Delta to Tokyo – 747 Upper Deck BusinessElite and Economy Comfort Review Narita to JFK

by on June 28, 2011 · 19 comments

in Delta, Trip Reports

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After a slew of boarding announcements for the intra-Asian flights like Manila and Hong Kong, it was finally our turn to board shortly after 6pm. I made my way down to the gate and used the SkyPriority, which was empty. The 747 allows dual boarding from two jetways, so BusinessElite passengers turn left and coach passengers go right. I entered the aircraft and then took the steps to the upper deck, seat 73A, which is the bulkhead window.

Division of the classes

My ride ... my window is the first one on the upper deck (not the pilots)

Stairway to heaven?

The upper deck - the cockpit is straight ahead

The seats on the upper deck are the former Northwest World Business Class seats. In their prime they were cutting edge, but they are now becoming antiquated. They are a 160 degree angled lie flat bed, similar to Air France’s business class and Delta has plans to refurbish these planes and install fully lie-flat beds, like on my 777LR from my flight over, but it will be a while before that happens.

My seat, 73A, is the first seat on the upper deck, but the bulkhead is about 5 feet in front of the seat, so legroom wasn’t an issue at all. My seatmate was a college student who was coming back from visiting his parents who live abroad. It was his first time flying business class – his mom and dad used miles for his trip home – nice parents! The cabin was only about half full and there was no one in the two seats behind us, so I ended up moving there for the duration of the flight.

73A from above - leagues of leg room

Row 74

While I like the exclusive feel to the upper decks of 747′s there are some downsides – the biggest being storage. The overhead bins are generally smaller due to the curvature of the aircraft, so if you have a large carry-on, you may need to store it downstairs. However, they added huge side bins and my Tumi rollerboard had no issue fitting in the overhead, though it is on the smaller side (I forget the exact dimensions).

Overhead bin

Huge side bins

The only interesting thing about the boarding experience was that the complimentary water bottles were Evian instead of the normal Dasani (Coke product) which is featured on most other Delta flights. I suppose this is a supply thing, but I appreciated it because I generally don’t like Dasani.

Before long, we were pushed back from the gate and the pilot profusely apologized for the delay and explained he’d try to make-up as much as possible in the air. I’m always amazed at the dynamics of flying back form Asia to NYC – you leave and arrive roughly at the same time and day. For us we left Tokyo at 6:50pm Wednesday and arrived at JFK at 6:55pm Wednesday. I guess that made up for the entire Saturday I lost on the way over!

For meal choice, I went with the Japanese option, since it was so good on the way out.
Starter: Marinated Tuna and Sea Bream with wasabi tofu, and roast beef with eggplant
Entree: Black cod saikyo-miso yaki with steamed rice, pickles and miso soup

The starter was – interesting. To be honest, the tuna and seam bream were a little dried out, but I have to say it was overall the most eclectic airplane meal I’ve eaten. I didn’t really know what any of the sides were, but I’m sure they pretty Japanese since the catering was done at Narita.

First course

Interesting veggies

Not my favorite

The entree was much more enjoyable and straight-forward and perhaps the highlight was the sundae that was made right at my seat.

Cod and miso

A sundae done right

After dinner I extended my seat and made myself a bed using the extra pillow and blanket from the empty seat next to me. Even though I’d much prefer a true lie-flat seat (and not angled), I was able to get a solid 5 hours of sleep.

Angled lie-flat

I ended up visiting the Economy Comfort cabin and checking out those seats for a while. Luckily, the EC cabin was sparsely populated (though the rest of the flight was packed), so I got my own row. However, I specifically chose a row behind people who were reclining so I could test out the seats to their limits.

Firstly, they are the same physical seat as the rest of economy, but they have a seat cover and they recline 50% more and have 4″ more legroom. I’m nearly 6’7″ and when the person in front of my reclined, my knees did not touch the seat. Also, when I reclined, the extra couple inches were very noticeable. While it doesn’t compare to business class, it’s a marked improvement from regular coach seats (plus you get free cocktails – normally only beer and wine are free in coach).

Delta Economy Comfort Enhanced Recline

My legs with seat fully reclined in front of me

More room, though it's still not luxury living

Projector screens in coach.. luckily Delta has a plan to upgrade these planes to the 21st century

So would I choose an exit row or Economy Comfort seat? Definitely Economy Comfort for the extra recline. While exit rows have a lot of leg-room, I always find the seas to be thinner and the recline way too upright to get any substantial sleep.

The flight attendants were very excited about the product and they made several announcements that if you moved into an Economy Comfort seat, you’d have to pay the fee on-board. When I asked the flight attendants on my flight if they had any rogue self-upgraders and they told me they didn’t, but were more than prepared to handle the situation.

Overall, the Delta 747 is a nice looking “bird,” but it’s far from cutting edge. The projector screens in coach need to (and will be) upgraded, as well as the angled business class seats. However, overall it was a nice trip (albeit delayed) and it’s a perfectly decent ride in Business Class and Economy Comfort.

While I liked the proximity of Haneda and the timing of the incoming flight (arrive around 5am which allows for a full day in Tokyo), I much preferred the return timing out of Narita- 4pm vs 12:30am. My hope is that they improve the Haneda times or start servicing it directly from JFK, like American.

Full disclosure: My flights and hotels were comped by Delta and Hyatt respectively but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

This is one installment in my series on my trip to Tokyo. You can find my past posts on the trip below, including:

My Trip to TokyoMy Initial Thoughts on Tokyo

Tokyo Day One Part One – Arrival at Haneda, Meiji Shrine, and Harajuku

Tokyo Day One Part Two – Shibuya, Park Hyatt Spa and Tokyo Hands

Tokyo Day Two Part One – Walking Around Shinjuku and Tokyo Hands

Tokyo Day Two Part Two – A Tale of Three Very Different Dining Experiences

Day Three Part One - Inside Access to Tsukiji Fish Market and Tuna Auction

Tokyo Day Three Part Two – Sushi at 6:30am, Tempura and a Night Out in Shinjuku

Tokyo Day Four – Jetlag Blues, Relaxing at the Park Hyatt and Hanging at the Delta SkyClub at Narita

Delta to Tokyo – 757 BusinessElite Review – JFK to LAX

Delta to Tokyo 777LR BusinessElite Review LAX to Haneda

Delta to Tokyo – 747 Upper Deck BusinessElite and Economy Comfort Review Narita to JFK

Park Hyatt Tokyo Review

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Dave

    How much was Delta asking to move instantly on broad from Economy to Economy Comfort on that flight?

  • Angel

    Very nice report! I’m really surprised how dated US airlines are compared to their asian and european counterparts. Seats look really old, food seems to be decent but the projector in economy is not appealing at all. Not having the option to watch what you want on such a long trip is a no no. I believe most of us would pick a different airline unless you have some SkyMiles to burn or they come up with a really enticing fare/promotion. Just my $0.02.

  • Sergey

    Does AF 747 have a different cabin configuration than Delta’s? I am going to fly CDG-JFK on AirFrance B747-400 in J, and BusinessElite cabin is on main deck, not on the upper deck.

  • Mark


    If you don’t mind, I have a general question. I currently have a Citi Thank You Preferred Card. I’ve had it for 13 years. If I upgraded to the Citi Thank You Premier to get the 50,000 points, would they run a credit check? And if I get the Premier and then downgrade it back to the Preferred in 9 months to avoid paying an annual fee for the Premier in the second year, would I lose my 13+ year history with that card for purposes of my credit score? Thanks!

  • Justin

    The 50,000 point bonus only applies to new applications. I currently have the premier card (had it before the bonus), and when I asked for the bonus I was denied. If you want the bonus you will have to apply for the premier and possibly have to cancel your preferred card.

    But if you decide to take a hit on your credit IMO I would rather sign up for the sapphire preferred card with the 50k bonus instead of the thankyou premier. I haven’t been able to get a good value from my thank you points recently, best being $100 hotel gift cards from marriott and hyatt. Ultimate rewards points are much more valuable due to the transfers.

  • The Points Guy

    @Dave- I believe it was $160- the most they charge for EC (since its one of their longest flights)

    @Angel- I think it’ll be a much nicer experience once they have the full lie flats

    @Sergey- yes, AF has different seats all together. I’ve never flown on an AF 747, but to get a sense of what to expect on CDG-JFK in business class, check out my report from last summer

    @Mark- Just has good advice. Apply for the card as a new application (though I 100% agree that the Sapphire Preferred 50k signup bonus is a better deal)

  • Kevin Hamilton

    Thanks for the report man. Especially the end. I was trying to find information on whether an exit row is better than EC. I’m sticking with the EC now. Cheers

  • Ben

    Just curious? what’s the brand of the large murse in one of the pix? Also, “I suppose this is a supply thing, but I appreciated it because I generally don’t like Dasani.” What’s wrong with Dasani water? I think they all taste the same!

  • Mark

    Thanks, guys, for the advice.

  • The Points Guy

    @Ben- Bally. Its a mega-murse- a great weekend bag and also great for on-board

  • erthcrclr

    Oh dear. 50% less recline and 4″ less leg room in coach than EC–never mind biz; plus outdated projector screens, no major booze, no seat cover, and a full/nearly full load in coach? And this for award seats that are tough to get at reduced levels anyway? Mighta been more interesting if they’d sponsored you into that area of the tube instead. Sounds like a lot less shuteye in that bargain. ;~P

  • Peggy

    Just before NWA was swallowed up by Delta, we took a 747 Business Class from Detroit to Narita (then on the Bangkok). I planned the route just so we could be on a 747 and sit upstairs- it was very exciting for me and it was one of the highlights of our trip. I paid for my tickets and used miles to upgrade all myself using the NWA website- too bad Delta can’t figure out how to make that happen. Why don’t they just use NWA’s website? I guess that would be too easy.

  • The Points Guy

    @Peggy- I miss too! I really miss the ability to book a lot of partner awards online, including Korean airways.

    Even though the 747 isn’t the most cutting edge, there is something really cool about sitting on the upper deck in business/first!

  • Anonymous


  • Matt

    I thought they had personal TVs?

  • Anonymous

    not in coach- only in business class (they will once refurbished, though)

  • Mark Kaufmann, MD

    within the economy comfort rows, are there some EC seats that are better than others?

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