Delta Air Lines A321 economy class review Atlanta to San Diego

Delta Air Lines A321 economy class review Atlanta to San Diego

Ok, let’s hurry up and get this over with. Writing a review of Delta A321 economy class seemed like a good idea up until about a week ago, and I was actually looking forward to telling you how much I enjoyed the flight. I was even stuck in a middle seat too!

The problem is that I’m currently sitting at ICN ready to hop on a Delta A350 to DTW, and…well…writing about a lowly A321 doesn’t seem so exciting anymore. Especially since I’ve been flying some other really amazing airlines over the past 6 days as well. I wanna skip ahead and write about those flights, and it’s really hard to hold off on it because patience has never been my virtue.

Anyway, here’s the story of how I actually *enjoyed* being stuck in a middle economy class seat for 5 hours. As long as I forget about the A350 sitting right in front of me outside the window, I just might be able to pull this off…

Atlanta, GA (ATL) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Aircraft: A321
Registration: N349DX
Duration: 4 hours 21 minutes
Seat: 30E (middle seat economy class)

Delta A321 side view
Delta Air Lines A321 side view illustration by
Atlanta to San Diego flight route
Our “omg the pilot is drunk” route from ATL to SAN today: NASSA2 VUZ Q30 SQS CQY ACT INK J4 SSO GBN HOGGZ LUCKI1

The A321 might be the best aircraft in the Delta fleet at the moment

I know. That’s a bold statement considering I’m currently nose to nose with a Delta A350 here at gate 253 at ICN, but hear me out on this. Delta is a fantastically good domestic US airline. They cover every corner of this country better than any other airline does, and they manage to do it in a professionally consistently way. Clean planes, happy crews, incredible IRROPS performance…I could go on an on about how much I approve of the way they run their operation.

N349DX delta a321
Would “dat ass” be an appropriate comment for this pic? N349DX sitting here at gate A33 ready to take us home to SAN.

Delta began flying the A321 in early 2016, and while skeptical at first, I quickly realized how much of a game changer this airplane was. I hated the fact that it was purchased to be a 757 replacement (my favorite aircraft of all time), but my mind was put at ease once I got a taste of it on a flight from MCO to ATL in July 2016. 

The fact that I was seated in first class probably helped to make me feel more excited about it, but I found it to be impressive overall.

Delta A Gates ATL
I hate public speaking, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel like standing up and addressing the gate area with a brief history of the Delta A321. I wonder how long that would have lasted before being “escorted” to a private room in the basement by the TSA?

Delta views the A321 as the aircraft which will eventually become the backbone of the fleet, and with the way they’ve configured it (generous leg room in economy, huge seat back video screens, and beautiful mood lighting) it’s exciting to think that this same experience will be available to a majority of domestic US Delta destinations over time. It’s a “right sized” airplane (not too big or small) that can fill a variety of roles comfortably and efficiently.

Delta jet bridge ATL
Jet bridges are also ideal places to educate others about the aircraft they are about to fly on. It’s a captive audience at its finest, and there aren’t any pesky TSA agents around to grab me by the feet and drag me out of the airport (United style).

Even though it might not look as cool as their flagship A350, the comfort and flexibility of the A321 (especially the way they’ve configured it) is going to be a huge hit for both Delta management and the flying public.

By the way, first class on the Delta A321 is very nice, but today, I’m going to show you what economy class is like.

Being stuck in a middle seat for 5 hours wasn’t so bad actually

I’m totally out of my element on these annual Christmas trips to visit family. Not only do I have a travel companion (my wife is not a fan of travel – that’s why I usually travel solo), we bring along two large suitcases stuffed full of Christmas gifts for the family. And sometimes, depending on the aircraft we fly on, I end up in the middle seat. She’s an aisle seat person through and through, so I’ve got no choice in the matter but to take the middle like a good husband should.

Delta a321 close up
Knowing that I was about to experience middle seat life for the next 5 hours, riding that engine all the way home (cowboy style) seemed awful tempting.

Christmas is all about family though, so I’m not one to complain about taking one (or two, or even three) for the team if it means keeping others happy. Besides – how often do I get to write about my experiences from the middle seat? From a trip reporting point of view, situations like that have the potential to be highly lucrative trip report fodder.

Delta a321 economy
Nothing augments a middle seat economy class experience quite like the feeling of extreme claustrophobia as you wait in line to get to your row. By the way, the seats with the red stripes are the fancy-pants ones. Do be sure to read my Delta A321 Comfort Plus review to find out how much better than are than the regular economy seats.
Delta a321 economy configuration
You might think that I was feeling equally claustrophobic once seated, but you’d be wrong. It was quite comfy actually, and I wasn’t even hoping to black out for the entire ride home…

As mentioned earlier, Delta has configured their A321 economy class in a quite comfortable manner. Leg room (seat pitch) is generous, seat width is decent, and the large seat back video screen in your face is just the distraction you need to take your mind off the fact that you’re going to be stuck in a middle seat for the next 5 hours. It’s better than Delta 737-800 economy class, that’s for darn sure.

Seat back video screens delta a321
Screw Facebook ads. If you’re looking to advertise your business, there’s no better way to do it than with a 12” video screen placed 6” in front of people’s faces. The fact that it can’t be turned off makes it all the more annoyingly brilliant. It works too, because I had a craving for ginger ale for three full days after this flight. I may have been 12 the last time I had a sip of the stuff!

It should be noted that the leg room (seat pitch) here in economy on the Delta A321 isn’t generous enough to be able to squeeze by your seat mate without being incredibly awkward (and borderline assaulting).

It helps if that other person is family, because you’re gonna have to climb all over them if they refuse to stand up. The annoyed look on my wife’s face as I stepped on her toes and crushed her arms trying to get out tends to make me think that the leg room isn’t as generous as it could be on this airplane.

Delta a321 economy leg room
Leg room pics are a lot more difficult to get when you’re holding your wife’s drinks while she’s up using the bathroom. Who says I can’t multitask?

The bottom line is that the Delta A321 is a relatively comfortable place to be for longer flights such as this (even in economy). It’s not anything I’d call luxurious, but it’s far better than what other US airlines are doing (specifically compared to economy class on the United Airlines A320).

Delta studio screen
Y’all should know by now that this is my favorite part of Delta Sudio. They even include the ship number on this screen, which brings tears of absolute joy to my AvGeek eyes. Why can’t other airlines understand that some passengers ARE interested in this kind of stuff? Ok, maybe it’s a minuscule number of passengers, but I believe there’s a bit of AvGeek in everyone!
Delta studio aircraft screen
I had the sense that my deep concentration on this screen was making the stranger to my right a bit nervous, so I switched to watching the Minions movie instead to reassure her that I was a normally functioning adult.
ATL-SAN flight
Taking off now, and another ATL-SAN segment begins. It’s my 25th time doing this BTW (a stat I didn’t even have to look up because of how only the most useless information sticks in my brain).

What kind of food were they slingin’ on this flight?

If you’ve caught my two most recent reviews (SAN-ATL and PBI-ATL), you shouldn’t be shocked to know that the service was exactly the same on this flight. As usual, Delta was offering free snacks to everyone here in economy, as well as an assortment of items for purchase from the menu. Also as usual, I couldn’t resist overpaying for a small fistful of something. Anything.

My vile hatred of mayonnaise was revealed to the world in my recent video review of Alaska Airlines A319 first class, so therefore, it should be of no shock to know that I was mortified to discover a blob of the white gunk smothered all over the $9 sandwich I purchased.

Delta food for purchase sandwich
Looking at this picture now (7 weeks later), I still can’t believe I ate it. Mayo is the Devil’s food, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

My vile hatred of mayo runs so deep that I actually considered not eating that sandwich. Thankfully my wife was there to give me a stern look of “you better eat that thing – or else”, and I sat there in silence for the next 25 minutes pouting like a 5 year old trying to think of anything but mayonnaise with each and every bite.

Is there anything Delta could do to make A321 economy a more enjoyable experience?

Well, they could start by not smothering their $9 sandwiches with mayo. Is anyone at Delta listening? For the record, I’m not a picky eater or anything – as a matter of fact I’ll eat most anything that is put in front of me (just as long as it isn’t mayo). Who wants to start a petition with me to have the stuff banned form existence?

Delta a321 wing
Normally I’d gaze at something like this with curious wonderment, an appreciation of the miracle of flight, and the feeling of being thankful to experience the the joys of frequent travel. But after eating that dang sandwich, all I saw was Mother Earth slathered in globs of disgusting Mayo.
diverting around storms
An interesting side note about all that mayo in the last pic. There were some pretty gnarly storms we had to divert around, which was causing some really heavy turbulence (stronger than anything I’ve experienced in a while).
Flying over Clovis NM
We also came wickedly close to flying over top of Clovis, NM as we bounced our way around the storms. I was born there! But with all the turbulence going on at the moment, the thought did cross my mind that I was about to die there as well.

As as far as non-petty suggestions for improvements go (lol), the Delta A321 economy product is so good that there isn’t much to complain about other than personal preferences (which others may not agree with). It’s basically as good as Delta 767-4oo economy.

For me, I don’t care for the mid-cabin lavatory so much. By the middle of the flight, there were many people hovering around in the aisles waiting their turn to use it. It was distracting to have people constantly walking back and forth past our row.

Delta a321 mid cabin lavatory
Waiting in the queue to use the mid cabin lavatory. When you think about what’s really happening (people doing the unmentionable in a tiny box in the middle of a room with 150 other people), it’s weird. However, how nice would it be if we were all like dogs and we could do our business in front of each other with no shame while having normal conversations?

The queueing problem might be less of an issue on shorter flights where there are less people using the lavatory, but it’s definitely an issue on longer segments such as ATL-SAN – which just so happened to be pushing 5 hours (including taxi time) on this particular day.

Wrapping it all up

While I’m still not very accepting of the fact that the A321 is the replacement for my beloved 757, Delta is doing it right by configuring these birds in an extremely comfortable (and efficient) way. Being able to enjoy 5 hours in a middle seat says a lot about how much I enjoy these 757 murderers, and I’m looking forward to many years of flying them all over the vast Delta network.

Delta a321 economy cabin
Arrival in San Diego. Despite all the Mayo and nearly dying in Clovis, it was a great flight!

Ok, how was that? Good enough? It better be, because this was an extremely hard post to write considering I’ve got nothing but A350’s (and other neat flight experiences) on my mind. The fun begins next week with a full review of QANTAS 787-9 premium economy from San Francisco to Melbourne!

Comments (14)

  1. Brian

    February 8, 2019
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      February 8, 2019
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    February 8, 2019
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      February 8, 2019
      • Brian

        February 10, 2019
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          February 10, 2019
  3. Patsfan28

    February 9, 2019
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      February 11, 2019
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    February 11, 2019
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      February 11, 2019
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    October 17, 2019
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      October 17, 2019
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    April 20, 2022
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      April 20, 2022

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