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To kick off a summer trip to Turkey and Greece, my friends and I flew Delta from JFK to Istanbul on one of the Delta One A330s. While Delta One sounds like a first-class product, it is actually an update to Delta’s former BusinessElite for international and transcontinental routes. I was excited to try out this plane because the seats are in a reverse herringbone layout and they’re more spacious than Delta’s other planes (including the 767-400), which I find to be cramped and somewhat coffin-like.
Rather than paying out of pocket for the flight, which would have cost $6,000, my friends and I redeemed SkyMiles. My friends were able to score saver level awards (62,500 SkyMiles one-way) by booking 4 months in advance, but when I was able to confirm I was coming on the trip the only seats available were a whopping 147,500 miles one-way. That’s crazy, considering 135,000 American AAdvantage miles gets you a round-trip first-class award to Asia on incredible carriers like Cathay Pacific.
If I’d wanted to avoid this absurdly high redemption price, I could have used 62,500 miles to fly to Istanbul via Russia on Aeroflot, but we had a packed schedule from the moment we touched down in Istanbul and I didn’t want to waste a day and travel separately from my friends. Like with my recent Nice flight, convenience is a luxury and I wanted to fly with my friends and start the vacation off right. I also kept searching for Turkish awards, but none ever opened up, so I decided to splurge on the higher-level award.
Luckily, I’ve accumulated plenty of SkyMiles over the years from maximizing the heck out of my Delta Suntrust debit card (which sadly devalued SkyMiles earning in July) — everything from paying taxes and manufacturing spend. In the end I was able to accrue well over a million SkyMiles at extremely low out-of-pocket costs. And while I can’t help but knock Delta for charging nearly 150,000 miles for a one-way ticket, at least I didn’t have to pay the fuel charges that some international airlines charge, like British Airways and Lufthansa. I ended up paying the standard $5.60 in fees — for the 10 hours I spent on the plane, that comes to 56 cents per hour cash out of pocket!
Airport and Lounge
Upon arriving at JFK’s Terminal 4, I went through security in a matter of minutes, thanks to my TSA Precheck. I met my travel companions and we headed straight to the SkyClub lounge, where it was hot in the sun, but thanks to margaritas and rosé we were able to cool down! (Note: Delta charges for all premium liquors and wines, so be ready to shell out $10+ per drink if you order from the specialty menu).
I received a voucher for a tasting menu, just as I had when I flew to Nice on Delta earlier this year, but I didn’t have much time to spare and decided to just wait and eat on the plane. I also didn’t take advantage of the lounge’s showers on this particular trip, but it’s good to know that they’re available.
Cabin and Seat
I was quite excited to fly on this Delta A330, as it’s configured differently than other aircraft I’ve flown on recently. With the reverse-herringbone layout in business class, it’s roomier and more comfortable. In addition to this route, the Delta A330-300 flies Atlanta to Honolulu; New York-JFK to Barcelona; and New York-JFK to Milan, among other transatlantic routes. (Starting in October, the aircraft will also operate flights between Atlanta and Frankfurt, Munich, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.)
While this configuration is definitely better than the “coffin-style” seats I’ve flown on in the past, it still feels a bit narrow.
At 21 inches wide and with 80 inches of pitch, Delta’s business seats on the A330 aren’t as roomy as American’s seats on the 777-300ER — which are 26 inches wide. Still, I found it to be comfortable and I was able to get a good night’s sleep on board.
Food and Amenities
The crew was extremely friendly and personable, which made the almost two-hour delay (due to a mechanical failure with the engine) bearable. The flight attendants brought us drinks right away, and our time on the ground felt kind of like an extended happy hour.
I also appreciated that the pilots were very communicative, keeping us updated every step of the way. We even had to go back to the gate, but all of the waiting was made more tolerable by the fact that we knew what was going on. After two hours we finally were on our way, with a beautiful New York City sunset to boot.
Service started pretty quickly once we were airborne. I chose the shrimp appetizer, and also enjoyed the delicious Thai coconut soup and wedge salad.
For my main course I chose the Fontina-stuffed chicken, which had great flavor. As is often the case with airline entrees, it didn’t look very appetizing, but its taste was definitely good enough. I finished with the assorted cheeses for dessert.
As for wines, Delta offered two reds, two whites, two dessert wines and one Champagne. The list wasn’t amazing, but everything I tried was perfectly drinkable:
Byron Santa Barbara Chardonnay (USA-2013)
Round Pond Sauvignon Blanc (USA-2013)
Monasterio de las Viñas Reserva (Spain-2006)
Bodegas de la Rosa CXV (Argentina-2012)
Château Solon (Sauternes, Bordeaux, France-2010)
Quinta do Noval 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (Portugal NV)
Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaïque (Reims, France NV)
There was great in-flight Wi-Fi on my flight (provided by Gogo). It cost $29.95 for a mobile pass, but given the strong connection and speeds I felt it was worth it. The IFE system also presented plenty of movie and TV show options.
As for the amenity kit, I give it a solid B+. The clutch-style bag from Tumi is stocked with products from Malin + Goetz, one of the better brands you’ll find on board a carrier.
Soon after dessert, I conked out. I slept for about seven hours, which allowed me to land in Istanbul well rested and ready to run around the city.
For transatlantic business-class travel, the A330 is a solid competitor. It’s not as nice as American’s 777-300, but to fly that I would have had to connect in London and I’d much rather go nonstop in a slightly smaller seat than have to deal with transferring at Heathrow and then flying wretched intra-European business class (read: economy). Delta knows that people value nonstop convenience, and the airline prices flights accordingly. While I never thought I would be spending 147,500 miles for a ONE-WAY award, considering I banked the SkyMiles so cheaply and I value my time highly (especially when traveling with a fun group of friends), I didn’t lose any sleep over getting gouged. If you are a Delta flyer who is looking to bank some extra miles this card is a great addition for your wallet. While you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, you'll also have access to other perks like priority boarding, a first bag checked free and discounted Delta Sky Club access.
If you are a Delta flyer who is looking to bank some extra miles this card is a great addition for your wallet. While you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, you'll also have access to other perks like priority boarding, a first bag checked free and discounted Delta Sky Club access.