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Delta has arguably invested more in its business-class product than other US carriers and its shows in its soft product. The Pros: A solid amenity kit, decent food and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Cons: Cramped seats, a hot cabin and small in-flight entertainment screens.
When we first came up with the idea for a new series comparing domestic carriers with their foreign counterparts on transatlantic routes, which started with Lufthansa vs. United and British Airways vs. American Airlines. I knew my trip to Paris would be the perfect opportunity to compare Delta and Air France since I hadn’t flown either of them in business class to Europe in a while — flying Air France La Première doesn’t count! — plus, it allowed for a head-to-head match up of Air France’s 777-200 vs. Delta’s 777-200.
Today, we present a full review of Delta’s option on this route: the Boeing 777-200. Check back Friday to see the Air France review and stay tuned for the official comparison.
Since I had specific travel dates in mind, there was very little flexibility when it came to booking my tickets. It wasn’t hard finding Air France award availability via Flying Blue on the return trip, but getting to Paris (CDG) wasn’t as easy. Since I had to leave New York (JFK) on the 5:30pm flight so I would arrive in Paris in time for my morning meetings, there wasn’t any wiggle room there. I also knew I’d be flying on a Delta 777 with herringbone seats, which is not the carrier’s best business-class product — it’s still better than the cramped 767, the backbone of Delta’s transatlantic fleet — but at least that would allow for a head-to-head match against Air France’s 777.
With that in mind, I ended up using 175,000 Delta SkyMiles (!!) to book this award flight from New York to Paris. While Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, on this route it’s possible to book a one-way award ticket in business class for as low as 70,000 SkyMiles + $5.60 in taxes and fees — if you can find it. It’s unlikely, though, since the airline is notoriously stingy with award availability.
I know it’s crazy to shell out that many miles for a one-way trip, but no matter how many times I checked, it was still coming up as 175,000 SkyMiles from New York, even at different times during the day and week. We value 175,000 Delta SkyMiles at $2,100 according to our most recent valuations and it sure beat paying the more than $4,000 Delta was charging for the cash rate, so I still got a value of 2.3 cents per point instead of the 1.2 cents we value them at. I transferred Membership Rewards points saved up from using my Platinum Card from American Express to Delta to make the purchase — I’m lucky enough to have a ton of points stocked up for situations like this when there isn’t much flexibility and I need to be on that plane.
There are several other ways to book a flight like this, such as transferring points from Citi’s ThankYou points program to Flying Blue, which would have cost 62,500 miles for a one-way ticket in business. You could also transfer Ultimate Rewards points from Chase to Flying Blue. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card are offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 within the first three months, so those could help get you close as well.
If you happen to have any SPG points lying around, you can transfer those to Flying Blue or Delta, plus you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 miles you switch over. You can also earn 25,000 bonus miles if you sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account. Check out this post about booking Delta awards using partner programs to learn about other ways to book an award flight like this in Delta’s business class.
Lounge and Boarding
At JFK, Delta has a big SkyClub lounge in Terminal 4. Food offerings included soup and other small, warm options that tasted alright. I would not expect a fine dining experience though.
Some of the more substantial hot food items were chicken and pasta.
The best part was the SkyDeck, where you could do some serious plane spotting. Note that you do have to pay for premium drinks here and it can sometimes get really crowded — especially with all the evening departures to Europe. Overall, I’d say it’s slightly above average for a business-class lounge and the SkyDeck made it a bit more special.
Otherwise, the flight was on time, the boarding process was smooth and I got to enter the plane first since I was flying in business class. I don’t think I’ve ever flown on a Delta 777 so I was excited to see how the carrier had configured this wide-body Boeing — the fleet is made up of 18 777s, with eight 777-200ERs and 10 777-200LRs.
Cabin and Seat
The aircraft I flew on was equipped with 37 Delta One flat-bed seats in the business-class cabin. You’ll find 36 seats in Delta Comfort+ — basically, economy with extra legroom — and 218 standard economy seats.
The Delta One seats on this 777 are similar to the ones you’ll find in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. Delta’s seats are cramped with little storage and exposed to the aisle — though they aren’t the weird Virgin Atlantic seats that make you stand up in order to them to recline into a bed.
Delta One seats come with 78″ of pitch and are 21″ wide — I took out my tape measure and the width seemed to be much closer to 19″ though. My shoulders also hit the side of the seat, which made sitting and lying down for an extended period of time a little uncomfortable.
The Delta One cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout and each seat has direct aisle access — in other words, no one is going to have to jump over me if they want to get up and walk around or use the restroom while I’m asleep.
Each seat comes with 110-volt power outlets and USB plugs so you can charge your electronic devices. The control panel, pictured below, lets you adjust the seat into various positions.
I really love Delta’s bedding and pillows, which are supplied and designed by Westin.
There were a few things I didn’t like about this flight though. I was sitting right near the wing and those 777 engines are loud so I didn’t get much sleep because of the noise. It’s also hard to go to bed so early — our flight departed at 5:30pm so we had to turn in for the night around 7:00pm or 8:00pm — the light from the forward cabin was too bright for a night flight, so that wasn’t helping either. I also felt like the engine was rattling my brain as I tried to sleep. Not only was the cabin loud, it was quite warm too, and my thermometer put the temperature at 76°F. To avoid the noise, I’d recommend sitting as close as possible to the front of the aircraft. The Westin Heavenly bedding was great, but because the seat was so cramped, it meant I had to sleep on my side.
Delta provides a Tumi amenity kit on its long-haul flights.
Inside the kit, you’ll find 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.
Delta’s in-flight entertainment is solid. The only drawback was the tiny fold-out touch screen, which is pretty small compared to the 16″ to 18″ ones you’ll often find in business class on other airlines. Thanks to Delta Studio, you’ll have access to a library that includes 300 movies, 750 TV shows, more than 2,500 songs and up to 18 live TV channels, plus video games. The carrier also treats its business-class customers to noise-cancelling headphones during the flight, which was nice, but I still love my Bose noise-cancelling headphones the most!
The Wi-Fi worked pretty well, but it was kind of in-and-out throughout the flight. This was still an improvement over Air France, which didn’t have internet at all, but I’ll get to that in my next review.
Food and Beverage
Delta starts your flight off with a nice selection of appetizers:
- Lightly smoked salmon with a fingerling potato salad, cucumber raita and American caviar
- Marinated beets with strawberry burrata and crispy quinoa
- Potato leek soup with cheddar crumble
For the main course, there were four options:
- Braised lamb shoulder with freekeh, roasted tomato and fava bean-mint pesto
- Curry braised chicken leg with basmati rice, almond roasted cauliflower and sumac yogurt
- Fish and shellfish bouillabaisse with spring vegetables and barley
- Baked cavatelli with wild mushroom, swiss chard and parmesan
For dessert, I was able to pick from these sweet treats:
- MoMA Sundae Bar
- Choice of strawberry rhubarb or buttermilk ice cream.
- Choice of Salted Woodford Reserve Bourdon caramel or German chocolate sauce
- Choice of pie dough crumble and whipped cream toppings
- Butterscotch Budino with cocoa nibs, grape and sea salt
- Selection of fine cheeses including: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, Kaltbach Gruyère and Buttermilk Blue Addinée offered with fresh fruit and fig compote
Delta also had a wide variety of spirits, beers and soft drinks on the menu.
There were also plenty of wines to choose from.
The first course was fantastic and came with Delta’s famous pretzel rolls. The salmon starter — which is normally smoked but this time seemed like it was poached — was delicious. The potato leek soup and pasta were tasty as well.
The baked cavatelli came with wild mushrooms and swiss chard and was topped with parmesan cheese. While it might not look super fancy, it was great.
The flight attendants came around and offered desserts and snacks, like cheese, fruit and ice cream that could be turned into a sundae.
I’m always happy to see the option of sparkling or still water.
Before landing, we were served breakfast. I chose the mushroom, cheddar and roasted tomato quiche, which was spectacular.
With Delta, it’s a perfectly fine experience but one that is outrageously priced (whether in miles or paid) — the airline really has some nerve pricing its product like that. I thought it would have been a nicer 777 experience, but I’d say it was just okay. The seats were a little small but the food was great. On the New York to Paris route, there are a lot of sub-par products, like La Compagnie and the outdated 757s of American Airlines and Openskies. There really aren’t too many amazing options out there, so Delta is one of the top choices for business class on this route.
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