Old school, still OK: A review of Delta One on the 767 from Los Angeles to New York
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After flying almost 6,000 miles from Porto to Newark and then Newark to LA, I headed back east on Delta One, Delta Air Lines’ business class, from Los Angeles to New York-JFK. I’d never flown Delta long-haul and was excited to experience my first lie-flat U.S. domestic flight. I’d been told that the American Big Three — American, Delta and United — go the extra mile to distinguish themselves on the highly competitive transcontinental routes. Would Delta’s product stand out?
The price of a round-trip in Delta One from LA to New York varies considerably, but around $1,400, what we paid in business class, is in line with the average.
If you have some Delta SkyMiles burning a hole in your pocket, be advised there is no set award chart for the SkyMiles program, so the only way to price an award is to search for it online at the lowest price you’ll currently find is 64,000 SkyMiles for a one-way transcontinental flight in Delta One, plus $5.60 in fees. 64,000 SkyMiles is worth $768 at our current valuations.
My first impressions as I entered the dedicated Delta One check-in area at LAX’s Terminal 2 was that it felt more like long-haul first class than business class. The enclosed area is nestled between the Sky Priority check-in to the right and regular check-in to the left.
I was the only person in the room and was greeted by some of the friendliest airline staff I’ve ever come across.
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There is a small seating area for passengers who arrive at the last minute and want a few minutes to sit down before heading through security and straight to the aircraft rather than going to Delta’s Sky Club lounge.
The mini-lounge has a small selection of snacks and a Keurig coffee machine.
Once I’d checked in my suitcase, I headed right and towards the stairs leading to the priority security area. I was through and into the main terminal in a matter of minutes and made my way straight upstairs to Delta’s Sky Club, to which I had access as a Delta One ticket holder.
I headed first for a shower, having literally just gotten off the plane from New York. An attendant ushered me into a clean, bright and fairly spacious room.
I found shampoo, conditioner and body wash by Malin + Goetz in fixed containers…
… but also a rain shower head that did not work. I had to switch shower rooms as neither I nor the attendant could manage to make the water fall from it. The same thing happened in the second room. I still got my shower, but without the rain head.
I then headed back into the lounge and took a seat by the window to have a quick drink before the flight. The lounge was busy and there was refuse and dirty crockery everywhere, including the table where I sat.
The view of the runways and of Delta and other tail fins is a definite plus of this space.
The lounge itself is bright and airy, with modern decor and furnishings.
There’s an added touch of humour thrown in.
There are various seating areas perfect for working, having some pre-departure snacks or relaxing in a cozy chair.
The far end of the lounge feels a little more impersonal, but like the other areas, it had enough power outlets for everyone.
Contrary to my colleague JT Genter’s thoughts on the food when he last visited LAX’s Delta Sky Club, I found the selection poor for a business-class lounge, especially considering this is a Delta lounge at one of its hub airports. The main food area consisted of a self-service salad counter which also offered hot soup, and the ingredients to make your own pho.
I knew I’d be getting a good meal on the plane, so I wasn’t too bothered, but the offerings were underwhelming.
There are various drink stations throughout the lounge. They include spirits and the ingredients to make one’s own cocktail — there is no bar in the lounge — as well as a selection of wines.
Between the waters and juices, a pour-your-own beer station offered a Belgian white, an amber ale, an IPA and Michelob Ultra.
I can’t comment on the quality of the coffee from the machines as I didn’t drink any before my evening flight.
Feeling refreshed and excited for my first-ever Delta One experience, I headed to Gate 21, a short walk away.
Because the previous flight was delayed and this flight was oversold — according to what a staff member said at the gate — the area was busy, with many people on standby hoping for a seat.
Because of the position of the airbridge I wasn’t able to get a good picture of my 29-year-old Boeing 767-300ER, registered as N172DN, but here’s a Delta 767 exactly like it.
At around 3:30 p.m., current or former members of the military as well as any passengers needing extra time were invited to board first, followed by Boarding Zone 1, which includes Delta One passengers and those with Diamond Medallion elite status. (Delta has eight boarding zones.) We pushed back a quick 30 minutes later and were in the air at 4:20 p.m.
Cabin and Seat
I loved the old-school, retro style of the cabin as soon as I boarded. But there is not much privacy in Delta One on the 767, as opposed to the new version of Delta’s business class featuring enclosed suites.
My seat was 1D, right side at the front of the cabin. I noticed quickly that it lacked good lumbar support.
I liked the aesthetics of the headrest, but it didn’t have built-in neck or head supports.
There is minimal storage space other than a couple of nets; one is big enough to squeeze in the inflight magazines, safety card and menu…
and the other was just about big enough to fit my laptop.
This meant that my phone, wallet, water bottle, amenity-kit bag and almost everything else had to sit on the table at my side. That’s fine, until you have to get the tray table out as everything has to be moved around and it gets quite clunky.
There is a light over the left shoulder as well as USB, international charging port and, rather strangely, a slot for an Ethernet cable. It may be used by maintenance staff to update the inflight entertainment system; you won’t need it to connect to the internet since the plane has Wi-Fi.
The age of the seat was obvious; various pieces looked worn and tired.
The footwell was deep and didn’t get too narrow at the end.
This made for more than enough room to move around while sleeping, but in fact my seat did not go fully flat. After a few attempts myself, I asked for help from a crew member. Despite gallant efforts, she couldn’t manage either to get it to the full 180-degree recline.
The tray table is stored within the table area to the side of the seat.
It swivels slightly, but not really enough to be able to exit the seat without knocking over a drink.
It’s plenty big enough for a laptop and other bits and bobs that you might need to grab at short notice.
The bathrooms for Delta One passengers were both clean, bright and smelled good, but there isn’t much room in these standard 767 lavs.
The hand wash and body lotion were the same brand found in Delta Sky Clubs. There were no other special amenities that you sometimes find in business-class bathrooms of other airlines.
Amenities and IFE
Waiting for me when I boarded the aircraft was a soft-sided Tumi amenity kit, which has replaced the much-loved hard-sided kits from the same brand. There was also a bottle of water, a set of LSTN headphones with a nice wooden finish and a blanket and pillow.
Inside the kit were the usual suspects: hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, flight socks — good enough to wear outside of the plane, if you don’t use them on board — a tiny pen and some lip balm.
The Westin Heavenly pillow, from the Westin hotel chain, was one of the comfiest I’ve had in the sky.
So much so, I asked for two. It helped a lot to offset the lack of lumbar support.
I was surprised by the quality of the IFE screen considering the age of the plane. It was bright, not overly pixelated and the touchscreen responded well. There were 101 films to choose from, more than enough for a five-hour flight.
When the food was served, I could not reach the screen and had to use the hand-held remote, which also worked well.
I decided to watch Coco with my food. I’m glad it was dark so nobody could see the tears dripping into my gin and tonic.
The moving map wasn’t the most interactive I’ve used, but it still did the job.
Wi-Fi plans ranged from $11 for 30 minutes to $39.95 for a full-flight pass. Speed was pretty good, though the Speedtest app on my phone wouldn’t take a reading of the actual speed.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Within minutes of sitting down I was asked if I wanted a glass of sparkling wine, orange juice or a mimosa. After the long day I had had and a not-so-enjoyable flight from New York, I needed something more than just an orange juice.
Just after takeoff I was asked what drink I would like. The gin and tonic I ordered was served with a side of nuts.
Very, very sugary nuts.
The menu in the seat pocket was actually wrong. Correct ones were brought out just after first drinks were served. I had the choice of marinara-braised meatballs, chicken parmesan or polenta marsala. I went for the polenta option which was very tasty. I could have eaten it all over again! There were two starters: a plate of cold meats with (three) olives and some parmesan, and a green side salad. The dressing was described as “Calabrian Caesar” but it looked and felt like gooey brown butter. I ate my salad naked. The bread was also stale.
Shortly after my table was cleared, we were offered either a cheese plate or ice cream for dessert.
There was also a snack box set up in the front galley for Delta One passengers to graze from as they pleased.
Around 60 minutes before landing, warm cookies were offered as the final meal service. To call this an actual meal would be a bit of an exaggeration, which is why I have listed it as a half meal. But overall I really enjoyed the food. Except for a few pieces that weren’t so great, everything I ate tasted good and looked fresh.
I was told by a friend who works at Delta that this crew were working a 14-hour day on a “turn” from New York to LA and back. Before boarding, I had prepared myself for a tired and maybe even grumpy crew. I could not have been more wrong. After the experience I had just had on my flight to LA, I was bowled over by the friendliness and warmth of the Delta crew on this flight — except for one slipup when I boarded the aircraft.
I asked the purser which side D was on (I can never remember whether A is on the right or left side of a plane) and she told me it was in the middle. Confused, as I knew that 1D was a window seat, I realized she must have assumed that I couldn’t possibly be sitting in the Delta One cabin, as “D” seats are indeed in the middle of the economy cabin. Strange, given that I was only the second person on the plane.
Other than that small oversight, the service was excellent. My dinner order was taken about half an hour into the flight and served not long after. Hot — or should I say absolutely boiling — towels were handed out around 45 minutes into the flight. Flight attendants walked up and down the aisles throughout the flight with wine in carriers to top up glasses. I hadn’t seen this level of service before and I liked it.
I did find it annoying, though, that the cabin lights were switched off near the beginning of the flight and stayed off, even during the meal service.
I thoroughly enjoyed my jaunt from LA to New York in Delta One. A great crew and very tasty food really made the difference, but the seat’s evident age was a negative factor.
There was something old-school about my experience, but in a good way. Before we landed, I was speaking with the purser to thank her for a great flight and service. My experience that day in Delta One, I told her, reminded me of being upstairs in the nose of a British Airways 747 in Club World. The aircraft may be old and the seats dated, but they are cozy; and in the hands of a good and experienced crew, I felt at home and relaxed. I would definitely choose Delta One again for a U.S. transcontinental flight.
All photos by the author except where indicated.
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