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My wife and I went to my annual family reunion in Georgia in July 2019. Flying direct makes life so much more comfortable, so we booked two roundtrip Delta tickets Honolulu to Atlanta (HNL-ATL-HNL). Here's my review and trip report for flights DL836 and DL837 on July 25 and July 30 2019.
Next year we will be able to use my wife's annual fee waived American Express Delta Reserve card and book the roundtrip flight for 50% off thanks to her annual companion pass certificate. The annual fee on the Amex Delta Reserve card is waived for military servicemembers.
Annual Fee: $550 per year, waived for US military servicemembers and spouses to $0
Welcome Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus Skymiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership plus a $100 statement credit when you make eligible US restaurant purchases in the first 3 months.
- This is my TOP recommended Amex Delta card for military
- $550 annual fee waived for US military (active duty and Title 10/32 Guard/Reserve)
- Annual Companion Certificate – earn a domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate every year on your account anniversary. Government taxes and fees of no more than $75 may need to be paid, see terms and conditions
- 3x miles on Delta purchases, 1x on everything else
- Complimentary Delta Sky Club (airport lounge) access when travelling on a Delta flight in any class
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (military should get Global Entry)
- Priority boarding (main cabin 1)
- No foreign transaction fees, terms apply (rates and fees)
HNL-ATL, Delta 836, was in Delta One on Delta's ancient 767-400. The return ATL-HNL, Delta 837, was in Delta's “Comfort Plus” cabin.
Overall Impression with Delta One: Terrible
If there were another option to fly HNL-ATL direct, I would take it in a heartbeat. Probably even if it was Spirit or Frontier.
Neither of these “premium cabins” were worth the money we paid. And thank goodness I didn't burn my AMEX Membership Reward points for the prices they were asking.
If you're going to fly to or from Hawaii on points, I recommend a different airline! The cabin service was mediocre, the food blah, the cabin uncomfortably hot, the seats tiny, and the entertainment system lacking.
After living in the United Arab Emirates for 2 years and almost exclusively flying Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore business class, my standards have been set extremely high.
I knew American domestic air travel was lacking, but it was shocking how bad it was compared to world class products available from other airlines.
The terribleness of Delta's “first class” product was amazing compared to their international competitors. American air carriers have many lessons to learn from their overseas competitors and a lot of work to do to catch up!
Booking Delta One from Honolulu
When looking to make this booking, I couldn’t find it cheaper than 210,000 Delta Skymiles. At $2500 roundtrip, that was only 1.2 cents per point.
Since I didn’t have that many Skymiles, I would have had to transfer in American Express Membership Rewards points. AMEX MR points are usually worth at least 2 cents per point, so it didn’t seem like a great redemption to me.
I decided to just pay cash for the tickets, rather than burn through my AMEX points.
About 3 days before we departed I received an email to select my entree for the flight. The choices were:
- Black truffle ravioli with parmesan sauce (vegetarian)
- Braised beef short rib
- Rosemary chicken
I decided to go with the braised beef short rib. My wife likes to gamble and did not pick a meal in advance.
Honolulu Delta Sky Club Lounge
We like traveling light so we checked no bags and just took carry on. Boarding passes were on our phones with the Delta app so we went straight from the Uber to the TSA Pre-check line just to the right of the Delta Counters at Honolulu airport, Terminal 2.
All military servicemembers are eligible for TSA Pre-Check with their DOD ID number from the back of their CAC.
Uber was free thanks to my mulitple AMEX Platinums and their $15/month Uber credit per account.
HNL also has a line just for military servicemembers in some terminals but it wasn’t needed today. TSA Pre-check got me through in less than 5 minutes.
A left turn took me to the entrance to the Delta Sky Club (wifi password is “lucky”). I was a bit hungry so I grabbed some food and a Waikiki Brewing Company “Skinny Jeans” IPA on tap. It’s a smaller lounge but above average food and drink for an American lounge.
Chicken with Hawaiian style BBQ sauce. Really nice! Also some orzo and veggies salad. Waikiki Brewing Company Skinny Jeans IPA in the glass.
One thing to mention is we had access to the Sky Club thanks to our first class ticket. But we could access the Sky Lounge with any class of ticket, thanks to me and my wife's American Express Platinum card, also with no annual fees.
Delta One from Honolulu to Atlanta
One thing I do love about Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the open air walkways between the gates.
The smell of the sea, the fresh island breezes, the perfect temperatures…even when it's raining, it's beautiful to walk around. Living in or visiting Hawaii is truly a gift that everyone should cherish.
Boarding had started when we arrived at the gate. America needs a serious wake up call in regards to standing near the gate before boarding. Worse than Cairo or Sri Lanka. We boarded quickly and were directed to our seats, 1C and 1D.
The seats are a weird leather material that was not very nice to sleep on. Thankfully you can stretch straight out and don't have to bend your legs around the seat in front of you. There was not much storage around the seat, unlike Emirates/Etihad/Singapore seats.
The entertainment screen was comically small and difficult to navigate. Thankfully I was more interested in sleeping than watching movies.
Delta One Amenity Kit
The amenities kit was pretty solid. A Tumi bag with eye mask, socks and ear plugs. I always carry my own ear plugs just in case they are missing from the kit. My favorite ear plugs are MOLDEX 6604, uncorded.
MOLDEX 6604s are extremely soft, easy to roll and insert, you can sleep on them, and they are cheap. They also cut down on almost all noise, to the point where I can actually get some sleep even if there's a crying child only a few rows away from me. 100% worth carrying a few on every flight and to the hotel as well to ensure restful sleep.
Also in the kit were a pen, tissues, lip balm, hand moisturizer, and hand sanitizer. For oral health there's a toothbrush and Crest toothpaste as well as a tube of mouthwash.
The TUMI case is good quality and works well as a cord or charger holder.
Delta One Food Honolulu to Atlanta
My goal was primarily to sleep on this flight as it took off at 430pm and landed at 6am, local times. I watched “The Inventor,” an HBO documentary on the collapse of the biotech fraud Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. Warmed nuts and drinks were offered after takeoff.
Dinner was served shortly after take off. Drinks were offered before, during, and after the meal service. All parts of the meal were served at once, except dessert.
The dessert offered was Macadamia nut ice cream or a chocolate cake.
Breakfast was served about an hour before landing. The options were chorizo and egg on a bagel or granola and yogurt. The granola was served in a bowl without enough yogurt accompanying it. The fruit tasted pretty good, but the “croissant” would have made a Frenchman cry.
Both meals were below average for airline food. Honestly, I would have rather eaten an Etihad economy meal.
Another really awkward thing the cabin crew did was go through the Delta One cabin and thank each of us by name for flying with them.
A nice gesture, but the way they did it was just one after another, in order, front to back. It seemed so mechanical and forced. I would have rather just have them not do it.
Delta Comfort+ ATL-HNL DL837
On the return trip a week later we flew Delta Comfort Plus on DL837 from Atlanta to Honolulu (ATL-HNL).
This was another disappointing experience. It's almost like Delta is intentionally ruining their premium cabin experience so people just fly economy.
I think that's a terrible business model and a bad way to treat your customers who are shelling out thousands of dollars or SkyMiles for these flights.
The entertainment screen was so small my wife laughed when she saw it. She could cover the entire screen with her hand.
While this was advertised as a Premium Economy experience, it certainly was not a premium product.
Next time I will save the money and just sat in the back with everyone else than pay the few hundred dollars extra Delta Comfort Plus demanded.
Delta Comfort+ and Delta One ATL-HNL: Skip It
If I received a free upgrade to Delta Comfort Plus or Delta One on the 767-400, I guess I would take it. But I certainly would not pay what their asking for it again.
The experience was just not worth the price, especially when compared to what you can get on world class airlines outside the United States. I'll save my money for an airline that actually treats their customers decently and provides a superior product for the price.
Learn how to fly for free in first and business class seats much better than Delta One and stay at five star hotels for free in my Ultimate Military Credit Card Course.