Delta Air Lines began flying its retrofitted B767s in 2021 with a version of its popular Delta One business class suites. Does it matter that there are no sliding doors? Jenny Southan reports
I checked in online using the Delta app. I had already pre-selected my seat (2A) and put in my request for my lunch following an email prompt from the airline. I then had to put in my details to become a SkyMiles member, upload my Covid vaccination certificates (as required by the US for non-citizens), sign a health attestation, and input my contact and hotel details. Once all this had been completed (a process that took about 15 minutes) I was issued with a digital boarding pass.
AT THE AIRPORT
I was flying from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Boston Logan International. My flight was scheduled to depart at 0955 and I arrived at about 0810 with hand-luggage only so I could head straight to the fast-track security channel that Delta Shares with Virgin Atlantic. There was roughly a ten-minute wait to get through security – at the moment passengers still have to remove liquids from their bags but soon Heathrow will be introducing new scanners that will be there will be no restriction on the amount of liquids you can take on board planes. (London City has already taken this step.)
By the time I was walking through airside duty-free it was about 0820 so there wasn’t a lot of time to spend in the lounge, which was a shame as Delta passengers get access to the the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse – a standout lounge with everything from a la carte dining to a Peloton studio overlooking the aircraft stands. I had a quick breakfast of toast, fruit, a green smoothie and coffee, and then headed to Gate 16 for boarding at 0850, grabbing a couple of free magazines (GQ and Elite Traveler) on my way out.
It was roughly a seven-minute walk to the gate. Upon arrival my passport and boarding pass was checked, and I was asked if I was travelling with a visa or an ESTA. At about 0905 business class passengers were called forward for boarding – there was no need to present passports at this stage as there were automated gates that just scanned people’s boarding passes. I was swiftly onboard the B767-400ER with minimal fuss and welcome by a member of crew who directed me to my seat.
Since the pandemic, a lot of airlines have been unveiling new business class cabins. Delta Air Lines launched its Delta One product in 2016 but unlike its joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic, its premium passengers don’t get sliding doors on this plane as it’s a little too narrow (they are available on its A350s, for example).
Nevertheless, Delta’s new business class suite is stylish and reasonably private. Every passenger gets direct access to the aisle (as is customary these days) with seats arranged 1-2-1. The central pairs are best for couples but if you are sitting next to a stranger there is a privacy divider that raises up between the booths. I was sitting next to a window at the front of the plane. Waiting for me in my booth was a zip-up bag containing a thick cotton quilt and pillow, a set of noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of water and a menu. Once settled I was offered a choice of orange juice or champagne. I like the fact that there was a good amount of surface space for belongings such as a laptop and a slot to keep loose items safe.
There is also a universal charging socket and a couple of USB sockets for charging devices. Seats slide forward and recline inside a fixed shell surround. I particularly liked the expansive touchscreen entertainment screen that had a great choice of recent movies and TV shows to watch.
There is supposed to be wifi (at a fee) onboard but on this flight I couldn’t connected on my phone or my laptop despite trying numerous times, which was frustrating. (Delta plans to bring free wifi onboard its entire global fleet by the end of 2024.) This is something airlines really have to work on getting right. I had more luck on a recent Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight although it wasn’t good enough to upload content to Instagram. (Virgin Atlantic offers 20 minutes free with adverts, or you can pay £5.99 for an hour or £18.99 for the whole flight.)
All business class passengers are given a handmade amenity kit from “Someone Somewhere”. Mine was made by Brian and contained a bamboo toothbrush and paste, Grown Alchemist hand cream and lip balm, a handmade eye mask and a cardboard biro. The kit was an innovative touch that I appreciated – each bag and eye mask has been made by someone living in the Mexican regions of Oaxaca, Michoacan and Puebla, and sales of these products provide a livelihood to 1,000 people, apparently. A label reads: “Add impact to your personal wardrobe or your organisation’s value chain.” This is a great example of luxury hospitality can support artisans.
Delta invites business class passengers to make a meal selection before flying – I was keen to do this as I am vegetarian and wanted to be able to ensure I would be catered for. Served as three courses, my tray arrived with a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup, a fresh bread roll and a very cold salad with Feta, olives and spiced carrot. The main course wasn’t so appetising – a mushroom pie with gravy, mashed potato, carrots, peas and broccoli. (The picture below is a stock picture – it’s not of me.)It looked nice but I didn’t enjoy the consistency or flavour of the pie. I had a cheese plate to follow. Served a few hours later, the afternoon tea was a nice touch – a couple of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and two small cakes. There was a generous selection of wine, beers, spirits and soft drinks – I needed to work so avoided alcohol, which meant that when we landed at 12.30pm local time I felt pretty fresh.
The fact that the wifi didn’t work was a disappointment for me – I was looking forward to using the time to catch up on emails and doing some online research. The food was pretty average too. However, I loved the seat in spite of the lack of sliding doors (I might have appreciated them more during a night flight) and felt it was a really comfortable flight with great entertainment and service.