If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, the Delta 747-400 upper deck is the best business-class cabin I’ve ever had the privilege of riding in.

Delta 747-400 upper deck

Coming from Korea, I did not hesitate in using a Global Upgrade Certificate to upgrade my coach ticket to the business class cabin on the upper deck of the Delta (DL) 747-400.

Other post about this trip:

The Great Seoul/Incheon (ICN) Priority Pass Lounge Crawl, Part 1 – Main Terminal

The Great Seoul/Incheon (ICN) Priority Pass Lounge Crawl, Part 2 – Concourse A

Lounges?…We Don’t Need No Stinking Lounges! The Great Seoul/Incheon (ICN) Priority Pass Lounge Crawl Part 3

Delta inherited 18 747s through the 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines.  In 2015, Delta began phasing out this fleet.  Delta will retire its last 747 by the end of 2017.  Until then, I’m taking every opportunity I can to fly it.

The Upper Deck Experience

So what’s so darn special about the Delta 747 upper deck?  Start with the fact that there are only 14 seats.  As is evident from the photo above, Delta arranges these seats 1-1 meaning each seat is a window seat and an aisle seat simultaneously.  There are six seats on the port side and eight seats on the starboard side.  While many airlines fly 747s, to my knowledge, all other airlines use a 2-2 seating arrangement on the upper deck.

Second, passengers have the privilege of being served by two Delta flight attendants (FAs).

Aisles are wide allowing easy access for service from carts.

The seven-to-one passenger/FA ratio ensures a highly personal level of service.  It is the best passenger/FA ration in any Delta cabin.  With two lavatories, the upper deck also has the best passenger/bathroom ratio.

Third, (and this is potentially a biggie) pilots must use the upper deck to get to the flight deck and crew rest area.  Many pilots will chat briefly with some upper deck passengers before or during the flight.  In 2015, one 747 captain invited me to sit in his seat when I mentioned I was a private pilot.

In 2015, I got to sit in the left seat of this DL 747-400 before takeoff at Tokyo, Japan (NRT).

Then, I was too surprised to get any photos.  When the pilots invited me into the cockpit on this flight, there was no way I was going to repeat that mistake.  One of the relief pilots snapped a couple of photos while I enjoyed a short chat with the captain and first officer.

At the gate at ICN


Fourth, being farther from the four Pratt & Whitney turbofans lowers the cabin’s ambient noise level.

For all of these reasons, flying Delta’s 747-400 upper deck feels more like flying on a luxurious private jet than on a commercial airliner with nearly 400 other passengers!  Once seated, upper deck passengers become oblivious to the 360+ peons, uh passengers, on the deck below.

With so many pluses, the 747 upper deck has but one drawback.

The staircase is narrow and steep.  It reminded me of the staircases in Amsterdam houses.  An elevator would have been a nice touch.

If one has large carry ons or limited mobility, getting up and down the staircase can be a  challenge.  Also being closer to the top of the plane, the upper deck has relatively small overhead bins.  This is not an issue though because there is a large closet at the back of the upper deck that easily accommodates any luggage that won’t fit overhead.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong.  The DL 747 seats and service are great but clearly not the best in the sky as far as business class goes.  There is no way the DL 747 experience compares to a Qatar Q Suite or a business-class seat on a Singapore Airlines 777-200.  It is the intimacy of cabin itself and its “private jet” feel that makes the upper deck on the DL 747-400 an unequaled experience for commercial business class.

What do you think about the Delta 747-400 upper deck?  Do you know of any business class cabins that can beat it?