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Delta’s well-regarded Delta One Suite translates well to the Boeing 777. The pros: fresh design, tons of privacy and strong IFE. The cons: The refurbed 777s still have center overhead bins in biz; and prices are steep, both in cash and miles.
In the fall of 2017, Delta introduced its first Airbus A350 into commercial service on flights between its hub in Detroit (DTW) and Tokyo-Narita (NRT), which was significant for a few reasons. First, Delta became the first US carrier to operate the new A350, and perhaps even more exciting was that it was Delta’s first aircraft to feature the Delta One Suite — its newest iteration of business class, featuring enclosed suites with sliding doors at each seat.
TPG gave the Suite a good review when he and I flew the inaugural A350 flight last year (I was close behind in Premium Select, Delta’s new premium economy class), and we’ve been eager ever since to see the new cabin roll out to the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 777s, which featured a decidedly dated business-class product. Initially, the aircraft will be operating Delta’s daily flight between DTW and Beijing (PEK), alternating with the A350 every other day. Then, it’ll move to different routes — presumably routes that are already operated by a 777.
Naturally, we wanted to catch the aircraft on its first scheduled long-haul flight out of the Detroit hub, on July 2 . This time around, though, I got to ride up front in the Suite, while TPG Editorial Intern Benji Stawski was in Premium Select (stay tuned for his full review).
Awaiting us at the gate was the first and so far only one of Delta’s 18 Boeing 777s converted to the new configuration, a 18-year old bird registered N863DA.
As is often — read: always — the case, Delta was charging obscene amounts of SkyMiles (like, 300,000 one-way) for this flight in business class, but I was able to find a somewhat reasonable one-way ticket originating in Toronto (YYZ) that connected in DTW before continuing to the Chinese capital on the revamped 777. We paid a total of $2,764 for the ticket, with The Business Centurion® Card from American Express so we could take advantage of the card’s 50% points rebate perk, which has continued to provide the TPG team with excellent value when traveling for work.
As this was a paid ticket, I also earned SkyMiles for the trip — pretty much immediately after landing in Beijing, I saw the 24,345 redeemable miles, 10,948 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and 2,705 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) appear in my account. While it’s rare that you’ll find reasonable redemption rates for routes like these, we have seen flights between some of Delta’s hubs and Asia for as little as 85,000 SkyMiles one-way.
Check-in and Lounge
I checked-in on Delta’s app the night before my flight and arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport about two hours before my flight to DTW was scheduled to depart. YYZ participates in the US preclearance program, meaning that I cleared US customs before I got on my flight, and it landed in Detroit as a domestic flight — a huge convenience considering that I didn’t have a ton of time to make the connection.
I arrived at DTW’s A concourse and made my way to the SkyClub in the center of the concourse, a lounge I’ve visited many times.
My impressions of the lounge have remained largely the same — it’s a very large space with lots of seating options and self-serve bar (a perk in my opinion), but showing its age and clearly from the days when Northwest Airlines was the dominant carrier in Detroit.
It simply isn’t up to the standards set by both American and United in terms of an international business-class lounge at a major hub airport.
I do think it’s time that Delta make an effort to catch up with its domestic competition on the lounge front, especially considering the prices it charges (both cash and award) for premium-class tickets.
Note that the center area of the SkyClub is undergoing a minor renovation — Delta says that it’s working on a “new food buffet experience,” which should be coming soon. It seems that the airline is content with the lounge in its current state and prefers to spruce it up rather than give it the full overhaul I believe it needs.
Cabin and Seat
If you’re familiar with Delta’s A350 cabin, the new 777 interior shouldn’t be a shock to you.
The highlight, of course, is the Delta One Suite itself, and it looks just as good on the Triple Seven as it does on the A350, though Delta kept the overhead bins in the center section, which does make the cabin feel less spacious — and certainly older — than the A350. Seats are 22 to 24 inches wide and 77 to 78 inches when fully flat, or up to six feet, five inches.
In total, there are 28 suites in the Delta One cabin, down significantly from the 37 seats that the old business cabin featured. So, while the product itself is vastly better, it’s likely going to be much harder for Diamond Medallions to score upgrades with Global Upgrade Certificates.
The suites are arranged in a forward-facing 1-2-1 configuration, with each featuring a sliding door that can be closed for more privacy.
Since I fly Delta often, I became used to selecting an odd-numbered seat if I happened to be flying in a premium cabin because — at least on the 767 and A350 — the odd seats are directly adjacent to the window, which means that you’re more protected from the activity going on in the aisle.
However, with the 777 retrofit, the opposite is true. I picked seat 7D without really paying attention to the seat map, and then realized that my seat was actually adjacent to the aisle.
Thanks to the door at each suite, this isn’t as much of an issue as it is on a 767, but still something to be aware of if you find yourself on a refurbed 777.
Speaking of my seat, I was very happy with it — the materials used felt solid and high-quality to the touch and the color scheme is smart. However, I was kind of bummed to find that row 7 seats only have one window versus two at all the other rows in the business-class cabin.
It has more or less the same features as the A350 suite does, though the 777 packs two AC power outlets as well as two USB ports, which, by the way, charged my phone extremely fast. I was shocked at how fast my phone went from 14% to a full charge.
To the right of the seat is a large table which I ended up using as storage for the various camera equipment I brought on the flight.
In addition to the table, there’s a cubby under the slot for the tray table which is able to hold a few items including a pair of sneakers. I was expecting a lot less storage, so I was impressed with the spaces offered.
The seat controls are intuitive and located on a touch panel adjacent to the seat.
The pièce de résistance of the Delta One Suite, the sliding door, is operated by a simple plastic pull handle located to the left of the seat. At first, I thought my door wasn’t working because it wouldn’t budge, but flight attendants quickly told me that the doors were locked in the open position and that they’d come around after takeoff to unlock them.
Once my door was unlocked, I found it to open and close easily, though the gap that’s present in the A350 is also present in the 777. When seated or lying down, it’s not even noticeable, though, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue in terms of privacy.
One of the coolest features in the Delta One Suite is the ambient lighting — there’s a blue strip above the in-flight entertainment IFE screen, the red cubby to the side of the seat and a sconce light on the wall that houses the door.
Unfortunately, the sconce light wasn’t functioning during my flight, though the concealed reading light was.
When in lie-flat mode, the seat was plenty spacious for me. It felt much wider than the “coffin” seats on Delta’s 767s, and I actually found the footwell to provide more than enough space for my feet when I was all the way stretched out.
Delta doesn’t provide mattress pads like its domestic competitors American and United do in their business-class cabins, but these seats are very comfortable on their own, and often I get too hot while trying to sleep if there’s another layer of bedding to deal with.
Though Delta’s Westin Heavenly bedding is not by any means new, it’s still great. The pillow honestly feels like something you could use at home, and the duvet is just right — heavy enough for when the cabin gets cool overnight and light enough to avoid being stifling. Luckily, though, the 777s feature two air vents per suite. Bliss!
Food and Beverage
I was very curious to try out the food on this flight, as TPG had found his food experience to be a bit of a mixed bag on the A350 inaugural. In my opinion, the food mostly delivered — it was by no stretch of the imagination the best food I’ve ever had on a plane, but most of the dishes I tried were tasty and seemed fresh, with one exception.
Shortly after boarding, I was offered a choice of sparkling wine, orange juice or water. I went with the bubbly — this was a celebration, after all…
Next, the Delta One menus were distributed. I learned that Delta One passengers can pre-order meals before flights, but I must’ve missed that email.
Meal service got underway with a round of drinks and a dish of warm mixed nuts. I chose to try Delta’s signature cocktail of Bombay Sapphire gin, cranberry-apple juice and ginger ale.
For the main course, there was a choice between one Chinese option and four Western ones.
The Chinese meal included a starter of a skewer of Chinese barbecue pork, shrimp, scallop and stuffed chicken; Chinese pickles; a salad of gem lettuce, shaved vegetables and feta cheese; corn chowder with tomatoes and chives and then a main course of Michigan whitefish served with a brown sauce, rice and vegetables.
The Western meals included the aforementioned salad and soup as well as a starter of shrimp with tomato salad and truffle mousse. For the mains, there was a choice between grilled beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and spring vegetable; grilled lemon chicken with tzatziki sauce and Greek rice with lemon, parsley and grilled peppers; potato crusted halibut with sweet corn mousseline and heirloom tomato salsa; and lemon caramelle pasta with cherry tomato sauce, lemon oil and arugula.
The starters I received were all delicious — I especially liked the salad. The lettuce was crunchy and fresh, and you really can’t go wrong with feta cheese. Plus, the vinaigrette was really tasty.
The soup was also a highlight of the starter course — it was hearty and had just enough of a kick to keep things interesting.
For my main course, I chose the grilled beef tenderloin, and I liked it for the most part. I was hoping that there’d be some sort of sauce for the meat, but unfortunately there wasn’t. As you could guess, the meat was on the overcooked side. But, it was tasty — I had no problem eating the whole thing. And, the vegetables served with it were great, especially the carrots and mashed potatoes.
For dessert, there were a few choices, including ice cream, cheesecake and a fruit, crackers and cheese plate. I chose the ice cream sundae, which hit the spot, especially since it was such a hot day in Detroit and all over the eastern United States. Since I was seated in the last row of business class, the ice cream had already begun melting once it got to me, but it was a nice treat regardless.
To drink, passengers had a choice between several spirits including Bacardi rum, Baileys Irish cream, Bombay Sapphire gin, Canadian Club Reserve Whisky, Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Cognac, Dewar’s Scotch, Grey Goose vodka, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, The Macallan Double Cask 12 Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Whiskey; beers including Heineken, Miller Lite and Yanjing; white wines including Ventenac Les Plos Chardonnay – France 2016/2017 and Pazo de Villarei Albarino – Spain 2016; red wines including Monasterio de las Viñas Old Vine Garnacha Cariñena DOP – Spain 2015 and Ritual Pinot Noir – Chile 2015; dessert wines including De Bortoli Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon – Australia 2016 and Ferreira Dona Antonia Tawny Porto — Portugal; and, finally, Lanson Black Label Brut Champagne.
I went with the Chilean Pinot Noir and was not disappointed.
About halfway through the flight, we were served a snack consisting of lemongrass salmon and seared tuna with seaweed salad. It was actually one of the highlights of the food on board this flight.
About an hour and a half before landing, we were served a third meal — there was a choice between a Southwestern frittata with pico de gallo and chicken apple sausage; black bean chicken with steamed rice and mixed vegetables; and farfalle pasta with chicken, tomatoes, corn and basil pesto cream sauce.
My first choice was going to be the pasta since we were landing in Beijing at around 2:30pm local time, but by the time flight attendants reached me, they were out of the pasta, so I settled on the frittata, which ended up being the weakest of the three meals I had. The eggs themselves were tasteless and the chicken sausages just weren’t doing it for me.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
When I boarded the 777, I found the Westin Heavenly pillow and duvet, along with Delta’s Tumi amenity kit, a water bottle, the pair of LSTN headphones and a pair of slippers — pretty standard kit for business-class flights to Asia.
When TPG and I flew on the inaugural A350 flight, the LSTN headphones were a fairly new addition for the airline, and they had some issues. There was a constant, high-pitched whining sound that came from the headphones when plugged in to the IFE system. This time, though, they worked very well, with no whining sound whatsoever. In fact, I didn’t miss my Sony pair at all on this flight, which is a night and day improvement over my last experience with these headphones.
Delta’s Tumi kits are pretty well-regarded, and I think they deserve the praise. The hard-shell case is sturdy, and I’ll certainly use it again on future trips to pack charging cables.
The kit came pretty well-stocked, too. Inside were ear plugs, tissues, hand sanitizer, socks, Kiehl’s skincare products, a toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash and an eye mask.
The IFE screen in the Delta One Suite is definitely a highlight of the product. It’s huge, measuring in at 18 inches. In fact, I’ve heard some people say that the screen is actually too big. I do see where those people are coming from, as the screen feels rather close to you, especially when reclined. However, I loved the large size — it puts the dinky IFE screens on Delta’s 767s to shame.
In addition to its large size, the screen is very sharp and responsive.
Delta provides a remote as a backup controller, but you likely will never have to use it, since the touchscreen is so great.
I’ve always been a fan of Delta’s IFE content, and this flight was no different. I found several movies I wanted to watch.
For possibly the first time ever, I was impressed by the inflight Wi-Fi. The Gogo Ku Wi-Fi was mostly reliable and pretty fast for most of the flight. I purchased a flight pass for $28.95 and was able to get work done without much hindrance.
My first time flying the Delta One Suite was definitely a success. The hard product is great, and having the sliding door at each suite sets it apart from its domestic competition. Compared to the A350 though the 777 does show its age, especially when it comes to the presence of center overhead bins, louder engine noise, smaller windows and drier air. The soft product was strong on this flight as well. Service was courteous and friendly, and I never had to ask for anything. The crew were clearly as excited (or more) to be flying the maiden voyage of the refurbished aircraft, and that excitment shone through for the duration of the flight.
All in all, expanding the Suite product to another aircraft type is a big step, especially considering the very dated product found on the rest of the 777 fleet currently. As more 777s are refurbished, your chances of encountering a Delta One Suite on a long-haul flight are getting higher, which is a very good thing. Now, if only Delta would sell it for less insane prices…
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