FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at Atlanta Hartsford-Jackson airport at 2000 for my 2250 departure to London Heathrow. I checked in at a dedicated BusinessElite and Medallion counter (Delta’s top tier of its loyalty programme Skymiles) and went to security. This took around 10 minutes to clear, and then I walked to the shuttle train which took me out to Pier E, where the international flights depart from. The SkyMiles

THE LOUNGE the lounge was a short walk from the top of the escalators, opposite a McDonalds, which was fortunate, because I had not eaten and there was no food in the lounge. Instead there is bar served by a member of staff, some nuts and snacks and free wifi. It was disappointing that there was no food, particularly since the point of taking a flat bed for an overnight flight is to sleep rather than stay up and wait for a meal service.

BOARDING I worked until it was announced that the lounge was about to shut at 2200. This was surprising, since the flight would still be the best part of an hour away, but at 2150 I walked to Gate 11 where as luck would have it the flight had just begun to board. I was at the front of the dedicated queue for BusinessElite and Medallion card holders, and so was one of the first on board. In fact the flight attendants were still supplying the seats in business class cabin with amenity packs and headphones. I stowed my bag in the overhead locker, accepted a glass of orange juice and read until it was time for departure, breaking off from reading only to listen to the conversation of the two Delta pilots behind me.

THE SEAT The B767-400ER has Delta’s new fully flat BusinessElite seat. The configuration is 1-2-1 (A-BC-D) with seats being upholstered in blue, and being staggered so that your legs run alongside the person in front of you, albeit boxed by the surround of the seat. It’s an ingenious solution, and means you don’t sit close to anyone and have plenty of space around the seat as well as direct access to the aisle.  Click here to see the seatplan as well as Delta’s video of how the seat works. For a full review of the seat, see the previous review, which can be found here.

This time, I was only interested in sleep, since it was after 2300 and, in UK time, that translated to 0400 and the flight attendant had told us the flight would only be eight hours. I said I was not interested in the dinner service, and didn’t want to be woken for the breakfast. I then reclined the seat and went to sleep.

The seat is very comfortable as a bed, and long enough for anyone of six foot or less. Nevertheless there isn’t a lot of room around your shoulders when it is fully reclined because the seat reclines into the same hard shell that the seat occupies when you are sitting upright. In addition the arms of the seat do not drop down as some other business class seats do. The advantage of this is that you do feel secure and there is no worry of your arm lolling out into the aisle and being damaged by passing trolleys, passengers or flight attendants, but it does mean you are slightly constricted. I ended up sleeping with my arms crossed across my chest in an attitude normally reserved for open coffin funerals.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The flight attendants encouraged the business class passengers to use the rear washrooms, and so there is slightly less footfall around the front few rows as a result, though the meals are served from here. I would avoid Row 1 which is slightly exposed to the galley, both in terms of noise and light and the back row for the same reasons. 9A is the crew rest seat and was curtained off for the pilot to sleep. I would choose A or D if travelling alone, and since I like looking out of the window and having some protection from the aisle, I would choose seat A in rows 3,5 or 7. Seat D on the other side offers similar advantages in those rows and would work best if left handed since then the room afforded by the large box is on that side.

THE FLIGHT I went to sleep almost immediately and slept for over five hours. During this time the meal service took place but didn’t disturb me. For information, the  choices were: Asian flavoured salmon served with soybean and seaweed salad, cream of asparagus soup or Greek salad with feta cheese, cucumber and olives. There was also a “Light and Quick” choice which was a Chilled Deli Plate featuring roast beef, herbed shrimp, deviled egg, grilled peppers and artichoke accompanied by cream of asparagus soup, salad, cheese with fruit and chocolate. The main course choices were Three cheese vegetarian spaghetti carbonara, grilled fillet of beef or seared mahi mahi.  The deserts were cheese or a vanilla ice cream sundae.

The wine choice was the same as on the outward journey a few days earlier: Champagne was Piper-Heidsieck, with a choice of two whites: Dry Creek Fume Blanc, Sonoma, California, 2007; Finca La Celia Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina, 200. The whites, Chateau Bois Pertuis, Bordeaux, Franc 2006 or Montgras Carmenere Reserva, Colchagua, Chile 2008. Dessert wines were Den de Bortoli, Vat 5  Botrytis Semillon Riverina, Australia 2007 or Penfolds Club Port, Australia, NV.

I woke in time for breakfast and so had this which was a bowl of fruit and then a choice of vanilla French toast or oats and honey granola served with milk and yoghurt.

ARRIVAL We arrived slightly early at Heathrow and were quickly off the aircraft, though it was a long walk to immigration in Terminal 4. There was then a 20 minute wait for the luggage.

VERDICT the onboard experience is solid and the seat comfortable for sleeping, though would be restrictive for larger passengers. It’s great having direct access to the aisle and also having the side table next to you for extra room. Delta really needs to look at offering some food for business class passengers before the flight, however, to allow them to get as much sleep as possible before flying. If food isn’t possible in the lounge, then they should issue vouchers for a restaurant in the airport – One Flew South looked a good bet.

PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in January start from £2420 (exc. taxes).


Tom Otley

To read a review of the outbound leg, click here.