BACKGROUND Delta Air Lines has just completed the retrofitting of its fleet of 16 Boeing B747-400 aircraft, which involved the installation of 48 fully flat beds in the BusinessElite cabin. This herringbone-style product is also found on Delta’s 18 B777 aircraft.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Narita International Airport around 1340, still groggy after a very early start to make my 0840 departure from Hong Kong, ensuring I would catch the Atlanta connection in Tokyo. All Delta aircraft land at and depart from Terminal 1. Already armed with my boarding pass for the US leg, I did not need to go through any further processing.
THE LOUNGE I was directed to Delta’s Sky Club in Satellite 2 of T1 (it has a smaller counterpart in Satellite 1) as it was located up an escalator near my departure gate (24). The 1,585 sqm lounge follows the curved contour of the building and is characterised by large picture windows looking out to the tarmac. There are right and left sections, mirror images of each other with their own food and drink sections and seats gathered around small tables, at counters along the viewing windows, or at high common tables. Whether working or relaxing, it’s a very comfortable setup, made more satisfying by the 31 Mac computers ready for use. Boarding announcements were made in both Japanese and English.
BOARDING I headed for gate 24 before the call for boarding at 1505. It was already thick with expectant passengers, but I showed my boarding pass and entered the aircraft, finding my seat (1A) right at the front on the left side of the cabin next to the coat closet.
THE SEAT Delta’s refurbished jumbos consist of 14 BusinessElite seats in the upper deck (1-1, A-K) and 34 of the same in the lower deck, which has two sections (1-1, A-K near the nose, and 1-2-1, A-DF-K in the second area).
The angling of the seats inward, especially those along the windows, creates a sense of privacy. There is ample storage space with several crevices strategically located to stuff work folders, spectacles, water bottles and other sundries. There is space behind the seat for the khaki coloured duvet and white pillow. A triangle-shaped console on one side accommodates drinks and snacks, while the panel above it features an adjustable LED reading light, USB and electrical outlets.
Video entertainment is available through the 15.4-inch touchscreen TV monitor (there’s a remote too). The tray table, though wide at about 22in/56cm, was difficult to release from the side wall, but it was firm at the hinges and didn’t wobble when used. Stretched out to its full length, touching the little footrest at the end, the seat-bed was comfortable, and there was no feeling of sliding down when I lay down to sleep.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I was told the upper deck provided the most exclusivity, but I was quite happy in 1A downstairs as it felt like a mini suite. Even the occasional opening of the wardrobe by a flight attendant retrieving some prop hardly bothered me as I was facing away from the door and towards the wall. I would choose that or 1K rather than the others, which are exposed to more movement by the cabin crew. Avoid the two middle seats at the back of the first cabin of BusinessElite as they are near the galley and washrooms.
THE FLIGHT The captain informed us the journey would take 11 hours and 40 minutes, which, in such comfortable surroundings, went by in a twinkling. As usual, my intention to do some work fell by the wayside as I succumbed to the IFE’s eclectic film selection with titles like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Funny Girl and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Both Japanese and Western meals, the latter designed by award-winning chef-restaurateur Michelle Bernstein, were available. I opted for rosemary duck breast and pumpkin bisque, followed by a crunchy mixed green salad and seared beef tenderloin in a demi-glace sauce with wasabi mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas. Wines, chosen by master sommelier Andrea Robinson, included Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tuffe from San Gimignano, Tuscany 2010, Chateau de Carolle Graves, Bordeaux 2009 and Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne, among others.
ARRIVAL The lights went on for breakfast about 90 minutes before our expected 1445 landing. I requested the crêpes with scrambled eggs and Pepper Jack cheese, served with chicken sausage and sautéed mushrooms. We landed on time to a brilliantly sunny afternoon at Atlanta airport’s new concourse F, only to find horrendous queues at immigration, from which we emerged after nearly an hour.
A sleek product that is also an extremely comfortable one, featuring enough storage space for all the sundries one needs during a long journey, as well as a strong tray table to withstand the pounding of laptop keys.
PRICE Internet rates for a business class return fare in mid-March start from ¥420,380 (US$5,096) including taxes and surcharges.
PLANE TYPE B747-400
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
SEAT WIDTH 20.5 inches/52.17cm
SEAT LENGTH 81.7 inches/207.51cm
Margie T Logarta