Delta A321 economy is still a fantastically adequate way to fly

Delta A321 economy is still a fantastically adequate way to fly

I know the feeling. After a long and arduous search for flights, Delta A321 economy ends up looking to be your best option. But you have concerns.

Luckily for you, I just flew economy on the Delta A321 for the 5th time since 2016. I’m happy to report that it’s a still fine choice with excellent in-flight entertainment, extremely clean cabins, and high-quality free snacks.

You’re certainly not going to impress anyone though. Expect to instantly lose everyone’s attention when you tell them what you flew in on.

DL809
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Monday, December 26, 2022
Aircraft: A321
Registration: N383DZ
Duration: 3 hours 50 minutes
Seat: 22B (economy)

Delta A321 side view
Delta A321 side view illustration by NorebboStock.com.
DL809 flight track
Our route from San Diego to Atlanta today as DL809.

My full review of Delta Air Lines A321 economy from San Diego to Atlanta

It’s not like I went out of my way to fly Delta A321 economy class. It just happened to be the flight that best fit my schedule, and given the circumstances, it would have been irresponsible to choose anything else.

This was a trip to go visit my family in Florida for the holidays. Being there on time was more important than trying to get there on a unique (and fun) aircraft type.

SANspotter checked bags
For a guy who normally travels the world with nothing but a small backpack, I felt slightly out of my element here. The horror!
Walking into San Diego airport with checked luggage
Oh well. How authentic of a Delta A321 economy review would this be if I didn’t have two large overweight bags to check?

Checking in

Checking in for Delta economy class at the San Diego International Airport is fairly straightforward. First, proceed to the kiosks to get your boarding pass and bag tags.

After that, take your luggage (with the tags attached to them) to the baggage drop queue. If the lines aren’t long, it’ll be fast and easy. If not, may God have mercy on your soul.

Delta check in kiosk San Diego airport
If this was 1935, there would be beautifully dressed ticketing agents tripping over themselves to assist us with the check in process. Here in 2022, a soulless kiosk (with moody software) is as good as it gets.
Printing delta bag tag from kiosk San Diego airport
It’s printing! It’s printing! (I had my doubts)
Delta baggage drop San Diego airport
Assuming the kiosk was willing to cooperate, the final step in the process is to drop your bags off at the baggage drop area. Easy peasy. 

Hanging out inside Terminal 2 West

I didn’t have access to the Delta Sky Club here in San Diego this morning, so I headed straight for Starbucks instead. The line was moving at a glacier-like pace, but no matter.

The architecture of Terminal 2 West here at SAN is magnificent. It’s the perfect distraction from being ticked off by slow moving coffee lines.

Starbucks line San Diego airport
The first order of business when flying Delta A321 economy out of SAN is to load up on drinks and snacks from Starbucks. Looks like there are a lot of people flying Delta A321 economy today, doesn’t it?
San Diego airport terminal 2 West architecture
Taking a moment to appreciate the beautiful architecture here in Terminal 2 West is another option. But trust me on this – Starbucks is more important.
Delta A321 parked at gate 37 SAN
This is the plane taking us to ATL this morning, and I haven’t seen my bags being loaded onto the airplane yet. I hate to admit it…but I can’t say that I was all that concerned about the possibility of being released from the burden of transporting those little monsters across the country today. 
Gate 37 terminal 2 San Diego Airport
It’s going to be gate 37 this morning. My memory has always been trash, but I do believe this is the first time that I have ever written a review that departed from this gate. Cool!

The boarding process for flight number 809 to Atlanta

Our flight was departing out of gate 37 this morning. It’s a relatively small gate, and we had to wait a bit to board even though (thanks to my Delta SkyMiles Silver status) we were in the Main 1 group. I’m not exaggerating when I say that more than half the plane was already on board by the time they called our zone.

Delta A321 Economy main 1 boarding pass
“Main 1” my ***. If Delta was being honest, the Main 1 boarding group would be named something like “you gonna be last lol.”
boarding delta flight to Atlanta gate 37 San Diego airport
It has occurred to me that my captions have been awfully grumpy-sounding in this review so far. Don’t tell anyone, but…I’m actually having fun.
Delta jet bridge gate 37 San Diego airport
You just know that everyone here in this jet bridge is questioning the “Main 1” naming scheme just as I was.
Delta A321 close up San Diego airport
See those windows way in the back? That’s where I’m headed today!
passengers boarding Delta A321
It’s going to be a while though. Please have patience.
Delta A321 interior
This looks fun, doesn’t it? 
Delta A321 economy class aisle
Pardon us. Main 1 plebs coming through!

My first impressions of the Delta A321 economy seats

Having flown economy on the Delta A321 a handful of times before, I already knew what to expect before sitting down. It’s a fairly basic seat with decent padding – but at least there are large videos screens (with an equally excellent video entertainment system).

Delta A321 Economy seats
There you have it. Delta A321 economy seats in all their vinyl clad glory.
Delta A321 Economy middle seat
Not only did I check two large (and heavy) bags, I’m sitting in the middle seat today. WTF is happening to me?
Delta A321 Economy window seat
My only hope at this point is that the person assigned to the window seat doesn’t show up. Either that or they decide not to go today once he/she realizes who they have to sit next to.
Delta A321 Economy leg room
If this lack of leg room frightens you (and it should), I’d recommend reading my Delta A321 first class review instead.
Delta A321 Economy carpet
BTW, I think this is the exact same carpet you saw in my KLM 737-800 business class review. Fun fact: it’s the same pair of jeans and shoes as well!
Delta A321 Economy video screens
One of the advantages of sitting in the middle seat is that you’ll have 3 separate video screens to watch. Stay tuned for additional advantages…they are coming!
Delta A321 Economy seats row 21, 22, and 23
At least these aren’t the rock-hard slimline seats you’ll find on low cost carriers, right?
Delta A321 Economy in seat power outlets
As a middle seat passenger, I also have access to both electrical outlets (which also include USB ports). Maybe this isn’t so bad after all?
Delta A321 Economy overhead bin size
You’ll also be happy to know that overhead bin space is quite generous here on the A321.
Delta Air Lines personalized welcome card
What’s this? I didn’t notice this card sitting on my seat when I sat down, but after digging it out of my ***, I realized that it was a personalized welcome card from the crew! That’s pretty neat considering that I’m just a lowly Silver Medallion.
Delta A321 Economy middle seat
Silver Medallion or not, it’s going to be a long flight to Atlanta today.

The departure

For an AvGeek like me, being stuck in the middle seat is torturous. It’s even worse if you’re an introverted AvGeek, because you feel really uncomfortable looking across the lap of your seatmate to the window during the departure process.

Oh well. I’ve seen the view departing SAN literally hundreds of times, and I’m willing to bet I probably didn’t miss much this time. Unless a unicorn ran across the runway or something. There’s no way of telling if that happened or not.

Delta A321 Economy view from row 22
Are we there yet?
delta a321 departing San Diego airport
At first I was frustrated with my lack of departure pics for this review, but then I realized that at least 90% of you are scrolling right on past this part anyway. It’s all good.

In-flight entertainment

Good news: the in-flight entertainment system is the exact same as what you will find in both Comfort + and first class on the A321. Delta Studio is awesome, and it’s always nice to see it being updated with fresh new content from one flight to the next.

Delta studio home screen A321 economy
I’ve reviewed Delta Studio so many times now that I was half tempted to choose the Japanese option this time (just for fun).
Delta studio in flight entertainment screens
I’ve barely got a grasp on English though, so that’s what I went with. Anyway, as you can see, there are lots of great movies and TV shows in Delta Studio (which are constantly being updated).
Delta A321 Economy in flight entertainment search function
Should I be embarrassed that I never noticed this search function before? This’ll save lots of time when it comes to trying to find something to watch or listen to! BTW, “SANspotter videos” were nowhere to be found (thank God).

It’s also worth noting that Delta is still providing complementary earbuds in economy class. Remember when they used to charge for these things?

Delta A321 economy complimentary ear buds
The complimentary ear buds – with a friendly reminder that text messaging is still free on Delta.
Delta A321 economy audio jack
(Just in case you’re wondering where you plug in the ear buds).

The food

As you might expect, the only free food you’ll get in Delta A321 economy is a beverage and a small snack. At least it’s free, right? They also offer more substantial snacks (things like fruit and cheese plates and snack boxes) for an additional cost. I went with the fruit and cheese platter for $11. But of course I did.

Delta A321 economy food for purchase
“I’ll take the fruit and cheese plate for $11 Alex.”
Delta A321 economy fruit and cheese platter
I’m normally not afraid to complain about overpriced food-for-purchase options in economy class, but I’d say that $11 was a fair price to pay for this.
Delta A321 economy food for purchase
This beats the crap out the $9 fruit and cheese platter I purchased in JetBlue A321neo economy earlier this year!
American Airlines cups in Delta Air Lines economy class
Of course these are American Airlines cups. Why wouldn’t they?
SANspotter eating in Delta A321 economy class
Having deep thoughts about Delta (of all airlines) being so hard up for cups that they had to go and beg American Airlines for some of theirs.
Delta A321 Economy tray table
Who’s to say that wasn’t an American Airlines fruit and cheese platter as well? No matter – it was delicious.

It should be noted that thanks to my American Express Platinum Card, the fruit and cheese platter was on the house. Well, it’s one of the perks I pay for in the annual fee, but it feels good to automatically get reimbursed for frivolous expenses such as this.

How (un)comfortable are the seats?

Here’s the deal. If I can survive 4 1/2 hours in a middle seat from San Diego to Atlanta, you’re going to do fine in an aisle or window seat on a flight from Atlanta to Orlando (or equivalent). The seats are fine. They are the exact same seats you saw in my Delta A321 Comfort + review, and nothing has changed since then. They do the job.

SANspotter delta a321 economy class
And to think it was only a month ago that I was living the high life in KLM 777-200 business class. Judging by the slight smirk on my face, I was probably thinking about that delicious pre-landing hamburger they served.
Delta A321 economy seat recline
Seat recline is fairly decent by the way.
Delta A321 economy full cabin
From what I can tell, there aren’t any economy seats here on the A321 that are better than others (the exit row seats have more legroom, but seat recline is limited). And since all seats look the same – good luck finding yours on the way back from the loo.
Delta A321 middle seat economy
There’s still an hour and 25 minutes to go, and I don’t completely hate this seat yet. I’m not willing to call it comfortable, but “tolerable” definitely works.
Delta A321 economy air vents
Another advantage of siting in the middle seat: you have full control of all three air vents!
Delta A321 wing view from row 22
A disadvantage, of course, is that you have to wait until your seatmate goes to the loo to get wing pics for the review.
Delta A321 economy lavatory
Speaking of the lavatory…my dorky selfie indicates that I was attempting to show you something really interesting. But since my memory is trash, I totally forgot what it was. Oh well.

The arrival into Atlanta

Once again, being stuck in the middle seat without a view to the outside world was torturous. That said, at least it seemed to be a relatively quick descent and landing into ATL. Even the taxi to the gate was relatively short.

window view from the middle seat airbus a321
Atlanta is down there somewhere. At least I hope it is.
Delta A321 economy passengers waiting to deplane
We’ve arrived at the gate! And from the looks of it, the woman in 21C just stuck her finger in the electrical socket.
Delta A321 economy class aisle
So what’s the verdict? Well, if you can tolerate Delta 737-800 economy class, you’ll be perfectly fine in A321 economy class. It’s the exact same experience.
Delta A321 economy cabin viewed from back of plane
Compared to JetBlue, however, I’d say that Delta has some work to do.
walking off delta air lines a321 at ATL
I’ve got a lot of work to do myself (such as trying to make my airline reviews less dorky) so I’m not faulting Delta for falling behind a bit. We’re all flawed in some way or another.

Pros and cons of Delta A321 economy class

The thing about flying Delta Air Lines economy class is that the experience is nearly exactly the same across the entire fleet of aircraft. I mean, if you read my Delta A220-300 economy review, you’ll already know what the pros and the cons:

Pros

  • Consistency! IMHO, the Delta Air Lines customer experience teams are (and have been) nothing short of genius. Economy on the A321 is just as good as it is on any other aircraft in the fleet.
  • They won’t nickel and dime you for everything. Things like earbuds, drinks, and snacks are still very much complementary.
  • No matter how uncomfortable the seat may be on longer flights, the in-flight entertainment system is so good that it will distract you from the fact that you can’t feel your butt anymore.

Cons

  • The seats are hard! This probably won’t be that big of a deal for those of you with some junk in the trunk, but for scrawny little dudes like me, they become a little painful after the second hour of flight.
  • The Airbus A321 is a long aircraft, and you’re gonna be waiting a while to deplane if you’re seated near the back.

Comments (2)

  1. Peter

    January 20, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      January 20, 2023

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