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Los Angeles - New York (JFK)
- Fully-flat beds with direct aisle access
- A Tumi amenity kit packed with goodies
- AC and USB power, plus working inflight Internet
- No choice of wine varieties beyond the basic 'red, white or sparkling'
- Westin 'Heavenly' duvet and pillow for a good night's sleep
Fully-flat Westin-topped beds, an elaborate Tumi amenity kit and reliable Gogo inflight Internet – just some of the things you'll find in 'Delta One' business class between Los Angeles and New York (formerly 'BusinessElite').
Join Australian Business Traveller as we head to The Big Apple to give Delta's flagship transcontinental service a real-world trial.
Delta One guests beginning their journey in Los Angeles can swing by the Sky Priority desks to check-in three 32kg bags at no charge, and can bring one 114cm carry-on bag with no defined weight limit.
You're also allowed one 'personal item' such as a purse, laptop, briefcase or camera bag, plus other essentials including umbrellas and duty-free goods.
For travellers connecting to New York from Sydney or Brisbane on a single ticket, the baggage allowance of your international flight applies to the domestic connection as well.
Your LA-New York boarding pass should be provided in Australia, although you'll need to collect your bags in LA, clear Customs and then drop them off immediately afterwards if they've been tagged all the way through – as you would with Qantas.
After zipping through priority security screening, Delta's LAX Sky Club awaits with private shower suites and fast Wi-Fi.
The reception area is close to the 'business' end, with a buffet and bar on the opposite side of the space – and fortunately away from those trying to work during their pit stop.
Given the number of flights at LAX, boarding calls aren't made here, so you'll need to keep an eye on the screens as your flight time approaches.
Priority boarding is strictly enforced, with several ineligible travellers sent to the very back of the general queue when trying to sneak through the Sky Priority lane.
Once on board, the first interaction with the crew isn't a 'hello' or other greeting – simply "juice, champagne or Mimosa?", served atop a branded napkin.
We're also offered a fitting choice of newspaper...
... and a Tumi amenity kit.
Inside there's 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 Aussie travellers may recognise from the last generation of Qantas' business class amenity kits.
If that doesn't satisfy for a five-hour domestic flight during daylight hours, you're hard to please.
Configured in a 1-2-1 layout, Delta One passengers enjoy a generously-sized 200cm fully-flat bed with direct aisle access from every seat.
There's also a Westin 'Heavenly' inflight duvet and full-sized pillow to cover the seat – both incredibly comfortable and enticing enough to send many passengers into slumber shortly after our 9am departure from LAX.
As you'd expect, there are handy pre-sets for sleeping and returning the seat to its original position, along with an adjustable massage feature that's far from terrible.
If you'd rather work than sleep during the flight – which we'd recommend to minimise jetlag as you'll be landing into JFK in time for dinner – there are AC and USB power outlets beside the seat...
... atop a shelf that's perfect for resting your laptop or tablet on while it's charging:
There's also wireless inflight Internet, with plans starting at US$6 on smartphones and US$10 on laptops.
Read our review: Delta Connect Gogo inflight Internet
Books, your amenity kit and other small goodies fit into the seat pocket in front, while there's a 10.6" video monitor to keep you entertained if you powered through everything in the lounge.
Shoes also have their own recess, keeping them out of the small corridor between the seat and the aisle:
Lunch is served around one hour into the flight – or just after 10am in Los Angeles – which is ideal when connecting onwards from Virgin Australia's VA7 service from Brisbane, on which you'd receive breakfast at around 5am local time before touching down at 6:30am
Starting us off is an antipasto misto of marinated bocconcini and cherry tomatoes; a spread of coppa, eggplant caponata, asparagus and spring peas; and crostini with fennel spice.
On the side is a marinated chickpea salad with baby greens and parmesan dip, with the full menu designed by award-winning chef Michael Chiarello.
The antipasto is fresh and tasty, but is let down by the poorly-presented side leaves. Nonetheless, they're also adequate once mixed with the supplied Italian balsamic vinaigrette, and disappear when our main arrives.
We're given three choices for the next course, and settle on the cocoa crusted pork tenderloin with rhubarb mostarda, five onion chard and roasted fingerling potatoes:
The pork itself dances on the palate rather well with the mostarda (as do the potatoes), although the chard is a little too bland for our liking and is largely untouched.
On today's wine list is one red and one white – a Hess Collection Napa Valley 18 Block Cuvée and a Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc, plus Vallbona Cava sparkling.
Given the elaborate fully-flat bed and packed-out amenity kit, it's a little disappointing not to have a single alternate red or white wine for those who prefer something different.
It's also incorrect to offer the Vallbona as 'champagne' on boarding, as it's Spanish and therefore by nature a 'sparkling wine'.
Vino aside, there's a choice of dessert: a cheese trio with fresh fruit, or chocolate gelati – an easy favourite.
That's best enjoyed with Delta's signature Sunrise cocktail, based on what tasted like a generous pour of Bombay Sapphire Gin (no complaints!), mixed with both cranberry and apple juice and a dash of ginger ale.
Warm cookies are offered later in the flight.
Entertainment & Service
There's a respectable choice of movies and audio channels, plus TV favourites such as House of Cards – all of which are free in Delta One.
The system is best-controlled from the bed by using the remote, although we found the black joystick in the centre of the directional arrows to be a little over-responsive.
Holding it in one direction for a moment too long skips the selector forward two or three options, while moving it ever-so-slightly askew from the compass points shifts the cursor where you didn't want it to go.
That's easily overcome by programming the system to pause after the first joystick movement until it's been held down for slightly longer, and to add a few extra degrees into what the controller considers 'down' as opposed to 'southwest'.
Noise-reducing headsets are also supplied, which were more than adequate for a domestic flight, comfortable to wear and produced relatively clear sound with good low-end.
Cabin crew kept their interactions strictly business-like during the flight, which meant passing up several openings for any conversation not directly related to the meal service.
While still professional, that's noticeably less warm than we found in Virgin Australia business class during the longer flight from Australia to Los Angeles – with the Delta crew also distancing themselves by using "sir" or "ma'am" rather than addressing passengers by name.
The transfer process between the two airlines was, however, relatively seamless at LAX, with the essentials handled in Brisbane before leaving home such as baggage through-check and printing the onward Delta boarding pass.
So if you're tossing up between Qantas all the way through to JFK or mixing things up with Virgin Australia and Delta, why not try the latter for something different?
If nothing else, you'll still have comfy fully-flat beds from Australia's east coast to The Big Apple and will pick up Virgin Australia Velocity status credits on the entire journey.
In mid-February, return Delta One fares between Los Angeles and New York start at around A$1,975, with combined Virgin Australia/Delta journeys from Brisbane and Sydney to New York roughly A$8,300 during the same period.
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia.
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