Skip to content

Why Delta One Suites are poised to become the best business class in America — for now

May 22, 2020
5 min read
Delta A350 Tour Delta One Suite Premium Select
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Before the coronavirus put the travel industry on hold, many airlines across the world were retrofitting cabins with the latest innovations to the passenger experience.

Stateside, the big three have already got a good chunk of their long-haul fleet configured with their latest business-class cabins: American Flagship Business, Delta One Suites and United Polaris. AA and UA also have purpose-built lounges for their international biz passengers.

Though there's long been a debate on which U.S. airlines offer the best all-around business-class experience, Delta's the clear winner in the short term, as we slowly recover from the pandemic.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Ground experience won't be the same

When we at TPG review a flight in biz, we allot 20% of our score to the ground experience. We answer questions like: What does the check-in process look like? How's the lounge? Are there any other special amenities reserved for premium-cabin customers?

Among the U.S. airlines, American and United offer Flagship Lounges and Polaris Lounges, which are a step up from the traditional domestic membership lounge. These spaces were designed with premium-cabin, long-haul travel in mind; United's even features sit-down, a la carte dining. Delta's supposedly working on building an exclusive Delta One Lounge at LAX, but it's years away from completion.

American's Flagship Lounge LAX (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

When the coronavirus hit, American and United quickly realized that demand for international premium cabin flights had essentially evaporated. To control costs and promote social distancing, they closed all of these fancy lounges.

Even with the industry on the road to recovery, don't expect these lounges to immediately reopen. As American's President Robert Isom explained, "Flagship Lounges will be closed until we see demand that warrants opening them back up."

And while these lounges remain closed, AA's and UA's competitive advantage in offering a true business-class ground experience has (temporarily) vanished.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Inflight service modifications

Because of the coronavirus, airlines are modifying inflight service procedures, which will be noticeable at the pointy end of the plane.

According to Henry Harteveldt, president at Atmosphere Research Group, “airlines won’t provision complimentary pillows and blankets except, perhaps, for their longest flights.”

Related: Things don’t look too promising about the (immediate) future of business class

Furthermore, expect the meal service to be modified. For now, carriers have consolidated what used to be multi-course meals into one or two trays. I can’t imagine the return of the create-your-own ice cream sundae cart any time soon (as much as it pains me to write that). Similarly, the bread basket and table-side salad preparation could become a thing of the past.

United Polaris ice cream sundae cart (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though single-use amenity kits are here to stay, there’s a good chance that we’ll see many of the name-brand headphones replaced with disposable ones.

Without being able to differentiate the product through the ground experience or inflight service, then it's just going to come down to which airline offers the best hard product. And that's Delta.

Hard product trumps all

The one thing that'll remain the same post-coronavirus is that premium cabins won't look any different, and that's to Delta's advantage.

Delta One Suite (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

You see, DL's the only carrier to offer enclosed suites with sliding doors and direct aisle access throughout the cabin. Though the footwell is a little tight depending on your shoe size, the rest of the modified Thompson Vantage XL seat is quite comfortable. The suites are well designed with large tables, though the finishes could use some improvement.

Related: What's the difference between hard product and soft product?

That hard product is a notch or two above what American and United offer.

American's best biz seat is found on the carrier's flagship Boeing 777-300ER. The Safran Cirrus seat is quite comfortable and has a decent amount of privacy. It's just not as cutting-edge as Delta's offering.

United Polaris (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United meanwhile customized Safran Optima seats for its Polaris business class that are incredibly comfortable and plenty private if you're seated in a "true" window seat. However, not all seats are created equal, and some aren't nearly as comfortable as others.

Bottom line

As we recover from the coronavirus, expect to see some difference in the flight experience. Nowhere will this ring more true than in biz.

With lounges closed, American and United don't have a competitive advantage of offering a dedicated business-class ground experience. Once in the air, the service is going to be so heavily modified that you won't be able to notice a difference between the big three U.S. carriers.

That's why it's going to boil down to the seat itself. And since Delta One Suites are the best hard product of these airlines, it's going to be best business class in America... for now.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023