Delta’s Transcontinental BusinessElite is supposed to bring international flying amenities to the domestic market. Delta offers Trancontinental Business Elite from New York-JFK to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The upgraded service includes lay flat seats on some planes, amenity kits, upgraded meals and more.
I have flown JFK-SEA many times on Delta, but not since they enhanced their inflight amenities to match the SFO/LAX offerings. I was on an award ticket using the last of my SkyMiles and on this leg I was flying from San Juan to Seattle, when due to a snow storm I was delayed a day. Initially I thought there was no way my Award Upgrade would clear, after all Transcontinental BusinessElite upgrades are among the hardest to come by in the Delta network. With only 16 seats in business, the battle for the upgrade always comes down to the gate. When I checked in for my flight 24 hours in advance, I was already #5 on the upgrade list with only 3 seats available. There was a snow storm brewing on the east coast and the am flight from JFK-SEA was already cancelled for the next day. My upgrade chances were looking extremely slim. Yet, then I got a notice that I could change my ticket due to the snow storm in New York for free.
When trying to change my ticket, Delta’s website initially wanted to route me via Atlanta, but also gave me the option of flying out the next day. I REALLY wanted to fly JFK-SEA to test out the enhanced service and so I opted to fly via JFK, but the next day. After all, an extra day in Puerto Rico and on the beach isn’t a bad punishment. Also, I figured that even if I didn’t get upgraded, an economy comfort seat would allow me to try out the new complimentary food offerings and take advantage of free spirits in economy comfort. When I made the change online, Delta.com showed that both legs would be booked in economy and I would lose my confirm upgrade from SJU to JFK. To my surprise, not even a minute after confirming the change, I received an email from Delta with my new itinerary and I was confirmed in business class on BOTH segments! WAHOO! I was going to get pampered by the Delta Fly Girls!
Boarding the Delta flight was delayed an hour due to the snow storm over JFK. The gate was crowded but the delayed boarding allowed me to connect from my delayed flight from SJU so I was thankful. I was unaware that the boarding process was so delayed, as the Delta mobile app was only showing the flight delay of 30 minutes. I ran for the gate thinking I only had 10 minutes until the new scheduled departure time only to find the gate crowded with people standing around waiting for further direction from the agents.
Boarding began 45 minutes after scheduled departure time and was done in typical Delta fashion. First, those traveling with children and those needing extra assistant were allowed to board followed by the First Class cabin. I am not one to board the plane early, but since I was already at the gate and I didn’t have enough time to visit the new T4 Delta SkyClub, so I decided to board. In the First Class cabin, each seat had the Westin heavenly blanket and pillow on it, along with a Tumi amenity kit and noise cancelling headphones in the seatback pocket. Once situated in our seats, flight attendants stored jackets and offered passengers a drink of their choice. The boarding process took almost an hour, not because the plane wasn’t boarded completely, but because of the storm ground operations being extremely slow loading baggage. During this delay, the flight attendants hid in the galley instead of offering drink refills. I found this to be somewhat inattentive, but at the same time I understand that the FA doesn’t get paid until the cabin door closes and the parking break comes off.
Inflight Service & Meal Service
Once we had leveled off and it was safe to move around the cabin, flight attendants tend to get up and start preparing meals and serving drinks. On this flight, it appeared that the Business class cabins FA were in no hurry to get to work, as they stay sitting until the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign. Meanwhile, in the back of the plane, the FAs were busy serving drinks and snacks to the economy class cabin. About 50 minutes into flight, one FA came through the cabin and took food and beverage orders, afterwards as the other flight attendant poured drinks, the first one offered us hot towel service.
Dinner was served in three courses. The first course was our appetizer and salad, at which point I ordered a glass of wine. I was surprised to see that on these flights, Delta has moved away from the small wine glasses, to a true wine glass with a long stem. It was much more pleasing to the eyes. The appetizers were delicious, and filling! Honestly I could have just ate the appetizers and been satisfied but I decided to indulge and order the chicken saltimbocca.
Lamb chop option (My Seat mates)
The chicken was good and moist and not dry when compared to most airline meats. There wasn’t much masala sauce, but for an airline meal is was decent. Then again, I eat meat less than 2 or 3 times a year, so I am truly a bad judge of chicken. Maybe it was the booze, but it truly wasn’t a bad meal!
The meal finished off with the option of a cheese plate or caramel gelato. I initially was going to choose the cheese paring, but when the FA walked up with the ice cream I couldn’t resist. The sweet ice cream was good, but I honestly prefer the AA Ice Cream sundae. During meal service, FAs were not very attentive to details nor were they aware of people’s drink level. When FAs removed appetizer plates and replaced them with dinner plates I noticed that FAs were not asking individuals if they wanted drink refills. It wasn’t until a 3rd FA from the back of the plane came to the forward galley were drinks refilled and service improved.
Seat, Comfort, & amenities
The seats on the 757-200 are in the process to be updated to offer each Business Class passenger a lie-flat experience and starting this spring, passengers will be able to enjoy such luxury. However for now, the airline is using older transatlantic cradle type seats which I personally find very comfortable. The seat currently reclines 150 degrees, offer a foot rest, and is fully electronic. The seat was comfortable enough and within 20 minutes of dinner, I fell asleep and woke up 3 hours later just minutes before landing in Seattle. This was a big win and I was very happy with the seat comfort. Even though it wasn’t lay flat, I was comfortable. I would much prefer a cradle seat to the angle flat seats that are currently still offered on the long haul A330s.
As far as amenities goes, each seat did feature the newer Westin bedding and I can report the pillow was next to heaven. I did not use the blanket as the cabin was too warm and it was not needed so I cannot review the blanket. In addition to the Westin bedding, each seat had a Tumi amenity kit. The amenity kit was a nice touch, but I honestly can say that I did not see a single person actually use their kit on this short 5.5 hour flight. The Tumi amenity kits will be reviewed in another post and I have three to give away, so watch out for my review later this week.
For entertainment, each seat on the plane in both economy and business has a personal tv. The TVs are small, even for domestic flights, but do provide hours of entertainment. If I was on a long haul flight and was comparing the product to other airlines, I would be disappointed, but for a domestic flight it was sufficient.
Overall this was a great flight and I am very happy I was able to experience Delta’s premium Transcontinental product on my award trip. Upgrade like these are rare, and will be even harder to come by when Delta rolls out upgrade certificates for such routes after 3/1/2014. I have also flown American’s Transcontinental product, and will be trying out their new A321T later this week. Since this product is on par with the older AA 767 product between the two coasts, I would say that Delta wins in the amenities, but the wide-body plane is a huge plus to the narrow body planes. I also prefer AA catering to Deltas. But then again that’s just because I LOVE the warm nuts and the ice cream sundaes and baked on board cookies AA offers. But for what it is, Delta offers a truly solid product coast to coast, and if you get a chance to upgrade or are looking for a good Business class experience, you will find it at Delta. It’s also good to note that ONLY Delta offers this premium service from Seattle, whereas other major carriers only offer traditional domestic first options.