Delta versus Druk Air : a comparison

Old Apr 6, 15, 2:56 pm
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Delta versus Druk Air : a comparison

I don't fly Delta that much, but just finished a round-trip in first between JFK and MSY. Recently, I also experienced my first travel on Druk Air, the flag carrier of Bhutan, in business class from Bangkok to Paro and then from Paro to Kathmandu. I thought a comparison between the two might be interesting.

Check-in: DrukAir check-in in Bangkok was fairly chaotic with long lines of people with lots of bags. Somewhat obscured by piles of cardboard boxes was a dedicated business class line with only one person ahead of me. Checking was straightforward and took a total of about ten minutes, at the end of which my bag had been checked and I had a boarding pass. Checking in at Paro airport was somewhat slower, but handled in a dedicated business class lounge. Checking in this way turned out to be slower than using the economy lines, but no worries--I got to sit in a comfy chair the whole time and despite the fact an agent didn't get to me until less than an hour before my departure time I had no problem getting my boarding pass and checking my bag.

Delta check-in at JFK's T4 looks very modern and efficient. I looked around a minute for a first class line and didn't see one, but there was no lines for kiosks so no problem. After tapping through the kiosk for a few minutes I had two boarding passes, but there was no indication of what to do about the bag I had told the kiosk I wanted to check. After consulting with an agent, I realized I now had to stand in the "bag drop" line. Even though there were quite a few people in this line, I thought there would be no problem as a bag drop process should be quite efficient. Unfortunately, this line was quite slow-moving and when I finally got to the front it became clear why. The agent wanted to see photo IDs for not just me but my wife (despite the fact we're only checking one bag) along with our boarding passes, and I had to tell her I was checking one bag. This led me to wonder what the purpose of the kiosk was in the first place, doubly so when she announced that I was now three minutes past the bag check-in deadline (which is a surprising 60 minutes, or 15 minutes longer than I've encountered on any domestic flight in the past, probably because it seems to be 15 minutes longer than the longest domestic baggage cut-off for any other airline). Fortunately, the check-in agent was willing to walk me over to another terminal and "late check" me, but announced that this would mean my bag might not make the flight and that I'd be responsible for sorting it out if it didn't. Since the only reason I had been contemplating checking my carry-on compliant bag was to take advantage of Delta's 20 minute baggage delivery guarantee, I declined her offer and just took my bag with me. Overall, this took more than 20 minutes and I was unsuccessful in checking my bag although I did end up with boarding passes.

Delta's operation in New Orleans had a clearly marked first class line with no one ahead of me, but since I had decided not to check my bag on the way back the kiosk had me checked in and on my way to security in only a minute or two.

Overall: Delta is probably more efficient if you are not checking a bag, but Druk Air did a better job with the experience for their premium passengers and Delta's checked-bag experience seems to combine the worst of all worlds in which you must check-in with a kiosk but then also stand in a slow line because you don't get bag tags at the kiosk. For my trips, Druk Air is the clear winner here.

Airport Facilities: Delta's facility in T4 is quite attractive and appears to be recently renovated. The D concourse that Delta uses in New Orleans is of fairly standard quality for American airports. In both airports, Delta had seating areas with a large number of power plugs, including USB chargers. On the downside, for some reason Delta's signage for some T4 gates directs you down to take a bus. This bus area is chaotic and confusing, with buses to both T2 and the higher numbered gates in T4 leaving from the same door which clearly stated "Buses to T2". Everyone had to repeatedly check with the agent, who made no announcements, to make sure they were getting on the right bus. Eventually the bus drove down to the far end of the concourse and let us off. I'm not sure what the purpose of this bus was--it definitely took more time to wait for the bus and walk back from the end of the concourse to our gate than it would have to simply walk along the terminal to our gate. Next time I'll know to ignore the signs on this point.

Druk Air uses shared gates in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport, which is generally quite nice, although without the amenities of Delta's seating area. Druk Air's facilities in Paro are rather lackluster, with extremely limited shopping and very few power options in the seating area.

Overall: Despite the chaotic and unnecessary bus experience, Delta's high quality seating areas gives it an edge here.

Boarding: Delta boards passengers who need some time first, and then first class and then some zones that I wasn't paying attention to. They also maintain a premium line throughout the boarding process so when we strolled up after boarding had already begun we were able to jump straight to the front of the line. A lot of people seem to want to keep their bags with them (probably due to the bad checked-baggage experience I mentioned earlier), so boarding was fairly slow and some people had to gate-check their bags.

Druk Air boards business class first and then boards the rest of the flight at the same time. This seemed to be generally fairly efficient. On my flight from Bangkok to Paro, members of the royal family were in the business class cabin and they boarded last. There was still plenty of room for their carry-on bags, although I suspect someone would have made room even if this weren't the case. On my flight from Paro to Kathmandu, it was somewhat confusing to know when my flight was boarding, but I asked the gate agent to clarify and some other announcements as I was leaving the gate area seemed to get everyone else headed in the right direction.

Overall: Although Delta's boarding is somewhat slower due to the contention for overhead bin space, I did like the priority line and my ability to board at my leisure as a result. Of course, this would be more useful if I didn't have to worry I wouldn't find room for my bag once I boarded. This is a close call, but I give the edge to Delta for a slightly more organized process overall.

In-flight: Hard Product: Both airlines operated A319s on all of my flights, and all of the planes were quite old and worn. None of the planes had in-seat power. Seat pitch and width were comparable and somewhat tight for a premium cabin, generally requiring the aisle passenger to get out of their seat to let the window passenger out.

Delta does have GoGo WiFi which is a big plus for me, but on my flight home my tray table was broken and leaned substantially down and to the right, which threatened to dump my food/beverages on me throughout the meal service. Even though both cabins were fairly worn, Delta's seemed in somewhat worse shape.

Overall: Under normal circumstances, I would probably award a win to Delta in this category due to GoGo, but the situation with the tray table force me to declare a tie.

In-flight: Service In-flight service was excellent on all flights, with friendly attentive staff members. I see no real basis to distinguish between the crews on any of these flights, so think this was also a tie.

In-flight: Food and beverage Both airlines exceeded my expectations in this category. I didn't take notes on my food on my Druk Air flights (and only ate on the Bangkok to Paro flight even though a hot breakfast was served on the forty-five minute flight from Paro to Kathmandu), but found it to be satisfactory to good, which is how I would describe my food on my Delta flights. All three flights on which I had meals had significantly better food than I'm used to on American. Once again, it is hard to see a big distinction here so this is another tie.

Timeliness: Both of my Delta flights were delayed due to entirely preventable causes. After a short delay due to ATC flow issues leaving JFK, the push crew left and wouldn't return for nearly thirty minutes after the pilot had been given clearance to push. The flight from New Orleans was delayed over half an hour waiting for catering due to a "miscommunication".

My Druk Air flight from Bangkok to Paro was somewhat delayed due to bad weather. My flight from Paro to Kathmandu was on time.

Overall: Especially because the delays on Delta were preventable, Druk Air is the clear winner in this category.

Final Result: As you may be able to tell, this is actually quite a close call and in several areas it was hard to draw meaningful distinctions between the two airlines. Overall, though, I ended up feeling like most of Druk Air's failings were "quirky" whereas some of the problems on Delta were downright annoying. For example, the check-in process at both JFK and Paro was fairly slow, but Druk Air let me sit down through most of it and checked my bag whereas Delta made me jump through a number of hoops to discover that it wasn't possible to check my bag. Similarly, I'd gladly give up the charging stations in the seating areas that Delta offered if it meant I didn't need to take their ridiculous bus. So in the end I give my vote to Druk Air. Of course, since Druk Air and Delta fly precisely zero routes in common, this comparison may be of limited value until one of the two expands their route network some more.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 3:56 pm
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I don't know whether or not this is fan fiction, but it is possibly the best thing I have read on FT in a long time.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 5:39 pm
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I would love to fly Druk air. We should start a petition to get them to come to the us!
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Old Apr 6, 15, 6:25 pm
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Dupe post
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Old Apr 6, 15, 6:26 pm
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Originally Posted by jordyn View Post
Of course, since Druk Air and Delta fly precisely zero routes in common, this comparison may be of limited value until one of the two expands their route network some more.
Druk Air has 5 (yes 5) airplanes. While I fully appreciate the effort put in here this would be like comparing Cape Air to Delta (actually I am pretty sure they have way more than 5 planes...like 10). There s zero relevance but if Delta and Druk are a "close call" then I would think Delta loses. Good read and given that you are one of VERY few people on earth to sit on a Druk plane, well thank you
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Old Apr 6, 15, 6:52 pm
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Originally Posted by avidflyer View Post
Good read and given that you are one of VERY few people on earth to sit on a Druk plane, well thank you
I'm sure he's not the first person to sit drunk on a plane....
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Old Apr 6, 15, 7:36 pm
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Ok, so while this is undoubtedly quite entertaining, I feel compelled to point out two things about T4.

First, I'm not sure how you missed the ENORMOUS SkyPriority signage and separate check-in area.

Second, most domestic flights (any flight number starting with a 2, in fact) fly out of T2. There's signage to that effect when entering the airport. I imagine you'd have had less of a hassle and no need for a bus if you had just checked in at T2 in the first place.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 7:40 pm
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TL;DR

but never heard of Druk before tonight.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 7:45 pm
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I flew Druk to Paro and left my laptop on my seat (it looked like one of the Druk pillows in its cover). The Paro station manager dropped it off that night at my hotel, after the hotel manager called the airport.

Leaving (to KTM) I left a bag with souvenirs and a digital camera at Paro airport. The KTM station manager said they'd put it on the flight the next day and I could collect at the KTM sales office. Which they did.

Pretty Druk good.

p.s. I hardly ever lose anything, so I blame a Bhutanese spell.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 7:45 pm
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Originally Posted by HDQDD View Post
TL;DR

but never heard of Druk before tonight.
Have you been living under a rock? Their service to Paro / Thimpu Bhutan is unrivaled.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 8:08 pm
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Originally Posted by avidflyer View Post
Have you been living under a rock? Their service to Paro / Thimpu Bhutan is unrivaled.
Stop it, you're cracking me up

While I appreciate the OP's post, make it known that an airline with 5 aircraft and 10 destinations is going to be much different from an airline with 247 destinations and 789 mainline aircraft.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 8:14 pm
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Can we earn MQMs/MQDs on Druk?
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Old Apr 6, 15, 8:16 pm
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Originally Posted by jimrpa View Post
Can we earn MQMs/MQDs on Druk?
Yes, and I here you also get Biscoff
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Old Apr 6, 15, 8:48 pm
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Originally Posted by orlandodlplat View Post
Ok, so while this is undoubtedly quite entertaining, I feel compelled to point out two things about T4.

First, I'm not sure how you missed the ENORMOUS SkyPriority signage and separate check-in area.
Who knows? There was some other stuff going on on the other side of the check-in area, but no signage telling you to go over there for first class check-in. In any case, the lines on that side looked at least as long if not longer than the lines on the side I was on so I didn't see any particular reason to wander over there and see what was going on.

Second, most domestic flights (any flight number starting with a 2, in fact) fly out of T2. There's signage to that effect when entering the airport. I imagine you'd have had less of a hassle and no need for a bus if you had just checked in at T2 in the first place.
My flight (496) operated out of T4, and the website clearly indicated that my gate was in T4 so that's where I went to check-in. The bus didn't take me to T2, it took me to the far end of the T4 concourse. I think my original post was reasonably clear on this point. On this map, we were directed to the bus running from B18 to B54.
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Old Apr 6, 15, 9:13 pm
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Originally Posted by airplanegod View Post
Yes, and I here you also get Biscoff
But they only offer peanuts (unsalted even) in the first class snack basket. I've had enough of Druk Air and will be taking my business to Bhutan Airlines
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