Flight Review: Delta First Class (757-200) From Seattle to New York
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A few months ago, US-market newcomer Xiamen Air offered incredible business-class fares between Seattle (SEA) and Shenzhen, China (SZX). I immediately jumped at the opportunity to try out the airline's business-class product, which meant I needed to find flights to get me from New York (JFK) to Seattle (SEA) and back again. For my outbound flight, I chose to fly economy on Alaska Airlines, but for the return trip, I opted for Delta's first class since it was the only lie-flat option between the two cities.
I used my Citi Prestige card to book my ticket, spending a total of $522 one-way, which ended up earning me 1,566 Citi ThankYou points. Delta's slightly-over-$500 fare is comparable to the $499 fares that JetBlue often features for its industry-leading Mint product on transcontinental flights from several East Coast cities to California, as well as on select Caribbean routes.
After completing the flight, I earned a total of 2,365 redeemable SkyMiles, 3,632 Medallion Qualifying Miles (2,365 base miles + 1,211 bonus MQMs due to the 50% bonus that comes with booking a ticket in the R fare class) and $473 in MQDs.
Check-In and Lounge
Since I had just arrived in Seattle after a more than 13-hour flight from China and had a few hours to kill before my departure to New York, I was more than eager to check out Delta's brand-new SkyClub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which I was able to access with my Amex Platinum Card. I'd read about the food offerings, spa services and shower suites before I visited the lounge, and was not disappointed in the slightest. The space was huge and featured a wide variety of hot and cold food options to sample as well as a full bar with plenty of complimentary and for-purchase beverage options.
I had no trouble finding a place to sit either — it wasn't a particularly busy time of day, but I found it hard to imagine that people would be unable to find seats here, even during busier times. The lounge was decorated in various combinations of Delta's blue and red color scheme and felt completely new and modern.
I was very excited to try out the shower suites for a couple of reasons. First of all, this was my first layover that actually allowed me to have enough time to take full advantage of lounge amenities. Secondly, I was pretty exhausted and frankly, felt pretty gross from sitting on the plane for so long, so I was looking forward to feeling refreshed and awake after a quick shower.
The suite itself had a toilet and vanity as well. There was no curtain or door, which I found to be a bit odd even though each suite was private, but the room did come stocked with several towels as well as toiletries from Malin + Goetz. The shower was great and afterward, I felt much more awake and ready for my transcon flight back home.
The lounge was also the perfect place to do a little plane spotting, although I didn't get to see anything too exciting since this area of the terminal is where many of the gates for regional jets are located.
I made my way to the gate about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to board. When I got there, however, I learned that we'd have a small delay because the plane that was going to bring us to New York hadn't arrived yet — I instantly regretted leaving that amazing lounge when I did. Because of my first-class ticket, I was one of the first to board the plane through the Delta SkyPriority lane.
Cabin and Seat
This particular 757 was equipped with first class, Comfort+ and Main Cabin seats. The main cabin was divided into 44 Comfort+ seats arranged in a 3-3 layout with 35 inches of pitch, and 108 standard Main Cabin seats, also in a 3-3 arrangement, with anywhere from 31-33 inches of pitch. Every seat had a personal in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen loaded with content from Delta Studio.
The first-class cabin featured 16 lie-flat seats arranged in a slightly-staggered 2-2 layout, the same kind of seats you'd find in the business-class cabin on American's A321 Transcon or in United's business-class.
These seats haven't received the Delta One treatment yet, so they've still got the old 'BusinessElite' branding on the headrests. Since there's only one aisle on the 757, there wasn't really a lot of room to move about the cabin.
The seats themselves don't offer a ton of privacy, but they're certainly comfortable enough for a domestic flight. Behind each of them, you'll find a power port, a USB port and a two-pronged jack that was equipped to work with the headphones passengers received on the flight. There's also a pocket that stored reading materials as well as a basic remote control for the IFE screen.
Since this particular flight was marketed as a first-class flight instead of the Delta One product, passengers aren't offered the same level of upgraded amenities, food service and other special features that you'd see on Delta One flights operating between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO).
On each seat, there was a pair of headphones (not the best quality), a small pillow and a (very) thin blanket. Had this been a Delta One-marketed flight, I would have received the upgraded Westin Heavenly bedding which I've heard great things about but haven't yet tried out for myself.
The seat controls were simple and intuitive, although it seemed to me that the seat itself was pretty loud when I adjusted it. It didn't seem to bother anyone else, though.
In the lie-flat mode, I found this seat to be very comfortable. I'm not sure I'd want to spend more than 10 hours in it, though, since it was a bit narrow, but for this flight, it exceeded my expectations, especially since I had just come off a very long flight from China.
Food and Beverage, Amenities and Service
After we boarded, first-class passengers were served a pre-departure beverage while the rest of the passengers continued to board the plane. I chose to have a Blue Moon, which was, for me, the perfect way to relax before my transcon journey. I also loved the dark wood look of the pull-out tray, which helped dress up the cabin a bit.
After taking off, I dove right into the IFE system, as I was eager to relax and watch a movie or two before arriving back home in New York. The Delta Studio system was very responsive and the graphics were sharp.
Soon after we were airborne, the flight attendant made her way around the cabin taking meal orders. Since this wasn't a Delta One flight, it didn't have the same level of extensive food options available — we were given only two choices. I opted for a pepperoni calzone, which was served with a side salad, some cheese, grapes and a chocolate brownie. While I'm sure the food on the Delta One flights is superior, I really enjoyed my meal and would be happy to have it again.
After finishing my meal, I was eager to recline my seat, relax and enjoy the movie. As you can see in the picture below, though, the footwell on this particular seat leaves a lot to be desired — there was barely enough room for one foot to fit comfortably, let alone mind two. It took several attempts to reposition my feet comfortably, but at this point I was exhausted and grateful to have the space I did. I only made it through half a movie before reclining my seat completely and quickly falling asleep.
I was exhausted and wanted to sleep as much as I could, but I did connect to the Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi to check some emails. I found the Wi-Fi to be very slow overall and while it was sufficient to load my emails, I couldn't get much else done.
The flight attendant was very attentive and friendly throughout my trip. We chatted for a few minutes and she was genuinely interested in having a conversation with me, which was nice. In general, I've received very good service on Delta flights, even when I've flown in coach, something that definitely helps the airline stand out from the competition.
I really enjoyed this flight, which is without a doubt the best (and generally only) option if you're looking to fly in lie-flat style between Seattle and New York. I just hope the airline will upgrade and equip this aircraft with the Delta One product in the first-class cabin sooner rather than later.
Have you ever flown in Delta's first class aboard the 757-200? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos courtesy of the author.