a sign with a blue and white text
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

14 Hours in Economy Class. In a Middle Seat. Near the Rear of the Aircraft. With No Recline. My Experience.

Find out more details about this experience.

I spent 14 hours in economy class in a middle seat near the rear of the aircraft with no recline. My experience pertains to a flight aboard an airplane that was operated by Delta Air Lines from Los Angeles to Sydney after arriving at Los Angeles from Atlanta.

14 Hours in Economy Class. In a Middle Seat. Near the Rear of the Aircraft. With No Recline. My Experience.

The time of the actual flight itself was approximately 13 hours and 45 minutes — but then, the time sitting aboard the airplane prior to departing from the gate and after landing at the destination airport arguably counts and easily comprises of at least 14 hours.

a group of people walking down a hallway
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Passengers who were assigned seats in the economy class cabin aboard the airplane line up inside of the crowded jet bridge to board the aircraft.

a blue seats with white pillows
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

I arrived at my seat in the last row of the second-to-last section of the economy class cabin — which means that the seat did not recline.

a blue chairs with a black object on the back
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The headrests of each seat were adjustable. That marginally helped improve the comfort of the seat, which was thankfully well padded.

a bag with a picture of a person walking up stairs
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Along with a blanket and a surprisingly comfortable pillow which were wrapped in clear plastic was a sealed bag that can be closed again.

a blue bag with white text and a sleeping mask in it
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

It was a travel bag, which contained a polyester eye shade — which can only be used one time — and ear plugs that were manufactured in China. Complimentary earbuds in sealed bags were also distributed separately by members of the flight crew for any passengers who wanted to use the in-flight entertainment system.

a screen on an airplane
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The leg room was not as spacious aboard this Airbus A350-900 airplane as what I experienced aboard the Airbus A350-900(L) aircraft on which I traveled as a passenger from Atlanta to Los Angeles…

a white panel with lights and a digital display
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

…but it was at least equipped with adjustable air vents.

a screenshot of a computer
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The ship number for this Airbus A350-900 airplane which operated as Delta Air Lines flight 41 from Los Angeles to Sydney was N513DZ.

a screen shot of a computer
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

I thought that this angle of the path of the flight was humorous, as it appeared that the airplane would disappear off of the face of the earth.

a bottle of water and a grey towel
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Shortly after bottles of water and a packet which contained cutlery were distributed to all of the passengers aboard the airplane, the passenger who was seated next to the window decided that he needed to use the lavatory. Although it was not an opportune time to do so, he never used the lavatory a second time during the flight. He was hard of hearing; so I assisted him whenever his requests were not understood by the members of the flight crew.

a group of wooden spoons
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The material of the cutlery was some type of light wood or bamboo.

a foil wrapped food on a plate
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

A choice of two meals were served not all that long after the airplane departed from Los Angeles. One meal was a Mushroom Mezzaluna with a creamy Parma Rosa sauce and topped with artichoke and zucchini that were seasoned with pesto — as well as shredded parmesan…

a package of chicken sauce
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

…while the other meal was a chicken with butter sauce, cilantro rice, and green beans.

a tray of food on a tray
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The butter chicken was not bad — but it was not great, either.

food in a tray next to a drink
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The ravioli was not bad — but it was not great, either.

food in a container on a tray
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Both meals were accompanied by a cold potato salad topped with slivered peppers and chives — as well as a Lemon Blondie dessert. The potatoes were surprisingly good — except that they needed to have been cooked just a little longer. I liked the Lemon Blondie — probably because the flavor of the lemon was quite strong.

a box of pizza on a table
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Several hours later — sometime near the midpoint of the flight and after a few services of water and coffee were served while many of the passengers were sleeping in the dark cabin — a hot Mediterranean pizza twist was served with a beverage.

a close up of a package
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The pizza twist really was Mediterranean, as it was produced in Turkey but considered Italian. The ingredients were printed on the back of the box.

a pizza in a box
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The crust was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, ezine cheese, and “fresh white” cheese — as well as rosemary. Every time I lifted this pizza twist, I felt a hot liquid drip on my hand.

a hand holding a piece of bread
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

I removed the cheese filling from the pastry, whose interior was soaked in grease and dripped out of the end, which created a soggy mess. What was seriously missing from this pizza twist is what I consider to be a substantially important ingredient: some variation of a red pizza sauce, which would have greatly improved what was otherwise a culinary monstrosity.

a group of packages in a drawer
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Passengers were able to grab from their choice of an assortment of snacks at the rear of the aircraft at any time during the flight between the first meal service and the last meal service. Snacks included chocolate chip cookies, bags of Sun Chips, cheese biscuits, crackers, sealed slices of Tillamook cheese, granola bars — and, of course, Biscoff cookies.

a tray of food and plastic containers on a counter
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Cups of water and packets of earbuds were also available.

a hand sanitizer bottle and a spray bottle on a shelf
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The lavatories were almost identical to those aboard the Airbus A350-900(L) aircraft — except that these lavatories included hand sanitizer and room spray that was scented with white tea.

a group of food containers on a plate
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Prior to landing, a service comprised of Mediterranean breakfast egg and cheese calzone with Chobani strawberry Greek yogurt and assorted fresh fruit.

a tray of fruit and bread
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

I like regular yogurt. I keep trying to like Greek yogurt. Thick with bits of strawberry mixed in, what is not to like about Greek yogurt? I did not finish it. I just did not like it. Perhaps it was too thick — or maybe it was not sweet enough? I do not know. I tried.

a loaf of bread in a box
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Dare I say that the calzone was arguably more unappetizing than the aforementioned pizza twist?

a piece of bread with cheese and herbs in a box
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

To prove that point, I scooped the egg and cheese filling out of the calzone. It looked bad. It smelled bad. It tasted bad. I normally enjoy food that is served aboard airplanes; but this thing really needed to be put out of its misery.

a bowl of fruit in a container
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

The fresh fruit looked good at first, with red grapes and chunks of cantaloupe and pineapple…

a close up of food
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

…but digging deeper, I found some fruit which had seen better days.

Final Boarding Call

I actually liked my seat at first. It was reasonably comfortable — almost to the point of cozy — and it was in a very quiet part of the airplane despite being located adjacent to the lavatories…

…but by the end of the flight, I was ready to get out of there. I did get some sleep — but not as much as I would have liked. I really could have used that recline; and had I been quick enough, I would have preferred the window seat.

Although I would not describe the experience as the torture chamber to which some so-called “bloggers” might allude, it also is not the optimal way to travel from Los Angeles to Sydney. I suppose I am still spoiled from when I was seated in the business class cabin in the upper deck of a Boeing 747-400 airplane operated by Qantas Airways. Now that was a much better way to pass 14 hours…

…but not many people can afford the miles or points to splurge for a premium class seat — especially as the cost is greater than $10,000.00 or as much as 820,000 SkyMiles round trip — so that must be recognized.

I have endured an even longer flight while seated in the economy class cabin: 15 hours aboard an Airbus A340-642 aircraft that was operated by China Eastern Airlines from Shanghai to New York.

I would recommend flying as a passenger in general aboard an Airbus A350-900 airplane operated by Delta Air Lines between Los Angeles and Sydney — certainly not by spending 14 hours in economy class in a middle seat near the rear of the aircraft with no recline — but I expected a better product overall from Delta Air Lines. The food was passable; the service from the members of the flight crew was good but not as friendly as Delta Air Lines has been known in the past; and the comfort level was decent.

Perhaps the flight from Auckland to Los Angeles will be better? It certainly will not take up as much time…

All photographs ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Why on Earth would you choose DL when a mid seat last row was your only choice? Please tell me it’s not because you’re still on the Medallion Rat Race Wheel? That game ended with Fast Eddies complete nuke job of the program.

    1. I am not on the Medallion Rat Race Wheel, MG.

      I simply took advantage of what I thought was a great unadvertised SkyMiles award sale — but things increasingly became more complex…

  2. Brian – I found this first hand account of a long haul flight in a middle position seat with no recline afforded refreshingly novel for the BoardingArea blog.

    I took it upon myself to review and scan the seat map of the Delta A359 and conclude you weee seated in row 39 seat L or B. Neither of which is a Comfort Plus or Prefered seat.

    However I am left wondering how you ended up with such a sub optimal seat among the 200 plus more comfortable options in the Delta Economy cabin as a seasoned flyer on your home town airline.

    It doesn’t appear you were on a code share ticket using another carriers stick given your inbound flight connection on a Delta Air Lines A35L aircraft.

    Were you flying on an industry “buddy pass” ticket or was this an irregular operations situation?

    1. The ticket was purchased with SkyMiles, Greg — and it was what I thought was a great unadvertised sale.

      Several impediments complicated the ticketing and seating issues along the way — too many to explain in the Comments section here…

      …and I truly appreciate your comment about my experience to be refreshingly novel. Thank you.

  3. I kept a packet of snack mix on the flight to Australia. On arrival to Melbourne, they seized it threatening that huge fines can be assessed. I explained that I forgot to eat it on the flight and that I boarded the flight fully compliant with import regulations regarding not having any food in baggage.

    I was not fined but one blogger was.

    1. We were warned by members of the flight crew not to take most snacks off of the airplane with us for that very reason, derek.

      Interestingly, my baggage was never checked or inspected…

    2. It’s always been that way…Bring an orange into Australia and you are facing a Midnight Express situation..(Google it if that movie wasn’t in your upbringing years)…

  4. Your title sounds familiar! Reminds me of a certain Lufthansa and SWISS economy class review. 😉

    Great report. The in-flight snacks looks great…the breakfast…yuck.

    Thanks for the excellent flight review.

    1. In all honesty, Matthew, I did not read that review.

      Please feel free to provide a link to it here in the Comments section.

      Thank you for the comment. As always, I appreciate it.

  5. How many miles did that cost? Couldn’t find that maybe I was mesmerized by the Yelp review.

    I love the 350-900 and I fly it regularly between DTW/LAX/SEA to HND.

    IMO the best seat on any Delta metal is 1G on ether of the 330neo or 350. Cuz footwell. People complain about it being too close to the galley but if you are flying during the day, who cares? Not even bad at night, but please continue to choose other seats so I can have this one.

    I’ve flown these two aircraft on the return (HND – DTW/LAX/SEA) in Premium Select and even that better seat is a slog for 10+ hours. I can’t sleep sitting up, even in the last row of select with more recline. I don’t have that super power.

    I did the LAX-SYD in bulkhead Comfort+ in 2014. It felt like an eternity, and being next to the door makes it freezing. On the daytime flight back I was in the old business (not full recline).

    Thanks for sharing your suffering. Australia is not worth that.

    1. I’m Plat Medallion, 6’4”, and I gave up on Comfort + a few years ago when seat pitch went from 36” to 34”. I’ll take the exit row domestic and international. I’ve written Ed to tell him dialing down Comfort + to be on par with United means that, once I hit 2M miles this Spring, I’ll be using premier econ on Starlux, JAL, Air Canada for transpacific travel – same price as DL Comfort +, dramatically better seat pitch. Bastain needs to figure out – United isn’t the competition anymore…

      1. I have always felt that executives should use their own products and services on a regular basis to get a better idea of what their customers want and expect, jsbpdx

    2. I initially redeemed no more than 68,000 SkyMiles for an open jaw ticket: Atlanta to Los Angeles to Sydney; then Auckland to Los Angeles to Atlanta, Laslo Toth — but that amount was adjusted to even fewer SkyMiles as part of the complicating factors of my experience.

      I am not all that good at sleeping sitting up as well — unless I am absolutely exhausted…

  6. Never seen a wide body that didn’t recline in the last row. I almost always take the last row so I don’t feel bad about reclining. I would’ve called BS on your story but that picture proved it.

    1. I really wish my claim was “BS”, Brad.

      Had that seat reclined, it would have been more conducive to sleeping more comfortably. As you said, I would not have to be concerned about disrupting the comfort of someone else — plus, that row was quite quiet; so it would have worked.

      One thing I did forget to mention in the article: the passengers in front of me reclined for most of the flight. That changed the comfort equation significantly for me primarily because my seat would not recline…

    1. I completely agree with you, Barry Graham, as no seat should be uncomfortable — but then we venture into the nebulous subjectivity of what exactly is the definition of the word comfortable.

      For some people, comfortable is no less than a full lie-flat business class seat — which obviously not everyone can have aboard an airplane…

  7. What is it with airplanes and sun chips? I have never seen anyone eat those outside of an airplane, but they seem to be a preferred snack for airlines.

    1. Sun Chips probably have a longer shelf life than actual potato chips or corn chips, Deirdre Terry.

      I have occasionally eaten them outside of an airplane — but Sun Chips are far from my favorite snack; and I would not go out of my way to eat them…

  8. nice write up. Enjoyed the perspective. Most travel blogs seem to avoid the middle seat perspective. Kind of tough to read thru on a laptop. The pictures fill up the whole screen. Just my opinion.

  9. I enjoyed reading this, it was honest and authentic, true to reality for most of us. Thank you for sharing your experience. Safe travels.

  10. Thank you for this review. This is more beneficial for most of us than the first class reviews that most “bloggers” tend to write about since this is the reality of how most people travel, not the aspirational seats in the pointy nose of the plane that are paid for by credit card points shilled by said bloggers.

  11. Brian I have followed you for a long time given that I started out on FlyerTalk in 2009. We probably even met at some of the Mod Do’s when I used to babysit the EK forum.

    All I can say, and I say this with the utmost respect, is that you are a lunatic 🙂

    How anyone with your experience and knowledge of travel can put up with a middle seat down the back all the way to Oz is beyond me. I would rather have a colonscopy. Twice.

    As we get older, we’re supposed to make life easier for ourselves. Not harder.

    Please don’t do this again. It gives me heartburn just thinking about it…

  12. The ‘pizza’ is actually a Turkey dish called Khachapuri and shouldn’t have tomato sauce. They shouldn’t have labeled it ‘pizza’. When done right they are excellent.

  13. We had a similar experience from LAX to Boston for a redeye flight with Delta. It was the most uncomfortable flight we had for a long while. Not reclining seats for long haul flights are unacceptable

  14. 47 years ago, when I was 20, I would have done it. Fourteen hours at 67 years in a middle seat, a nightmare, even if they give me pheasant, caviar, and champagne.

  15. I enjoyed your review as typically I only read business and first class reviews
    and there is something amazing to me to witness anyone brave enough to bare 14 plus hours in coach.Except for those possibly under 30 and with short legs.I booked a ticket to Sydney in business class on an A350 for April on Fiji Airlines in business class for 55,000 miles (through Alaska) and on American back from Melbourne for 80,000 miles 6 months ago.Granted I’ve seen them higher more recently but if your very flexible with dates you can find the lower award levels with some work and flexibility.I cannot imagine what offering Delta would have that I could consider being on a plane so uncomfortable for so long.I realize I would never do it even free of charge let alone for a few less miles.
    But I’m older and worried about my health and well being.

    For starters I would never be a Delta customer as I perceive them as a company to be a massive rip off with Sky Miles value.That said I got a kick out reading your review and admire your patience to get through it and certainly you are not alone as plenty fly the long haul cattle cars every day around the globe!BTW I expected the food to look much worse.Not to bad some of it!

  16. Your title sounds familiar!

    It’s just like a story I’ve told to many friends about a flight with a very similar description, missing just a couple lines:

    The worst possible flight: 16 hours in a middle coach seat. At the Rear of the Aircraft. In a seat with no Recline. In between two passengers, both with seat belt extenders. And lap children. And in wafting distance of the toilet which is overflowing. In heavy turbulence. In a hot cabin. With airsick passengers surrounding you, handing their overflowing airsickness bags to the flight attendant.
    But, of course, it could be worse than that!

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