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Tuesday 27 June 2023

Flying to South America With Delta Airlines A330-300 (ATL-GRU)

 Welcome to my trip report on my first flight to South America!


When I was deciding on which airlines to fly to South America, the first question I asked myself, where would I like to begin my adventure. A few airports came into my mind, SCL (Santiago De Chile), VCP (Campinas), REC (Recife), GRU (Sao Paulo) and GIG (Rio De Janeiro). Azul Airlines, TAP, LATAM and Lufthansa were my options at first. Lufthansa was for the 747-8I, while for Azul and TAP, I had the chance to fly on the A330-900NEO and LATAM was exciting as I could either do a stop over with the 787-8 and -9 or the 777-300ER direct flight from London Heathrow to Sao Paolo. However, the airfare of all these airlines went up when I was ready to book. Later on I came across Delta Airlines and I realised I had 'Ecredit' to use and the airfare I managed to come across a good deal of 600+ U.K pounds, so using the 'Ecredit', I would pay lesser for the ticket, it was a great deal for me. So I went ahead to book it and eventually got the itinerary I want. 

About Delta Airlines's A330-200/300 fleet 

The Airbus A330-200/-300 fleet used to operate for Northwest Airlines before the takeover. The last time Delta operated Airbus aircraft was the A310 and they sold them quickly after operating them for a while. So when this airline took in these A330, we were not sure whether they will stay with the airline for long.  Fortunately for this fleet, Delta was happy with it and the 42 A330CEO (-200/-300) continue to operate for the airline till today and the average age of this aircraft type is around 20 years old. As Delta Airlines is happy with the performance, the A330NEO was ordered to eventually replace the CEO fleet. As the airline has a huge network, it didn't have any issues operating the Airbus A330 along with the Boeing 767 fleet. As the Boeing 767 is older, the airline is looking to replace them with a more modern type, we will find out soon about this when the CEO makes his announcement in due course. 

This is the configuration of the airline's fleet. As you can see, the A330-300 seats more Economy Class cabin. It is used mainly on South American and European routes.

A330-200  C34 W21 Y168 (C - Business, W - Premium Select, Y Economy (including Comfort +)

A330-300 C34 W21 Y227 

The seat map of the Delta's A330-300 

I choose the window seat for this route and that is important as I wanted to witness my first arrival on a South American soil even though I would be landing in the dark. 

Photo: Aerolopa.com

After arrival at ATL Airport 

The airport looks dated but there are restaurants and cafes to grab a bite and more importantly free Wi-Fi is available without time limit, so that's great. 

Plane photography is possible if you can deal with the reflection. 

As it was crowded, I decided to hang around near the gate. I found a spot to charge my devices while waiting for my flight. 

This is Delta's 767-300ER (N176DZ) bound for Barcelona. 

Boeing 757 aircraft type is very rare in Asia especially the passenger version. It's always nice to spot one especially in the U.S. 

This is where my flight was departing.

My ride: N802NW 

Airbus A330-323 (Owned) Ex-Northwest Airlines aircraft
Transferred to Delta Airlines on October 2008 
Configuration: C34 W21 Y227 (24 Delta Comfort+ and 203 Main Cabin standard Y class seat)
Engines: 2 X PW4168A 
533th A330 built 
Built in Toulouse (TLS)
2nd A330-300 in the fleet

This is a better shot of N802NW in airline's livery (Photo: Helmut Schnichels)

Just like the other A330s, it used to operate for Northwest. (Photo: Mathias Henig)

After hanging around for a while, it was soon time to board the aircraft. However, when it was my turn to scan the board pass, there was a beep beep. Oh no! Was I being denied boarding? I was told to go over to the staff at the boarding desk and the staff took my passport did a lot of checking. She asked me whether am I fully vaccinated and after a while, I was good to go! Unfortunately, I was one of the last to board the aircraft and that means I couldn't get as many photos as I like on board. So don't mind the lack of photos of the airline's A330-300. 

I was reissued another boarding pass (below). Brazil!! Here I come!! 

Flight route: ATL-GRU 

Miles: 4,653 

Date of departure: 25th May 2023
Airline: Delta Airlines 
Flight number: DL105 
Route: ATL-GRU 
Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
Registration: N802NW 
Seat: 49A 
Load: 100% in Y Class
Flight duration: 9 hours 8 mins 
Actual flight time: 9 hours 3 mins
Departure gate: E31 
Arrival gate: G2 
Boarding: 1822 
Push back: 1915
Take off: 1931 
Schedule departure: 1931
Schedule arrival: 0540
Touch down: 0530
Reached gate: 0539
Departure runway: 09L
Arrival runway: 09R 

When you enter the aircraft, only the Delta one passengers turn left, the rest of us turn right. 

This is the Delta One reverse herringbone seats (The older business class product) 

Photo by John Padgett 

Once inside the crowded aircraft, I walked past the Premium Select seats, followed by the Delta Comfort + Seats before reaching the main cabin seats and my seat mate was already there. It was a full flight as I noticed the seats were all occupied. That shows how popular this route. I was wondering why the A350 wasn't deployed on this route but instead to Santiago (SCL), my guess would because of premium class demand. The A350 and A330-900 offer better premium products than this aircraft I am flying on. 

The Premium Select Seats (Premium Economy) 

This class is configured in a 2-3-2 seating configuration per row, with a generous legroom space of 38' inches. The seat is also wider, with a measurement of 18.5' inches wide. It also comes with universal power outlet and USB-A port. The size of the In-Flight Entertainment Screen is larger than the Comfort + and Main Cabin, at a 13.3-inch size. 

This bulkhead row offers space for a bassinet, suitable for families with infants. 

Delta Comfort + Seats 

These Comfort + seats offer better legroom space (34' inch) than the standard main cabin which features just 31-32' inch of legroom space. Everything else is the same. The IFE Monitor screen size is smaller but it also comes with 2 power outlets in every row of 3 seats plus a USB-A port located underneath the monitor screen. 

Main Cabin Economy Class Seats 

I settled for this class on this flight. However, on my return flight from GRU to JFK, I used my miles to upgrade my seat to the Economy Comfort +, so stay tuned for that trip report. 

Photo: Yu Cai (Below)

This was my seat. The comfort level between this and my previous flight (Virgin Atlantic A330NEO) was quite a difference but it was bearable. The flight was around 9 hours 8 minutes which is my longest flight so far on the A330-300. It is quite amazing how Airbus have been working on the A330, improving the MTOW (Maximium Take Off Weight) which allows it to fly further than the original batch of the A330 with the same payload. 

Looking at the cabin, it is pretty much the same with the other aircraft types. 

The Delta Comfort + seat is noticable with the red covering. 

The seat comfort was not too bad with the limited space, but I was glad when the flight was over. I needed to stretch my legs after the flight.

Legroom space 

View from my seat 

What's provided for each Economy Class passenger? 

A pillow and blamket 

Safety card 

Disposal Bag

Travel kit (Eye-cover and earpiece) 

My flight experience 

When I was on board, almost everyone was seated. What I dislike about boarding last is that I don't have enough overhead space to place my belonging. Fortunately, I saw some space just a few rows in front of my seat. As for the cabin crew, they were not so enthusiastic, perhaps because of the heavy load they have to deal with. Announcements were made in both Portugese and English and there were a good number of South American passengers on board, mostly Brazilian. 

After take off, I observed the map quite a bit during the flight as it was a historic day for me. I was flying towards South America for the very first time. As it was getting late, I started feeling tired. I watched a movie to stay awake as I didn't want to miss the meal service. As for the flight, it was mostly smooth and I manage to grab some rest. When I woke up, we were about 3 hours prior to landing, we had a snack meal before descending and land smoothly in the dark on the soil of Sao Paulo. 

Comparing the A330CEO and NEO, there is a bit of difference in the cabin atmosphere. The A330NEO is quieter with the diffence of the engines. The Delta's A330-300 is powered by the older Pratt and Whitney while the NEO version is powered by the new generation Roll Royce engines. 

In-Flight Meals 

The cabin crew came around to distribute the cultery and a bottle of water.


I choose the chicken option ahead of the pasta and this was actually quite good. 


I had the muffin option which consists of cheese. It's not too bad. 

Window shot photos 

This is home of Delta Airlines, Atlanta. 

The cute Boeing 717-200 rolling down the runway. 

Soon it was our turn to depart. 

Off we go.

We lifted off smoothly. 

There was a bit of turbulence along the way. (below)

We started our descend towards GRU airport. 

Here we are! Sao Paulo, Brazil! 

It took about 10 minutes to reach the immigration counter. 

My flight summary 

First look of GRU Airport 

The map layout of GRU Airport (GRU Airport's website)

Terminal 2 and 3 buildings are connected (walking distance) while the terminal 1 requires a bus ride to get over there 

The resting area at the land side. 

Free Wifi is available at Sao Paulo (GRU) Airport. For the wi-fi connection speed of 20 MBPS, you can use it for 2 hours (2 times) meaning 4 hours a day at the airport. You can pay to use a higher speed connection plus unlimited log in or day pass. (June 2023 update) 

This is Terminal 3 

It was chaotic at the passport immigation queue as there were a lot of flights arriving at that time (around 6 am) from Europe and U.S. Quite a number of fellow travellers were rushing for time to connect to the domestic flights as some of us were happy to let them go in front of us. It took me about 45 minutes before hearing the wonderful chop sound on my passport and I was on my way. 

Baggages and handcarry bags had to undergo security check before we were finally allowed to be released to the land side. 

Of course, we had to walk through some duty-free shops first. 

Once I was at the arrival hall, I went to a resting area to wait for a while before I headed over to my accommodation. When you are there, go for the official taxis or Uber. You can also take the shuttle bus to the train station which will lead you to the central part of the city.

There would be unofficial, possibly unlicenced drivers offering their services, please avoid them!

From here, I can walk over to Terminal 2, just follow the signboard. 

This terminal is newer than terminal 2. It opened just before the 2014 World Cup.

I had a first glimpse of what to expect in Brazil, the magnificent view. 

At terminal 3, the floor between the Departure hall and arrival hall, you come across an area with lots of benches. This is where most travellers will come and rest and often you see them sleeping especially overnight. (Photo below)

The departure hall of terminal 3 

This is where you can walk over to terminal 2. 

Walking over to Terminal 2 

It takes about less than 10 minutes to walk over. 

You can see how old the interior of this terminal is. 

This is the check-in counter hall. 

I will blog more about this airport on my Aerolineas Argentinas trip report, coming out soon. 

This is terminal 1, it is a very small terminal which only Azul Airlines is operating. (land side)

From here, I made my way to the shuttle bus queue where I took the bus to the train station. 

The bus will stop in front of the train station where you walk over to the station. The staff spoke little English so I had to use the translator to communicate with her. 

The interior of the train 

This is the district of Republica 


The view from my hotel 


My rating 

Airline's website/mobile app (Delta Airlines): 4/5 
Airport staff at ATL Airport: 3.5/5 
In-Flight Service: 3/5 
In-Flight Experience: 3.5/5 
Cleanliness of the cabin: 4/5
In-Flight Entertainment System: 3/5 
In-Flight Meals: 4/5 
Punctuality: 5/5
Seat Comfort: 3.5/5 
Cabin interior: 3.5/5 
Overall rating: 37/50
Percentage: 74%
Verdict: Good 


It was certainly a memorable flight as it was my very first flight to Latin America.  The ride to GRU went past quite quickly, however the in-flight service was on an average side. After coming from the Virgin Atlantic flight, the experience wasn't as good as both the in-flight service and economy class seats were definitely inferior. I was surprised with the in-flight meal though, ATL's catering gave me a first good impression, that's for sure. Overall, this was a good flight, I managed to get some sleep and landed at GRU (Sao Paolo) in good weather.

I manage to get a good tour around the 3 terminals. Among the terminals, terminal 3 is the newest and nicest. More on GRU airport to come soon. 

Later, I will do a comparison between this flight and the return flight (GRU-JFK) on the 767-400ER soon. 

Hope you enjoyed this trip report! 
For my previous flight (LHR-ATL) with Virgin Atlantic, click here.
For my next trip report (CGH-SDU) with LATAM, click here.

Thanks for reading,

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