Elite Class review
Part 2 : Delta's Business Elite
seating on other planes, meal services and more
This image shows the
very different style of Business Elite seat in Delta's 777s.
Part 2 of 2 parts on
Delta's Business Elite class. Please also visit :
767-400 and general service
planes, meals and more
With a mix of planes from both
itself and Northwest, Delta has a bewildering variety of
different styles of Business Elite seating currently available.
A newly announced $1+ billion
plan will make this more consistent across its fleet. And,
no matter which seat style you get, the other elements of your
(probably positive) Business Elite flight and service should be
This review is based on two
business class flights with Delta in February 2010, flying
from Detroit to London (Heathrow) and back from London
(Heathrow) to Atlanta, both times on 767-400 planes.
Other Delta Business Elite
Delta is a two class
airline. Domestically it calls its two classes coach and
first class, internationally it refers to the two classes as
coach and Business Elite class.
international Business Elite class is much better than the domestic
first class, with better seating and better food/drink/service.
currently has a confusing mix of different seat types in its
Business Elite cabins, both because of different plane types and
also due to having integrated the Northwest Airlines fleet and
their cabin variations too.
Pictured at the top of this
article is the
new type of seat now in their 777 planes, in its upright
And on the left you can see the seat fully reclined.
These seats are similar in dimension to the seats in the 767s,
but have larger video monitors and also seem to truly lie 180°
flat and horizontal to the floor. In case it isn't
clear from the photos, they are angled in from the sides.
The reason Delta has two
different types of business class seating is said to be because
of differing cabin widths, which requires different seat designs
- in this case, completely different designs - so as not to end
up with seating that doesn't fit efficiently and effectively
into the cabin space available for it.
In late January 2010 Delta
announced an ambitious $1+ billion program to upgrade and
enhance its Business Elite cabins on all its international
planes, and to make them more consistent with fewer variations.
Some of the enhanced cabin
formats will also be made available domestically, primarily on
the long flight trans-continental services.
The key parts of this
upgrade program include installing full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite on 90
trans-oceanic aircraft, including 14 767-400ERs, 52 767-300ERs, 16 747-400s and eight 777-200ERs.
When this is completed, each of these fleets will have full
flat bed (but not necessarily horizontal) seats on all aircraft,
either in the form described on my 767 flights, or on a slightly
different type of seat that has currently been fitted to Delta's
Delta will add in-seat audio and video on demand throughout
its coach class cabins on the 747-400 and 767-300ER aircraft.
When this is complete, Delta will offer personal, in-seat
entertainment for both BusinessElite and coach class passengers
on all wide-body aircraft.
Delta is also adding first
class cabins to 66 CRJ-700 aircraft operated by
Delta Connection carriers ASA, Comair and SkyWest, bringing to
219 the number of regional aircraft with First Class seating,
and is continuing/completing the modification of 269 pre-merger Northwest aircraft
to feature Delta's signature blue leather seats, updated
lighting and enhanced cabin amenities such as increased overhead
bin space on pre-merger Northwest 757-200s.
After the $1 billion has
been spent, there will still be different first or Business
Elite class seating for 767s, 777s, A330s, 757s, CRJ-700s, and
it is as yet unknown if the 747s will have the same seats as in
one of the other types of plane or yet another type again.
So at least three different types of seat on the international
Food and Drink
food on my two international Business Elite flights was
excellent, although the steak on the return fro London was a bit
tough and dry.
Delta offered a generous
variety of meal items, and presented the food with flair, and
used high quality china to serve the food on, and provided one
with an abundance of cutlery. Over the course of the meal
I received 5 knives, 3 forks and 2 spoons. Remember the
days when airlines stopped giving out metal knives?
Clearly, with 5 metal knives being handed out, those days are
mercifully far behind.
To start things off, they
provided a nice china tray with a selection of heated nuts -
much better than BA handing out a small packet of nuts.
I was reading through the
menu for my first flight and trying to decide which appetizer
I'd choose. There was a choice of three - Asian flavored
salmon, with soybean and seaweed salad, cream of asparagus soup,
and a Greek salad with feta cheese, cucumber and olives.
All three sounded nice, so I was delighted to discover that one
was given a sampler tray with a portion of each dish - see the
All three items were indeed
lovely (soup could have been hotter), and perhaps you can make
out a square shape in the top right of the salad tray - this was
a miniature bottle of a wonderful oil and vinegar dressing for
the salad. Also visible, barely, on the left are two
little shapes which were individual salt and pepper shakers - a
nice enhancement over BA which only provides tiny paper sachets
of salt and pepper.
Not visible in this picture
was something I hadn't seen on a BA flight for a long time - a
napkin with a button hole in one corner. These are great -
you can button them onto a top shirt button and they then protect your shirt front while eating.
Main course choices included
a vegetarian spaghetti carbonara, grilled fillet of beef, seared
mahi mahi, or roast beef and herbed shrimp. Yay - Delta
understands meat, unlike British Airways, who only serves
chicken or fish.
Cheese or ice cream with various toppings
were offered for dessert.
A rather disappointing
breakfast (no hot food) was served prior to landing.
For the return flight from
London to Atlanta, the menu read very similarly to the flight
over to London from Detroit, and the food was again excellent.
There was also an extra
surprise treat on this flight. Instead of bringing plated
portions to one's seat, several of the items were prepared and
served at one's seat - for example, a mixed salad, where one
could specify exactly which of the component items one wished to
have in one's salad, and similarly, one could oversee exactly
how one wished one's ice cream sundae to be constructed on the
return flight (I, ahem, asked for and was generously given extra
It transpired that Delta has
been trialing some new enhancements to its Business Elite
service. The at-seat food preparation and service is one
of them, and another is having the Flight Services Director walk
through the cabin at the start of the flight and personally
shake the hand of every passenger and introduce himself, and
then repeat that at the end of the flight, thanking everyone for
traveling with Delta.
This too is a nice touch,
but the guy on our flight was clearly uncomfortable with this
role of forced civility and rushed through the process so as to
make it an embarrassing travesty of what he was doubtless
instructed to do.
Delta served two red wines,
two white wines and a sparkling white wine that probably was not
champagne on the flight to London and which was champagne on the
return flight. Strangely, although their menu gave glowing
descriptions of the four specially selected wines, only one of
the four was actually available; they had substituted the other
three for different wines. So I missed out on trying a
promising sounding Bordeaux, but did enjoy a lovely Fume Blanc.
The crew put on a talent show half way through the flight.
Well, actually, no, of
course they didn't! But Delta does offer a good in-flight
entertainment system, with all seats having their individual
seat-back monitors (nice wide-screen displays in their Business
Elite class) and on-demand video and audio programming, allowing
you to choose any of the entertainment options and play it
whenever you like.
They also have a wonderful
moving map display. Maybe I'm unusual, but I find I can
spend much too much time just gazing at the moving map as it
flicks through the different screens of data, but if
it helps the journey pass, then so much the better.
it very interesting to see the variations in our ETA, and the
vagaries of the head or tail winds, including for a while on the
return journey as we came down the eastern seaboard of the US, one of the strongest headwinds I've
encountered - as you can see on this screen shot, the plane was
struggling to make headway against a 240 - 245 mph headwind.
Add the head wind to the ground speed and you can see the plane
was pushing ahead, as best it could, at a 607mph speed through
the air. That's truly impressive for a plane that likes to
cruise at 530 mph and which has a max suggested cruise speed of
568 mph (see
Unfortunately, my screen had a
software problem on the journey to London and part-way into the
flight, became unresponsive and wouldn't do anything more.
The unit worked fine on the return journey, although the crew
needed to do both a warm and cold (hard) reboot of the entire
onboard system due to problems elsewhere on the plane. It
takes a lengthy 15 minutes to do a cold/hard reboot.
Coming and Going
Delta's two lane approach to
boarding - one lane for Business Elite and for high level
frequent fliers, and the other lane for everyone else - makes it
easy for business passengers to board the plane whenever they
choose, and with no delay.
This is a vastly better
procedure than that offered by airlines with only one boarding
line and no way for premium passengers to jump to the head of
the line if they arrive after the initial priority boarding has
A minor disappointment and
surprise was that Delta doesn't give its business class
passengers priority lane passes to go through UK Immigration
upon arrival at Heathrow. This would be a reasonable
courtesy to expect, in line with that offered by other airlines,
and at times can save 30 minutes or more of delay while waiting
in line at Immigration.
Here's an interesting
suggestion also for Delta - how about priority lanes for
passengers returning to the US? My return through Atlanta
saw a chaotic long line of US citizens (greatly longer than what
is usually a long slow line for foreign visitors) snaking all
the way out of the Immigration hall and back into the arrival
concourse walkways, and a 20+ minute wait.
As seems to be invariably
the case with all airlines, everywhere, the priority luggage
tags on one's bags do not ensure your bags will appear on the
carousel any sooner than regular bags.
When I arrived into
Heathrow, the delay going through Immigration was such that all
luggage had already been delivered to the carousel by the time I
got there, and on my return through Atlanta, after a long delay
(25+ minutes) before any bags arrived, one of my bags arrived
promptly but the other took an extra five minutes to appear.
All four of my Delta flights
departed on time and arrived early.
One last thing - it is a
rare but always positive experience when for some reason or
another, the crew gives me a bottle of champagne as a present
when departing the plane (not because they know who I am, I
never disclose that I'm a travel writer, but just 'because').
As luck would have it, the
crew furtively presented me with a bottle on the flight to
London, a delight that was only slightly diminished when I
opened the bag in my hotel room to discover it to be Italian
sparkling wine rather than French champagne. But a very
kind gesture, all the same, and an upbeat ending to what was a
wonderful flight over.
I'm comparing Delta's
Business Elite service primarily with British Airways, because
that is the airline I've most recently flown internationally in
business class of late. In every respect, Delta easily
bests BA. Better food (and served better), better
in-flight entertainment, better seat, better boarding, better
lounges, and in
all respects, a better experience.
Indeed, Delta's service
almost equals that offered by BA in their First Class, and if
the new enhancements Delta is trialing become permanent, Delta's
business class will be a very close competitor to BA's first
I'm surprised - and
delighted - that a US carrier can provide such a high standard
of service. Well done, Delta.
Part 2 of 2 parts on
Delta's Business Elite class. Please also visit :
767-400 and general service
planes, meals and more
FTC Mandatory Disclosure : I
was not given a free or in any way discounted/upgraded ticket by
Delta (I used frequent flier miles from my Alaska Airlines
account for this ticket). I have not been paid money to write
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12 Feb 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
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