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Delta One Business Class Review A350-900 Atlanta ATL to Tokyo Haneda HND Japan

May 24, 2023
Osman Dadi
Delta often gets some bad press for its no-notice devaluation and astronomical award pricing. However, not everything with Delta is bad, and more often than not, flying a Delta premium cabin can be a more than pleasant experience whether you have elite status or not. So here is my recent experience on Delta One from […]
From
Atlanta ATL
To
Tokyo HND
Duration
14h26m
Via
Delta
Seat(s)
9c
Points Used
Cash Spent
$1322.30

Delta often gets some bad press for its no-notice devaluation and astronomical award pricing. However, not everything with Delta is bad, and more often than not, flying a Delta premium cabin can be a more than pleasant experience whether you have elite status or not. So here is my recent experience on Delta One from Atlanta ATL, to Tokyo HND!

Booking

One of the best perks of holding Delta Diamond Medallion status is using a Choice Benefits Global Upgrade Certificate. Historically these were incredibly valuable; however, Delta recently devalued these only to apply to the next highest fare class for International travel.

Therefore, I booked a Premium Economy Fare for this booking and used the GUC to book Delta One on the ATL-HND route.

However, I noticed a huge disparity in pricing, based on the origin point – from New York City, fares were $1900+, and other nearby cities (such as Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia) weren’t much better at $1500+ for the one-way fare.

I did some digging around and found two sweet spots. Faress from ABE (Allentown, PA) and MDT (Harrisburg, PA) were pricing at $1,072 one way via either Atlanta or Detroit. As I’ve always wanted to try flying out of Harrisburg, PA, I chose that option even though it was twice the driving distance. No bother, for the price differential, this was worth it.

Along with the flight booking, I rented a car from National one-way from midtown Manhattan to Harrisburg Airport.

Finally, I chose to book a refundable ticket rather than a non-refundable one, which added a further $250 to the price and brought the total to $1322.30 for the flight, plus $150 for the car rental and an estimated $50 for gas.

The total cost was around $1500 for a one-way first-class ticket to Japan on Delta One – I consider this still a great use of miles.

Pre-Departure Testing and Point of Origin

At the time, you were required to have a Covid 19 test for admission. I had the test at JMedical, a Japanese testing center in New York City. This proved to be the most convenient way to prepare for travel to Japan, as they require a particular Japanese form for admission.

My journey started in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which I got to from New York. As I was in a rush to leave and get to Harrisburg, I did not have time to document this leg of the journey – I left at 2:00 am and got to Harrisburg Airport at approximately 4:55 am. 

Flight One MDT – ATL

Aside from saying Check-In was seamless and my flight was on time, I am not going to dwell too much on a domestic flight.

Unfortunately, the Harrisburg Security line was insanely crowded and took approximately 50 minutes to pass thru. This nearly caused me to miss the flight; I had to ask a few people if I could queue jump and was one of the last to board. 

The flight was on a B717 and was otherwise uneventful, arriving into Atlanta early – where we begin our picture journey of the Delta One international experience.

Atlanta airport Terminal F concourse
The Lower Level at Terminal F – the Delta Sky Club is to the top right.

The Atlanta Delt One Ground Experience

For my layover in Atlanta, I needed to take the escalator and transfer from Terminal C to Terminal F. Because I wanted to use the Sky Club in Terminal F, which is my favorite one in the entire airport.

Atlanta Delta SkyClub Terminal F

I will keep this section short, although the Delta Sky Club is beautiful, and I managed to take many pictures and will be looking to review it later.

Delta employees greeting you on Lounge entry.
Delta employees greeting you on Lounge entry.

Although not as good as the JAL first class lounge in Tokyo, it is still an awesome lounge to kill a few hours.

They also have some snacks available, nothing too out of the ordinary here but still a good additional complement from Delta.
They also have some snacks available, nothing too out of the ordinary here but still a good additional complement from Delta. 
Sky Club seating area
Sky Club seating area

By far, my favorite feature is the outdoor deck, an elegant part of the lounge, which I really love. This space is a great place to hang out on a nice day.

A great view from the outdoor deck as aircraft roll by Atlanta’s Terminals.
A great view from the outdoor deck as aircraft roll by Atlanta’s Terminals.

Delta One Boarding

The process was relatively straightforward, although, as you would expect when flying Delta One it was over in a flash.

Boarding was straightforward as I waited for the cue along with fellow passengers. Delta One started at the front of the sequence.
Boarding was straightforward as I waited for the cue along with fellow passengers. Delta One started at the front of the sequence.
Lining up at Gate F8 to board as a Delta One passenger.
Lining up at Gate F8 to board.
Delta One flyers get a warm greeting upon my entry into the aircraft.
A warm greeting upon my entry into the aircraft.

During boarding, the FAs came to offer Champagne, Orange Juice, Wine, or Water. I actually asked for an IPA Beer – and the FA went to the back and found one for me.

Delta One Cabin and Seats

The Delta One cabin was well presented, although I did not get much opportunity to snap loads of pictures. I was seated in seat 7K.

Delta One third Window Aligned Seat 7A for this flight.
Third Window Aligned Seat 7A for this flight. 
The Delta One Seat is definitely Wide and comfortable
The Delta One Seat is definitely Wide and comfortable

The seats feature dual-level trays, which I found incredibly useful. They nearly doubled how much could be stored next to the seat.

Delta One seating Two levels of trays
Two levels of trays 
Here is the red storage area with some stylish lighting, which includes a water bottle and Delta’s standard headsets
Here is the red storage area with some stylish lighting, which includes a water bottle and Delta’s standard headsets
My Delta one seat has two windows which have a good alignment for views and of the engine as well.
I’m seated with two windows which have a good alignment for views and of the engine as well.
The Delta One Footwell seems on the medium to small side, there is a weird bulky part on one side that significantly reduces the space available in the footwell.
Footwell seems on the medium to small side, there is a weird bulky part on one side that significantly reduces the space available in the footwell.
The Delta One window seats have individual air nozzles in addition to lights (these were missing from the middle seats).
The window seats have individual air nozzles in addition to lights (these were missing from the middle seats).

When it comes to seat controls, you have a couple of choices. One set is on the upper tray area with a broad array of presets and buttons, while another set is below the tray table with very basic controls. Both sets mean you can access controls regardless of your position in a Delta One suite. Available controls include:

  • Feature Light
  • Do Not Disturb feature
  • Suite Lighting
  • Four presets
  • Lie flat individual controls
  • Settings for Seat Firmness
Upper Delta One set of seat controls - these touchscreen controls were difficult to use.
Upper seat of seat controls – these touchscreen controls were difficult to use. 
Separate controls below the Tray Table for Seat Bed Mode, Seat Mode, Lock, and Suite Lighting
Separate controls below the Tray Table for Seat Bed Mode, Seat Mode, Lock, and Suite Lighting

The Delta One Amenity Kit

On the seat, there was an Amenity kit waiting for me. If I was to use two words to describe it, then “very basic” comes to mind.

Delta One Amenity Kit contents.
Delta One Amenity Kit contents.

The amenity kit includes the following:

  • Pen
  • Lip Balm
  • Eyemask
  • Earplugs
  • Bamboo Toothbrush

Delta One Seat Issues & Swap

At this point, I would normally go through h IFE and in-flight Wifi. Unfortunately, this flight was not smooth sailing all the way. Oddly about 6 hours into my flight, suddenly my seat controls stopped working. I have to put my hands up and admit that I did slightly spill some of my beer into my seat, approximately a quarter of the glass.

However, I immediately went to the bathroom to pick up napkins, but upon my return I discovered that the seat had readjusted itself into a slightly lower position. Then the controls stopped working entirely.

Delta One IFE and Seat controls failed after about 6 hours.
Delta One IFE and Seat controls failed after about 6 hours.

Apparently, this also caused a monitor failure in the seat behind me, which caused that gentleman to move to another seat (switching with a non-rev).

About 30 minutes after this, the monitor suddenly blacked out too. I later learned that this was actually the lead FA trying to reboot my seat so that the controls would work again. Unfortunately, this had little effect, and nothing seemed to fix the seat!

The team was extremely helpful in trying to fix the issue. Three different flight attendants came by over the course of an hour to try and get both the seat and the TV screen to work. In fact the lead FAs were extremely apologetic and came by at least ten times to check up on me and offer assistance.

I now had a major problem with no power; my ability to complete work would be seriously impeded, throwing many of my plans out of the window. Helpfully the flight attendants arranged to have my seat switched.

Seat Swap

In the end, with about 7.5 hours remaining in the flight and 40 minutes later, I was moved to middle Seat 9C, a swap with a non-revenue Delta employee. On the positive side, this allowed me to also try the center configuration on the plane instead of one of the windows.

Delta One Seat 9C
Delta One Seat 9C

To make up for the hassle, Delta was more than generous and offered me 15,000 SkyMiles as a courtesy to all the different problems. The Miles posted about two weeks later, and in the end I earned around 33,000 SkyMiles for this flight.

Delta One Seat 9C storage room
Delta One Seat 9C storage room

Delta One Seat 9C

I won’t go into many details about seat 9c since the layout is similar but has a few notable differences.

The windows have individual air nozzles, while the center seats do not.
The windows have individual air nozzles, while the center seats do not.

There is an extra storage space below the main counter, which is also much larger than the window seat (the same space is used to get into the Suite, on those).

Delta One Seat 9C
Delta One Seat 9C

Unfortunately, I have to say that while the seats are pretty comfortable and spacious, the build quality and design (across two seats) has been quite poor. This seat has given me more issues than any other I’ve flown on both Delta and other airlines.

The Flight

Take off was on time, and after a smooth roll, we were up and heading to Tokyo. Shortly after take-off, the flight attendants came around to offer initial snacks and drinks.

Initial Drinks and Snacks

The Flight Attendant first came around to offer drinks and the initial snack. I chose a Sweetwater Hazy IPA beer, and was also served pecan nuts with dried fruit and cheese. The snack was slightly flavored with spice. 

Delta One Pecan nuts with dried fruit and cheese, and a Hazy IPA.
Pecan nuts with dried fruit and cheese, and a Hazy IPA.

About 45 minutes into the flight, meal service began. Far in advance of the flight, I actually saw an option on Delta’s app to 

The Delta One Main Meal Service

Soon it was time for the main meal service, which consisted of:

  • Bread and Butter
  • Salad
  • Carrot Soup
  • Southern Style Beef Short Rib with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens
Delta One food is presented on a plastic tray plate with proper silverware.
Delta One food is presented on a plastic tray plate with proper silverware.

Overall I fi had to grade the meal I would give it a B+/A-. However, I was a little disappointed, to be perfectly honest. Although usually, on flights of this caliber, the food tends to be exceptional, it was not the case here.

the Salad was a bit stale for my taste
The salad was a bit stale for my taste

Compared to n my recent SkyTeam trips, this meal experience was below Air France / KLM but better than Virgin Atlantic. 

This soup was excellent.
This soup was excellent.

The FA did come by twice to take my plate and goods but did not come back to clean the dessert tray for about 90 minutes. I put everything aside and got a quick nap in.

The Delta One bread was fresh and tasty.
The Delta One bread was fresh and tasty.
The Delta One  roast Lamb BBQ was pretty good.
The roast Lamb BBQ was pretty good.
Vanilla Ice Cream with raspberry sauce and chocolates.
Vanilla Ice Cream with raspberry sauce and chocolates.

This was a daytime flight with a 10:50 am departure and 3:00 pm arrival. Effectively, we’d be chasing the sun and be in light the whole time, so I spent a large portion of this flight working.

Another Hazy IPA and Coffee - the closed Delta One Suite door provided a very private experience.
Another Hazy IPA and Coffee – the closed Suite door provided a very private experience.

Mid Flight Snack

The FA came by at around 7h30m into the flight, inquiring if I’d like to have a mid-flight snack. The options were Margherita Pizza or Udon Noodle. I chose the Udon Noodles.

Delta One Udon noodles coupled with another type of beer.
Udon noodles coupled with another type of beer.

I found them to be reasonable, although not exactly wow. However, it must be said that the flight attendants came by frequently to check on me and provide more beverages.

Sleep Mode

I decided to have the seat put in sleep mode to catch a little nap. However, one thing I noted is the seat did not feel like it went FULL lie flat, I’d say it was about 98% there.

Delta One the Pillows and Blanket were extremely comfortable.
The Pillows and Blanket were extremely comfortable.

No matter how much I tried, it felt like the upper portion of the seat, in full flat mode, was slightly tilted forward. Although if I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate this tilt at 2-3 degrees or so. While this is very subtle, it is still important to mention if you’re looking for a TRUE lie flat.

Landing Meal Service

With around 1h15m remaining in the flight, the lights were turned on in the forward cabin. I was offered Chicken with Rice, or Egg Frittata.

The full Landing Service tray.
The full Landing Service tray.

I chose the Frittata, it was served on a plastic tray with real glass and silverware.

Frittata with BBQ meat
Frittata with BBQ meat

One thing to mention is this meal was absolutely delicious; WOW. This was my best meal on this flight by a long shot, and I could have easily had it again. This would also be the last “American style” food I’d be having for a couple of weeks and was a great one to end on. The BBQ was extremely tender and tasty.

A fresh Fruit plate and everything bagel with Cream Cheese.
A fresh Fruit plate and everything bagel with Cream Cheese.

Arrival at Tokyo Haneda

With about 40 minutes of the flight remaining, we began landing preparations. I definitely did miss having a window to look out of thru this process.

Approaching Haneda in a zig-zag, with final from the Southeast.
Approaching Haneda in a zig-zag, with final from the Southeast.

The flight attendants announced that we will need masks on arrival in Tokyo. However, I did ask for one on the plane (as Delta had offered it), but  I was not given one before landing.

Interestingly the flight attendants did not pass any immigration or customs cards either.

The landing was smooth in rainy weather, and taxing to the gate took about 10 minutes before finally docking at terminal 3.

Once we docked at the gate, an announcement was made that masks were required.

Entry to Japan

Getting into Japan, the process was complicated and involved many different steps.

For part of these services, Haneda airport has converted gates into queuing areas, which requires a bit of walking between many different areas.
For part of these services, Haneda airport has converted gates into queuing areas, which requires a bit of walking between many different areas.

I had to take or show a Health Survey, a Vaccination or C19 test result (as mentioned before, I had opted for the test), Confirmation, Immigration, and finally, Customs.

Altogether this took only 40 minutes, and was quite quick.
Altogether this took only 40 minutes, and was quite quick.

Final Thoughts

I was really looking forward to this flight; not only is Delta One on the A350-900 series reputed to be excellent in its offering, but I also had not tried it before.

Unfortunately, I must say I left the overall experience a bit underwhelmed. Between the lack of a specialized lounge, food that was partly average, and the seat problems (which was just unlucky)

Delta One window seat
Delta One window seat

However, the quality and service of the flight attendants definitely excelled, and this was an excellent usage of the Global Upgrade Certificate that one can use as a Diamond Medallion – I cannot think of a better routing on Delta than 14 hours in Delta One for ~$1050 – 1300.