Trip Report & Review – Delta ONE Sydney (SYD) – LAX (BusinessElite)

Prior to this flight, I had last flown a Delta B777-200LR round trip from Atlanta to Johannesburg a few years back…with regards to the hard product, not much if anything has changed. BusinessElite is now Delta ONE and service, food, and amenities are better, but these planes are definitely in need of some love and updates.

This is part five of an eight part trip report from my recent trip to Sydney:

Award Booking

Back at the beginning of August we noted excellent Virgin Australia Business Award Availability using SkyMiles in Feb as well as a few dates in December and January. The outbound flights from the US were essentially wide-open, but the returns were not. I wanted to travel during the Xmas / New Year’s holiday which made things even more difficult. The first award I was able to grab required a connection in Detroit (in Economy) to get me to LAX, once there I would connect to Virgin Australia…but to Brisbane, requiring a connection onward to Sydney. The return on Delta was an even bigger disaster, but we’ll get to that below.

Original DL Australia 1a

Not even two weeks later, the first schedule change email was received and while it wasn’t the required 60 minutes (for free changes to awards), I still called in with the objective of getting the non-stop flights. Less than 15 minutes later, I had JFK-LAX and LAX-SYD for my outbound flights…that international reissue desk works miracles. My return though was not touched as there were no schedule changes. The trip would require flying China Eastern from Sydney to Shanghai, then Delta from Shanghai to LAX, and then Delta LAX-JFK (a total of 33+ hours).

Original DL Australia 2

Well, a few weeks later I received another one of those amazing schedule change emails from Delta.  It was actually a positive change in terms of total flight time, but a change nonetheless (about 40 minutes). Back on the phone, one call, a transfer to the international reissue desk, a very friendly agent and BOOM -> Delta’s non-stop flight from Sydney to LAX (which is usually only available for 300K or more SkyMiles each way) as well as a the continuing flight to JFK.  All in business. There was only one seat left in business so an internal email was sent to release the award inventory. With a total LOW level price for this itinerary of 80K SkyMiles each way, the 12+ hour China detour was no longer necessary!

Original DL Australia 3

Moral of this story – if you can book a low level award with your SkyMiles do it (especially if your trip is months away)!  It does not matter if the flights are not ideal, there will likely be a schedule change and Delta is quite generous with the power that comes with those. This is sadly the most effective way to book SkyMiles award tickets. It’s sad, but it has worked perfectly for all my Delta trips in 2015. See more on the “mighty schedule change rule” as Rene calls it here.

DL 40 SYD-LAX-JFK

Upon checking in for Delta ONE, you’ll receive an Express Departure pass which will save you a significant amount of time when clearing customs, don’t forget to ask for one if you are not checking bags or already have your boarding pass.

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Although, not non-stop, pretty cool to see a “New York JFK” flight from Sydney.  I flew a similar direct flight with Qantas a few years back.

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There was the normal SkyPriority lane for expedited boarding and upon reaching my seat, I was greeted by the familiar duvet, pillow, and headphones. Local newspapers, mimosas, OJ, and champagne were also offered to Delta ONE passengers. A large water bottle was already waiting on the side of the seat and almonds/peanuts were soon handed out. PS look at the pictures of the water and peanuts, you can see some of the wear to the BusinessElite / Delta ONE cabin that I’ll be discussing later.

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The 777-200LR Delta ONE cabin includes a USB charging port, seat controls that allow you to lie-flat, two cut-out pockets (there are no normal seat-back pockets), a drink holder, and in-flight entertainment via a TV that’s a bit dated at this point with regards to clarity and size for international business class (though with an impressive selection of new and catalog movies). Now, you must remember that the 777s were Delta’s first aircraft to feature flat-bed seats. They are set-up in a herringbone configuration with all seats facing towards the aisle. While private, I find these seats a bit narrow and awkward at times.  Although flat, I never feel fully comfortable and much prefer the Delta 767s that I fly much more often (lie-flat refurbs for these occurred several years later than the 777s).

Regardless of your preference, these cabins are in need of some renovations (or at least deep cleanings).  The blue faux leather was peeling from the pockets and armrests and the seat was dirty. The drink holders were stained and everything sort of just felt old. Crazy since I felt the completely opposite way when I flew this same aircraft to Johannesburg…though that was years earlier. The passenger seated behind me asked if I fly often and if this was the normal standard for a Delta ONE cabin. He thought they were absolutely dirty.

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13 hours and 7,500 miles to go!

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Now, the soft product was excellent. Good food, generous portions, multiple meals (more than Virgin Australia), great presentation, friendly flight attendants, Tumi amenity kit, and even pajamas! 
IMG_6018 IMG_6019 IMG_6020I went with the chicken picatta as my main course, a waygu beef burger for the mid-flight snack, and the apple raisin crepe for the “almost there” meal.

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Snacks and drinks were available in the galley between meals…including Tim Tams

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The Tumi amenity kit…

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Nap time – I took a second pillow (HUGE difference) from an empty nearby seat and a head pillow was already provided, so 3 in total…

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As Rene reported back in December, Delta ONE passengers on LAX-PVG-LAX (Shanghai) and LAX-SYD-LAX (Sydney) flights began receiving Delta pajamas on December 15th, with an anticipated roll-out to other yet to be announced routes in March.

The PJs were handed out by the flight attendants before we took off, just after the welcome drinks and menus were provided. Sizing choices were small/medium, large, and extra large. They warned us before selecting our size that they run big…I went with the small/medium (I’m 5′ 11″ and 170 lbs). Although the PJs are a 50% cotton / 50% polyester blend, I found them to be really soft and comfortable. As an airline dork, I really enjoyed the Delta widgets and Delta ONE branding.

The pajamas were wrapped in plastic and are enclosed inside a drawstring bag. Delta ONE branding can be found on the bag itself, the top right hand corner of the zip up, the zipper of the shirt, and finally you’ll find a red widget on the back collar of the shirt. The drawstring pants fit better (and were more comfortable) than some of the premium PJs I’ve had on Singapore, Emirates, Etihad, and Cathay. I really really liked them.

It seemed that many Delta ONE passengers were not familiar with the PJ concept when flying up front and they simply stuffed them in their bags.  In fact, I was one of only a few who changed into them for the flight (unlike the Virgin Australia flight on the way there, there’s no one waiting with a garment bag to hang the clothes you’ve changed out of).

The flight attendants back in Economy were fascinated by the pajamas.  They had never seen them before and literally had me modeling them at the back galley. They used the words “super impressive”… #deltapride I guess. I even saw a few of them snag their own PJs on the way out! Delta slippers were provided as well.

Overall, I think Delta did a great job with their pajamas and I’m excited to see which routes will have these included as a standard Delta ONE amenity.

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Overall, solid flight with lie-flat seating, great food, awesome PJs, a large selection of movies to keep you entertained. The 777s could use some deep cleanings, updated upholstery, larger and more modern TVs, and perhaps a move away from the herringbone configuration.

Need assistance with your next award trip? Consider the Juicy Miles award booking service for all your redemption needs.

Related – Trip Report – Delta Atlanta (ATL) – Johannesburg (JNB) – BusinessElite B777-200LR

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