Elite Class review
Part 1 : The 767-400 and general
Business Elite service experience
Delta's nearly new
767 business class seats are staggered so that each seat
is aligned with the console space alongside the seat in front,
giving more leg room and better space utilization.
They are comfortable and functional.
Part 1 of 2 parts on
Delta's Business Elite class. Please also visit :
767-400 and general service
planes, meals and more
Delta Air Lines, now merged with
Northwest Airlines, has become the world's largest airline.
Biggest isn't necessarily best, but with its Business Elite
class cabin and service, Delta definitely offers one of the very
best business class experiences of any airline, closely approaching the
first class offered by three and four class airlines.
Many people have decried US
carriers as providing inferior service, compared to foreign
carriers, on international routes. Based on the consistent
high quality experience I enjoyed on my two recent flights, that
is not the case with Delta. I
unhesitatingly recommend Delta for your next business class
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.
Before Flight Experiences
Checking in for the flights was easy, with priority access
checkin lanes and no need to use self checkin terminals.
There were no lines to wait for a checkin agent, and the
prescreening security officer at Heathrow was polite and
deferential. Going through airport security was also
expedited with priority lanes.
In these days of paying to check luggage, it was a positive
experience to see that Delta allows international Business Elite
passengers to check three suitcases, each weighing up to 70lbs.
Suitcases are tagged with priority tags, but, as is so often the
case, the priority tags only sometimes result in one's bags
actually appearing on the carousel any sooner than regular bags.
Because my international flights were in the middle of a four
leg journey, with
flights to/from Seattle to the international gateway cities
before/after the international flights, I got to visit four
of Delta's lounges - in Seattle, Detroit, London Heathrow
(Terminal 4) and Atlanta (Terminal T). These were formerly
known as Crown Rooms, and have been renamed after DL's merger
with NW to SkyClub lounges.
All four lounges were comfortable and relaxing. The
Seattle and Detroit lounges had the best facilities for working
on a laptop with plenty of workstation spaces, with the other
two lounges having considerably less workstation space.
All the lounges offer free Wi-Fi service, without the need for
any secret password or anything, so if, ahem, you're close to
the lounge outside and pick up their signal, well......
The Heathrow lounge also had a generous amount of hot and cold
food and drink on offer.
Boarding for all flights - domestic and international - had
separate lanes for Business Elite passengers, allowing
boarding to take place quickly and easily.
These days many cabin crew seem to start off with a
wary caution when it comes to greeting passengers, half
expecting to end up in a confrontational situation with them,
and the Delta cabin crew on all my four flights were no
exception to this.
Happily, however, once they've identified you as a pleasant
positive person who is willing to play the game by their rules,
their attitudes usually change and they become more pleasant and
positive in turn. The cabin crew on the DTW-LHR flight in
particular were tremendously pleasant, and I noticed subtle
little things like the jewelry and accessories the women wore
that showed their own pride in their work and desire to present
themselves in the same high standard as the Delta Business Elite
cabin and service.
Coats were quickly whisked away and drinks quickly proffered.
There was no wait for headphones or amenities kits, and one
quickly felt settled and comfortable.
As an aside, Delta's amenity kits are vastly better than other
recent amenity kits I've received. The pouch/bag itself
has a fold over flap with magnetic fasteners. Opening the
flap reveals a zip top, and when one unzips that, there are lots
of goodies inside, including another, removable, smaller clear
mesh zippable bag.
Inside this inner bag is a toothbrush and toothpaste, a
breath mint, a tube of moisturizing face cream apparently made
from real yoghurt and a stick of shea butter lip balm.
Also in the main pouch is a pair of socks with rubberized
buttons on the bottom so you can walk around the cabin in them,
an eye mask (which I found a bit
small/tight/confining/claustrophobic), a small pack of tissues,
a pair of ear plugs, and - nice touch - a souvenir triangular
A range of newspapers were offered at the start of the flight.
We were given two hot towels to freshen up with - one near the
beginning of the journey and one near the end.
The magic double chime
One of my pet peeves with most airlines is the arbitrary way in
which the cabin crew require you to turn off your electronic
items on the descent phase of a flight. Sometimes you're
told you've got to get your seat back upright, etc, and all
electronic items switched off when the plane first begins its
descent from 35,000+ ft, or at some other random seeming point,
often ridiculously sooner than necessary - as much as 30 minutes prior to landing. If you're
using noise cancelling headphones, listening/watching to an
iPod, reading an eBook, or simply lying back in your reclined
seat, this is an inconvenience for no
Delta have quality controlled this process in a manner that is
fair and understandable/acceptable for all concerned. When
the plane climbs through 10,000 ft on its initial ascent, the
pilot sounds a double chime throughout the cabin, which
signifies you can turn on your electronics. When the plane
descends through 10,000 ft on the final part of the journey,
another double chime announces that transition and that is the
cue to turn all electronics off and do the seat upright stuff.
The cabin crew make announcements to explain this process and
also when the double chimes sound to remind us of their
This is an understood and acceptable formula that is much better
than the capricious nature of the impositions semi-randomly
foisted on us as passengers by other airlines.
You've got to wonder about the competence of a pilot when he is
unable to make himself heard while making an announcement over
the PA system. There he is, entrusted with a plane worth
tens of millions of dollars, and with hundreds of passengers on
board, but, notwithstanding the state of the art equipment that
surrounds him and his years of training, he can't make himself
heard over the PA.
Shame on the pilots, shame on the airlines, and shame also on
the cabin crews for not telling him he is inaudible and
requiring him to repeat his announcement properly (as has
Both the international flights featured inaudible announcements
by the pilots - they couldn't even be heard if I stood up and
positioned myself immediately under a speaker in the ceiling.
Ridiculous seat belt fastening
As is consistently the case with other American carriers, and as
is equally consistently never the case with foreign carriers,
the pilots will turn on the fasten seat belt sign at the
slightest hint of any turbulence at all, and then, as often as
not, forget about it and leave the sign illuminated for 30
minutes or more after we've passed through the couple of seconds
of minor turbulence.
This happened on the Delta flights, the same as with other US
carriers. What timid fools they all are, sacrificing our
freedom and comfort without care or concern.
Delta's 767-400 Business Elite Cabin
Delta upgraded some of its 767-400 planes in 2009 so as to
ensure that all flights between the US and Heathrow offered
their latest/greatest seating configuration with so-called
'lie-flat' sleeper bed seats. (Note that in January 2010
Delta announced a $1+ billion dollar program to outfit most of
the rest of its fleet with new improved business class cabins
too - see part two of this
The cabin has ten rows of seats, arranged 1 - 2 - 1 with two
aisles, meaning that all seats are aisle seats and you are never
blocked from getting up. Half the seats are simultaneously
aisle and window seats, which are great if you're traveling by
yourself, and if you're traveling with someone else, you can
take the center double seat block and still both have an aisle.
This is a great layout, much better than some other airlines
such as BA which traps half its business class fliers with inner
seats that are blocked by the outer/aisle seats making getting
in and out during a flight a non-trivial task.
The 40 seats (passengers) have two bathrooms at the rear of the
cabin - a 1:20 ratio which is adequate but not brilliant.
Galley space is at the front, and the crew don't seem to pull
any privacy/shade curtains to block out the light from the
galley at night, which makes seat 1A (where I was) not quite so
desirable as a night seat for sleeping.
There are exits both at the front and rear of this cabin;
typically passengers get on and off the plane via the exit at
the rear of the cabin, but upon arrival in Heathrow the jetway
first moved to the rear exit, but then, after reaching there,
changed its mind and moved instead to open the forward exit.
Yay - that meant I was first off the plane - a small victory but
The headphones provided are full around the ear type, and offer
some rudimentary noise cancelling capabilities. Note that
Delta uses the older style double prong type headphone jack, so
if you are traveling with your own headphones, be sure to bring
a double prong converter.
Overhead space for carry-ons was only just sufficient when the
cabin was full, this being more a reflection on Delta turning a
blind eye to their carry-on policies and allowing business class
passengers to bring way more on board with them than in theory
Individually adjustable air vents were present for all seats,
and the cabin temperature was consistently comfortable, never
too hot as can often be the case with some airlines. Noise
levels from engines and airflow was typical, neither
particularly more nor less than with other planes.
Delta's Business Elite Sleeper Seat
These new seats (installed
during 2009) are cleverly designed to make best use of the cabin
space - in particular, the width of the cabin.
a view of the rear of the seats (see the top of this page for a
view of the front). Although not brilliantly
clear, hopefully you can see how the seats alternate between
seat and console space between seats, so that each seat has leg
room underneath the console space belonging to the offset seat
You can also see the widescreen individual video monitors, and
the shoe storage areas. The shoe storage areas were
actually a bit on the small side - with regular shoes it was a
tight squeeze fitting them into the little cubby hole.
Shoes with boots or heels on them might be more difficult to fit
in this area.
There were two mesh pockets to store other items - one was
already mainly full with inflight magazines, menus, duty free
catalogs, and the like, and neither of them were particularly
All seats have 110V mains power, with an international 'one size
fits all' socket into which you can plug just about any type of
power plug. They also have ethernet connectors, but no
data service of any type was offered. I was told this was
due to it being an international flight, but wondered why the
data service wasn't at least available for the several hours the
plane spent flying over the US.
A USB connector was also
available, presumably to allow you to browse images (or video?)
on any USB memory sticks you might have with you, and also to
provide a USB power source to charge any other gadgets that can
be charged that way.
The seats have two lights.
One is a variable brightness LED light on a swivel stalk behind
one's shoulder, and the other is a traditional overhead light.
Interestingly, the seat
belts were fitted with air bags. You can recognize the
airbag if the seat belt has a padded pouch sort of
thing on one of its straps. It is good of Delta to add
that extra level of passenger safety to its seats, for the 'just
in case' scenarios we all try not to think about.
The seats are described as
'lie flat' but it is important to understand that this does not
mean the same as 'lie horizontal'. They will stretch out
to create a flat slab for sleeping purposes, but
they are on an angle sloping down, such that there was always a
bit of pressure on the bottom of my feet against the end of the
seat/bed to stop me slipping any
Happily, if forced to
choose, I prefer to have my
head higher than my feet rather than vice versa. A fully horizontal
(with respect to the floor) seat
ends up with one's feet higher than one's head, due to
the plane flying through the air in a slightly pitched up
angle. So a slight angle is fine, although these seats
were about as strongly angled as one would wish them to be.
The seats were quite narrow
- but wider than many other business class sleeper seats.
Lying down on the seat in the recline position, it was a squeeze
to be on my back with my arms at my sides. Seatguru claims
the seats are 21.5" wide.
While they seemed a bit
narrow, they were perfectly long enough (I'm 6'). Seatguru
says they are 6'6" long, other sources say 6'5". Remember
that you need a longer bed than you are tall, however, because
the pillow probably takes up some of the top of the bed, and if
your feet are relaxed, they extend your length compared to when
you're standing and they are at right angles to your legs.
The 21.5" of width and 6'5"
- 6'6" of length compares most favorably to BA, with only 20" of
width and a definitely insufficient 6'1" of length in their
business class seats.
Talking about pillows, the
medium sized pillow was comfortable, and the quilt-stitched
blanket was perfect. It could have benefitted from a
couple more inches in length to truly go from covering one's
feet all the way up to fitting snuggly around one's shoulders,
but it was the ideal combination of weight and warmth (at least
for me) and felt nice and clean.
One thing I didn't much like
was that if one just wished to recline the seat but not go all
the way to a flat state, the middle part (which one sits on)
started to angle too so that one would slide off the seat.
Some seats will actually tilt the middle part of a seat back in
the opposite direction when the seat is reclining, or at least
keep it horizontal, but these seats caused the middle part to
This meant one could have a comfortable
small amount of recline, or one could wind the seat all the way
back, but a nice middling amount of recline so you could sit
back comfortably and maybe read a book, watch a movie or listen to music was
The footrest part of the
seat tapered to a moderately narrow point at its far end.
This was not a good thing, because it was not easy for both my
feet to be stretched out on the footrest - one or both of them
tended to slide off the narrow end.
Part 1 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
28 Nov 2012
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