With inflight Internet, Westin 'heavenly' bedding and a newly-renovated Sky Club lounge and premium check-in area at JFK Airport, Delta Air Lines and its 'Delta One' flagship business class service from New York to Los Angeles has great appeal to business travellers heading either across the continent, or connecting home to Australia.
As Virgin Australia's primary airline partner in North America, passengers can also fly between Los Angeles and Sydney with either airline – and also between LA and Brisbane with VA – with Delta connections possible across the United States and beyond, along with the promise of frequent flyer points and status credits with Velocity Frequent Flyer.
We put Delta to the test on a recent journey from the Big Apple to the Californian coast – here's what we thought.
- Frequent flyer program: Delta SkyMiles. You can also earn points and status credits with Virgin Australia Velocity, or with the various SkyTeam schemes such as GarudaMiles, Air France Flying Blue and Korean Air Skypass.
- Priority check-in: Yes, via a dedicated Sky Priority check-in hall at the far right of the terminal...
... complete with seating, snacks and refreshments if you're waiting for colleagues to arrive and open to Delta One passengers plus Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum members and SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus frequent flyers.
- Checked baggage allowance: 3x32kg bags for all travellers irrespective of frequent flyer status. If connecting to Australia, the allowance of the next leg also applies to this flight, and may be lower.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x114cm bag with no defined weight limit, plus a personal item and additional items such as umbrellas and duty-free goods.
- Priority security screening, boarding: Yes, via dedicated Sky Priority lanes. Strictly enforced.
Delta's flagship Sky Club awaits in Terminal 4 at New York's JFK Airport.
Inside you'll find all of the basics being showers, Wi-FI and dedicated zones for working and relaxing, along with an outdoor terrace but which was closed and locked during our visit.
Food-wise, you're given the option of a self-serve buffet with mainly snack-type items and smaller dishes, plus a proper dining space with table service and electronic menus. The latter is certainly the better choice, but even if you've forked out thousands of dollars to fly in business class from the Big Apple to Australia, you're still looking at US$14 plus tip for a club sandwich and side salad.
Each guest is offered a choice of sparkling wine, orange juice or a Mimosa – a combination of the two – as they take their seat...
... along with a Tumi amenity kit.
Inside you'll find an eye mask, a comb, socks, tissues, a dental kit, earplugs, a Delta pen, a refreshing hand wipe, a cleaning cloth for your glasses and Malin+Goetz lip and hand moisturisers, which is more than plenty for a six-hour domestic flight.
Delta offers two different types of business class seats aboard its Boeing 757 fleet – the 'newer' product with seats that transform into fully-flat beds...
... and the 'older' product with reclining chairs that Delta is progressively working to replace.
While originally listed as a flatbed flight, a last-minute aircraft swap saw us downgraded from the new to the old – which unfortunately could still happen to any Delta passenger travelling on its Boeing 757s.
Still, there's plenty of room to move and ample recline without encroaching on the space of the passenger behind you...... and a Westin 'Heavenly' inflight duvet and full-sized pillow are still provided to help you relax – even if you're not flying flat. An extendable footrest helps to replicate that 'reclined lounge chair' feel and allowed me to sneak in a three-hour nap after dining.
The seat can be customised to your liking, with shortcut keys for slumber, landing and to save your favourite position... ... along with a separate panel to activate and customise the in-seat massager: There's also a USB outlet to one side and an AC outlet to the other. My seatmate and I both found that there was no power provided to the USB connection, but were able to recharge our phones via the more traditional AC power point.
The dinner service begins with an apéritif – in this case a glass of Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc from the California North Coast with hints of lime citrus and passion fruit, and packaged almonds. Then it's antipasto from the Michael Chiarello-inspired menu with marinated fennel and Kalamata olives, chianti salami, marinated goat cheese and arugula pesto bean spread with crostini, along with a potato and tomato salad with Dijon vinaigrette in the lower left and baby greens, a parmesan dip and warm bread in the upper corner.
It's quite a comprehensive starter and I found it best to mix and match across the dishes – for example, the cheese went well with its neighbouring salami, the pesto spread and the potato and tomato salad on a crostino, as did the fennel with the parmesan dip and green leaves.
Next comes a choice of three mains: a chicken Saltimbocca with prosciutto ham, fontina cheese, mushroom marsala sauce, asparagus and potato-artichoke torta; a vegetarian penne pasta with basil pesto and broccoli rapini; and lamb chops with dried cherry vinaigrette, creamy cheese polenta and roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta.
Being an Aussie I was intrigued to try the Italian-influenced lamb and wasn't disappointed in the slightest, with the meat incredibly tender and well-mixed with everything else on the plate. The drawback – there's only one red wine on the menu (a full-bodied 2010 Hess Collection Napa Valley 18 Block Cuvée blend), so unless you're partial to what is mostly a Cab Sauv, you're left with just one white (the Sauvignon Blanc) and one Spanish sparking, which would be a better pair to seafood than lamb.
Entertainment & Service
You'll find a decent selection of movies, TV shows and music at your fingertips, presented on a fold-up widescreen display...
... and with supplied noise-cancelling headphones.
Wireless inflight Internet is available for an extra charge, which Australian Business Traveller has also reviewed.
Service on today's flight was much warmer than we found on the Delta journey from Los Angeles to New York, with all crew members we interacted with seemingly on their 'A game'.
Before departure, for example, the crew delivered a friendly greeting and subsequently refreshed my sparkling wine before take-off, rather than just disappearing with the empty glass.
In the air the service was wonderfully proactive, with one crew member preparing the cheese plates and desserts while the other came through the cabin and cleared the main course, which meant that passengers weren't kept waiting and could sneak in a quick bite before heading off to sleep.
To conclude the flight, the crew jokingly announced "We're here..." after touch-down, gave a serious face and hung up the PA phone while most passengers was laughing, before returning to their usual arrival routine after a good chuckle.
After you've left the aircraft, any passengers connecting onwards to Sydney (VA2) or Brisbane (VA8) with Virgin Australia can head straight to Gate 52B in Los Angeles' Terminal 5, where you'll find an airside transfer bus to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Provided your bag is checked all the way through and your Virgin Australia boarding pass was also printed in New York, catching the bus avoids clearing security again in Los Angeles and makes for a smooth arrival at the Star Alliance business class or first class lounge in TBIT.
Or if you're jumping on Delta flight DL17 to Sydney, you'll be leaving from the same terminal at which you arrived (Terminal 5) – so head straight to the Delta Sky Club near Gate 55A or to your boarding gate, as time permits.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to New York as a guest of Delta Air Lines.
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