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Best of the West: A Review of Delta One Suites on the A350 From Detroit to Seoul

Dec. 12, 2018
29 min read
Best of the West: A Review of Delta One Suites on the A350 From Detroit to Seoul
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[tpg_rating tpg-rating-score="82" ground-experience="7" cabin-seat="20" amens-ife="10" food-bev="22" service="23" pros="Great privacy, modern and bright cabin, friendly service and loads of inflight entertainment options" cons="Spotty Wi-Fi, tiny lavatories, a seat with plenty of cracks to lose things and a lack of storage" /]

For many, the thought of one of the most luxe and modern products in the sky being offered by a US carrier doesn't exactly come naturally. US carriers have long trailed behind their European and Asian competitors when it comes the best of business and first class. But Delta's newest hard product — its Delta One Suite — hit the market with much fanfare just over a year ago, in November 2017. Since then, the carrier's been marketing the product as one of the best in the skies. While some of its long-haul fleet still sports very dated products, Delta's also the first US carrier to offer an all-suite business-class cabin -- and it just might be on to something.

Since the product's introduction, Delta's brought it to more A350 aircraft in its fleet, as well as retrofitting it on some of its 777s. With so much fanfare around the product, I was thrilled to finally get to check it out for myself and see if the product lives up to the hype.


I booked this flight as a multicity itinerary, originating in Toronto (YYZ). Oftentimes, originating in Toronto and connecting to Asia through Detroit can price out as a cheaper itinerary for long-haul Delta One flyers. In fact, this one-way itinerary cost $2,277 — about $800 less than if I were to just fly from Detroit (DTW) to Seoul (ICN).

For the same one-way flight, itineraries were pricing at 300,000 SkyMiles for an award ticket. For all of the value Delta SkyMiles have gained recently from its awards flash sales, there is still plenty of ground to be gained when it comes to booking Delta One premium award itineraries.

The ticket was paid for with the Platinum Card® from American Express. Because of the card's earning rate of 5x points when booking directly through an airline or with Amex Travel, I earned a total of 11,385 American Express Membership Rewards points. Based on TPG's most recent valuations, those Membership Rewards points were worth $137.

And as far as earning with Delta, this was a revenue ticket, SO I earned 10,954 Medallion Qualifying Miles, in addition to $2,209 Medallion Qualifying Dollars for the one-way itinerary.

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Because I originated in Toronto (YYZ), I checked in online for my flight from YYZ to Detroit (DTW). Using Delta's app, I was able to seamlessly check in for my entire itinerary from YYZ to DTW and on to Seoul (ICN).

While I had no issue in getting through security at YYZ, the gate agent called me to show my passport and confirm my identity for the international flight. Because Canada-originating flights arrive at DTW as domestic arrivals (the immigration process is completed at YYZ), I was able to stay in the terminal at DTW without having to check in or pass through security once again.

The convenience of connecting via a Canadian departure is fantastic — especially if your journey is continuing on to another international destination. Instead of the fuss of checking in in person and the possibility of long lines, I was able to stay departure-side and head straight to the Delta Sky Club.

As a former Northwest Airlines hub and now one of Delta's, Detroit Metropolitan's McNamara Terminal featured a total of three Delta Sky Clubs spread across the stretched A Concourse: one centrally located, right after security; the other off the North Station; and the third off the South Station. There was also a fourth Sky Club located in the C Concourse of the McNamara Terminal. Venturing between the three in the A Concourse was made simpler by DTW's convenient ExpressTram, which bolts passengers from one end of the terminal to the other.

With a few hours to spare, I headed to the largest of the three Sky Clubs in the terminal — the central one.

The entrance to the lounge was on the ground floor, where there were two agents sitting at a desk to check passengers in and provide assistance. In addition, there was a representative with a mobile scanning machine to expedite the process.

Delta Sky Club access is achievable a number of ways. For me, I was allowed in with just my boarding pass. All Delta One passengers traveling on domestic or international Delta flights are permitted to enter, as are SkyTeam premium-cabin passengers as long as they're traveling on a same-day international first- or business-class SkyTeam-operated flight.

In addition to being a Delta One or SkyTeam premium cabin passenger, there are other ways to enter, like having a Sky Club membership or SkyTeam Elite Plus status. Perhaps easiest of all, however, is access granted via a credit card's perks. For example, the Platinum Card® from American Express allows card holders to access Delta Sky Clubs as long as they have same-day flight with the carrier. Do note, however, that Delta is restricting Sky Club access beginning in 2019.

The bulk of the central terminal Sky Club — everything aside from the check-in counter, really — lay on the second floor of the terminal. And, because of that, there are definitely some views to be had overlooking the terminal.

On the other hand, the lounge was a bit dated. Between the carpeting and the chairs that felt packed in the space, it felt reminiscent of what one might expect to find in a Courtyard by Marriott conference room: very basic, seemingly a decade or so old and yawn-inducing decor.

The lounge as a whole was generally closed off to natural light, with the exception of any that snuck in through the ceiling of the terminal and through the glass of one wall of the lounge.

That being said, where the lounge did offer an especially good experience was when it came to the dining. Though not expansive, the space that the buffet occupied had a modern, just-updated look. The floor was bright, accentuated by the spotlight lighting. TVs stationed around the circular room played news ranging from Fox News to NBC and CNN, and a news ticker ran around the perimeter of the room.

There appeared to be plenty of seating in the room throughout my few hours in the lounge, most of which were in the morning.

When compared to the offerings from many international carriers, food options were fairly limited. You had the standard fruit and yogurts, as well as bagels and other carb-heavy options. There were also some hot options, which I appreciated — scrambled eggs and warm tortillas being the highlight.

Just off the side of the spherical buffet dining area were two separate beverage sections. On one side of the room were three taps of beer — all of which were open in the morning — as well as a self-serve liquor area. The highlight was a makeshift Bloody Mary bar where guests could outfit their own drinks with a selection of garnishes.

On the other side of the room were the other beverages — specifically wine. In addition, there was the toaster and a selection of breads and soups on the far side of the wall.

In the Sky Club were two showers, which had to be reserved with a lounge agent. I found the bathrooms to be clean and well-stocked with Malin + Goetz products throughout my time at the lounge.

During my four-hour stay, I didn't notice it once get too overcrowded. There was a great selection of seats, though they were situated tight together. While not the nicest of lounges, or even the nicest of Sky Clubs, it did the job. The decor could use a major refresh to feel less like a conference room and more like a place to relax and spend time before boarding a plane.

If Delta really wants to improve the Delta One experience for long-haul routes, the carrier should consider upping its offering. The competition offers exclusive dining areas for its most premium passengers, such as AA's Flagship First Dining, so it would be great to see Delta introduce an area of Sky Clubs for its international Delta One passengers, whether that means a restaurant with table service or just a separate space in the lounge that's quieter and more exclusive.

I left the Sky Club with about an hour and a half extra time to walk to the gate and do some planespotting along the way.

The boarding process started on time. However, leading up to boarding, gate agents were continuously calling up passengers for passport verification or to check visas. Gate agents could be heard several times calling passengers who were connecting to Vietnam or Cambodia to present their visas or be denied boarding — it sounded like it was an ongoing issue.

Boarding began on time, right after 1pm for our 2:04pm departure. Delta One passengers were invited to board after active-duty military, families and those requiring additional time.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Cabin and Seat" tpg-rating="20" tpg-rating-max="25" configuration="1" configuration-2="2" configuration-3="1" width="21" bed="77" lavs="2" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

Delta's A350 cabin was best described as fresh. The cabin as a whole was bright, with crisp finishings. Each of the suite doors was white with a bright blue-and-black stitched seat. My seat, 8A, was a window seat at the very rear of the cabin.

The cabin, which featured a total of 32 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, was especially aesthetically appealing because of the lack of a overhead bins over the center seats in the cabin — a cathedral cabin. Instead, the only overhead bin space was over the window seats. While boarding, the overhead bins quickly filled up. I could hear flight attendants saying that it was one of the first times they'd seen the overhead space completely occupied. With some maneuvering, the final passengers to board were able to store their belongings in the bins.

Upon boarding, each of the seats was piled with a set of linens and headphones. While I appreciated having all I'd need for a flight when I boarded, I did get a lot of things on my seat with Delta One. So much so that it begged the question: Where do you put it all?

About two minutes after I'd moved the linens to the side table and taken my seat, a friendly flight attendant came to introduce herself. She asked if it was my first time flying Delta One, which it was.

"Don't worry, we're all still learning it," she told me, encouraging me to ask any questions. She also pointed out the guide on the side table, which described all of the highlights of the suite.

But I was still thinking about all of that stuff. As I quickly learned, one of the areas where the suite really didn't match the competition was with the storage component. I ended up putting most of the linens in the deep footwell for taxiing and takeoff. There was a small compartment above the side table, which was just large enough to store headphones, a bottle of water and some smaller personal items like a phone, charger and AirPod case.

The bulk of the storage, which wasn't much at all, was below the side table. The space was not large enough to fit my standard-size Longchamp bag. And when I tried to place my 15-inch MacBook Pro in the bin, it only fit diagonally, occupying a majority of the space. Once the laptop was there, there was only room for my shoes. Additionally, the space didn't close shut — earning a thumbs down from me.

A single, simple console on the side table controlled the seat's lie-flat, upright and lounging positions, the do-not-disturb function and its lighting. Selecting each of the options required a bit of force, but nothing completely out of the ordinary.

But for a 1-year-old aircraft delivered to Delta from Airbus in December 2017, I was expecting the functionality of the seat customization to be a little more intact. Plus, one corner of the suite closest to the small storage compartment showed obvious wear and tear — likely the result of passengers attempting to put items too large in the small space.

Shortly after takeoff and a speedy meal service, I took some time to play around with the suite door. Each of the suites — A was on the port side, B and C in the middle and D on the starboard side — had its number illuminated on the exterior. The do-not-disturb buttons turned the seat light red.

At first, I found the door to be extremely difficult to operate — impossible, even. No matter how many times I pulled the lever, the door wouldn't budge. After a few unsuccessful tries to the point where I thought if I tried any harder I would snap the lever off the door, I rang the flight attendant. Within 15 seconds, she was at my door. It didn't take long to fix — or for the problem to be realized: The suite doors are normally locked for ascent and descent. Mine, however wasn't unlocked after takeoff.

With a quick press of a button, my door was unlocked, and I was able to seamlessly able to open and close it with little effort. It is worth noting that there was about a 1-inch gap between the wall and the edge of the door. I didn't find it to be an issue or to sacrifice any privacy.

Back inside the suite, one of my favorite components was small but important. The inflight-entertainment remote was stored underneath the armrest closest to the side table. Once it was lifted, a small mirror was revealed. I'm a huge fan of in-seat mirrors, like you can find in Emirates First Class. After — or even during — a long-haul flight like these A350s are designed to fly, having a mirror within reach of your seat is a huge perk. Whether it's checking to make sure your hair isn't crazy after a cozy night's sleep or to see whether there's a piece of spinach stuck between your teeth after meal service, it allows you to scratch off one trip to the lavatory.

By far, the highlight of the hard product's design was the stitching on the seat. The colors, a mix of Delta's signature blue and red, as well as a black headrest, made the seats look crisp and nicely finished. The white stitching against the blue upholstery was easy on the eyes. Plus, the seat itself was comfortable. And, once in its lie-flat position, the rear of the seatback was covered in a fabric as opposed to straight plastic finishing, making for a much more comfortable experience.

When adjusted to its lie-flat position, the bed measured about 6 feet, 5 inches, though some were longer than others. Like the seat, the bed was a comfortable surface to sleep on. When paired with the Westin Heavenly bedding, which was full without being too heavy and hot, it made for a phenomenal in-air sleeping experience.

It's worth noting that the seat — especially when in its lie-flat position — had tons of nooks and crannies around the perimeter of the seat that were in prime position to help you lose something. Be careful not to place small items like phones, headphones or cases around the seat.

Between meal services, flight attendants switched the cabin lighting to a cool blue or made it completely dark — both of which were the perfect way to set the scene for a post-meal nap or wake up before a second meal service. Because Delta's A350 featured adjustable air vents for every seat on the sides of the Delta One cabin, it was possible to keep the suite at the temperature I liked. When I got hot, on went the air vents. And vice versa when it got chilly. Note that passengers in the center seats don't have that feature, given the cathedral cabin. The closed door really did add a new level of privacy to long-haul business-class flying — especially when compared to the offerings of other US carriers. Delta's really set itself apart with a hard product that's hard to beat.

When it came to the hard product on the A350, Delta definitely had a lot going for it.

Though it's ahead of the most business-class products on other US carriers, it still has some room to grow. Parts of the seat configuration felt rushed in production with little consumer feedback. Hopefully, Delta can iron out those kinks and develop a hard product on par — or better than — some of the world's best.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Amenities and IFE" tpg-rating="10" tpg-rating-max="15" screen="18" movies="303" tv-shows="156" live-tv="No" tailcam="No" wifi="0.78" wifi-2="10.3" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

In the Delta One cabin of the A350, there were two lavatories, at the forward of the cabin. The lavs were on the smaller side, the same size you could expect to find in an economy cabin. It was definitely a tight squeeze, though the major plus was that the faucet was motion-activated so you didn't have to worry about touching germy nozzles.

The lavatory was outfitted with the standard Malin + Goetz options that Delta is known for. While nothing extraordinary, the products were quality.

As mentioned, upon boarding, each of the seats was outfitted with a set of Westin Heavenly bedding. There was no turndown service, but I found the bedding itself to be very comfortable. That being said, my duvet was a bit on the worn side. There were noticeable stains on the blanket, which all happened to be in the same vicinity. I understand that the blankets are reused, but it would have been nice to have one that didn't show general signs of wear and tear.

In addition, while I was walking through the aisle prior to departure, I saw amenity kits on all passengers' seats — Delta's signature hard Tumi amenity kits. When I returned to my seat, I noticed that I didn't have one. I asked a flight attendant, who seemed genuinely apologetic. However, she was gone for quite a few minutes before returning to my seat with one of the fabric Tumi amenity kits. Because I was the last seat in the cabin, I assumed that they'd run out of the hard-case amenity kits and simply forgot to put a replacement on my seat. It wasn't the biggest of deals, though I was looking forward to the hard kit, and it would've been nice to see the carrier plan in advance. Plus, the flight attendant was truly apologetic about not having one on my seat when I boarded.

When I did get the amenity kit, it had all the standard goodies inside. There was a dental kit, eye mask, pair of socks, hand sanitizer, pen, tissues, earplugs and Kiehl's lip balm.

I didn't have the amenity kit on my seat upon boarding, but I did have a set of Delta-branded slippers. The slippers were pretty standard and closed-toe.

In addition, there was a set of plastic-wrapped LSTN headphones. I found the headphones to be just OK. They did manage to block out a good amount of noise but were not truly noise-canceling. In addition, there was a periodic ringing in the set, though it would go away when I adjusted the prongs. If Delta wants to really improve its soft product, its headphones seem like an easy fix.

At each Delta One seat was a power outlet and a USB port. Both were next to the headphone port, at the rear of the side table.

The inflight-entertainment screen itself was decent in size (18 inches) and offered a great picture. Plus, I really enjoyed the look of the IFE screen within the suite, as it was outfitted with a lit blue strip above it.

As far as the content, there was plenty to choose from. The Delta One Studio is one of Delta's highlights across all cabins and aircraft. On this flight, there were 303 movies, both Korean and American, ranging from classics like "The Sound of Music" to new releases like "I Feel Pretty." There were 156 TV series, featuring Delta-specific selections and hits like "Sharp Objects," "Friends" and "Bob's Burgers." There was also both a flight map and a total of 20 games like bingo, tic-tac-toe and Sudoku.

The A350 was equipped with Wi-Fi, but I found it to be anything but ideal on my flight. During large portions of the flight, speeds were pretty dismal. In fact, between northern Canada and once we reached Asia, Wi-Fi wasn't even working, even though I'd purchased a full-flight package for $39.95.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Food and Beverage" tpg-rating="22" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" meals="2" champagne="Lanson Black Label Brut" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

Menus were distributed to passengers prior to leaving the gate. However, I took advantage of Delta's order-in-advance service to ensure that my choice wouldn't be gone — especially with having a seat at the rear of the cabin. Up to 24 hours prior to departure, Delta One passengers on select international routes can choose their meals online. I selected the pan-fried chicken with lemon-caper picatta sauce, which was confirmed immediately.

Right after boarding, attentive flight attendants distributed menus to passengers. Shortly thereafter, the purser came around to take orders for the main course. She confirmed my online order and continued on. A flight attendant also came around at that time with a predeparture beverage: sparkling wine, orange juice or Heineken.

After departure at 2:17pm, meal service started promptly after reaching cruising altitude. FAs came around with hot towels for passengers at 2:35pm. I found the towels to be nice, as they weren't too thin, as airplane towels tend to be.

Around 2:52pm, FAs came around the cabin again with a beverage cart and nuts. I opted for a glass of the Pine Ridge chenin blanc and viognier, which was medium in body and fruity in taste. I enjoyed the blended selection and stuck with it for the duration of meal service.

At 3:23pm, appetizers and soup were served. It's worth nothing that there were two versions of the menu: Western and Korean. Like my preselected chicken dish, I chose to stick with the Western menu. Appetizers included finocchiona salami and goat cheese with crostini and tomato jam; a Caesar salad with pecans, pomegranate seeds and shaved Parmesan; and butternut squash soup.

I found all of the appetizers to be extremely tasty, with the soup as the highlight. It was just right without being too sweet or too thick. The baby gem lettuce for the salad was a bit on the dainty side, though I enjoyed it overall. Finally, the crostini and salami were fantastic as well, bursting with flavor.

About 20 minutes later, the main course was served. The chicken was overbreaded and tough, and the picatta sauce tasted faintly like chemicals. The accompanying green beans were fresh and tasty, as was the side tortelloni, which was very rich.

About 20 minutes after the main course dishes had been cleared, a dessert cart made its way down the aisle. Choices included a make-your-own sundae bar, pumpkin cheesecake and fine cheese. Because you can't really go wrong with sundaes, I got that with hot fudge and whipped cream. It was a delicious, sweet way to end meal service.

Overall, the dinner course was enjoyable. Though the chicken wasn't perfect, I did enjoy the appetizers and prompt service. Plus, the sundae was a great way to end on a sweet note. In addition, flight attendants passed out full-size Dasani water bottles to passengers after meal service rather than the half-sized bottles some airlines give out.

Nearly five hours later, a snack was served. I was awake, and a flight attendant asked if I'd be interested in the only option: roast beef and shrimp. As I checked the menu, there was also a Korean option, a mung-bean pancake, but because I'd chose the Western options throughout, it was likely assumed I'd like it for the snack as well.

The teriyaki beef and sesame-crusted shrimp was served with mango-coconut rice and sriracha mayo. Both the roast beef and the shrimp were tasty, though I wasn't that hungry. Nonetheless, it was still nice to have a tasty snack in the middle of the flight.

Less than two hours before arrival, it was time for the final meal service, which started with a hot towel. There were three meal options: a frittata of truffles, leeks and mushrooms, served with hash browns and bacon; fruit and nut granola cereal with milk and yogurt; and beef bulgogi, served with mushrooms, spinach, sautéed kimchi and steamed rice.

I opted for the frittata, which was actually pretty nice. The egg wasn't over- or undercooked or rubbery, which I've found to be all too common on many flights. The bacon was extremely fatty and greasy, but the hash browns were just right. The accompanying fruit was also fresh and a nice way to round out the final meal.

The final meal service concluded with a nice, sweet touch — a dark chocolate and mint.

Overall, I found meal service on the flight to be enjoyable and tasty, though not the best I've had on a flight. Delta definitely has a lot going for it with its catering out of DTW, though there are soft spots in the product that could easily be ironed out.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Service" tpg-rating="23" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="No" turndown-service="No" /]

The service on this flight was fantastic. From start to finish, crew was friendly and went above and beyond to try and make the flight enjoyable for me. Meal services were efficient and completed with an interest in offering passengers a great culinary experience.

You could tell that the A350 Delta One Suite product was one that Delta flight attendants and employees were enthused about. It's really helped to set Delta apart from its US competition, and for that, the carrier and its employees have something to be proud of.

Overall Impression

Delta's got a great product flying in its livery with the Delta One Suite product on the A350. The cabin itself is modern, with chic-looking seats and a bright and open feel. Meanwhile, inside the suite, passengers can expect great privacy, a comfortable seat, good meal service and great service — especially for a domestic carrier.

That said, there are still some areas where the Delta One Suite product could be improved on future variants. Some are easy fixes, like better headphones, stronger Wi-Fi and making sure the flight is well-stocked with enough products for the entire cabin. Others will take more planning and time to fix, like larger lavatories and seats with fewer cracks that can eat up phones.

Delta has a product to be proud of with the suite. And while there are some needed on-the-ground fixes like improving the Sky Club experience, the product is right up there with some of the best business-class seats in the world, though it does fall short of Qatar's Qsuite product, which is simply the best biz product in the sky. If you're traveling long-haul in Delta One Suite, you'll arrive well-rested and well-fed — and there's not much to complain about with that.