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This Tuesday, Delta invited a handful of journalists to Atlanta for an exclusive first look at the airline’s brand-new Airbus A350, which launches on October 30 with a inaugural flight from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo (NRT).
It’s a beautiful plane, and the very first to feature the new Delta One Suite — a heavily modified version of the Vantage XL seat you’ll find flying with several other carriers, including SAS and even RwandAir. This particular variety is proprietary though; other airlines can’t use the design, so for now Delta’s A350 is the only place you’ll be able to experience this new closed-door suite.
You can take a full tour of the Delta One Suite in the video above, but I’ll also run through some of my favorite — and not-so-favorite — features of this brand-new product.
1. Great Privacy
There’s a door! And that’s what makes this Delta One product a “Suite” — the fact that you can pull a lever and close yourself off to every other passenger in the cabin.
Previously, JetBlue was the only US-based carrier to offer a sliding door in business class, and Mint’s a top-notch product, especially for regional travel. Internationally, Qatar Airways offers doors in its new Qsuite business class, which I love as well. Overall, I think I prefer that product to Delta’s, but your options for flying it to and from the US are limited to the New York-Doha route, where it launches this December.
2. You Can Still See Your Companion
While the A and D window seats are entirely private, middle B and C seats have a small partition that you can slide open if you wish.
Of course, maybe you don’t want to see your companion. If that’s the case, you can simply slide the diver closed, and voila, they’re gone! Or you could fly Polaris on United’s retrofitted 767, where chatting up your partner just isn’t an option at all.
3. It’s More Spacious Than It Looks
Most Delta One Suite criticism I’ve heard seems to focus around how narrow the suite looks — with a seat width of 21 inches and a total wall-to-wall compartment width of at least 44 inches, I didn’t find it to be claustrophobic during my brief two-hour flight.
Everyone’s different, though — I’m 5-foot-9 and about 160 pounds, so a fairly average height and weight. If you’re much taller I could see it feeling tighter for sure, though the 77-inch (6-foot-5-inch) bed length should be sufficient for most.
4. Excellent Comfort
TPG will have more details to share after his 13-hour flight to Tokyo, I’m sure, but I found the seat to be very comfortable — in the upright mode, reclined a bit and extended to the lie-flat position. The memory-foam cushioning certainly didn’t hurt.
And then there’s the Westin Heavenly Bedding, which I’ve used in many a hotel room and one Delta A330 flight, but didn’t have a chance to test out on our A350 demo trip.
5. Top-Notch In-Flight Entertainment
Delta opted for an 18-inch high-definition display, which is the largest offered by US-based airlines. It’s large and sharp, and it’s responsive and easy to use, too.
This is also the first wide-body plane in Delta’s fleet to offer Gogo’s much-improved 2Ku Wi-Fi, which worked very well on my flight. And access was free thanks to my Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN.
One major oversight, though: Delta opted not to install exterior cameras, which are available on most other Airbus A350s. That means no nose or tail views on takeoff and landing.
6. Granular Lighting Controls
The ambient lighting controls offer several brightness levels — you can dim them or make them as bright as you see in the shot below, depending on your mood and the overall cabin conditions.
There’s also a Do Not Disturb sign, which you can activate by tapping the main control panel, letting flight attendants know to skip over you when offering beverages, during the meal service, and so on.
7. You’re Stuck During Meal Service
I’ve got a big ol’ smile on my face in this picture, but that’s only because I wasn’t trying to get out at that very moment. As you can probably tell, there’s not much space to squeeze out when the tray table’s extended — it does move back an inch or two from that position, but the only way I could get out without spilling everything was to move my plates, bowls and glasses to the side table before raising the tray out of the way.
8. Tiny Bathrooms
Ugh. Delta — seriously, what is this business-class lavatory? It’s even less spacious than it looks in the wide-angle shot above.
9. Narrow Aisles
This one’s bound to cause some frustration with the flight attendants, and any passengers looking to get up during the meal service.
I found the A350’s business-class aisles to be especially narrow — there are lavatories at both the front and rear of the Delta One cabin, so you can walk forward once the flight attendant rolls past your seat, but stepping beside a cart is next-to-impossible without briefly tucking yourself away into someone else’s suite.
10. Limited Routes
While more are expected next year, so far Delta has announced just six routes that’ll be operated by the A350:
- October 30, 2017 — Detroit (DTW)-Tokyo (NRT)
- November 18, 2017 — Detroit-Seoul (ICN)
- January 17, 2018 — Detroit-Beijing (PEK)
- March 2018 — Detroit-Amsterdam (AMS)
- March 24, 2018 — Atlanta (ATL)-Seoul
- April 19, 2018 — Detroit-Shanghai (PVG)
The A350 is intended to replace the retiring 747-400, so perhaps it makes sense on some level that five of the six originate in Detroit where the 744s are based, but chances are you’re going to have to connect if you’re hoping to catch this plane.
11. It’s Expensive
While some fares can be had for as little as $4,675 round-trip, such as Detroit-Beijing, the majority of Delta One Suite flights will cost you far more than that — in some cases, round-trip fares can even approach $20,000, such as with the trip to Tokyo above. The surcharge on some routes, totaling up to $1,000 round-trip, certainly doesn’t help.
It’s too early to declare Delta One Suites the best premium-cabin product ever to launch on a US-based carrier, but I’m definitely a fan after my two-hour preview flight. Stay tuned for our full review, which will hit TPG after the inaugural international flight.
As with United’s new Polaris seats, the biggest issue with the Delta One Suite is that as of today, it’s only confirmed to be available on six routes — while some 777s will be getting a Suite upgrade soon, Delta’s lackluster 767 product is probably here to stay, and the airline’s A330s will continue to offer the 1-2-1 reverse-herringbone product until further notice.
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