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Delta Airlines Domestic Business Class Review B737-900ER New York JFK to Portland PDX Round Trip

September 16, 2023
Osman Dadi
My recent experience in Delta Domestic Business class was excellent and lots of fun.
From
New York JFK
To
Portland PDX
Duration
6h06min
Via
Delta
Seat(s)
4D
Points Used
None
Cash Spent
$353.20 USD

I was heading to Portland, Oregon, in August to see the Dwinell Country Ales 6-year anniversary in Goldendale, Washington, and for some business discussions on the side. I chose to fly with Delta since I am a Delta Diamond and don’t mind flying Delta domestic business class. Unfortunately, since I booked these six days from the departure date, they were expensive, costing me around $350 each way booked in economy.

Delta Domestic Business Class seating
Delta Domestic Business Class seating

As a Delta Diamond, you can get freely upgraded to Business Class as early as five days from departure. Since I wanted to give myself the best option for an upgrade, I booked two one-way flights instead of a round trip. I made sure when booking that the first-class cabins were relatively empty to give my upgrade the best chance of going through. I hit pay dirt, and the upgrades were confirmed for both flights five days in advance.

The experience was excellent, with friendly crews, great food, and stable and useful Wi-Fi. On the downside, I am not the biggest fan of the seats Delta puts on its aircraft, and I find them difficult to sleep in and lack storage.

Booking Delta Domestic Business Class Ticket

I booked on Delta.com, and the process was straightforward. Due to timing, I only booked the basic economy tickets six days before departure, hoping to confirm upgrades due to my Delta Diamond status.

You must be strategic when booking with Delta if you are hunting down upgrades due to status. Generally, I book two individual one-way flights instead of a round trip, which increases the odds of an upgrade getting confirmed.

Secondly, I look at the flights’ first-class cabin and make sure I select a flight with lots of space available. You can’t be upgraded if there are no free seats after all. In my case, first-class cabins were relatively empty both ways.

Bingo! My upgrades were confirmed five days in advance for both flights.

The Ground Experience & Check-In At New York JFK

This time around, things were slow at JKF; there was lots of traffic at Terminal 4, and it looked like a hectic morning. I also had a pretty slow time getting to the airport and took an LIRR, and Uber combination from Midtown Manhattan. In the end, I showed up at around 7:30 a.m.

Morning traffic at JFK Terminal 4
Morning traffic at JFK Terminal 4
Entry to JFK Terminal 4
Entry to JFK Terminal 4

JFK Terminal 4 Check-In

Check-in was reasonably fast at the kiosk, only taking a few minutes to print my boarding pass. I noticed Delta had removed the option to get a boarding pass via SkyMiles number. I thought that was strange. Instead, I had to swipe my credit card to get my boarding pass.

Delta Domestic Business Class automatic check-in
Delta Domestic Business Class automatic check-in

After check-in, I headed to security and entered the Sky Priority Lane I found at JFK; this can be a godsend, saving you anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Delta Domestic Business Class automatic check-in complete
Delta Domestic Business Class automatic check-in complete

Today, the travel gods were smiling down on me, and I had gate B20, one of the closest gates after the security exit. Perhaps it’s the nearest gate in the B concourse. Arriving at the gate, they were still 5 minutes from boarding, and no one was in line. I was in luck and would be the first to board today!

Boarding at Gate B20
Gate B20

Boarding Delta Domestic Business Class

Boarding started promptly on time at 8:00 a.m. I got to the gate at 7:55 a.m. and was the first to board, with no one else waiting in line. It was so quick I didn’t have a chance to grab a coffee!

My aircraft at Gate G20
My aircraft at Gate G20

One of the best perks of being the first on the plane is you have many options to take some great images of the empty business class and economy class cabins.

Boarding my Delta domestic business class flight
Boarding my Delta domestic business class flight

The Delta Domestic Business Class Cabin and Seats

The aircraft featured the standard Delta Red, white, and Blue color scheme. In terms of configuration, the business class cabin had a 2-2 setup, while the main cabin was set up in the typical 3-3 setup you see on B737 around the world. The aircraft interior looked very clean and well-maintained.

Delta main Cabin
Delta B737 Economy Class cabin
Delta B737 domestic Business Class cabin

Bathroom

The B737-900ER has four bathrooms, three at the aircraft’s rear and one at the front. Honestly, these bathrooms are tiny. However, that goes with the territory on these narrow-body jets.

Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to take any pictures on either flight. On the first flight, the forward restroom was not working properly. And on the second flight, it was dark; go figure!

Delta Domestic Business Class Seat 4A

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t particularly like these Delta seats. I find the new seats on United are much better in terms of storage.

Delta domestic business class seating
Delta domestic business class seating
Delta domestic business class seating left side
Delta domestic business class seating left side

Two power ports are visible from the seat in front of the center console. The only storage is in the back of the seat in front of you, and you have pockets of 4 different sizes.

Delta domestic business class power outlets
Delta domestic business class power outlets
Delta domestic business class IFE screen and seat backs
Delta domestic business class IFE screen and seat backs
Legroom under Delta domestic business class seat
Legroom under Delta domestic business class seat

Above is a small IFE screen with a headphone port, a USB port, and an S video input.

Delta domestic business center console
Delta domestic business center console
Delta domestic business class half folded tray
Delta domestic business class half folded tray

The center console is pretty wide at around 10 inches and houses your tray table. When deployed, this has two positions. I found that the fully open position is extremely unstable, unsupported on one side.

Delta domestic business class tray
Delta domestic business class tray

Each seat in the business class cabin gets two window seats. The alignment for viewing in rows 4 and 5 is probably the best in the cabin. The window side armrest is fixed and has one button for the recline, which is about the extent of your set controls.

Two windows per seat
Two windows per seat

Headphones & Amenity Kit

Before leaving the gate, the crew came around and distributed some Delta-branded, cheap plastic headphones. This happened on both flights, and no amenity kit was offered on either flight.

The Inflight Entertainment & Wi-Fi

I have to say I enjoy Delta’s In-Flight Entertainment system, even though it is not on the biggest screen in the world—roughly a 13-14” TV screen on the B737-900ER.

The Delta domestic business class IFE screen
The Delta domestic business class IFE screen

There are many different entertainment options, tons of TV shows and movies, and also great information, audio, and maps of all kinds. Also, there is support for various languages.

Today, I chose to work on my Japanese and watch shows and movies in Japanese with English subtitles; I selected Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and very much enjoyed it for the flight.

On the return flight, I used the IFE system to watch the plane route overnight, which is terribly exciting, I know!

Delta Domestic Business Class Wi-Fi

The Wi-Fi on this flight was excellent. It was free, only requiring a SkyMiles number to activate it. Logging in was a breeze, and the service was fully functional for the duration of the flight. The quality of the connection made working incredibly efficient on the flight.

The Delta Domestic business class Wi-Fi
The Delta Domestic business class Wi-Fi
The Delta Domestic business class Wi-Fi instructions
The Delta Domestic business class Wi-Fi instructions

The Flight 

Shortly before takeoff, the captain came on the intercom and advised us our flight time was 5 hours and 25 minutes, although, in the end, it was 6 hours and 6 minutes. This was an enjoyable and beautiful flight, with great views over Montana and Idaho. However, The flight was quite turbulent in parts, which the captains and crew announced often.

Push back form the Jet bridge
Push back form the Jet bridge

We were delayed by about 10 minutes since there seemed to be some issues starting the engines. However, we eventually pushed back from the gate and took off to the Northeast with a JetBlue plane behind us.

taxing to the runway
taxing to the runway

The climb and initial cruise out of JFK was turbulent, so much so that it delayed the start of the inflight service. Being a domestic flight, there was no pre-departure service provided. However, a bottle of water was included in each seat.

Flying over mountanous Idaho
Flying over mountanous Idaho
Flying over eastern Washington state
Flying over eastern Washington state

The Crew

I found the crew to be very friendly and attentive. I routinely received coffee refills the whole flight. Also, bottles of water were brought out regularly for the business-class cabin. I also noticed that coffee and water were routinely offered in the rear economy cabin.

Delta Domestic Business Class Meal Service

The main meal service began about one hour into the flight. I was offered a Coconut Chia Pudding or a Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich; I chose the bacon.

Delta domestic business class breakfast meal service
Delta domestic business class breakfast meal service

Shortly after, the flight attendant came over with a table mat, which I placed on the table myself. At this point, the turbulence picked up, and the meal service had to be paused for around 30 minutes. Interestingly, I noticed the meals were not served from a cart but directly from the galley in the front at the back of the forward cabin.

Melted bacon and cheese sandwich
Melted bacon and cheese sandwich

The meal service was served on a tray with proper glass, silverware, and plates and included:

  • Croissant – not fresh at all, was impossible to cut open.
  • Banana butter and a small cup of jam were provided for the croissant.
  • Fruit plate with a variety of blueberries, pineapple, and grapes. Fresh and delicious
  • Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich – served hot, with melted cheese.
Another piece of bacon would have been better
Another piece of bacon would have been better

Unfortunately, the presentation of these dishes (the sandwich) is always funky and not the most appealing.  Often, the microwave melts all the cheese and creates a mess on the plate. That said, this plate was tasty, and I devoured it with gusto.  I thought the sandwich had enough filling, although one additional slice of bacon would have been helpful.

Fruit and berries
Fruit and berries

Needing a caffeine boost, I asked for two coffees simultaneously and received them, which was great.

After the main service, three snack services were offered. This included:

  • Miss Vickies potato chips,
  • Biscoff cookies,
  • Pistachios,
  • Fit Joy pretzels,
  • healthy gummy bears, and more.
Delta domestic business class snacks
Delta domestic business class snacks

Landing and Arrival at PDX

The final part of the flight was spectacular; cruising over Montana and Idaho was enjoyable, with massive mountains in view below us. I had a great view of Mount Hood on the final approach.

Mount Hood
Mount Hood

We started our descent with about 30 minutes to go. We landed on the north side runway in the North/West direction (from the southeast) and quickly pulled into our Gate D5.

Even though Delta’s gates are normally perfect and fast on landing at PDX, there’s tons of construction and renovation happening right now at PDX. As a result, the walk to the gate and the baggage claim is extra long.

Arrival at Portland PDX
Arrival at Portland PDX

Unfortunately, the car rental used to be right on the Airport doorstep. However, that has also moved and is a good walk away through a tunnel. I left the airport and walked through the tunnel to pick up my rented Polestar T2 Electric.

The Return from Portland to New York

From
Portland PDX
To
New York JFK
Duration
5h01m
Via
Delta Airlines
Seat(s)
1A
Points Used
None
Cash Spent
$353.90 USD

My return was also on Delta on a nearly identical aircraft. The only significant difference was the flight time. This one was an evening flight at 10:00 p.m. And I was sat in a different seat 1D.

My flight to New York JFK at the gate
My flight to New York JFK at the gate

Check-In and Ground Experience at PDX

With no checked baggage, I arrived at 9:00 p.m. Where I pleasantly found there was no line for check-in.

Delta check-in at Portland PDX
Delta check-in at Portland PDX

I am not exaggerating when I say it takes one minute to receive a boarding pass and head to the gate. However, I was not as fortunate with security, which took around 20 minutes.

Boarding at PDX

Boarding took place at the same D5 gate I had arrived at the day before. Luckily, I was also the first to board again, although I had to ask.

Boarding at Gate D5
Boarding at Gate D5

I found the usual bottle of water at my seat, although there was also a pillow and blanket this time since this was an overnight flight. I must say that even though the pillow and blanket were warm and perfect for sleeping, they could not offset the fact that the seat is horrible for sleeping.

The first to board my flight again
The first to board my flight again
Delta domestic business class seat
Delta domestic business class seat

Delta Domestic Business Class Seat 1D

On this flight, I was assigned seat 1D, which is a first-row Bulkhead seat. It is very similar to Seat 4A, except on the bulkhead, with the TV screen in front embedded in the bulkhead. Also, the seat has slightly more legroom but virtually no storage space.

The bulkhead seats have the IFE screen on the bulkhead panel, and lack storage
The bulkhead seats have the IFE screen on the bulkhead panel, and lack storage
The bulkhead seats lack storage space
The bulkhead seats lack storage space

I found that the Bulkhead seats have two USB ports, one on the TV screen in front and one on the side of the seat. Very unique. Yet again, the seats lack storage space; there is none except in the tiny documents pouch in front of the seat. Also, these seats seem to recline a little less than the others.

Delta domestic business class blanket and pillow
Delta domestic business class blanket and pillow

The seat had an identical center console with the same unstable dining tray as my flight out the day before.

A little more leg room at the bulkhead seat
A little more leg room at the bulkhead seat

The power ports in the bulkhead seats are locating between the seat cushions.

Power ports in the bulkhead seats
Power ports in the bulkhead seats

The Flight, Crew, and Take-Off

A 4h30m flight time was announced, which was substantially shorter than the 6 hours plus we faced on the way here. 

Delta IFE
Delta IFE

The crew was friendly and courteous, and the captain also came out and personally thanked everyone in the first-class cabin for flying Delta. He also apologized for a slight fuel delay, which meant we left the gate at 10:10 p.m. In the end, we pushed back and took off at 10:20 p.m.

Flight Map
Flight Map

I signed into the Wi-Fi and set up the IFE on the map screen to watch the aircraft’s journey as it made its way across the country to New York.

Delta Domestic Business Class Meal Service

Pre-Departure Service

Interestingly, this time around, I was offered a pre-departure drink. I asked for a hot coffee, and they had some available!

Delta domestic business class pre departure coffee
Delta domestic business class pre departure coffee

Before boarding was complete and the doors secured, I was asked if I wanted dinner and presented with three options. I chose a short rib meal.

Post-Departure Service

The service was almost identical to the first flight, the only difference being the menu.  All three entrees were available, but I went for the following option.

  • Short rib with onions, asparagus, mashed potato, tomatoes, greens, and sauce. – The mashed potatoes tasted odd; maybe instant mix? On the other hand, the beef was fresh and tasty.
  • Mixed greens salad with strawberries.
  • Dessert: cheesecake with cherries – I loved the fresh cherries sweet tart taste. Cheesecake was fresh, not too sugary.
Delta domestic business class meal service
Delta domestic business class meal service
Short rib with onions, asparagus, mashed potato, tomatoes, greens, and sauce
Short rib with onions, asparagus, mashed potato, tomatoes, greens, and sauce
Dessert: cheesecake with cherries
Dessert: cheesecake with cherries

Delta Domestic Business Class Mid Flight Sleep

I really tried to sleep on this flight, but I just couldn’t! Something about the seat position here was incredibly uncomfortable. Perhaps being the bulkhead is not ideal; I would have appreciated some footrest, it would have made all the difference.

Darkened Delta domestic business class cabin
Darkened Delta domestic business class cabin

While the blanket was comfortable, the pillow was another story. In itself, it was okay, but I could not get it placed right. With so much space between the seat and the window, the pillow would not stay put.

Landing and Arrival at JFK

We started our descent into JFK very early in the morning, with only 23 minutes to go in the flight. We approached New York from the Northeast and, after landing, taxied to Gate 36, which is, to coin a phrase, a long-long walk away. I guess it was good to get my blood pumping with a long walk after a sleepless flight.

Approaching New York JFK
Approaching New York JFK
Spectacular views coming into JFK
Spectacular views coming into JFK
Final approach at JFK
Final approach at JFK

On the way past the Delta Sky Club, I stopped to grab some coffee. Once outside, I jumped on the AirTrain and headed home.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my experience was excellent with Delta on both flights. These are great examples of the standard Delta Business Class experience on a B737-900ER. I fly Delta regularly, and the B737-900ER is one of their workhorse aircraft. However, it is not a personal favorite of mine out of Delta aircraft.

The crews were excellent, the service was good, and the food was excellent. In addition, I do like the IFE, and the Wi-Fi is also stable and fast. My only gripe is the Delta seat, which I do find uncomfortable. Although clearly not bad enough to stop me from flying Delta since I am a Diamond Medallion member, after all!

Pros

  • Food was delicious.
  • Excellent, prompt, and friendly cabin service.
  • Delta’s IFE system is one of the best.
  • Stable, free WiFi
  • Power and USB charging is available.
  • Headphones provided.

Cons

  • The Delta B737 Business Class seats lack storage space of any kind.
  • There are minor inconsistencies in Delta’s service.

Verdict: 9/10