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Not all business-class products are created equal and even on the same airline, there can be vast differences in the quality of seats and service. Looking at American Airlines’ 777-200 business-class cabins, for example, and you’ll either wind up with the airline’s second-best seat or the worst premium seat on any of its aircraft. This makes it very hard to know which airline and aircraft is the best to book.

That’s why we’ve launched our Business-Class Battles to compare flights head-to-head across a diverse set of criteria including booking, check-in, the lounge, the cabin and seats, amenities, in-flight entertainment, food, service and operational performance. We’ve already seen American Airlines trounce British Airways and Lufthansa defeat United. For each of these battles, the author has booked and flown two different airlines from the same alliance on the same route just days apart. Now, let’s take a look at Delta vs. Air France on the transatlantic route between New York (JFK) and Paris (CDG). Let the Business-Class battle begin!

In This Post

Booking

There are many ways to book these flights:

Airline Loyalty Program Delta
JFK – CDG
Air France
CDG – JFK
Transfer partners
Delta SkyMiles 70,000 miles + $5.60 in taxes 85,000 miles + $346 in taxes Amex Membership Rewards & Starpoints
Flying Blue 62,500 miles + $24 in taxes 62,500 miles + $326 in taxes Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starpoints
Korean Air Skypass 80,000 miles roundtrip* + ~$500 taxes and fees* 80,000 miles roundtrip* + ~$500 taxes and fees* Chase Ultimate Rewards & Starpoints

*With Korean Air, you can only book round-trip award tickets — more on that later.

For the purposes of this comparison, I needed to book my first flight on Delta’s 777-200 from New York to Paris and the return trip on Air France’s 777-200 from Paris to New York. While the above chart shows the lowest cost for a one-way award flight, that doesn’t mean you can always find availability at those prices. In the end, I shelled out an insane 175,000 SkyMiles plus $5.60 in taxes for the one-way Delta award ticket! I searched and searched but couldn’t find anything at a lower price on the dates I needed to fly. Delta is notoriously stingy with Business Saver Award space and if you’re lucky, the lowest you’ll find on this route is 70,000 miles for a one-way flight. Air France’s redemption rate was much better and I transferred 62,500 Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue. Unfortunately, I had to pay a hefty $326 in taxes in fees, so that’s something to consider as well.

Realistically, the best way to book either of these award flights is through Korean Air. While you’ll only pay 80,000 miles round-trip, note that the carrier does impose about $500 in taxes and fees on that ticket. Also keep in mind that Korean Air only lets you book a round-trip flight to get this low price, so unfortunately, you can’t book a one-way award for 40,000 miles. For the purpose of this Business-Class Battle, since I was reviewing two different airline’s products, I had to book my tickets individually.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or SPG points to book your flight with Korean Air. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card both have 50,000-point sign-up bonuses after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account. Both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are offering a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase at participating SPG or Marriott Rewards hotels in the first six months. If you’re worried about paying high taxes and fees on an Air France or Korean Air award ticket, you could also use points from a card like the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card to cover the costs, since you’ll get 50,000 bonus points ($500 in statement credits) after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Verdict: Air France.

The Lounge

The Delta SkyClub at JFK (left) and the Air France lounge at CDG (right).
The Delta SkyClub at JFK (left) and the Air France lounge at CDG (right).

Both Delta and Air France have solid lounge experiences. It really depends on your preferences, but Delta won for me because it provided hot food and the SkyDeck, although it was pretty crowded. Air France is spacious and its lounge offered plenty of seating but everything was self-serve and there was no warm food — the artichoke salad I had there was out of this world though. Delta edged out Air France, although it wasn’t a huge win.

Verdict: Delta.

Cabin and Seat

Delta
Delta’s business class seat (left) vs. Air France’s business class seat (right).
Criteria Delta 777-200 Air France 777-200
Cabin Arrangement 1-2-1 Herringbone 1-2-1 Reverse Herringbone
Number of business class seats 37 seats across 12 rows 40 seats across 10 rows
Width 21 inches 21.5 inches
Lie-Flat Bed Length 78 inches 77 inches
At-seat storage
(for take-off and landing)
No Yes
 Power plugs One universal plug and one USB plug per seat One universal plug and one USB plug per seat

This category goes to Air France because its reverse herringbone cabin layout gave you more privacy, plus there was a storage compartment I could use for my laptop. With Delta, the seat was much more exposed to the aisle and had no storage. Delta’s seat did feel wider than Air France’s though. Note that if you’re flying on one of Air France’s A380s, A340s, A330s or on certain 777s, many are still outfitted with horrible angle-flat seats without direct aisle access. Make sure you check the aircraft you’ll be flying on and cross reference it with SeatGuru before booking to avoid these sub-standard products.

Verdict: Air France.

Amenities

Delta
Delta’s Tumi amenity kit (right) vs Air France’s amenity kit (left).

Delta definitely wins and I actually used the Tumi shell case after the flight. Delta’s kit contains earplugs, an eye mask, a pair of socks, Kiehl’s lip balm, Kiehl’s hand and body lotion, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash and a pen. Air France’s was more basic and included all the usual suspects for personal grooming and hygiene, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, comb, chapstick and lotion.

Verdict: Delta.

In-Flight Entertainment

Delta
Delta’s IFE screen (left) vs. Air France’s IFE screen (right).
Criteria Delta 777-200 Air France 777-200
IFE screen size Small Medium
Noise-cancelling headphones Yes, but mediocre quality Yes,  but mediocre quality
Unlimited Wi-Fi pricing $28 for up to 24 hours N/A. No Wi-Fi on this aircraft.

Air France had no Wi-Fi — only part of the fleet currently has in-flight internet access — but the carrier is working on installing it on more of its planes soon. Both airlines’ noise-cancelling headphones were mediocre but Delta’s were slightly better. Entertainment options were plentiful on both of my flights. Unfortunately, Delta had a pretty tiny screen for business class.

Verdict: Delta.

Food and Service

Delta’s dinner was definitely better — I had the baked cavatelli. On Air France, I went with the fish and mussels with vegetables for my main course, which was just fine.

Delta
Delta’s dinner (left) vs. Air France’s dinner (right).

Air France’s apricot-glazed foie gras with tonnato sauce and poached shrimp was good, but not as tasty as Delta’s smoked salmon and famous pretzel roll!

Delta
Delta’s snack (left) vs. Air France’s snack (right).

Regarding food, I honestly think it all comes down to your personal preference. Both airlines had good food, but I thought Delta’s quality was higher and I enjoyed the presentation more — the airline had much nicer silverware, too. I still thought the food on Air France was tasty and it was well-plated, but am going to give the edge to Delta because it had a really great breakfast — but that doesn’t mean you’ll be disappointed with the food on Air France.

Verdict: Delta.

Operational Performance

Criteria Delta JFK-CDG Air France CDG-JFK
Average departure delay (March 4-August 30) 36 minutes 30 minutes
% of arrivals delayed (March 4-June 30) 20% 17%
Departure (review flight) 25 minutes late 14 minutes late
Arrival (review flight) 18 minutes early 23 minutes early

One thing to consider about Air France is that its employees do go on strike from time to time, so it’s something to be aware of when booking with the carrier.

Verdict: Air France.

Overall Impression

Here are the final rankings for all categories, based on the two review flights. The scoring below is based on a scale of 1 to 10 whereas 10 is best and 1 is worst.

Criteria Delta 777-200 Air France 777-200
Award pricing 2 8
Lounge 8 7
Cabin & Seat 6 7
Amenities 8 7
In-Flight Entertainment 6 6
Wi-Fi (pricing & speed) 9 0
Food and Drink 8 7
Service 8 7
Operational Performance  9 10
Grand Total  64  59

Delta wins in more categories but for the price, I would choose Air France any day of the week. I think the actual hard product on Air France is better but the experience on Delta was nicer, from the Sky Club lounge to the food and Wi-Fi. On price alone, Delta is certainly not worth paying double or triple the miles over Air France, so because of that, I’d go with Air France every time.

The Winner: Air France.

Which would you rather fly? Sound off, below. 

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.