In April, I took a quick trip to Tokyo. I used 120,000 Delta SkyMiles to book Los Angeles-Seattle-Tokyo-Los Angeles, although it is now 140,000 miles after the latest devaluation. The Los Angeles to Seattle flight was originally on Alaska Airlines, though a schedule change allowed me to switch to a Delta flight. Seattle to Tokyo was on the new A330 BusinessElite product, while Tokyo to Los Angeles was on the Boeing 747.
All of this was at the low level, so I used 120,000 Delta SkyMiles (new price 140,000) for the ticket, but that also means I’d be able to use Alaska Airlines miles. With Seattle becoming an international hub for Delta, there’s a decent amount of low-level availability for a solo traveler, including to destinations like Tokyo and London. Yes, I could have “maximized” this, but Japan is barely 10 hours from the west coast, and a direct business class flight on a flat bed is pretty much all I would need.
Los Angeles to Seattle
My LAX-Seattle flight was on a CRJ-900, which doesn’t seem as great as the Boeing 737s that Alaska flies, but since I was in First Class, I got a single seat on the “A” side to myself. In fact, this entire trip, I had nobody sitting next to me!
I was somewhat impressed by Delta’s new breakfast options featuring Luvo, only because it was better than the normal cereal fare that used to be served.
Once in Seattle, I made my way to the Sky Club, which felt uninspired. It’s a large space, but it seems rather cookie-cutter when it comes to other Sky Clubs.
Seattle to Tokyo
When boarding, the agents made sure to board only BusinessElite passengers first, denying even Diamond Medallions in coach at first. Once onboard, I turned left into the business class cabin.
Delta’s A330s came from the Northwest side of the pre-merger operation, and were previously arranged 2-2-2 with so-called “cradle” business class seats. The refurbished planes now come in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone arrangement that has become popular on Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, and American Airlines/US Airways. The single window seats face toward the windows while the two center seats face inward (though not necessarily at each other). This gives everyone direct aisle access, which is fantastic when every seat is completely lie-flat. As a window seat aficionado who hates disturbing an adjacent passenger to get up, I think this is the biggest positive of this type of setup.
These are the same style of seats that are on the Boeing 747, but because the fuselage on the A330 is narrower, there’s not as much storage space to the side. This was somewhat annoying on a mostly day flight from Seattle to Tokyo, as I wanted to get some work done but had nowhere to put my laptop when the meal was ready to serve. There is a slight bit of space between the storage area and window, but I wouldn’t keep an uncovered laptop there unless you want it scuffed.
I had seat 2J, which is the first row on the single side of the aircraft. When I went to choose my seat, it was the only single-side seat available, and I thought the bulkhead would have its advantages. Looking back, I’d probably choose another seat if I were on the single side.
I think the best row on the single side is row 8, since you have no other seat behind you, so there’s a small shelf if you need to store stuff. Row 2 isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s a closet in front of it on both the A and the J sides which flight attendants access throughout the flight. You may also see some light bleeding from the forward service area.
On my flight, 8A was blocked for crew rest, so only 8J was available for a passenger. If you don’t have row 8 as an option, any other seat on the single side is fine, though I’d avoid row 7 since there just seems to be something funky with the window alignment there.
I think the absolute worst seats are the 2 center seats in row 1, which are directly opposite the 2 closets. These seats also see the most foot traffic since the 2 lavatories for business class are up front.
As I boarded, a pleasant flight attendant greeted me, and another one offered a drink and did the same for the couple across the aisle in Japanese. I prematurely had a good omen of the service on this flight, until another older gentleman flight attendant came and asked if I knew what I wanted to order for the meal (I’d been sitting down for all of 45 seconds at this point). He huffed when I said I still needed to read the menu. Talk about a bad apple ruining a bunch.
I eventually read the menu, but my order was taken last by the same flight attendant, though I surprisingly got the Japanese meal; only a few of those are catered on each flight. We pushed back while the 1980s-themed version of Delta’s safety video played (with Japanese subtitles … I wonder if anything got lost in translation).
Here are some photos of the menu:
I’m a big fan of Delta’s food in BusinessElite between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco, and was actually looking forward to see what it was like on an international flight. It was rather good, definitely better than similar U.S. airline business classes.
After the meal service, I put the seat down to relax and get some rest, though I tried hard not to fall asleep for a long time since this westward flight arrives at 4:40pm and I wanted to be able to sleep that night in Tokyo. What I like about this seat is that you can bring it down into “bed mode” and then place a pillow against the shell to sort sit up straight but keep your legs extended on the bed (if that makes any sense).
There were snacks available in the area ahead of the cabin, though I didn’t take any. I took a short nap and woke up with about 90 minutes left in flight. Breakfast was also served, but I simply picked at it since it was getting to be 4pm in Tokyo.
All in all, it was a pretty decent flight. Business class is all about the seat, so I wasn’t expecting over-the-top service and food (like when I flew to Tokyo in Singapore A380 Suites). The seat is fully lie fat and the pillow and duvet are very large and comfortable. However, the seat doesn’t have as much storage, nowhere near how much storage I had on the return flight on the Boeing 747 upper deck, which I’ll review in my next post.