Delta Revamps Flying Economy with Hot Towels, Cocktails, and Flight Attendants Who Say Thank You

Already Delta offers ear plugs and eye shades in international economy, in addition to the blankets that competitors offer. They also give out amenity kits in coach.

Now they’re adding hot towels and a welcome cocktail and redesigning their service and meals, as well as providing flight attendants with additional training in order to create consistency in their elevated coach offering.

In contrast American’s flight attendants lack service training something they’re only addressing with new hires.

Starting in November on international flights 6.5 hours and longer (and some shorter international flights offering international business class or premium economy) Delta is adding new services to coach. 3000 pursers have gone through training. They’ll welcome passengers in the gate area and greet customers as they board the plane. Customers will be offered welcome cocktails “featuring Bellinis to start” as well as hot towels.

Similar to what Qantas and Saudia offer, Delta is going to allow mixing and matching of appetizer and entree choices. There will be printed menus, and dessert will be served as a separate course.

At the end of the flight customers will receive a thank you and chocolates.

There’s not a lot of room to invest in economy, with low fares and a large number of customers to serve. However small investments can go a long way towards making passengers feel human, rather than like self-loading cargo.

Singapore Airlines has probably the best economy product in the world with meals very similar to what they serve in premium economy, and little touches like extra legroom, a cup holder, and a foot bar.

Singapore Airlines Economy

It’s nice to see Delta continuing to invest in their economy product, which after all is where most passengers sit. It may even be that their Boeing 777s, which still feature 9-abreast seating rather than squeezing in 10-across, offers the best international economy among U.S. or European carriers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] However for other products it’s a bit of a different matter. Premium economy is a little more space so you’re not quite so crammed in. A seat that doesn’t recline at all deserves compensation, but ‘disturbed sleep’ isn’t quite the promise breaker that it is in business class. And for passengers in economy? Airlines are almost literally promising you’ll be uncomfortable (except on Delta before the pandemic). […]

  2. […] Before the pandemic Delta Air Lines was head and shoulders above its major competition. It was the most reliable airline by far. And it worked hard to attract premium customers, even premium leisure customers, but offering a better product. They tried to deliver free wifi in 2019 (it only took until now to deliver) and they even introduced hot towels and welcome drinks in international economy. […]


  1. Good move by Delta. But I’m not sure about the Bellinis, which will probably be very inferior – better to stick with water which is always welcome.

  2. Are the “welcome aboard cocktails” in lieu of or in addition to the first beverage service? On the two flights I’ve had in economy with Qantas, I wasn’t impressed with the quantity or quality of food. It was nice to preorder economy meals through the Menu Select program.

  3. Flight attendants that say thank you? I’m already happy when they ignore me, because anything past that usually goes like: are we gonna have a problem today?

  4. Delta seems to be really making a push to have a half-way decent flying experience for all their travelers, basically the opposite of United and American. These all sound like nice improvements to international economy service. Plus giving everyone a cocktail probably makes for a more relaxed cabin in general.

  5. I am in the process of giving up my Global Services status and shifting to Delta. I book J/F, but nice to see the overall changes. My initial flights and Sky Club experiences are way better than UA.

  6. Quick-somebody wrap-up this article and send it to AA’s Parker. Better yet, send this story to AA’s Board of Directors!

    Once I burn-off my remaining miles on AA, it’s adios AA; no turning back. I can go almost anywhere on DL from ORD; where I cannot, I will simply connect via DL.

  7. Delta is totally copying Saudia Bistro dining experience ! and that tableware is also copied from Etihad’s !

    It’s funny how Delta claims to be the first to offer such service !
    Qantas started in 2014
    Saudia started in 2017
    Etihad started early 2019

  8. Gee, and Delta announces this on the same day it raises its earnings guidance for Wall Street.

    It’s almost as if customers will pay more for a superior product.

  9. Finally a move forward instead of the two steps back in the Medallion program.

  10. I flew AMS-ATL yesterday and some of these improvements were already incorporated (e.g. thank yous + chocolates … there were menus also, and 4 choices of entree, which I thought is more than usual). Maybe this was a testing/training run … Yes, the 777 was beat up, but the service made up for it. Good job, Delta!

  11. Interesting move on DL’s part. It will almost certainly result in int’l service improvements at UA and AA, since they will not want to offer a materially substandard coach product.

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