Does the Delta One Suite Live up to the Hype?
Delta started earning accolades right off the bat for its new Delta One Suites, with a closing door as the finishing touch to set it apart.
There’s no denying these suites are a huge leap forward from its other, outdated business class seats. And luckily, Delta is going all out with these new suites, putting them on more aircraft, new and old, and making them available on more routes every month.
But just how good are they? I found out firsthand on a recent flight from Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) on one of Delta’s retrofitted Boeing 777s. We’ll have a full review in the coming days, but wanted to give readers a glimpse of what it’s like.
The Suites are Sweet
Let’s get down to the point. I’m convinced the Delta One Suite is easily one of the five best business class seats in the world. And it could be a top-three contender. It’s that good.
These suites found a way to be insanely private while remaining spacious and comfortable. That’s not always an easy task. But Delta threaded the needle nearly perfectly.
Seats are staggered throughout the cabin of 28 suites, with seven rows arranged in a 1-2-1 format. On the 777, even-numbered seats on each wing are closer to the windows, with a large table on the aisle. Odd-numbered seats are closer to the aisle, with the console positioned underneath the windows.
While the suites on Delta’s newest Airbus A350 planes are nearly identical, they’re arranged differently: Odd-numbered seats are farther from the aisle, while even-numbered seats are closer to the aisle. And if you’re in the middle section, it varies by row on both planes.
But I was on a 777 and picked suite 2D, the second row back in a seat that was closer to the windows.
Some travel bloggers have complained that the suites are claustrophobic. In my experience, they’re wrong. At 24 inches wide with a huge footwell in front of you and a large console table to your side, there is plenty of room to stretch both your arms and legs.
I had no trouble getting comfortable sitting upright or lounging. Come bedtime, it was easy to toss and turn to get cozy. The large footwell leaves plenty of room for your feet, and the seat isn’t angled in a way that can make it difficult to curl up your legs.
If there’s one downside to the seat, it’s the amount of storage. The slope of the footwell means you can’t place a backpack there. And while some of the seats closer to the aisle had a larger storage cubby, my seat did not. But while it could be better, it could be far worse. Between the large console table and the red-clad cubby with space to hang your headphones, hold a water bottle and more, there was plenty of room.
Now it’s time for the main event.
Delta made a splash when it announced its plan to put a fully-closing door on its new Delta One suites. It’s a defining feature, and it stands out – only a handful of airlines to date have put doors on their business class seats.
But I was skeptical heading into my flight. How much additional privacy would the door actually provide? Would it come at the expense of space? Was it functional, or just flashy?
Consider me a convert.
The doors are both flashy and functional. They make Delta One suites the most private business class seat I’ve flown by far. And while, sure, a flight attendant or fellow passenger can glance over into your suite – the suites and doors are only about 4 feet high – it’s still a vast improvement over the traditional, open concept seating.
Two notes about the doors. You can’t close them during takeoff or landing. And they don’t fully close, exactly – most suites will leave a 1-inch gap. And oddly, the gap with my door was more like 3 inches. But ultimately, that’s a minor complaint. That gap did nothing to reduce just how private and cozy my suite was.
The Delta One suite looks great in photos. But it’s hard to capture some of the great, detailed design features behind this new business class seat with even the sharpest photos. I was really blown away at how much I enjoyed the looks of the seat and cabin.
The backlighting behind the 18-inch TV screen is a gorgeous touch, bathing the textured blue background in soft light.
The stitching and patterned soft leather of the seat itself is a great touch, too.
Delta really knocks it out of the park with the mood lighting throughout the cabin, too.
And there’s also a beautiful wall display between the business class and Premium Select cabins to greet boarding passengers.
A Mixed Bag for Amenities
It’s not The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. More like The Excellent, the Good and the Bad when it comes to Delta’s amenities.
Let’s start with the excellent: Delta’s bedding. Wow. I cannot overstate how great the pillows (yes, plural) and duvet were on this flight. The two pillows – one large and one smaller – were plush yet remained firm. The duvet was thick enough to be substantial but not so thick that it was too warm – a frequent problem on planes. It was truly hotel quality bedding, and that makes sense. This bedding is co-branded from Westin’s Heavenly line.
Then there’s the amenity kit, which is fairly well-stocked. The bag itself is a pouch from Tumi – Delta has stopped giving out the hard-sided cases, it seems. It came with a pair of socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, a Tumi facemask, earplugs, hand sanitizer, tissues, a pen, and some products from Kiehl’s.
And though they look sharp, the headphones in Delta One are not that great. While they’re certainly useable, I thought they were uncomfortable, with only decent sound quality and absolutely no noise canceling feature. Compared to other top-notch airlines, that’s a major shortcoming.
What About the Service and Food?
The suite itself certainly lives up to the hype. But that’s just half the equation of what goes into a business class flight. And when it comes to the service and food, Delta One was certainly good, but not quite great.
Don’t get me wrong, the meals were still quite good – and a marked improvement over what you’d get in economy. It was all served on chic-looking china, with really cool glassware for drinks, too.
But there was nothing particularly memorable about anything I ate on board the flight. It lacked the punch and deep flavors that set apart the outstanding business class meals from the merely good ones. And after a recent meal on Japan Airlines showed just how good a meal at 36,000 feet can be, it’s clear there’s some room for improvement.
I ordered the Japanese meal for the first meal after takeoff, which came in two courses. The first course was presented beautifully in eight small ceramic dishes. It was all quite good, but none of these bites really wowed me.
The main entree was a fillet of mackerel steamed in a delicious miso sauce, with rice and some pickled vegetables on the side. It was a very good dish, though a tad overcooked – likely because of some heavy turbulence during.
The second meal service took place about 90 minutes before landing, and I ordered something called “pork shabu shabu” in a sesame mustard sauce. It was pretty good, thanks in large part to the sauce which had more of a peanut taste to it.
Again, both were good meals that I would be more than happy to eat again. But foreign airlines have really stepped up their game with catering in business class in recent years, especially on the long flights to and from Asia. And like all U.S. carriers, Delta remains a few steps back in that department.
On the plus side, Delta last year introduced the ability to pre-select meals in business and first class. I got an email about 72 hours before departure asking for my meal preference – though only for the first meal. That meant my Japanese meal was set aside. Reserving ahead of time can be a big plus: Just a few rows behind me, I heard a flight attendant tell a passenger that they’d have to select a different meal because their first choice had already run out.
Service, meanwhile, was great but not outstanding. Most of the flight attendants working the cabin were warm and engaging – especially the purser, who introduced himself to every passenger, was quick with a joke throughout the flight, and ended the flight by walking around with a tray of chocolates. A few were more passive, happy to help out with any request but otherwise largely steered clear of passengers.
This might seem like nitpicking. But in the ultra-competitive flights across the Pacific with a seat as great as these suites, the bar is high. And while Delta certainly cleared it, it’s an area where Delta doesn’t shine quite as bright as some of its competitors flying to Asia.
How to Book a Delta One Suite
With suites these nice, Delta generally charges an arm and a leg – whether you’re paying in cash or with SkyMiles. It’s pretty standard to see flights from the U.S. to Asia going for 180,000 SkyMiles – and sometimes double that.
But I didn’t use SkyMiles. Instead, I used one of the best workarounds to book the exact same flight for a fraction of the cost.
When you want to snag a Delta One Suite, Use Virgin Atlantic miles. That allowed me to book this flight for just 60,000 miles and a fee of roughly $48 USD.
If you’re heading to Europe, you can book a suite for just 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles each way. Check out all the routes where you can currently fly in a Delta One suite.
If you don’t have Virgin Atlantic miles, don’t worry – they’re very easy to get. That’s because the airline is a transfer partner with three major banks: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points. You can transfer the miles you need from any credit card that earns one of these currencies, and you’re set.
Delta is knocking at the door of the world’s best business class with its Delta One suite. The seats themselves surely belong in that conversation. And with a few small tweaks to service, food, and the amenities, it could break through.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.