everywhere. And yes… I get that airplanes take a beating, have long lives, and reach the point of looking like a New York City taxi or the last Sears in town. I would just appreciate an honest approach from airlines and their crew in dealing with their aging equipment.

    Such as: an FA, in the pre-flight announcements saying that the airline was in the midst of refurbishing its 767 fleet, and that this particular aircraft hasn’t had its facelift yet. But we’re going to make it up to you with stellar service and bright smiles. And hopefully the next 767 you’re on will be as pretty as the day it rolled off the assembly line. I’ll still notice the dirt and tears, but at least I’ll know it isn’t being ignored, and that I’m being shown a little respect.

    Alex, I’ll take “Things That Will Never Happen” for a thousand.

  12. When I meet people who are nervous about flying or what airliners can handle, I always show them the famous Boeing wing strength test video, where the ends of the wings are practically vertical (and well above the fuselage) before they finally snap in excess of the minimum design tolerances.

    Yes, bad weather and turbulence are dangerous for planes, but it takes usually extremely rare weather, often combined with multiple human errors, to really mess up a larger commercial airliner.

  13. This report pretty much sums up my flights on Delta. It’s fine. Crew are pleasant. There are some perks here and there to distract you from the fact you are on ancient airplane. One of the most overrated airlines from a pax experience point of view. It may be a well run company but the experience is just ok.

  14. It’s fine if Delta wants to keep these 767’s in the air, however, they need to step up the cleaning. Cranky’s experience is mine on LAX-JFK too. Not sure who does the cleaning for Delta at LAX and JFK, but they should be fired as should whoever supervises the cleaning.

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