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Delta’s long-awaited A350 deserves most of the fanfare it’s been getting. The pros: A sleek design, great privacy and a comfortable lie-flat bed. The cons: Poor Wi-Fi, lack of storage and cramped galleys and lavatories.
October 30, 2017 was a huge day in the commercial aviation world — it marks the first commercial flight on an Airbus A350 for a North American carrier. Not only that, but it replaces the Boeing 747 as Delta’s flagship aircraft. On top of all that, the arrival of the A350 into Delta’s fleet also brought its all-new business-class cabin featuring private suites for every passenger, as well as an all-new premium economy product. A detailed review of the whole flight is below, but check out my video review here:
Ever since we learned that Delta was installing a brand-new, all-suite business class to its A350s, I knew I had to be on board to check it out. Even though Delta was an early adopter of exclusively lie-flat cabins across its entire fleet, some of the products up front (especially on its 767s) have become outdated in comparison to dramatic improvements that both American and United have made to their business-class products. As much as it hurts to know that Delta’s 747s aren’t long for this world, the A350 definitely is a big step forward for the airline.
This was also an exciting flight for me personally, because the last time I flew Delta to Asia, it was the day I’d just quit my job at Morgan Stanley to become The Points Guy full-time. What a difference six years makes! Now, however, let’s get to the main event. Here’s what it was like to fly in the brand-new Delta One Suite from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo (NRT).
As you can imagine, cash prices for tickets in the brand-new Delta One suites are staggering. A one-way ticket in Delta One from DTW to NRT will run you well over $4,000 on most days. Since I had a stash of SkyMiles in my account, I decided to redeem 160,000 of them plus $5.60 in taxes and fees for this flight. We value SkyMiles at 1.2 cents per point, meaning I “spent” under $2,000 in points to score a suite on the inaugural flight.
If you’re interested in booking this flight with SkyMiles, be ready to shell out a major amount. In theory, you should be able to book this flight with 80,000 SkyMiles plus taxes and fees, however, a quick search of Delta.com shows flights available for an exorbitant 200,000 miles plus the same $5.60 in taxes and fees. As of this writing, there aren’t many days with seats available for anything less than 200,000 miles.
If you want to use SkyMiles to book but your account isn’t quite there yet, you could sign up for one of Delta’s co-branded Amex cards such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express or the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. With the Gold Delta card, you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The Platinum version is offering 35,000 bonus SkyMiles plus 5,000 MQMs after you spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
Keep in mind that you’re able to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta’s SkyMiles program, but you’ll almost never want to do that since you can normally get far more value from those points when transferring to Amex’s other partners such as Aeroplan.
Cabin and Seat
Delta’s brand-new A350s feature three distinct cabins — Delta One (business class), Premium Select (premium economy) and economy. TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig got to check out the aircraft in Atlanta before the inaugural flight and gave us an in-depth look at all three cabins.
As a refresher, the Delta One cabin sports 32 suites arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. The layout itself is the same as what you’ll find on Delta’s 767s, but obviously the new suites are much more private since each one features a sliding door.
The cabin itself was chic — there were no overhead bins in the center section which led to a “cathedral ceiling” feel. The colors looked great and everything was fresh.
Even middle seats are private — they, too, feature a sliding door as well as a sliding privacy panel separating the pair. If you want to talk to your neighbor, you’re able to do so easily.
However, if you don’t, that works too.
Each seat itself is 21 inches wide, and the bed measures in at 6’6″ or so, which is shorter than my 6’7″ frame, but it wasn’t really an issue when I wanted to sleep, since I’m a side sleeper anyway.
Note that some seats are better than others, even though they’re all private. For example, seats in the first row will have larger footwells, and odd seats against the windows are a better bet than the even-numbered ones, since the seats are farther away from the aisle.
I chose seat 8C, which is one of the paired seats in the middle. Though normally I’d prefer a single seat along the window, I was traveling with a videographer so sitting in a pair made everything a lot easier. This particular seat was set in from the aisle, too, which made it feel even more private.
There were definitely some drawbacks, though. For example, there were two gaping holes on either side of the seat, and since there was hardly any storage space to begin with, my stuff kept falling down into these holes. Luckily, it wasn’t much of a pain to retrieve the items, but it was annoying to deal with and with so much stuff that you’re given at the beginning of the flight, it’s frustrating to have such little storage space.
At every seat you’ll find power for your devices — there’s a universal power plug as well as USB power provided. There’s also two-prong headphone jack as well as a remote to control the IFE screen. You probably won’t need to use that remote though — the touchscreen is super responsive.
The seat controls are very modern and provide a number of seat settings. There’s even a “do not disturb” button!
Delta installed some pretty cool lighting features as well, including a dimmable sconce light that also had a reading light built in. I’m a fan.
I was comfortable in bed mode, too. Like I mentioned earlier, the bed itself measures a little shorter than me, but I elevated my head slightly with the pillow and it was comfortable. Plus, I often sleep on my side, so overall I’d rate the bed highly.
Delta doesn’t provide mattress toppers like United with its Saks Fifth Avenue bedding or American with its partnership with Casper. However, the “mattress” itself in the Delta One Suite was comfortable on its own and the Westin Heavenly bedding is still as good as ever. I was able to sleep a good 3.5-4 hours on the flight, which is great especially considering this was an inaugural flight with a lot of excited passengers on board.
Food and Beverage
The food, unfortunately, wasn’t very good on this flight overall. It got off to a bad start with the Champagne. Delta served Lanson, which is much too sweet for my liking. I think it’s time for Delta to up its game in the bubbly department with a better Champagne such as Bollinger.
The duck confit appetizer was great, despite it looking like cat food, in my opinion. That was served with a Caesar salad (which is a pretty hard dish to mess up), a pretzel roll and butternut squash soup.
I was planning on ordering the Japanese meal, which consisted of:
- beef tataki with chicken and mushroom-stuffed tofu along with chestnut and red bean jelly and ginko nuts
- smoked salmon in Asian pear juice
- Kabocha squash in chicken soboro
- Scottish salmon in sake sauce served with rice, Japanese pickles and miso soup
I didn’t know this, but you’re able to pre-select Japanese meal options ahead of time because they’re in such limited quantity. Since they started taking orders from the front of the cabin and moved backwards, they’d already run out of Japanese options once they reached me in 8C.
This limited my choices to the Western options, which included:
- lamb pavé with roasted mushrooms
- sweet and smoky chicken breast
- seafood and spinach lasagna
- goat cheese and chive ravioli
Several TPG readers recommended the seafood lasagna, but, sorry guys, it was awful. It was really dry and just didn’t taste very good.
Dessert was an ice cream sundae, which ended up being the highlight of the meal. Who doesn’t love ice cream?!
During the flight, Delta One passengers were served a snack — the options were either sesame crusted shrimp and teriyaki beef or cold soba noodles. I chose the the sesame crusted shrimp, which ended up being better described as “shrimp on a stick,” but I liked it.
About 1.5 hours before landing, we were served another full meal. This time, the options were:
- scrambled eggs with sausage and vegetables
- fruit and granola with yogurt
- yakisoba noodles with chicken.
Once again the Japanese meals were gone, so I chose the eggs, which were served with chicken sausage, fruit, assorted vegetables and a croissant. Overall, that dish was decent, but it’s nothing to get excited over.
In-Flight Entertainment and Amenities
Each passenger in Delta One received one of Delta’s new Tumi amenity kits. I’ve been a fan of these since they first came out and this revised on is no different. You can even have them engraved with your initials now if you take it to a Tumi store.
Inside the kit there were the essentials like a toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, socks, a Tumi eye mask, a pen, tissues as well as nice lotion and lip-balm from Kiehl’s.
Since this was an inaugural flight, Delta had a gift box waiting for each Delta One passenger. Inside the box were several special items celebrating the new aircraft including a commemorative pin, an Alessi shaker and Westin-branded lavender balm.
Also waiting at my seat was Delta’s awesome Westin Heavenly Bedding, which included two pillows and a blanket. Like I said earlier, there’s no mattress pad, but the bedding itself is great and helped me get several solid hours of sleep.
Passengers in Delta One (and Premium Select) were given a pair of the airline’s new headphones from LSTN.
However, I’d recommend bringing your own — there was a consistent high-pitched whining sound from this set. It sounded like I was listening to a movie while underwater.
Delta installed massive 18-inch HD displays in the Delta One cabin. These screens are the largest of any offered on US carriers. Note that the screen feels very close to your face — I liked this setup but others may not, it all depends on personal preference.
The screen itself was sharp and very responsive. Again, compared to its 767s, this screen is so much better in every way.
The carrier offers a solid selection of movies and TV shows. Even on very long flights you should be able to keep yourself entertained while you’re not sleeping. I foolishly chose to watch Marley and Me… big mistake. But luckily the privacy of the suites allowed me to sob in peace without anyone else judging me!
The Wi-Fi on this flight was a low point — at first it worked pretty well and then it began cutting out every so often and then it just stopped working altogether about half-way through the flight. Perhaps the poor performance can be blamed on the fact that Delta made Wi-Fi free for everyone on the flight, but regardless it’s disappointing especially when you know that the aircraft is equipped with Gogo’s 2ku technology, which is supposed to be a huge improvement over the majority of in-flight Wi-Fi out there today.
Service was good overall. Delta’s most senior flight attendants were working the flight, and you could tell they were very proud of and excited about their shiny new A350 and were very friendly to all the passengers. On the other hand, at times it seemed like I was getting in their way. For example, I wanted to use the restroom at one point during the flight and was going to go through the galley to access it. However, FAs were in the galley and when I showed up they asked me to walk all the way around to use the other lav. That would certainly never happen on a foreign carrier, which by and large are much better at treating passengers (especially in business class) as guests. On the whole, though, I was treated very well on this flight and have no major complaints.
Delta has a winner on its hands with its new Delta One Suites. Yes, there are things it could improve such as the quality of the food as well as some service quirks. However, a chic design, tons of privacy, great amenity kits, a fantastic IFE experience, and La Croix (!!) make this product a top pick for long-haul flying. I’d choose the Delta One suite over United’s new Polaris product, as well as American’s best business-class product on its flagship Boeing 777-300ER if given the choice. While both of Delta’s domestic competitors have it beat when it comes to premium lounge experiences, they fall behind in several other areas.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this would be my preferred way to get across the Atlantic (once it begins flying those routes) in business class, beating out foreign carriers like Air France, KLM and Lufthansa (except, of course, Lufthansa First!).
Delta should definitely be proud of this product, and if you have the chance to fly it, you’ll have an enjoyable experience. However with the new aircraft flying on so few routes, it may be a while before you find yourself on Delta’s new flagship.
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