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Previous posts in this series:
- Review: Iberia A320 Economy Class (LHR-MAD)
- Review: Sala VIP Puerta Del Sol Madrid T3
- Review: Air France A320 Business Class (MAD-CDG)
- How Air France & Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Gave Me Quite A Shock
- Review: Air France 777-300ER Business Class (CDG-JFK)
- Review: Marriott Courtyard Chelsea NYC
- Review: Delta Sky Club New York JFK
- Review: Delta One 767 (JFK-MAD)
- Review: Iberia Velazquez Lounge T4S (OneWorld)
Amazingly, after more years of flying than I care to admit to, this was my first ever experience of flying with Delta and, as such, this was my first ever visit to Terminal 4 at New York’s JFK airport.
I was really looking forward to trying out Delta’s transatlantic Business Class product (Delta One) as I wanted to see just how good a product the airline offers to make up for its atrocious rewards program (Delta SkyMiles has been nicknamed SkyPesos for a reason!).
Walking in to JFK T4 the check-in areas for Delta’s premium cabin passengers were well signposted…..
…..and the check-in line was nice and short:
(the 3 check-in desks at the end are the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class desks)
Check-in was pretty quick and would have been even quicker if I hadn’t suggested that I was flying London rather than Madrid (I blamed the jet-lag!).
Around 10 minutes after I had entered the terminal I was checked in and embarking the long hike to the Delta Sky Club (which I’ve already reviewed).
I spent a little too long looking around the Sky Club so when I got to the gate (which was right next to the lounge) there was already a sizeable line waiting for priority boarding – not good if I was to get any good photos inside the cabin.
This was my first time flying with Delta and I didn’t know when I’d be flying with the airline again (for all I know it may not be for years) so this was my one opportunity to get pictures of the inside of one of Delta’s 767. What to do?
After a few moments of thinking things over I decided on a strategy that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with but which I felt I had to pursue.
I went up to the gate desk and explained to one of the agents that I was excited to be flying Delta for the first time, I showed her my boarding pass to prove that I would be flying up front and I asked if there was any way in which I could be allowed to pre-board to get some good photos.
I really didn’t like doing this as it focused attention on me and I never want to do anything which may influence how the crew and ground staff treat me – if they think I’m writing a review I may receive uncommonly good service and that makes the review a whole lot less useful that it may otherwise be. Still, on this occasion I felt this was the right thing to do.
After a few minutes the friendly gate agent came back, took my boarding pass, scanned it and said that I’d be invited to pre-board in a couple of minutes – fantastic!
Shortly thereafter pre-boarding was called and I was soon getting my first view of the inside of a Delta 767 Business Class cabin.
From the moment I boarded the crew were super-friendly and I was a little concerned that I’d given myself away as a reviewer…..but after watching their interactions with other flyers my mind was put at ease – they were friendly with everyone I saw them talk to.
When one of the flight attendants saw me taking pictures he offered to take one of me….but I politely declined – I hate having my picture taken and, more importantly, if this blog ever really takes off I don’t want my face to be known to those I’m reviewing 🙂
Almost immediately after I’d paused my photo taking spree I was offered a glass of Champagne……
…which turned out to be Gardet Brut Premier Cru – one of the cheaper Champagnes but it wasn’t bad nonetheless.
As I was settling in to my seat the Purser came around and introduced himself, he handed me a menu and said he’d be back to see what I’d like as my main course after I’d had a chance to look at the options. He also asked if I wanted to be woken for breakfast.
Click on the thumbnails to see the full Delta One menu
The purser was carrying a large smartphone/mini tablet on which he could clearly see various passenger details. After he’d moved on from me he acknowledged the passenger behind me as a Diamond Medallion with 2m miles and said it was an honour to have him on board – he even sounded genuine when he said that.
Shortly after the purser had moved on from my row a flight attendant appeared with a snack of sweet and spicy pecans and I was offered another glass of champagne.
The one thing that really struck me at this stage was how friendly and polite the crew were…..and not just to me.
Most of my experience flying US carriers across the Atlantic has come from flying with American where, although I have had some great flight attendants look after me, I have yet to encounter a universally happy, nice and friendly crew.
This was different….so much so that it really stood out for me.
Anyway, after I’d stopped wondering if all Delta transatlantic crews were like this I took too looking around my surroundings.
The seats in Delta’s 767 Business Class cabin are set out in a 1-2-1 layout and they’re slightly staggered. The window seats on either side of the aircraft are in line with one another but with the two middle seats are slightly out of alignment with the window seats.
I had selected seat 3D because, when booking my flight, I had noticed that the single seats in the odd-numbered rows have a table area between the seat and the aisle which gives the seat a bit more privacy. The single seats in the even-numbered rows have their table area between the window and the seat so there’s less protection from the aisle.
This photo should explain what I mean:
If you’re traveling solo (or if you’re not particularly invested in the idea of sitting next to your flying companion) the window seats in the odd-numbered rows are the best way to go…..but there really isn’t an obvious choice for couples who wish to sit together.
Regardless of which row you select the centre seats always have the same layout – one seat has the table area on the aisle while the other has its table area in between the two seats:
The cabin crew had laid out pillows and blankets on the seats before we had boarded and there was a bottle of water, an amenity kit and a set of Delta headphones on the tables too.
I noticed that the amenity kit was Tumi……
……and blanket and pillow were both branded “Westin heavenly”……
….which is all pretty impressive for a US airline.
The blanket was a good size and very comfortable and the pillow was better than what I’ve been offered on American or British Airways across the Atlantic.
The headphones were less impressive:
The Business Class seat looked ok (if not exactly luxurious)……
…but I had no complaints about the comfort or the padding of the seat. As seats go it was perfectly comfortable enough.
But what would it be like as a bed?
I was particularly interested to see what Delta’s 767 Business Class seats were like across the Atlantic as I’ve reviewed American’s 767 offering and not been overly impressed with the seats. In the case of American’s seat I found that there wasn’t much room for my feet in the small area into which they need to fit when the seat is in the lie-flat position….so, with Delta’s seat looking quite similar, would this be any better?
A quick look at the space into which my size 10 (US) feet had to fit didn’t fill me with too much optimism…..
…..and I was right to be apprehensive – the Delta 767 Business Class seat has the same issue as the seat on American’s 767.
When I was lying down, with my shoes off, there wasn’t enough room for my feet to point straight up so I suspect this will be an issue for those who like to sleep on their back. Even when sleeping on one side, the space for your feet seems cramped and not exactly comfortable.
The seat is comfortable enough to lie on (the padding seemed fine) but the issue of the feet area cannot be overlooked….and tall people in particular should be aware of this issue. I’m only 6ft tall and if it’s an issue for me it’s certainly going be an issue for anyone taller than that.
Storage-wise the seat offers two options:
There’s the usual magazine holder which you get on most aircraft…..
……and a storage area built into the seat in front at floor level (good for shoes):
If you’re traveling with files you need to work on or any kind of laptop there really isn’t anywhere other than where your feet go to store these items – you’d be best off keeping everything in the overhead bins until you need them.
There weren’t any overhead lights on the Delta 767 (which made taking photos a challenge at times) but there was a dimmable reading light at shoulder height which wasn’t too bad.
Underneath this light is where Delta has installed the various inputs/outputs and power source. There’s an ethernet input, a USB socket, the headphone socket and a universal power source:
As these are all located immediately above the main fixed table area that comes with each seat they’re well placed for easy access and, if you want to have your devices plugged in, they can rest on the table area without all the wires getting in your way.
The seat controls were pretty basic (unsurprising for an aircraft that clearly had some age) and positioned at the front of the fixed table area:
The “Table” button next to the seat controls released the tray table……
…which was of average size but would easily hold most size laptops that passengers tend to travel with.
There wasn’t a remote control for the inflight entertainment but the small touch screen was close enough to the seat to make this a nonissue.
Interestingly, and I’m not sure if this was intentional or a glitch, the entertainment system was unresponsive until the aircraft doors were closed.
The entertainment selection didn’t look impressive and a lot of the regular TV shows I checked just had 2 or 3 episodes (which were not even necessarily in sequence) although some of the HBO shows were full seasons.
But Delta also offers “Delta Studio” which is an entertainment system passengers can use on their own devices for free.
There was a better selection of shows and movies here…..
…although, as I always say, this is still no substitute for bringing along your own entertainment selection on your laptop/tablet/phone.
Delta Studio also offers inflight wi-fi…..
…which I thought was expensive and, as I was hoping to get some sleep, I didn’t try it out.
American Airlines will sell you an international flight pass for $19 so $22 seems unnecessary on Delta’s part.
After I’d finished taking in my surroundings and what Delta’s Business Class cabin had to offer I noticed that the captain had come out of the flight deck to hand a young boy a set of wings – that was a very cool touch and took me back to the years where flying was a lot more relaxed that it is now and where the flight crew and the flight decks were a lot more accessible.
This was another example of the very good staff-passenger interactions I witnessed on this flight.
We pushed back five minutes after our scheduled departure time but then came the curse that is New York JFK.
The captain announced that the very quick thunderstorm I’d noticed outside had slowed things down on the ground and “choked routes in the direction we’re heading – the north-east“
Clearly this wasn’t an issue of Delta’s making (it seems like I always hit some kind of delay at JFK) but, nevertheless, there were a lot of good, regular, updates from flight deck.
We ended up taking off a little over 75 minutes after we had pushed back…which isn’t that bad if you’re seated in Business Class but I wondered just what it was like for the passengers in the back.
After we levelled off the flight attendants came around with hot towels and, shortly after the hot towel service, the drinks cart came out with starter of “maple-glazed smoked salmon with faro salad and green apple mignonette“.
Apologies for the poor photographs but the combination of a dark cabin and no overhead light made things a little tricky!
The salmon wasn’t bad but really wasn’t anything special.
The second course that was served was a “celeriac and smoked blue cheese soup” and a beet salad.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had soup on a plane before but it was quite nice. The beets were nice too but I wasn’t a fan of the greenery that accompanied it.
For my main course I had chosen the “Lamb pavé with roasted mushrooms served with smoked cauliflower purée, grilled zucchini, blistered tomatoes and broccolini”.
It was a generous portion of lamb and it was surprisingly well cooked. It was tender, very flavorful and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
I was too full for dessert but it came on a trolley so you could see all the options on offer – I like this idea. (Sorry, the photo of the dessert trolley was way too terrible for me to publish!).
After the remnants of the meal had been cleared away (all done very efficiently) I took a quick walk around the cabin and noticed that there were 7 empty seats in Business Class. …which seemed a lot for a cabin that holds just 36 passengers.
When I got back to my seat I caught up on a bit of reading (if you haven’t read Marching Powder by Rusty Brown you should definitely consider it) and then attempted to get some sleep.
I got a few hours sleep and, around 1.5 hours before landing, breakfast was served.
I was given a choice of bagel croissant or cinnamon roll and I selected the granola with fruit as my main breakfast item.
I also had orange juice and a yoghurt to round the breakfast off.
The overall breakfast was very similar to what I’ve had on any number of American Airlines flights…..although I think there was more granola on Delta.
25 minutes before landing the crew came around to collect the headsets and, 5 minutes later, the purser came around with mints and to say thanks for flying with Delta.
Either the schedule is well padded or we had a very favourable tail wind as we landed in Madrid just 15 minutes late after having been delayed for well over an hour at JFK.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect before I boarded the flight so the entire Delta experience was pretty interesting to me.
- The gate agents were friendly and unflustered
- The flight attendants and the purser were super-friendly and clearly wanted passengers to have a nice experience. They were a definite highlight.
- The Business Class cabin is not cramped and feels spacious enough with a 1-2-1 layout.
- The presence of single seats at the Windows is great for solo travelers.
- The bedding and amenity kits are pretty nice and the fact that Delta has managed to incorporate the highly regarded “Westin heavenly” range is impressive.
- The seat, when in seat mode or when semi reclined, is nice and comfortable.
- When in lie-flat mode the seat doesn’t give enough room in the feet area – this can make getting a continuous few hours of sleep tricky as it really isn’t very comfortable.
- There isn’t much storage around the seat.
- WiFi appears to be more expensive than it needs to be (based on prices elsewhere)
Despite not finding the seat comfortable when lying flat I found the Delta Business Class experience to be positive one overall. On this occasion the staff were clearly a major part of making the experience what it was and I’m interested to fly Delta once again to see if this was a one-off or if the service is usually like that.
There are definitely better seats to be had across the Atlantic – most of the Business Class seats you’ll find on American Airlines for example – but I’m not sure you’ll find too many crews (from European or US airlines) that are better than the crew I had.
If this kind of service is normal on Delta then, when the airline finally gets its new Business Class cabin, I can see myself giving Delta a lot more of my business.