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

Jun 28, 2011

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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

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