Travel Dispatch: Delta’s BusinessElite to Europe Actually Trying to Compete

I didn’t have high expectations for my recent business-class flight on Delta’s BusinessElite from JFK to Frankfurt. Not only do most US-based airlines notoriously suck when flying internationally—some might say “in general”—no one’s exactly racing to book a ticket with Delta. In fact, before my flight, I referenced Delta’s Club Lounge on Facebook—the responses I received were “Delta sux” and “Delta be ghetto.”

In any case, the airline is in the process of revamping their entire 747 and 767 fleets. My B767-300ER sadly didn’t have the fully-flat, 180-degree seats that are allegedly slated to arrive by 2012, but all in all, it wasn’t a bad flight. Regular business-class passengers, however, will find much to gripe about.

Flying out from New York, Delta has major competition on the Frankfurt route—Continental and Lufthansa lead—so I wasn’t surprised that the business-class section was half full. I was able to get my own row, perhaps one of the better highlights. The personal TV screens were the kind that pop out from the arm-rest unit and were the same size as those in economy class (small); the movie selection was somewhat eclectic. As with most business-class sections, there were power outlets for each individual seat, but they were awkwardly located just below the arm-rest and had limited wiggle room for both my Blackberry charger and Apple’s signature, cumbersome plug. I had to bend the prongs and jam it in to make it fit (the Blackberry charger didn’t fit at all). Somewhat annoying.

As mentioned, the seats did not tip back into a fully flat bed. I like to think it went close enough. Luckily, I sat by the window, which offered a nice platform for my pillow. The Percocet I popped also helped. The meals: not notable but edible. The wine list: not bad, considering.

The most memorable part of the flight was the NY-based crew. They were incredibly on point, making up for any inconveniences. For example, when I told my flight attendant I wasn’t a fan of Dasani, which they serve in BusinessElite, he brought me a 1.5-liter bottle of the spring water they offer in the back. (Sidenote: it’s not a high-maintenance thing. Dasani contains salt, which just makes you thirstier and adds to water retention—not the best water choice when you travel often.)

I was impressed that Delta’s amenity kit offered Korres lip balm and moisturizer, along with socks that actually have those rubber traction sticky nodes on the bottom. Oh, and dental floss. I guess I’m saying it was nice to see Delta’s actually trying.

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