We recently flew in economy class on a Delta 757D aircraft. Our original plans changed in the 11th hour; here’s a review of our autism travel experience with Delta Airlines without any advance coordination or accommodation.
Our flight with Delta began with a booking on United and due unforeseen circumstances we were transferred at the last minute. Even though airlines work together in an unofficial capacity, once passengers are transferred to the second carrier, they are at the mercy of that airline. In essence, this is what happened to us. Because we were moved, we didn’t have the opportunity to contact Delta in advance to request seats and accommodations for our son with autism, so we were concerned.
Despite the extended assistance line in terminal five, a customer support officer named Donna helped us secure seats together for our segment. She also coordinated wheelchair assistance in Atlanta, as it is a busy airport and we only had forty-five minutes between flights.
At the gate, another customer service officer (who was both polite and well-meaning) managed to seat us together in row forty-four, which is the second to last row. We were grateful to sit together, though dreaded the seats in the back of the plane next to the lavatory.
Pre-boarding was a delight as they gave us about ten minutes to re-group. This is the longest I’ve experienced, and we even had time to chat briefly with a very attentive and knowledgeable global gate attendant.
We were pleasantly surprised at the clean, comfortable, leatherette seats which were some of the best we’ve ever sat in. They had moderate padding, and the leg pitch was adequate. The adjustable headrest included a feature to pull it higher for taller passengers was a bonus.
The overhead bins were the most practical we’ve seen with a slightly little opening at an angle and deeper which meant suitcases fit well when put on their side. The design was smart, and we liked the fact that there were instructions as to how to place the suitcases to maximize space. The distance across the aisle was quite reasonable, so people didn’t brush against me even though we were sitting in one of the least coveted seats on the plane.
Having been on Airbus planes that don’t seem to regulate their temperatures accurately, as I’m always too hot or too cold, this one had its temperature set just right.
The WiFi was relatively fast and didn’t quit on us, which is mentionable enough, but what we liked even better was the fact that each seat had two separate outlets to charge electronic devices; one right in front of you under the screen and the other next to the headphone plugin.
Apart from the usual alcoholic beverage selection of wines, spirits, and beers ranging in price from $6 to $8, Delta has included three featured cocktails: The Jack and Joe at $10 or the Sky Breeze and Blue Chair Bay Island Punch at $8 each.
For meal selections, we had roasted turkey sandwiches and fruit and cheese selection for breakfast followed by sliders and wraps for dinner.
They also have two types of snack boxes; one with Beef Salami Slices, Wheat Thins, Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread, Cheddar Goldfish, Crackers, Fruit Snacks Mixed Fruit, Oreo Cookies and Tic Tac Freshmints. The other has Pita Chips, Hummus, Pepper and Artichoke Bruschetta, Multi-Grain Crackers, Pitted Greek Olive Mix, Apricots, Roasted Almonds, Lemon Cookie Nibbles and Dark Chocolate.
If your child is particular about food or has food allergies and restrictions, you should purchase food at the airport ahead of time; especially if you are sitting in the rows at the back of the plane.
I’m afraid that on most domestic airlines these days, there isn’t much for free. However, Delta still offered hot or cold beverages along with a choice of salted peanuts, pretzels or sweet biscuits.
The disadvantage of long-bodied planes with two hundred and more travelers is that the hot food seldom reaches you if you are sitting all the way in the back; especially if you are on the afternoon flight.
The first thing I noticed about the lavatory was the fact that taller people can stand without needing to stoop down. Compared with other airline toilets, there is reasonable space to move around so you won’t trip and fall onto the commode if and when you need to change your clothes; which is something that happened to me.
As you enter the blue-lit room, the sink is on the left while the commode is in the center. There is an enormous full-length mirror in addition to one over the sink to put on makeup. It seems that someone thought of the ladies! There’s even a changing table over the commode for parents to change their babies’ clothing.
Delta has movies, old and new releases as well as TV shows and cable shows. Be aware that some of these are pay-per-view. You can also listen to albums and the radio or learn more about the company fleet and flight experience.
The company offers a unique Sky Club Kids program with movies, TV shows, and an exclusive Disney section. Our son was mildly disappointed in the fact that some of the new releases were six dollars each. It is just as well that they also had plenty of Disney oldies that were free.
The play section caught our eye since our son with autism loves video games. Strangely enough, this flight, he got a kick out of the mini -language courses world traveler offers—passengers can learn numbers, dates, words and even phrases in different languages.
Overall we thought the entertainment selection was balanced. We also liked the parental control feature that helps parents decide what they want their kids to watch.
Delta seems to be very focused on superior customer service, which is reflected in the fact it boasts an in-flight questionnaire that travelers can complete from their seat on the screen.