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During my recent trip to South Africa, I was called home early due to a family emergency. Luckily, I was able to redeem 120,000 Delta SkyMiles for a last-minute business class award departing South Africa earlier this week and returning on a dummy booking in economy in the spring (which I’ll shift around and use somehow for a future trip, and using an additional 20,000 miles to rebook in business class).
The first leg of my return trip was in KLM 777-200 Business Class From Capetown-Amsterdam and the second leg was on one of Delta’s refurbished 767-300’s in BusinessElite.
Between flights, I decided to stop back in at the KLM Crown Lounge, which is pretty large, with 10 showers and your basic food/drink spread.
One of my favorite parts of this lounge was the full collection of Delft Houses on the wall that are the airline’s signature business class amenity.These houses are little reproductions of buildings from the Dutch town famous for its white and blue tiles, and contain Dutch young jenever, a Dutch gin distilled by Bols Distilleries. The airline introduces a new model every October and they currently have 93, which were on display here.
My layover was only about 2 hours so before long, it was time to board.
The BusinessElite Cabin
The flight from Amsterdam to Newark was on one of Delta’s refurbished 767-300ER aircraft in SkyTeam livery. There are six different configurations of this aircraft and they are currently being refurbished with newer BusinessElite seats, but luckily I was on one of the planes that is already converted. The cabin has a 1 x 2 x 1 seating plan in BusinessElite with 36 totally horizontal flatbed seats and a seat pitch ranging from 76-81 inches, compared to the 34-35 inches in Economy Comfort, which I flew out on (see review here). This plane also contained 143 coach seats and 29 Economy Comfort seats.
I was originally booked into seat 6A which is one of the single seats along the side of the cabin, but it had no windows, so luckily I was able to switch to another window seat that did. I prefer these seats – especially the ones in odd-numbered rows where the seat is right next to the window and you have a wide armrest separating you from the aisle, because they afford the most privacy.
Part of Delta’s refurbishment with their planes is to make all their international BusinessElite seats offer direct aisle access. Previously these planes were set up in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration, but now since it’s a 1 x 2 x 1, getting out of your seat is easier for everyone.
Although Delta offers BusinessElite instead of First Class now, I actually find these flatbeds to be among the most comfortable premium product in the skies (though I do prefer Cathay and American’s reverse herringbone “pods” for privacy). They are pretty spacious and the foot well extends far enough that, although it’s still a little tight for me at 6’7″, I am still able to get comfortable and relax. Much better than my recent Airberlin business class experience.
My seat featured Westin’s new Heavenly bedding and pillow thanks to the new partnership between the two brands launched in February.
The other standard amenities here included a noise-canceling headset (I bring my own Bose QC15’s anyway), and the new Tumi amenity kit filled with Malin + Goetz’s Neroli Hand & Body Lotion and Lip Moisturizer, a Tumi eye mask, socks, shoe horn, shoe polish, comb, dental kit, tissues, antibacterial wipes, earplugs and a pen.
Although I never expect too much of an in-flight meal, this one was pretty good overall. To begin, the appetizer consisted of an antipasto with bresaola, Pecorino Romano cheese, artichoke, and olives. The soup was a cream of mushroom along with a fresh green salad with radishes, sweet peppers and walnuts.
Continuing on for the main course, I opted for the roasted chicken breast with lemon olive tomato sauce accompanied by sweet couscous with almonds and sugar snap peas. The sauce was kind of funky but the couscous was great.
The other main entree choices were a grilled beef tenderloin in a peppercorn sauce with mashed sweet potatoes; or linguine pasta in a cream sauce with spinach and butternut squash, or a chilled deli plate.
I usually like Delta’s wine selection and the ones on this flight included Pietra Santa Pinor Noir from California and El Coto de Imaz Rioja on the red side, a Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran and Kleine Zalze Bush Vines Chenin Blanc from South Africa for the whites, as well as Jacquard Brut Champagne, and some dessert wines.
For dessert the options were a selection of fine cheeses with fresh fruit, or a vanilla ice cream sundae with choice of sauces, whipped cream and chopped nuts.
Prior to landing, there was another meal service consisting of either a hot chicken parmesan sandwich with a fresh green salad, or a grilled shrimp salad. I went with the chicken Parmesan, which was decent, but extremely unhealthy- I mean fried breaded chicken on white bread with cheese?!
Overall it was a great flight with a nice New York-based flight crew who were really pleasant the whole time. There were a lot of entertainment options and I decided to watch the film Argo, which was great so I highly recommend if you’ve haven’t yet seen. I ended up napping for a bunch of the 8 hour flight (strong headwinds) and felt pretty refreshed after a near 21 hour journey back from South Africa.
Which Transatlantic SkyTeam Carrier?
This product definitely outperforms Air France and KLM’s outdated angled lie-flats, but I think I’d rather fly Alitalia’s refurbished A330s if given the option. Seats are similar in the 1/2/1 layout, but I give the edge to Alitalia in the service, amenity kit (Bulgari) and most of all- food. Oh an in case you were wondering- Air Europa brings up the rear in the terms of SkyTeam business class and I have yet to try out Aeroflot (though doubt I will anytime soon) so I guess I’ll need to wait until I can judge all SkyTeam options across the pond!