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While Delta’s 777-200LR business class has started to feel outdated, it’s still a solid product. The Pros: Being able to snag one of these long-haul aircraft on a domestic flight. The Cons: old-school IFE screens, aging seats that show wear and tear.
Like many other airlines, Delta puts some of its jumbo jets to use on domestic flights between its longer hauls so that it doesn’t have aircraft sitting idle — the idea is to keep a plane flying for as much of the day as possible, and thus generate income from it for as much time as possible. That’s how I found myself aboard one of the airline’s longest of long-haul jets, the 777-200LR, on a recent flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Atlanta (ATL) as part of a longer itinerary.
[Editor’s Note: The author took this flight from LAX shortly before the terminals changed. As a result, the experience he had in Terminal 5 will be different from what’s there now (in Terminals 2 and 3). All other portions of this review, including the booking process, aircraft and flight info, are accurate].
Back in October, Delta was offering some great business-class fares from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, via Atlanta that started at around $1,300. The fares appeared to be good for January-March — since prices for similar itineraries usually start at twice that amount, and because there were a few things I’ve always wanted to do in Peru, I decided to book myself a ticket.
It hadn’t occurred to me until I pulled up multiple itinerary options, but one of the flights from Los Angeles to Atlanta — the one with a nice 90-minute connection time — was actually aboard one of the carrier’s 10 777-200LRs instead of the single-aisle 757s Delta usually flies on this route. It turns out this was the aircraft’s onward continuation from its Sydney to Los Angeles flight. I decided this would be the flight to book since it meant I’d get to experience Delta One business class aboard not only the 767 down to Lima but on the domestic portion of my itinerary as well.
The total came to $1,299.50 with the domestic portions booking into P (first) class and the international legs into Z (business) class. If I credited my flights to Delta, I would earn just 5,885 SkyMiles, 15,369 MQMs and $1,177 MQDs (on the base fare but not the taxes). However, I’m an Alaska MVP 75K Gold member, so I credited the miles there while I still could so I would earn 15,952 elite-qualifying miles and a whopping 35,892 award miles from the itinerary. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to pay for the ticket and earned 3,899 Ultimate Rewards points on top of that thanks to the card’s 3x travel bonus earning.
Check-In and Lounge
One of the reasons I was excited to fly Delta One out of LAX was the chance to experience its VIP check-in area and Sky Club. The airline has invested heavily in LAX as a hub in recent years in hopes of wooing celebrity and high-paying clientele, and has really upped its ground game accordingly.
When I got to Terminal 5, I hopped out of my Uber at the very beginning of the terminal where the sign for Delta One was. There was a doorman standing there, and after verifying that I was flying Delta One internationally — you can also be flying transcontinental to JFK — he brought me inside. The check-in desk is actually a repurposed McDonnell Douglas DC9 wing, which the check-in agent was excited to tell me about.
Once she printed out my boarding passes, she brought me around the corner to the arrival lounge, which has a few little seating areas, a small spread of snacks and two restrooms. Instead of staying here, though, I took the elevator upstairs, which deposited me in a private hallway that ended where the TSA lines began.
Thanks to TSA PreCheck, I was through security in three minutes flat and on my way to check out the Sky Club. I had to show my international boarding pass to get in, then took a quick tour of the lounge, which was refurbished in 2015.
It didn’t feel huge, especially at the busy time of day when I was visiting, but was bright and airy. Just past the check-in desks and to the right was a large rotunda with various seating areas and a couple of tables with drinks and fruit. Through there, you’ll find the main buffet, bar and dining area. The buffet offered breakfast items like cereal, oatmeal, muffins and yogurt, though the espresso machine seemed to be on the fritz.
Starbucks coffee was also available. Across from there was the bar, though it wasn’t busy that morning.
I really liked the touchscreen displays showing the nutritional information for the various foods on offer as well.
On the other side of the buffet is a dining area with red chairs, with two rows of banquettes and dining tables running down the middle. I really liked the LA-centric art throughout, including photos of famous city landmarks.
Toward the window were more seating areas with single armchairs, each with power plugs and USB ports, as well as a high-top desk along the windows overlooking the tarmac.
The bathrooms were back through the rotunda on the side opposite where the check-in area is located — they featured products by Malin + Goetz.
The Wi-Fi was decent but not amazing, probably since there were so many people using it at the time. It felt really crowded, so I just had a cup of coffee and down to the gate to try to be among the first to board.
Little did I know there were already huge lines at the gate. It looked like a lot of folks were hoping to board early as well, so I just got in the Sky Priority line and hoped it would move quickly. It did not. Boarding was actually delayed because, as the gate agent explained over the speaker, the aircraft was a jumbo jet coming from an international destination, so it it was taking the crew longer than usual to clean.
When it was finally time to board, it was pretty much chaos. After the folks needing extra time and those with small children, premium passengers were allowed to board. I assumed that meant me, and so did a lot of other people, because there was a rush to get on. Then, before even half of those folks were through, the gate agent said Sky Priority passengers could board, which resulted in another wave of humanity surging toward the gate. That’s why I have no idea why she started boarding main cabin customers within another minute or two. I’m not a huge proponent of when gate agents call 20 different groups of guests to board one by one, but this was downright pandemonium and confused just about everyone. I did make it onto the plane eventually, though, and it looked like most of the front cabin had already boarded.
Cabin and Seat
The Delta One cabin aboard the 777 is split up into two sections, a larger front one with seven rows, and a smaller back one with three. There are 37 seats total.
Most rows have four seats across arranged in a 1-2-1 herringbone pattern so that the head of the seats on the sides are next to the window and the feet point toward the aisle, while those down the center of the cabin have their heads toward one another with their feet angled out toward the aisle.
Row 1 has just two seats on either side, while row 10 has A, B and C seats, but no D seat on the right-hand side of the plane because there’s a lavatory there.
I had picked seat 2A so as not to be too close to the galley, which tends to get noisy, or lavatories, but also so I wouldn’t be in the middle of the cabin.
The seats are upholstered in light blue leather with red insignia and accents, and each has 78 inches of pitch and is 21 inches wide. Those seem to be pretty standard dimensions for international business-class seats these days, but I find that reverse-herringbone seats on other carriers feel wider, and in fact do become wider because you can lower the aisle-side armrest to get a few extra inches of space.
The seat controls looked a bit archaic but worked really well, allowing you to adjust individual parts of each seat.
There were also overhead and seat-side reading lights, as well as power and USB ports for charging up.
I’d also mention that these seats are a few years old at this point and they’re starting to show their age, with scuffs and scratches on the hard siding, so that took a little bit away from the experience. Each seat was also set with a small pillow and a light blanket, which came in handy when I took an hour-long nap on my flight.
To lower the seat into recline mode, hit the button with the lie-flat icon on it and “ZZZ” to denote sleeping — the seat shifts forward, the leg rest lifts up and the back reclines until the cushioned top fills the whole space. I’m about 5’8” and not very broad, so I was comfortable sleeping both on my back and my side, and didn’t feel cramped in the space at all.
In-Flight Entertainment and Amenities
Here’s where the plane has really begun to show its age. Delta began taking delivery of its 777-200LRs back in 2008, so the entertainment screens feel positively tiny at this point, especially considering that we’re seeing 16-18-inch flat screens in other airlines’ business-class cabins — and even 23-inch ones on JAL!
On the plus side, Delta has been a pioneer in in-flight entertainment. Last year, it began giving free access to its Delta Studio entertainment library for free to all passengers flying aboard mainline aircraft on flights of at least 90 minutes. The system includes up to 300 movies, 750 TV shows, thousands of songs, live TV channels and video games. Passengers can view it either through seat-back screens or by streaming the content to laptops, mobile and tablet devices — I didn’t use it on my flight, working instead by using the Gogo in-flight internet, which worked well, by the way. But I did browse through the selections in the seat-back system itself. While there are indeed hundreds of movies and TV shows to choose from, there were just 10 or so new releases and only a handful of new TV shows.
Each seat also came with a pair of noise-canceling headphones, though I think dampening is a more apt description. Other than that, there were no amenities to speak of since this was just a mid-range domestic flight, so no amenity kits or pajamas were offered.
Food and Beverage
During boarding, flight attendants went seat to seat welcoming each passenger individually and asking if they wanted a beverage. Some folks ordered Bloody Marys, Champagne or straight liquor. When I asked for a glass of water without ice, the flight attendant reached into the cupholder of my seat, pulled out the little bottle of water that had been sitting there and said, “Here.”
I must have given her a look because she reacted and asked, “Do you want a cup or something?” I politely declined, but I didn’t think that was the classiest service point. After all, if you’re going to offer customers beverage service, you should get them the beverage they ask for. That was the only service issue the whole flight. The rest of the crew were warm and friendly, and consistently asked if there was anything else they could get us.
Though my flight landed in Atlanta around 4:00pm, it took off from LA at 9:00am, so the meal served in business class was breakfast. The flight attendants did not hand out menus, but asked instead if we wanted oatmeal with fruit or an omelet with tomato and veggies. I opted for the omelet and it was fine, better than the ones I’ve had on overnight international flights on other airlines, and the fresh fruit was good. The tray also had a bagel with butter, cream cheese and jam. The coffee was pretty decent, too.
The flight attendants served breakfast about 45 minutes into the flight, after which point I took a nap, woke up to do some work and then asked for another cup of coffee with about 30 minutes left in the flight. The FA even remembered how I took it (with one sugar and a little cream) and brought it the same way again, which I thought was a really nice touch. We landed about 30 minutes early and got to the gate 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so I had a little extra time to get to my next flight.
To be honest, the seats aboard this aircraft feel a bit dated. I prefer the privacy of a reverse-herringbone layout, or even forward-facing semi-private seats instead of these, where other passengers are constantly in your eye line and people walking down the aisle brush past your feet. The entertainment screens also felt small and very outdated. I think it would still be a comfortable way to fly to Australia or South Africa — two destinations to which the aircraft flies — but it was an absolutely fantastic and fun way to take a quick domestic flight and experience an international business-class product usually reserved for the airline’s longest-haul routes.
Have you flown Delta One in one of the airline’s 777-200LRs lately? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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