Sydney - Los Angeles
- Modern suites with closing doors
- High-quality HDTV screen with a wide variety of content
- Don't overlook the apple dome on the dessert menu!
- No bedding beyond the standard pillow and blanket, and pyjamas are BYO
- No inflight bar or lounge, as both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer on this route
- More privacy in business class than some airlines provide in first class, given the closing doors
Delta Air Lines is putting its best foot forward on the hotly contested Sydney-Los Angeles corridor with the Delta One Suites.
This business class seat takes the standard pairing of a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access, then kicks things up a notch by adding a sliding privacy door: a feature that many airlines don't even offer in first class.
Here's what awaits for Delta One Suites passengers flying the airline's Boeing 777-200LR between Australia and the United States.
- Frequent flyer program: Delta SkyMiles, SkyTeam. Delta is also a partner to other airlines outside its home alliance such as Virgin Australia (Velocity Frequent Flyer) and Virgin Atlantic (Flying Club), through which points or miles can also be earned and spent.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags as standard, increased to 3x32kg for Delta Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members plus Silver, Gold and Platinum members of selected partner airline programs including Virgin Australia Velocity, and SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus cardholders. Members of the U.S. military can also check 3x32kg bags on personal travel, or 5x45kg when flying on military orders, regardless of status.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x114cm bag (no maximum weight), plus one personal item such as a briefcase or handbag. Over and above this allowance, you're also free to bring aboard any duty-free, retail or food purchases made at the airport, along with jackets, umbrellas, and assistive devices like crutches.
- Airport fast-track: Delta offers priority check-in and boarding at Sydney Airport for business class passengers: keep your eyes peeled for signage marked "Delta One" or "Sky Priority". However, there's currently no priority line at security and passport control in Sydney, owing to ongoing renovations at the airport, affecting not only Delta but all international departing flights until at least the end of August 2019.
- Connecting passengers: Having begun this journey in another Australian city with a domestic connection on Delta's partner Virgin Australia, my bag was checked right through to LAX (no need to collect and re-check in Sydney), and my onward Delta boarding pass was provided by Virgin Australia, too, which meant heading straight for passport control and security after taking the complimentary transfer bus to Sydney T1, without having to visit a Delta check-in desk.
As a SkyTeam member airline, Delta directs all lounge-eligible passengers to Sydney's SkyTeam Lounge, offering the usual suite of facilities including WiFi, airport views and buffet dining.
Just be mindful that boarding calls aren't made here – and I also found the lounge's flight information screen particularly slow to update, to the point that I left the lounge before seeing the Delta flight appear on the list, even though boarding was about to begin.
Review: SkyTeam Lounge, Sydney Airport
Delta's departure gate was about five minutes from the lounge, and by the time I'd arrived and completed the passport check and obligatory 'security interview', it was time to board.
Delta offers daily non-stop flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, with DL40 departing at 9:30am to reach LAX at 6:15am the same calendar day, after a flight time of 13hrs 45min. On the return, DL41 pushes back at 10:30pm in Los Angeles, touching down in Sydney at 6:35am two calendar days later.
Take note that Delta also codeshares on Virgin Australia flights between Australia and Los Angeles – including DL6799 from Sydney (on VA1) and DL6798 back from LAX (on VA2), so if you're hoping to fly with Delta, DL40 and DL41 are the flight numbers to look for.
Similarly, Virgin Australia also codeshares on Delta's Sydney-LAX-Sydney flights, as VA6552 out of Sydney and VA6551 returning from Los Angeles, although Velocity members can still earn Velocity points and status credits when travelling on the DL flight numbers.
On board Delta's newly-refitted Boeing 777-200LR jets as are now flying to Sydney, you'll find business class in a typical 1-2-1 layout, offering the usual pairing of a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access.
However, there's that third key feature that's relatively uncommon in business class, and even in first class with some airlines, but which travellers are sure to appreciate – sliding privacy doors at each suite:
While it's certainly possible to see over that door when walking through the aisles, which allows the crew to check on you as needed, when the door is closed, other seated passengers won't be able to see you – great not only for sleeping, but also for working on private or sensitive documents. Here's what that looks like from the outside, while seated:
Inside, your own door closes by pulling a lever, and is opened by manually sliding it back into place – not by touching that switch at the top left, which is only for use in an emergency.
While the doors are naturally in the same place from one row to the next, the seats themselves adopt a staggered layout, alternating between being closer to the aisle and being further away:
For example, I chose 7A, which places the seat close to the aisle and offers a storage bench on the opposite side...
... whereas a seat like 2B positions that bench on the aisle side, meaning you're a little further away from any passers-by, although your bench will be shorter, owing to the need to pass in front of it:
In any case, above that bench is a cubby housing your slippers and headphones (which probably didn't need to come wrapped in throw-away plastic)...
... and tucked away in the corner, you'll also find a bottle of water:
Just below, two international-style AC power ports, two USB charging plugs and the headphone outlet.
While some airlines don't allow enough room to accommodate larger power bricks around such ports – or to connect non-standard headphones such as a BYO pair of Bose QC35s, given their wider plug shape – I encountered no issues in my Delta One Suite when charging my Microsoft Surface and using such BYO headphone.
While larger transformers can obstruct the USB outlet below, with two outlets at your disposal this is not likely to be an issue.
In terms of storage, there's a large nook underneath that side bench which proved large enough for shoes and slippers, along with a laptop and other bulky bits...
... with controls for your seat found just beside in a simple and clear format, which is handy when you're trying to make your bed or sit up in the morning...
... with the full panel better-accessed when you're already sitting relatively upright.
As a nice thoughtful touch, I found that placing the seat into bed mode automatically dimmed the seat lighting (which can then be turned off completely). Likewise, when raising the seat after it'd been in bed mode the surrounding lights gently faded up to provide a soft atmospheric light that's gentle on the eyes but bright enough that you can see what you're doing:
Speaking of lighting, the Delta One Suite adopts the same approach to style as seen in many modern hotels, whereby the lightbulbs themselves are hidden away, such as below a colourful strip of sky blue directly in front of you, or inside this futuristically shaped ambient light:
When it's time to turn in, the seat transforms into a fully flat bed of approximately 79 inches (200cm) from tip to tail, although despite the comfortable-looking model in the image above, no mattress pad or seat cover is provided.
Instead, the airline supplies two pillows, and a 'Westin Heavenly Bedding' blanket, which I first draped over the seat to avoid sleeping directly on the leather, and then wrapped around myself to achieve its usual purpose.
Here's what my DIY bed looked like before climbing in...
... with that blanket long enough to reach the end:
On this flight, which departs Australia in the morning and arrives into Los Angeles at what would be midnight back in Sydney, I didn't get a solid sleep as that time difference meant I was instead awake enough to get some work done and enjoy a couple of movies, but still managed to nap for a couple of hours along the way.
I reached LA in a refreshed-enough state for the day ahead, and got a good night's sleep that first night in Los Angeles, which helped me adjust to the new time zone.
A pre-departure drink begins the journey, with a choice between orange juice, Champagne (Lanson NV), Mimosa (mixing the two), or beer. This is not the toughest question anybody could ever ask me.
After take-off, the full bar opens. The menu recommends the Signature Cocktail – mixing Bombay Sapphire gin, cranberry-apple juice and ginger ale, which was nice and refreshing, and came with a serving of warmed mixed nuts:
Then, to start:
- Herb-marinated prawns with edamame purée and pickled radish
- Salad of field greens with pumpkin, Yarra Valley feta, pickled red onion and pomegranate dressing
- Wild mushroom soup with herb oil
- Assorted warm breads
I thought I'd have to choose from the first three options with bread on the side, but this is no quick lunch, so you get all of them:
The prawns were fresh; the soup, tasty; and the salad, nice and well-balanced, although did taste better after I flicked the seeds out of the way.
Then, the meal tray disappears in favour of dining 'restaurant-style' on the linen below, and it's a choice between the following main course options:
- Grilled beef tenderloin with roasted garlic purée, broccolini and wild mushroom demi glace
- Grilled herb chicken breast with honey roasted carrots, baby green beans, cipollini onions and thyme chicken jus
- Grilled Tasmanian salmon with lemon-scented basmati rice and curried vegetable
- Baked cheese cannelloni with oven-dried tomatoes, marsala cream sauce and fresh parsley
In the mood for something hearty, I went with the beef tenderloin which was well-suited to the accompanying sauce and was easy to cut without the steak knife you'd otherwise have on the ground.
Paired on the side, a glass of the Bodega Melipal Malbec Lujan de Cuyo 2017 – a full-bodied Argentinian red with hints of black cherry and plums, which tied the protein, sauce and sides together.
I enjoyed the vanilla ice cream sundae for dessert, with crispy chocolate sprinkle and hot fudge added from the passing trolley, aside a glass of the dessert wine (McWilliam's 10yr Tawny Port)...
... but also spotted something more refined on the trolley – a Granny Smith apple dome – and being seated in the last row of business class, the crew member happily let me try this too, as there was nobody else left to serve.
I've taken hundreds upon hundreds of flights, and can say without a doubt that this was the most intriguing and intricate dessert I've ever encountered in the sky. It would be at home on the menu of the best fine dining restaurants on the ground or a hero of the top first class menus in the sky, let alone offered in business class.
Looking like an ordinary apple, this mirror glaze-coated dome instead features the hero ingredient in a number of ways: part 'apple pie', part apple crumble, with a sweet apple-tasting exterior and a slice of apple-infused white chocolate at the base, There's even a chocolate stem to complete the illusion.
Between the first meal service and breakfast before landing, you can help yourself to a snack in the galley or order one of the following bites as a refreshment:
- Charcuterie and cheese plate with marinated vegetables and crackers
- Spinach, caramelised onion and mushroom bruschetta served with garden salad
The warmed bruschetta was nice if not heavily topped with ingredients – which some peckish people may appreciate, of course.
Fast-forward to breakfast, served approximately two hours before landing, and you're given the following choices:
- Potato and cheddar frittata with chicken sausage and roasted Roma tomato
- Sourdough French toast with berry compote and maple syrup
- Bircher muesli with berries, honey and chia seeds
I'd normally lean towards something light like the muesli, but having eaten a similar dish on a flight the previous day, thought I'd try the frittata instead, which was fine, but obviously not on-par with the finesse of the apple dome:
Entertainment & Service
Fixed in front of each Delta One passenger is an 18-inch HDTV screen, serving up a broad selection of movies, TV shows (labelled "Series"), music and games...
... and as the seats come in a staggered layout – some being closer to the aisle, others being further away – the screens are positioned to match, so that you're not watching your show on an angle:
The system operates by touch and is within easy reach while seated, but there's also a remote control if you'd prefer: tucked away under this fold-open panel, where you'll also find a personal mirror:
Having said that, if you're an audiophile, do bring your own headphones. Those supplied on board are indeed noise-cancelling, but don't offer the depth of sound that you'd find via a solid BYO pair.
Beyond the entertainment options available via the main screen, travellers can also stream content to their own device via Delta's WiFi portal, with satellite-based Internet access available too.
Using selected text-based messaging services (WhatsApp, Apple iMessage and Facebook Messenger) is complimentary for all passengers, with full browsing privileges unlocked with the payment of US$6.95 for one hour, US$18.95 for three US$21.95 for the entire flight.
Service-wise, the cabin crew on this flight were warm, friendly and approachable, being happy to engage in conversation when prompted but without being too 'chatty' or intrusive.
One of the pilots also made his way through the cabin before take-off to personally welcome each business class passenger on board, concluding each interaction with "thank you for your business", as I've heard other Delta staff say in the past.
All things considered, while North American airlines weren't particularly known for their service in the years gone by, the Delta One Suites experience now flying daily between Sydney and Los Angeles couldn't be further from that stereotype of old.
With closing doors in business class, a highly refined seat design with lots of attention to detail, an extensive inflight menu with fine dining desserts and friendly service, there's a lot to like about the Delta business class experience.
But as Delta One is the airline's highest-tier product, with no first class cabin above this, Delta could only improve the experience by introducing proper bedding beyond the standard blanket and pillow, along with pyjamas, better headphones, and more variety at breakfast time.
Still, as the only airline offering private suites with closing doors on the flagship Sydney-Los Angeles route, that feature alone could be enough to entice travellers across from Qantas, American Airlines, United and even Delta's partner Virgin Australia.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to the United States as a guest of Delta.