Flight review: Delta One Suite on the 777, Los Angeles to Paris
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On Thursday, Delta Air Lines announced that because of the drop in demand from the coronavirus crisis, it will retire its entire fleet of Boeing 777s by the end of the year. That will leave the Airbus A350 as the largest, longest-range airplane in the Delta fleet.
To salute the exit from service of an airplane that, in the words of CEO Ed Bastian, helped transform Delta into a global airline, we are republishing the latest — and now sadly last — review of a flight on a Delta 777. Originally published in October 2019 and written by Nick Ellis, one of the Delta experts on our staff, it describes the experience in the airline’s top premium product, the Delta One business-class suite.
Please note that during the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. However, we have resumed the publication of new, previously unpublished flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken before the lockdown. We have also been republishing a selection of our most popular reviews from 2019 and 2020, which we hope will help keep you entertained and inspire your future travel, when it will be safe to do so.
This article has been edited from the original. The flight reviewed in it is currently suspended due to the coronavirus.
As an unashamed, hamster-wheel-addicted Delta Diamond Medallion, I’ve gotten to fly up front several times on the airline’s long-haul fleet, and the crown jewel of those airplanes is the Delta One Suite, which can be found in the airline’s Airbus A350s, A330-900neos, and Boeing 777s. The type I’ve flown most often, though, is the Boeing 767-400, which features Delta’s oldest product, with creaky seats that you can never be too sure will actually recline all the way, comically small and unresponsive inflight-entertainment monitors and worn finishes.
I have, however, been lucky enough to experience the Delta One Suite twice since the product was launched in late 2017: The first time on one of the first flights of the first 777s to receive the suites, and then this flight, a little over a year later, also on a 777, thanks to a great redemption. With the Delta One Suite now about two years old, would it still impress like it did when it was brand new?
We scored a great deal on this flight between Los Angeles (LAX) and Paris (CDG). I’ve pretty much written off the possibility of booking premium-cabin awards with Delta SkyMiles, as the rates are typically outrageous. Luckily, though, there is still a great option for booking premium-class Delta flights: Virgin Atlantic.
You can read about the ins and outs of Virgin’s Flying Club program here, but the short version is that we found pretty great availability in Delta One for 50,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees. Knowing that the availability probably wouldn’t last all that long, we immediately transferred 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Flying Club at a 1:1 ratio and booked the ticket there.
One of the best things about the Flying Club program is that it’s a 1:1 transfer partner of not just Amex but Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou as well, so it’s easy to amass the points you need to book award flights. Plus, the program frequently runs transfer bonuses between the various programs, so you could score a redemption like this for even fewer miles.
Delta operates flights from Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 at LAX, and my boarding pass indicated that I’d be departing from T2. Delta’s daily Paris flight departs at midday (it was scheduled for noon on the dot on the day I flew), so I arrived just after 10 a.m. (Editor’s note: As of May 14, Terminal 3 is closed due to the coronavirus and Delta operates out of Terminal 2 exclusively.)
Los Angeles is a major hub for Delta, and it’s clear the airline’s investing a lot of money and doing a lot of work on its terminals at LAX, but the current state of things is … not great. The entrances are tired, and upon stepping into the check-in area, I was greeted with low ceilings and a poorly lit, cramped space.
Before I took this flight, I read that Delta had a separate check-in area for Delta One passengers, but when I entered the terminal, I immediately saw the SkyPriority check-in area, and it wasn’t busy, so I just hopped in line there and was through in less than five minutes. I didn’t even see the signs for the special Delta One area until after I’d already dropped my bag at the SkyPriority counters.
Even with Clear, the security situation wasn’t ideal, either. Seemingly everyone was crammed into the same corner at the top of an escalator landing, and there was a lot of confusion among passengers. Luckily, it didn’t take an extraordinary amount of time, and things improved once I got through security, above which was a banner promising a sleek new Delta Sky Way.
The terminal area was bright (thanks to lighting, not natural light, though) and there were plenty of places to shop and grab a bite before a flight.
I, however, headed straight for the Delta Sky Club, on the second floor of the terminal building.
It, like the rest of the terminal, is undergoing a renovation, which should be completed in 2021 and will bring a Sky Deck — a feature AvGeeks everywhere will be excited to see.
For now, though, the lounge was basically on par with most other Sky Clubs that I frequent.
It felt like a solid place to kill time before a domestic flight, but when you looked at it as an international business-class lounge, it fell short, especially compared to what its chief rivals American Airlines and United Airlines offer in their Flagship and Polaris lounges, respectively.
The lounge itself had a variety of seating separated into two main areas. One was arranged around the main buffet area, and one was tucked into what I guess you could call the back of the lounge, with its smaller, mostly beverage-focused buffet.
The back room was less crowded and had plenty of seats, and, just as importantly, outlets for passengers waiting for a flight. I found the furniture to be in great condition overall, and I didn’t struggle to find a place to sit.
Of course, I cozied up by the windows so I could take in the views of the gate area, which were pretty awesome.
I was impressed by the food spread, too. It was still breakfast time while I visited, so I got to choose between numerous standard breakfast items like scrambled eggs, pastries, fruit and yogurt.
There was even a toast bar, which resonated with this millennial.
Drinks — including the alcohol — were self-serve, which I like because there’s no one there to judge you when you go back for seconds.
After having a bite to eat and doing a little work, I moseyed over to the gate area at around 10:45 a.m., 15 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, to find it crowded.
Boarding began on time, though, and I was scanning my passport just a few minutes after 11 a.m., excited for my second-ever experience with Delta One Suite.
Cabin and Seat
Being used to flying Delta’s old 767-400s, I was positively giddy when I got on board this aircraft, even though it was 20 years old.
The cabin looked fresh and modern, thanks to the new look of the suites and the lighting schemes that Delta put on these retrofitted birds. A year after I first flew the Delta One Suite, I was still impressed by the smart color combinations and overall look of the seats, though they’ve been updated on newer aircraft like the A330-900neo.
On my plane, the 28 suites were arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, meaning each passenger had direct aisle access.
And, of course, each passenger had a closing door, though there was a small gap when it was “closed.” Though it didn’t matter a whole lot thanks to the door, seats on each side of the aircraft — the A and D seats — in even rows were protected from the aisle, meaning the seat was basically flush against the wall and the side console was between the passenger and the aisle.
Middle seats are best for those traveling together, of course, but there’s no “double bed” option like you get on Qatar’s Qsuite. The divider between the two center seats can be lowered.
I chose Seat 6A so I’d have a protected seat, but ended up in 2A after another passenger asked me to switch so that he could be closer to his wife on their way to their European honeymoon.
I appreciated that this aircraft had two universal AC outlets and two USB ports. I was expecting to do quite a bit of work on the flight, so I loved that I was able to stay fully charged throughout.
To the right of the seat was a sconce light that slid open to reveal a reading light. Also in this area were the seat’s main storage areas, which consisted of a cubby, a large table and a raised shelf. I stored most of what I needed to keep with me in the cubby, but put my laptop under the shelf when I wasn’t using it.
Thanks to the cabin width of the 777, the seats were nice and wide at 22 inches. This especially helped when the seat was reclined all the way into bed mode, though I didn’t sleep a wink on this flight.
With a noon takeoff, the timing was peculiar. I wasn’t at all tired until several hours into the flight, and by that point over half of it had already gone by.
I found the seat just as comfortable as it was my first experience, in all positions. I spent most of the time in the lounge mode. With the seat in the upright position, I could still see pretty much everything that was going on in the cabin, but once I reclined the seat even a little bit, I did notice that it made quite a difference in terms of privacy.
After flying this product twice, I can say that it’s excellent. Not the best in the biz, but still one that I’d happily fly over and over again.
Amenities and IFE
Waiting for me at boarding was a pair of over-ear headphones (which I’m not a fan of), a Tumi soft-sided amenity kit, a Westin Heavenly duvet along with two pillows and a pair of slippers.
I gave silent kudos to Delta for providing two pillows for this flight. It was a lot more comfortable than just the one pillow, and would have been great for a flight on which I was really trying to sleep.
Delta was still in the process of rolling out its upgraded amenity kits across its hubs when I flew this flight, so I didn’t have the latest one. But I still got a lot of goodies, including a pair of socks, tissues, earplugs, a pen, Kiehl’s lip balm and lotion, a dental kit, hand sanitizer and one of those great Tumi eye masks.
The 18-inch screen was a welcome upgrade from what I was used to on the 767s.
The graphics were sharp, and the screen itself was responsive. The screen didn’t tilt or adjust at all, but even when fully reclined, I could clearly see what I was watching. The quality of the IFE hardware was vastly improved in the Delta One Suite when compared to older Delta One products.
I watched a movie while I was settling into the flight and had my first meal, and then I spent the majority of the rest of the flight working and watching the airshow. I paid $21.95 for a Wi-Fi connection for the duration of the flight, which I found to be reasonable. It worked pretty well too, though each time I tried to run a speed test it would error out.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Food service started just a few minutes after I got settled in my suite, with the crew coming around with trays of sparkling wine, water and orange juice, along with a menu.
I asked for a glass of the bubbly, and unlike in Delta’s outdated 767 seats, the modern, stylish glassware matched the modern, stylish seat.
Just about 20 minutes after takeoff, the crew began the meal service. I was given a ramekin of warm salted almonds and asked for a Diet Coke to go along with it.
Next up was the starter course, which consisted of smoked salmon with marinated cucumbers, pickled fennel and lemon crème fraiche; a Little Gem lettuce salad with celery, cucumbers, sesame seeds and dill dressing; a curried yellow summer squash soup; and a selection of breads, which I skipped. I had no complaints about the starters. I thought each dish was fresh and packed a lot of flavor.
A couple of days before my flight, I received an email asking me to preselect my main course. I’ve grown quite fond of Delta’s preorder system for business-class flights. It takes all the guesswork out of your inflight dining and guarantees you your first choice even if you’re sitting in the back of the cabin, which is where I typically prefer to sit.
I had my pick of four mains: marinara braised meatballs served with tomato, garlic bread and ricotta; pan-seared chicken thigh with arrabbiata sauce and broccolini; marinated shrimp with sautéed peppers and onions, polenta and arrabbiata sauce and three-cheese lasagna with pomodoro sauce.
I picked the pan-seared chicken, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was the best main course I’ve had on Delta in recent memory, and I would order it again and again if I could.
For dessert, there was a choice: ice cream sundaes, chocolate cake or a fruit-and-cheese plate. I went with the cheese, which was on the smaller side, but I still enjoyed it as I was finishing up my movie.
About two hours before landing, we were served breakfast, for which there were two choices: cheddar scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage, roasted mushrooms and tomato salsa, or coconut granola with Greek yogurt.
I’m used to being not so hungry for the second meal on overnight flights, since I’m usually flying from the East Coast, where flight times are much shorter. However, I was very hungry by the time the second meal was served on this flight, so I ordered the eggs, which felt like the heartier choice.
Both choices were served with breads and pastries, but I skipped them, knowing I’d be having plenty of that in Paris in just a couple of hours. The eggs were quite good, but the presentation definitely left a lot to be desired.
I got a great crew on this flight. From start to finish, I felt like I was taken care of. Every flight attendant I interacted with was pleasant and seemed to really want to be there, which is more than can be said of a lot of other airlines. In fact, the purser on this flight turned out to be the same one working my first Delta One Suite experience on a flight from Detroit (DTW) to Beijing (PEK). Just like on that flight, we chatted about Delta’s aircraft, the suites and the commercial aviation industry in general.
I pressed the call button once to ask for more water, and the call was answered immediately, and the flight attendant was happy to grab me a full water bottle and made sure I was all set and didn’t need anything more. Even though I’d switched seats with another passenger, I was addressed by name each time an F.A. came to my suite — it was a total nonissue for them.
A little over a year later, Delta One Suite continues to impress me. The seats themselves are up there with some of the best in the industry, and the onboard food and service are solid. Really, Delta just needs to up its game with the ground experience — it’s simply lagging behind its peers in the U.S. and abroad.
Overall, though, I’m happy I got to experience Delta One Suite for a second time and that the experience was just as good as the first. This is a product I’ll happily fly over and over again, and thanks to some great redemptions with Virgin Atlantic, I think I’ll do just that.
All photos by the author.
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