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Delta to Tokyo: 757 BusinessElite Review: JFK to LAX

by on June 12, 2011 · 20 comments

in Delta, Trip Reports

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For my first trip to Tokyo I wanted to try out both Haneda and Narita airports, since Delta now flies to both. Haneda is served nonstop from Detroit and Los Angeles, though the Detroit service isn’t slated to re-start until June 16, 2011 (but now may be delayed further, just like American is delaying their JFK-HND and Hawaiian is holding off on their second daily Honolulu-Haneda) and my trip was on June 3rd. I decided to fly to Haneda, because the non-stop JFK-Narita leaves at 1:55pm and I had my last day of work, so I couldn’t skip out early. The Haneda flight leaves Los Angeles at 1:10am and arrives into Haneda at 4:55am Sunday, so this meant I could take the 9pm JFK to Los Angeles flight as long as there weren’t any major delays since my connection would only be 55 minutes. While I would essentially lose my entire Saturday due to the time change, I’d be able to get into Tokyo early and hopefully maximize my Sunday.

I ended up being lazy and taking a cab from my apartment in Williambsurg, Brooklyn to JFK, which I personally dislike doing since traffic is usually horrendous. And indeed it was on a Friday evening (and with major fires happening in Brooklyn), but my driver ended up snaking through back streets and taking Atlantic Avenue and luckily got me there with plenty of time to spare. Terminal 2 is the premium check-in terminal, so I always recommend people check-in there and then walk to Terminal 3 if necessary since they are connected.

T2 Sky Priority Terminal

The kiosk couldn’t read my passport, so I saw an agent who had all of my boarding passes printed in no time. I did not check a bag since I’d only be in Tokyo for 3.5 days. Security was also empty, so I was the first one on the Sky Priority security lane and through the checkpoint in no time. Note: they now have an annoying scanner machine, which I successfully avoided by simply choosing the line to the right which was linked up to the metal detector. What idiots – how is it keeping us safer if you can choose to go through a metal detector line instead?

Terminal 2 post security - the SkyClub is straight ahead above the Wendys

I went straight to the Terminal 2 SkyClub which was conveniently next to my departure gate (21). Due to my longer than expected cab ride,  I didn’t have enough time to run to the Terminal 3 SkyClubs and snag extra 300 Amex point certificates. However, I chummed up the friendly SkyClub attendant and I ended up getting an extra certificate for being nice (or good-looking, not sure), so I recommend doing the same, or simply asking for another. They seem to have a TON of certificates left and since this promo ends June 30, 2011, you may get lucky and get a bunch. As always, it never hurts to ask.

I ended up getting a cocktail in the SkyClub (they do have top-shelf liquors and wine for purchase), but most drinks are free. They were also running a trial program where you could buy entrees, but that has since been discontinued. They remodeled the lounge recently, so the furniture is new and the lounge was not crowded. I apologize in advance – I only took a picture of the food display. I ran into several friends at the lounge, so I got sidetracked and then realized I had to leave for my flight. It was 20 minutes to departure and I thought I’d be fine, but once I left the lounge I heard them paging me in the airport. Luckily the gate was right at the bottom of the steps, but it was still mildly embarrassing and unusual to have the flight completely boarded 20 minutes before departure.

SkyClub standard nibbles- carrots, celery, cookies, olives, hummus, cheese and crackers.

The BusinessElite cabin was full upon my arrival, so I snapped a picture upon deplaning.

Delta 757 BusinessElite Cabin Rows 3 and 4 Seats C, D

One of the things I really like about flying BusinessElite is the large full-size pillow and substantial blanket. I flew Cathay Pacific New Business class this past weekend and while the seat is in another league, the pillow was practically the size of a stamp (ok, more like a piece of legal sized paper). Delta’s blanket is also large and reasonably thick – better than the likes of most every other business class I can think of, including Singapore Airlines.

The seat itself is not the most cutting edge business class, but still better than most domestic first class seats. Delta has a bunch of different 757 models, but you know your flight has a full-blown BusinessElite cabin if the cabin has four rows, as shown on Seat Guru. While Delta generally runs all JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco flights with BusinessElite cabins, they do sub-in other 757s from time to time. The good news is that upgrades are easier to get since the BusinessElite cabins only have 16 seats vs up to 26 on other versions. However, the other versions are often old planes that don’t even have personal TVs. If I paid a business class fare, I’d definitely want to fly on a BusinessElite equipped plane – it’s a much nicer experience. These seats are well padded and are 20.5 inches wide, have 55″ of pitch (legroom), a 150 degree recline, are wifi capability (paid) and have power plugs at each seat.

Big, comfy pillow

Delta isn’t the only airline to have international style business class service between NY and Los Angeles/San Francisco, but they are the only airline that upgrades all elites upon space availability:
American flies their 767-200 which has 18.5″ wide seats with 50″ of pitch and in-flight entertainment and wifi. However, they have deactivated their power-plugs due to maintenance issues and while some are fixed, they aren’t power plugs – they are cigarette chargers, so they have limited use. AA does give Executive Platinum (top tier) members complimentary upgrades to business.
United flies 757s with 20.5″ wide seats that have 55″ of pitch and are equipped with personal tvs, wifi and powerports.
Virgin America flies A319 and A320s with 21″ wide seats that have 55″ of pitch and are equipped with personal tvs, wifi and powerports.
Continental flies mostly 737 and 757s that have personal tvs, but they do not have international business class seats or wifi. Elites are eligible for upgrades.

Upon getting situated in my seat, the flight attendant promptly asked me for my pre-departure beverage and I ordered a Heineken. He brought over an entire can and a glass (I kindly gave him the glass back). I also thought it was nice to get the whole can, because I can drink a small glass worth of beer in about two gulps. I also like being asked what I’d like to drink instead of being handed a tray of cheap sparkling wine or orange juice, like on other airlines.

Pre-Departure Beverage

Since the flight boarded early, the doors were closed 10 minutes prior to departure and we pushed back from the gate at 8:57pm. By 9:04pm we were rolling down the runway on a clear, New York city night. This allayed my fears that I’d miss my 55 minutes connection at LAX. In fact, now I’d have time to pick up an extra 300 point cert at the SkyClub!

NYC dusk from above

Shortly after takeoff we were given menus of the dinner options, which are inspired by Delta’s celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein, who I met at a recent event in NYC. I generally try to eat light on planes, but I actually enjoy Delta’s BusinessElite steaks, so I usually order them, which is what I decided for this flight. It would be a long way to Tokyo, so why starve? :-)

Menu

Meal service started with hot towels and then a glass of red wine (Tamas California red, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Barbera).

Wine and nuts

Not the fanciest, but it goes down easy

Then came the salad and shrimp appetizer. I normally don’t care for the appetizers, which are either shrimp or smoked salmon, but this shrimp dish was tasty and came with a mango salad and nice herbs without being oversalted.

Course One

Shrimp, minus the one I ate

Then came the beef, which was nice and tender as usual. However, usually it’s cooked a nice medium rare, but this time it was more medium – I guess I should just be thankful it wasn’t cooked into a rubbery oblivion.

Steak with a red wine demiglace

Medium, but still tender

After the steak I wasn’t hungry, but what would a trip report be without a full meal? I opted for the cheese plate, which consisted of three mild cheeses- brie, cheddar and ?. It also came with perfectly ripe strawberries, which were pretty juicy, as far as airline fruit goes (which I normally find unripe and or dried out).

Fruit and cheese plate

After dinner, I decided to put on a movie and try not to take a nap so I could sleep soundly on my 11.5 hour LAX to Haneda flight, but that plan failed miserably. Since I had an exhausting week and just had a couple glasses of red wine and steak, I passed out shortly after I reclined the seat and sunk my head into the big pillow.

Some movie options that I didn't end up watching due to exhaustion and food coma

Reclined seat- apologize for poor lighting but didn't want to use the flash in-cabin

I was awoken by the announcements that we’d begun our initial descent into the Los Angeles area, which was kind of surprising – I wasn’t expecting to sleep for 3+ hours. It ended up working out, because I wanted to be fresh to experience my first ever 777LR flight, which I’ll be writing all about shortly.

Economy comfort cabin- the first four rows of coach on the right side of the plane

In summary, Delta has a very competitive transcontinental business class product. Would I want to fly the same plane to Europe? Probably not, but the service and amenities are on par or better than Delta’s competitors on the transcontinental routes and on top of all of it – all Medallions are eligible for an upgrade on all paid fare classes, which is a great deal when you think about it. While some flights sell out and I’ve sat in coach as a Diamond several times, you can usually Same Day Confirm to other flights in order to get the upgrade (like the first and last flights out).  This trip was comped by Delta, but I’ve written reports on this route in the past when I paid for my ticket (and got the upgrade), so feel free to check out that trip for another reference.

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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  • Sergey

    Brian:

    Did you notice if the first row of BusinessElite cabin have more legroom than other rows? If yes, is it the same in other Delta BE cabins, such as 767-300ER, A330-200?

  • John

    This looks great. I may be slightly off topic, but you mentioned going through Terminal 2 for a flight out of Terminal 3 at JFK. Could you go through Terminal 2 security for a flight from Terminal 4 to avoid the crowds, or would you have to go through security again once you got back to Terminal 4. I was thinking of checking in with Swiss in Terminal 4, then taking the shuttle to 2 to get through security, then taking the shuttle back to 4.

  • The Points Guy

    @Sergey- I generally like booking row 1 because I don’t like people reclining into me. However, row 1 on the 757 is decent, but if you are very tall, theres a chance your legs may bump up into the bulkhead wall when fully reclined. As such, I prefer row 2 on this plane. I’ve done row 1 on A330 and the seats are fine, but the light from the galley bothered me when trying to sleep. Row 1 on the 767-300 is fine in my opinion, I’ve done the middle section and had no issues with legroom or light/noise from the galley.

    @John- In essence that plan could work, though I’m not sure if the shuttle drivers check boarding passes (I doubt it). I may let someone else with experience chime in on this one. BTW, check out the Oasis lounge in T4- one of my favorites at JFK- especially for plane watching.

  • Alex

    CO does have international business class lie flat seats on their 757-200 aircraft between EWR-LAX/SFO. Very nice flat bed seats on a transcon.

  • The Points Guy

    @Alex- looking at tomorrows schedule of the 5 EWR-SFO Continental flights, 4 of them are on 737s. I know they do occasionally run BusinessFirst on the route, but its far from being regular service.

  • Sergey

    Brian, thanks for reply! I’ve noticed on SeatGuru, that on A330-200 rows 4 and 5 are divided by big space, probably due to emergency exit. Have you seen this?

  • Ted

    Always wanted to ask. What camera do you use taking pictures? Pictures look decent for low-light.

  • The Points Guy

    @Ted- just got a Canon s95 powershot for this trip and I love it

  • Joe

    Wow!!!!! you leave in Williamsburg?!!! you have a BIG Fan base in the hasidic Circles, We have to setup a saminar…..

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  • Mark

    Extremely good review, as we have come to expect and enjoy. It is interesting that you like the DL business product but you say: “Would I want to fly the same plane to Europe? Probably not…”

    A transcon to SF can take more than 6 hours east to west….which is similar to a London, Madrid, Lisbon flight, no? :)

    But, yes, DL’s product is great and competitive. I love the wifi (can’t believe CO doesn’t offer wifi). It is a great product.

  • The Points Guy

    @Joe- lets set it up!

    @Mark- What I meant with the Europe comment is that there are better transatlantic business products out there to choose from., As far as transcons go, Delta is on par if not better in most areas

  • mark

    @TPG- completely agree with both points. Again, thanks for your superb posts.

  • Lance

    Thanks for the great post, especially as I’m headed out on June 30th-July 5th. I’ve got the exit row window secured, but had no idea I’m eligible for the upgrade on International flights (being GM). This completely changes the picture, and if true, may have to resort to the SDC to help my chances on the 13 hour flight.

    Hopefully the Double bonus miles promotion DTW/LAX-HND is working and doesn’t have any problems posting. Going to be a nice bonus of skypesos.

    Thanks again as your guides will come in handy!

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  • Derek

    Can I comment on your picture of the Economy Comfort seats on that 757 you were on? Facing the seats, they are indeed on the right side of the plane, but when booking and looking at an airline seat map facing forward, they are in fact on “aircraft left”, or more simply put the captain or “drivers side” of the plane. Thank you.

  • Jetlagcure

    When I flew NY to HND in biz class on delta the seats were flatbed, but the monitor was teeny-tiny so that I could not see it when I reclined! I did complain and got 5,000 miles. I hear they have since replaced those monitors with laptop computer-sized screens.

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