Review: Delta Business Class, Sydney – Los Angeles

After missing my Virgin Australia flight to Los Angeles and spending the night at the Rydges hotel at the airport, I was re-booked onto Delta’s own Sydney – Los Angeles flight.

I was using Delta miles for the trip so they opened up space on their own aircraft, which was especially generous of them considering they gave us two of the final three revenue seats available that day. They did manage to re-book us in award classes, though, so no miles for the trip!

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction: Virgin Australia and Delta Business Class, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney
  2. Concourse Hotel LAX, a Hyatt affiliate
  3. Virgin Australia Check-in and Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
  4. Virgin Australia Business Class, Los Angeles – Brisbane
  5. Virgin Australia Brisbane Lounge and Business Class, Brisbane – Cairns
  6. Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
  7. Virgin Australia Lounge, Cairns and Business Class, Cairns – Sydney
  8. Park Hyatt Sydney
  9. Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel
  10. American Express Lounge, Sydney
  11. Skyteam Lounge, Sydney
  12. Air New Zealand (Temporary) Lounge, Sydney

I was actually excited to be able to compare Virgin Australia’s 7-across business class to Delta’s four-across. Delta operates the flight with a Boeing 777 fitted with (not reverse) herringbone seats and unfortunately no internet. So not the airline’s best product, but decent enough.

Shortly before boarding was scheduled to commence we left the lounge and entered the gate area and found it quite crowded.

It turns out the flight was delayed for maintenance, and the plane had to be brought over to the gate. All in all we were nearly an hour behind schedule, and folks were getting antsy because there wasn’t much information being shared.

Eventually they were ready for us to board, and I made a beeline for the aircraft so I could get on and snap some photos before the cabin filled up.

My immediate impression was that the seats are narrow, there’s not much storage space, and there’s not much privacy. (In contrast the Virgin Australia seats didn’t have storage space or privacy either, but they were excellent beds largely due to the bedding.)

Menus were distributed and everyone was offered predeparture beverages. I asked for water and the flight attendant just couldn’t seem to accept this. She kept insisting that I already had a bottle of water at my seat. But:

  • I wanted ice water
  • I wanted to save the bottle of water, not knowing how many they’d have or how easy it would be to get replacements.

This exchange must have taken about two minutes, as she kept pointing to the bottle I already have and me insisting that I understood but I still wanted water. Eventually she huffed off and got me water. Very strange. I assumed this would be the start of a bad service experience for the flight, but it wasn’t.

Along with predeparture beverages we got a packaged snack mix.

Tumi amenity kits were distributed as well.

I spent the rest of boarding time and the time waiting to push back familiarizing myself with the seat, which was starting to show some wear, and reading a book.

Once inflight, flight attendants were in the aisle to start service. We began with a hot towel and a drink service.

And they quickly moved onto the meal. My impression was that Delta was doing a fantastic job with plating. I didn’t find the food better than business class on other American carriers, but the presentation was superior.

I also have to give high marks for the napkins — substantive and with a button hole.

Dessert was served from a cart.

Shortly after the main meal I took my blanket laid it out on my flatted seat to create a makeshift bed. For seat comfort Virgin Australia wins, and I expect the gap will become even greater as they roll out reverse herringbone all aisle access seats later this year. I’d also say that American’s 777-300ER seats are superior as well, that’s the plane that American will put on Los Angeles – Sydney starting in December. But Delta’s business seat is better than United’s for sure.

I don’t generally sleep well on morning long haul departures — I’ve just slept the night, I’m not really ready to sleep again. I’ll tend to get tired late in the flight. So despite making the bed (I didn’t have pajamas to change into – Delta doesn’t provide them in business like Virgin Australia does, and I had anticipated flying Virgin Australia on the return) I didn’t really sleep. I watched shows I had downloaded to my laptop for hour after hour.

Each time I’d get up to use the restroom flight attendants were happy to give me more water bottles if I needed them, I have to say I was pleased with that, often they’re concerned they don’t have enough but no water rationing was in effect for this flight.

A couple of hours prior to arrival flight attendants came around serving breakfast. The food was tasty though wholly unimaginative. The coffee was marginally better than the undrinkable swill they serve on American. Marginally. I remain frustrated that no US airline makes a decent cup of coffee in business class.

Overall I’d rate the seats as fine, the service and food as fine-plus. I’d choose Virgin Australia (for sleeping, food, and service) and American (seats) over Delta on this route, and I’d choose Delta over United. I haven’t flown the new Qantas business class so can’t give a fair comparison there.

If Delta would fly their own reverse herringbone seats to Australia, and extend inflight internet, I’d think that they would be almost as good as their joint venture partner Virgin Australia. The service and food were better than what I usually see in American business class.

Bottom-line, though, is that I’d certainly fly the service again — perfectly good transportation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have found that Delta has started automatically replacing the water bottle in international business once you finish one. A huge change from the one per person/flight they used to follow and I love it. It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference on long flights.

  2. Gary: I never fly Delta long haul, including transcon, but occasionally get stuck flying them somewhere along the East coast for short flights. Always Atlanta-connection planes. Despite the fact they fly mostly Smithsonian-aged aircraft, they refurbish them, and keep them clean. The pictures you posted above show a serious lack of thorough cleaning (right up there with BA first!). Do you think this is a symptom of Delta’s LAX operations having an inferior cleaning and maintenance program as compared to Atlanta?

  3. You may not be happy that you ended up on this flight, but I’m glad you did so that you could review it.

  4. Gary, if you were flying with someone, would you prefer sitting next to each other in the middle section or across the aisle from them? I’ll be on one of these in September. Thanks for the review.

  5. Even in economy class on long haul flights, DL hands out full bottles Evian and leave them in the galley. I witnessed that during ATL/DXB, ATL/NRT, NRT/JFK. I don’t fly biz class like most bloggers on this site.

  6. @Bill N – the seats are pretty open so it doesn’t matter a ton, I’d choose sitting next to them in the middle section just to not have someone I didn’t know in the middle section sitting next to one of us

  7. Gary the DL seats look poorly maintained and dirty at that. I think the oldest DL 777-200LR is from 2008, so after 7 years maybe they should consider installing a new product. AC is removing these same seats on their 77L/77W (along with the high density 77W staggered “studio” pod).

  8. @James – actually I *was* happy to wind up on it, precisely so i could experience it 🙂 [even if i was embarrassed as to how it happened]

  9. You wrote:
    I asked for water and the flight attendant just couldn’t seem to accept this. She kept insisting that I already had a bottle of water at my seat. But:

    I wanted ice water
    I wanted to save the bottle of water, not knowing how many they’d have or how easy it would be to get replacements.

    Me: you made the right choice gary!!!!!!!!! U never know if they stock enough bottle water inflight otherwise they have no choice than TAP water u never know! You need to write a complaint to delta ceo n im sure u both will be compensate with miles or $$$$$ who knows.
    Gary, who has better icecream sundae * delta or aa?

  10. Gary i’m surprised you didn’t monitor your reservation on to detect your Schedule change, but I will forgive you for this

    Just to let you know that is very friendly when it’s comes to even small delays that impacts your itinerary they will let you re book online on any Delta flight with available seats (and its goes back to the original booking code)

    The DL agent re booking you had the same ability (as you would have online) to protect you on the next available Delta flight due to the Schedule change this explains how they were able to open up that award seat so it’s not any special treatment

  11. Interesting to read and view not impressed
    The cabin looks tired
    Delta would be my last choice
    I hate the program to much and their arrogance
    Ill fly around the world just to avoid them and do
    Emirates, Cathay Singapore Virgin Qantas even United if forced

  12. From first glance cabin appears dark and cramped just as the as one poster said “Smithsonian” era planes ( this one 777) surprising since DL prefer’s AB’s.

    I can see from the article DL has not changed much in their international business class offering and service which is why I have switched totally away from them.

    One would have much more sympathy for Anderson’s crying over “open skies” if he was selling a comparable service. And I agree with you that the Asian carriers in this case are much the way to fly over the pond. And I am thinking Virgin next.

  13. I flew LAX-SYD on VA and back on DL and completely agree with your assessment. I would choose VA *anytime*, despite their 7-across config. The bed is more comfortable, mainly because of the mattress pad. DL (and BA for that matter) feel way less luxurious when you sleep straight on the seat. I loved everything about the the VA flight: the PJs, the food, the drinks, the larger bathroom (with cotton hand towels), the amenity pack, the IFE – but more than anything, the crew. This was the most dramatic difference between the two carriers. VA crew were fresh, enthusiastic, genuinely friendly and went way over and above in their service. DL crew were tired, bored, jaded and offered just the bare minimum.

    When I flew SYD-LAX earlier this year, VA were using the Etihad Airways First and Business Class Lounge – which was seriously nice! Shame they only offer that on the Abu Dhabi service now. Hopefully the Air NZ lounge will be good when it re-opens (it was in serious need of a refurb last time I was in there).

  14. Interesting perspective. I did the reverse of you. I flew DL’s biz class from LAX-SYD and did VA back SYD-LAX. I actually preferred the privacy of DL for sleeping purposes to VA. I was on a window seat so can’t vouch for what a middle seat is like. But, when you are fully reclined and sleeping, I found it as private as you can really be in business class.

    I couldn’t sleep a lick on VA on the way back because, as you mention, it’s not really time to go to sleep when you’ve just woken up. I did think that VA’s bed preparation was better than DL’s.

  15. @gary ROFLOL at “Menus were distributed and everyone was offered predeparture beverages. I asked for water and the flight attendant just couldn’t seem to accept this. She kept insisting that I already had a bottle of water at my seat. But: I wanted ice water”

    I can’t tell you how many times I go through the same thing. Though, of recent, perhaps they are used to me by now in Delta One. So much so, my previous BOS-AMS a few weeks ago… I got THIS pre-departure! (yes, two CUPS of ice water!)

  16. Thanks for the review – very helpful. Given the fact that that this is a Delta One flight, does anyone know when the new seat covers will be installed to refresh the cabin from the current BE seats?
    Thanks in advance for any information related to this. Flying LAX-SYD in February, 2016.

  17. I’ve flow VA both old an new as well as Delta on this route countless times. I actually fly it once a month or so. Hands down the NEW VA business is the clear way to go. I would honestly put it on par with a lot of F products out there. So I have a love hate relationship with Delta, Im a Platinum Medallion (which I earned flying and spending, no cc bonuses to help) With regards to Delta 40 and 41, the 777 flights to and from SYD I will say this. Is it the best option? No. As I already mentioned VA’s new “The Business” is clearly a better product all around. With that said if you happen to have to choose between Delta or the one VA 777 still waiting to be retrofitted I’d choose delta any day. Delta’s 1-2-1 is much better that VA’s 2-3-2. Thats not to say that the old VA business is a bad product because its not. Its better than United’s for sure and I actually think it’s better that BA’s business as well. Delta has come a long way and is continuing to improve in the customer experience area. The FA’s are much friendlier than they have been, the amenity kits now feature Kiehls, and the catering is on par with some F options. Is it Singapore Suites catering? No. However you will find that in most cases its much better that your average J. When it comes to the seat I have to say I wish they did something as simple as offer a matteres pad. In fact on non sold out flights the first thing I do is grab the blanket from an un occupied seat to use as a pad. It actually makes a big difference. It’s also worth mentioning that Delta does now offer sleep wear on flights 40 & 41. A lot of people complain that you cant see out the window comfortably, which is true. However on an international flight in a premium cabin lets be honest… The shades are down 95% of the flight.

    For myself being based in the US and flying Delta 99% of the time I have come to know the layout of basicly every variation of every plane they fly. This may seem a bit over the top but I tell you knowing the plane prior to selecting a flight or actually selecting a seat can make an anormus difference. I’m very often able to fly on internationally configured aircraft on domestic routes, Even on the transcon service which advertises lie flat seating you have to know you aircraft before you book. A good example is the 757S (757-200) This plane is set up with a Delta One Cabin as opposed to standard domestic FC. You can often find this plan on routes other than just the grabs cons that its advertised on. Personally I avoid this plane at all costs. its a 2×2 configured Delta One cabin and as you can imagine the seats take up a lot of real estate, Its a very cramped cabin overall. The foot wells for the window seats is also much smalller than that of the aisle seats. Also being 2×2 can get awkward if your not flying with a buddy. If you’re in the window seat and your neighbor in the aisle decides to goto bed you’re faced with a small problem if you need to get up to use the rest room. You either need to basicly climb over this person or wake them up. Neither is a great option, hence me avoiding this plane. Almost all of the time you will find that there is either a 767-300, 767-400, or an A330 on the same route. Typically the A330 is a bit more expensive but the 767’s cost about the same. With Delta’s very generous change rules that come into play for even a minor schedule change you will more often than not be able to change to a more expensive flight (A330 for example) for no additional cost. I actually book a 777 from LAX to ATL just today.

    So I know that was a lot of information but I hope at least one person gained something from it.


  18. You are all massive, entitled, spoiled twats.

    “Where’s my water?! Wah! Wah! Wah!” Die in a fire, please.

  19. Douchy McCool, You are the exact person I describe when I mention those feral, “dirty unwashed” at the back of the plane. I only hope that one day you’ll be able to afford business/first class without the price haunting you for years to come…!!! Even if you one day do manage to land a job where your employer foots the bill, no doubt you’d stick out like, “dogs balls” among us entitled spoiled twats up the front where we rightfully belong! Now, be a good boy and go fetch my Gin & Tonic…

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