While seeing some of the natural wonders of the African continent was the primary reason for undertaking the trip to Kenya, experiencing business class products and service on several major airlines and finding a way around Delta’s requirement to spend $15,000 on airfare to retain my frequent flyer status were close seconds. After the travel disruption of the previous day that caused a total rerouting of my outbound and return flights, I left the Concourse E Sky Club refreshed, relieved and full of anticipation about the next 12 days.
Up first was a flight to Amsterdam on a Delta Air Lines A350-900. Since 2017 when Delta dumped the last of the 747-400s inherited from the 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines, the A350-900 has served as the flagship of Delta’s fleet. It was the first aircraft Delta equipped with its semi-revolutionary Delta One Suite, a business class seat with a door. Until the Delta One Suite, seats with doors were found only on the best airline international first class products.
Having flown Delta A350-900s in Delta One (business class) several times including one week after the suite entered service in October 2017, the suite’s strengths and weaknesses were familiar. The review of that flight is here. This flight was a chance to see if my opinion changed since my last Delta One flight several years ago.
Delta Air Lines Flight DL074 Atlanta, GA(ATL) To Amsterdam, Netherlands(AMS)
Great Circle Distance: 4,440 miles (7,081km)
Scheduled Flight Time: 8h 30m
Class of Service Flown: Delta One (Business Class)
Seat Reserved/Flown: 8C/7C
As reported on the Delta website, specs for its A350s and Delta One seating chart are:
Seats in the same cabin aren’t always the same. Studying the seating chart helps to identify the seat best meets your needs and preferences.
Seats in the Delta One cabin are arranged in what is now a standard 1-2-1 configuration where all seats are aisle seats. I selected seat 8C in the center section on the right side. I prefer a window seat however none were open when I bought the ticket. To fit in more lie-flat seats, when the seat is reclined into a bed, the legs of the sleeping passenger extend into the space under the console of the seat in front. That is typical for business class.
Seats like 8C have the console by the aisle while seats like 7C have the seat by the aisle. It matters.
When the console is by the aisle like 8C, I find that closing the door to the suite doesn’t really increase the feeling of privacy. On the other hand when the seat is by the aisle, there is no feeling of privacy unless the door to the suite is closed.
Wouldn’t you know it. A husband and wife came on after almost everyone boarded, and he asked me if I would move to his seat, 7C, so he could sit next to his wife in 8B. Both 8B and 7C have the seat next to the aisle, which is what I’d wanted to avoid. To add insult to the request, I’d already unloaded and arranged my personal items and had opened some of the stuff Delta provides. I was this close to saying no. The sour expression on the wife’s face convinced me that the move might be best for peace in our time.
Tip: If you are going to ask someone to switch seats, at a minimum offer an identical seat and get there first so you can make the request before the other person sits down and unpacks.
The seats are covered with textured leather upholstery. The cushioning is firm. That’s great for sitting upright or reclining. It felt too firm in bed mode. A mattress pad would work wonders for sleep comfort.
Seat and lighting controls are easy to locate, understand and operate.
The tray table ejects from the console with the touch of a button. Delta adds a separate set of seat and light controls that are easy to use when the seat is in bed mode.
When reclined substantially or in bed mode, feet and lower legs must fit into a narrow space under the console of the seat in front. Most lie-flat seats in business class have this issue.
There is plenty of flat space for placing items even without extending the try table. Secure/semi-secure storage is adequate. The best storage feature is the compartment in the console that I used for my boots.
The 17 in. (43cm) video monitor is one of the suite’s best features. The resolution was best in class when it debuted in 2017.
The video remote is hidden under the armrest on the console.
The suite door is a pocket type that slides out of the wall by the aisle. It is a little quirky but requires little effort to move. The door must remain open during taxi, takeoff and landing.
Suite door closed position.
Delta One Amenities
Amenities on the flight included, a warm quilt, soft pillows, slippers, noise-cancelling headset, bottled water, and an amenity kit.
Delta flight attendants generally provide better service than cabin crew on other U.S. airlines. (Alaska Airlines is a close second.) The service on this flight was no exception. The flight attendants were attentive and responsive. I had no complaints about the way they served meals. A beverage service of water, champagne and orange juice was offered as passengers settled in during boarding. My request for a Mimosa was cheerfully accommodated.
The flight was scheduled to pushback at 20:10. It was delayed until 20:49 because of a problem loading cargo. With a layover of several hours in Amsterdam, the delay did not threaten my connecting flight to Nairobi. Plus the captain announced that a strong tailwind would reduce the flight time to seven hours and 30 minutes.
Takeoff occurred at 21:06. Not having a window seat or view, I would have appreciated watching the takeoff roll on the video screen. Unfortunately, U.S. airlines do not install external cameras.
Food and Beverages
Scan the QR code below to see the full menu. Delta is chipping in for the environment by eliminating traditional printed menus. Similar to books, I like printed menus more than the digital kind. Still, it is good that Delta looks for ways to reduce its environmental impact.
Dine and rest service, where the meal is served all at once, is popular with business folk who want to get as much sleep as possible overnight and have a productive workday after arriving. I’m not sure I buy it. The theory sounds good when justifying the cost of a trans-Atlantic ticket in a premium cabin.
Soup and salad were a red pepper bisque and burrata salad. There were three choices of entrée. My selection was BBQ short ribs with grits, grilled onion, asparagus, and succotash accompanied by a California red wine.
For dessert, I had the vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and cookie crumbles rather than Humming Bird Cake.
The ribs were delicious, and the rest of the meal was adequately prepared and served. Grits and succotash aren’t my favorites, but even they tasted pretty good.
Once the tray table was cleared and stowed, I reclined the seat and watched a movie. The flight attendants set up a snack buffet in the galley. I picked up a Macallan 12 year single malt scotch and salty snacks to go with the movie then dozed for a couple of hours.
The two lavs in business class were clean whenever I used them.
Breakfast was served 80 minutes from Amsterdam. I had Quiche Lorraine. The quiche didn’t have much taste. That is a problem I’ve noticed with breakfast on planes.
As we began the approach to AMS the attendants distributed refreshing moist towels and chocolates.
All in all, it was a pleasure to experience the Delta One Suite again. It is an excellent business class seat. The door is particularly useful when the seat is adjacent to the aisle. However I think the suite’s best attributes are its looks and the sharp video monitor.
Many U. S. airlines I’ve flown take a “50 shades of gray” approach to cabin décor. The blue and red in Delta’s color scheme is a welcome change as is the secure storage, generous amount of flat surface for setting things during flight, and the clean look.
The suite’s weaknesses are it feels tighter than some other lie-flat business class seats and there isn’t much room for feet and lower legs in the small space under the console of the seat in front. Seats in the first row don’t have this problem but must deal with noise and commotion from the lavs and galley.
Have there been situations were you agreed to or declined a request to switch seats? Do you think travelling in business class or first class makes much of a difference in being ready to do business after arriving on a long flight? Thanks for visiting.
I invite you to view other posts from the Kenya trip in May 2022.
Air France 777-300 Business Class Johannesburg, South Africa to Paris, France
Air France 787-9 Business Class Paris, France to Dallas, TX
Air France Lounge Terminal 2E Hall K, Charles de Gaulle International Airport Paris