Review: Delta BusinessElite Sao Paulo to Detroit

I’m presently shuttling back and forth between Brazil and the US on Delta (thanks to the mistake business class fare they had earlier in the year) to qualify for Alaska MVP Gold 75K status.

My outbound flight from New York to Sao Paulo was in business class on one of American’s brand new 777-300ERs. I’ve flown American plenty in the past (including from New York to London and back on their new 777-300ERs), so was quite looking forward to finally trying Delta’s international business class product. The last time I flew them internationally was nearly three years ago, and that was on one of their old 767s with recliner seats.

So while I’ll have a more detailed report soon, I figured I’d start by sharing my initial thoughts:

The seat

Delta’s business class on this particular version of the 767-300 consists of staggered seating, very similar to what’s offered by Austrian and Brussels on much of their fleet.


While they’re fully flat, I really don’t like these seats. The major issue is that because of the way the seats are staggered and designed, the leg “cubby” you have to place your legs in when sleeping is so small. I’m a side sleeper and like to bend my knees a bit when sleeping, and this seat isn’t ideal for that.



So while I can still sleep in the seat when tired, I’d pick reverse herringbone, herringbone, or standard forward facing fully flat seats over the staggered product offered on this aircraft (it’s worth noting that Delta has other aircraft configured with both herringbone and reverse herringbone seats, though).

The amenities

Delta has Tumi amenity kits and Westin bedding — what more could you want?

The Tumi amenity kits are great, not just because the bag itself is practical, but the contents are equally impressive. Along with EVA Air’s Rimowa amenity kits, I’d say this is the best business class amenity kit.


The bedding consisted of a large Westin pillow and ridiculously comfortable Westin duvet, almost similar to what you’d find in a hotel. This is quite possibly the most comfortable business class bedding I’ve ever had.


The food

The dinner was really good. The starter consisted of tomato and mozzarella skewers and a beef tenderloin canape.


Next the soup and salad were served. It was a broccoli parmesan soup and a salad consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta cheese.


Then the main course consisted or red wine braised beef, which was spectacular (even if it doesn’t look it).


Then there was an ice cream sundae for dessert.


The omelet for breakfast wasn’t especially good, though.



The service

Okay, so the service on this flight was really great, especially after flying down on American a day prior and having a pretty crappy crew. This crew was proactive, friendly, and professional. The purser came around during boarding to introduce herself to each passenger, on approach a flight attendant came around with chocolates and thanked each passenger for their business, and the crew was generally friendly.


And for that matter in my limited experience with Delta so far, the employees really do seem to go above and beyond, and just hold themselves to a higher standard. I’m impressed.

Bottom line

Delta pleasantly surprised me. I kind of always assumed all US legacy airlines are made the same, but Delta really impressed me with the service, amenities, and food offered aboard. Over my next five international flights with them over the coming week I’m curious to see if my opinion stays the same.

Ultimately the seat itself is the single most important aspect of a business class product to me, and I don’t like staggered flat business class seats. So I’d still take a reverse herringbone seat with inferior service, amenities, and food over a seat that I can’t really comfortably sleep in.

Delta might not know how to run a mileage program, but they sure seem to know how to run an airline. And I’d love to try them soon on one of their planes featuring reverse herringbone seats soon.

Filed Under: Delta
  1. They also know how to run FF program, except it is only for their benefit. Their take on it is to give nothing of value to the frequent flyer, with useless SWUs and miles

  2. DL business class is 45K to Europe from North America on AS. Combine with a couple CX awards, and, boom, instant RTW…

  3. Thanks for the nice comparison between AA and DL. I wonder if the fact that DL is two-class makes any different to how the service seems to go better on Delta. But I have to agree to you that Delta really tries very hard lately in its premium product. Delta employees seem to be very happy lately and are proud of their offering, which makes a big different on the “soft” side of the product.

    I also can’t help to notice the latest improvement on Delta’s catering. I am very impressed. The breakfast is now served in two courses, which is nicer than the previous one tray service.

    About the Delta’s reverse herringbone seats on mostly 747-400s and newly renovated A330s, they are a bit less fancy than AA or CX versions. They are a bit like a better version of US Envoy suites, but not as fancy as the ones used by American or Cathay.

    After reading all your reviews, maybe you should give United premium products a try. I wonder how that Jeff S’s United compares to American and Delta, which are spending $$$ in improving products, while United seems to be in murky water!

  4. Glad you see the difference in crews. It really does shine. And yes they do the beef really well.

    You should try them on the SEA-JFK flights. Basically the same service you experienced but on a 5 hr domestic flight.

    On flights out of LHR they place a post card signed by the station manager on the seat of high elites sitting in biz elite.

  5. Glad you enjoyed Delta, and can confirm that those of us still willing to give them a chance aren’t smoking anything funny when we say we really enjoy flying them.

    I haven’t flown the staggered setup, only the 777 lieflat. My next DL award is SEA-NRT-LAX on the 747 with the reverse herringbone business class, so I’m looking forward to that.

  6. Love your review but I find it funny how it is different strokes for different folks.
    I AVOID the herringbone 777 like the plague and so much more like this product as a back sleeper. I find the herringbone to be claustrophobic, narrow and strange to fly sideways.
    I agree that one of the best things about DL is the people. They really get it (in BE).
    But you did credit the points to the wrong program 😉

  7. Top tip for the Delta 767 lie flat is that the cubbies on the bulkhead row are significantly bigger than those on other rows, great for a side sleeper. Also they seem to be easy to snag as most of the seat review sites have them as bad seats being near the galley but I find that the closet and galley storage are pretty deep especially for the middle seats and there isn’t too much bleed through noise from the galley.

  8. Ed is 100% correct about the slight differences in the seat design. Also the 767-300ER’s with 1-2-1 lie flats differ slightly from the 767-400’s. You should really enjoy the 747 reverse herringbone though.

  9. Just flew Delta to LHR this weekend and came back home now. The crews were friendly and generally happier than AA and UA. Even the ground staffs at JFK were nicer. Food was good on both segments. Seat is lie flat not as good as AA’s new business class. I hate to say this but Delta is probably the best US airline now. UA is definitely the worst.

  10. DL crews do shine! From sitting in the back of the plane to the front to waiting at the gate I always notice a difference.

  11. Hi Ben – I totally agree with the comments regarding Service. Delta is above and beyond the legacy carriers in this area. I’ve always been more happy to be in Delta Business than AA First, simply because of the service and the quality of food when compared to AA First.

  12. You didn’t mention but I was also really impressed with the movie selection on Delta’s renovated international fleet — it is probably similar to what is on the ex-CO UA aircraft and the new AA aircraft, but since AA has lots of unrenovated aircraft and the ex-UA UA aircraft have a much more limited selection, I’d say Delta wins in that category for the time being. Delta also has a far greater installed base of domestic AVOD IFE planes than the competition, though the domestic planes have a smaller set of content to choose from.

  13. Oh — but I would agree, Delta’s omelettes, which they also serve in domestic First on morning flights, are not great. AA and UA both do eggs better.

  14. Loved the review, and thanks for looking out for us plus sized foot folks.

    I would avoid that plane no matter what the soft product. It’s not only a question of sleep, but I wonder if it feels like “foot jail”.

  15. What you call a “mistake fare” is actually something else. Ask some of your friends in the airline industry to expalin you what a CMI is, and you’ll understand.

  16. Noticed that the chocolate the FA gave you came from a cool chocolatier in Campos do Jordao – wonderful small resort town in the hills about 2 hours from Sao Paulo. Paulistas go there to escape the heat – town made to look like Switzerland complete with Swiss chalets despite the fact the temperature there rarely dips below 60 degrees 🙂 Not Berchtesgarten, but amazing vistas, it’s Brazilian chic and fun — worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

  17. Having flown in this type of seat with SWISS, I must say I totally agree about the foot cubby – I found it far too small (esp in the ‘Captain Kirk’ seats) and almost slightly claustrophobic when trying to sleep on one’s side.

  18. Ben — I’m curious, what airline do you think has a better lie-flat product on a 767? I know you’re not a fan of this seat, but I think one challenge is finding an economical lie-flat configuration given the width of the 767. As you note, Delta has a terrific reverse herringbone seat (similar to CX and AA’s new offering) on their 747s and A330s, as well as herringbone on the 777 (I bet they would have the reverse herringbone on the 777, too, except the seat wasn’t yet on the market when these came online). The reverse herringbone doesn’t fit on the 767, at least not as 1x2x1.

    On the 767, the only viable alternative seems to be the herringbone seat as on AC, but that seat gets plenty of complaints too. The other 767 lie-flat alternatives (e.g., United and LAN/TAM) don’t have direct aisle access from every seat, which is probably a deal-breaker for Delta.

  19. So out the 4 staggered seats you’re tried in all, is there 1 that gets a slight recommendation over the others? Was one at least more comfortable (especially when sleeping) as opposed to the others? In this case, it seems like the duvet went a long way in making more comfortable…

  20. Though I haven’t sat there myself, I hear that there is more room in the cubby at the bulkhead seats. It might be worth a try.

  21. Agreed on the service. As a Delta Platinum, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by how friendly the crew is on the ground and in the air. (Especially after years of flying with UA and AA.)

    Excited for the BE seat on the 747 in a few weeks from JFK – NRT – BKK.

  22. Keep enjoying your competitive Delta products. I’ll keep flying out of MSP, where they only fly RJs and MD90s and control 85 percent of the gates.

  23. @ wwk5d — Last night back down to Sao Paulo I sat in the window seat that’s closest to the window and not the aisle, and quite liked how private that was. Not all that much more spacious, but the privacy made it pleasant.

  24. Actually, I was asking between Austrian, Brussels, ANA, and Delta 😉 It seems like the only major difference is the duvet Delta hands out?

    But also good to know which seats within each cabin is the best…

  25. @ wwk5d — Ah, whoops. Clearly rather exhausted. 😉

    Hmm, to be honest I don’t really like one much more than the others. Austrian has great bedding as well, so I’d say Austrian and Delta would be my two top picks in terms of hard product.

  26. @wwk5d — I haven’t flown it personally but I believe the ANA staggered seat is very different — it is only 4 abreast on a 777, whereas DL is 4 abreast on a 767. I believe Austrian has a staggered seat on a 777 that is at least 5 abreast.

  27. I’m pretty much a DL hostage since I’m based in the SE US, and I’ve been quite underwhelmed by DL’s BE service. This is due mostly to the fact that I keep getting flights with their old recliner seats. I was on ATL-LIM two weeks ago and ATL-DUB back in the spring. Both flights were 767-300s with recliners. I’d agree that food and service on DL are pretty good, but their older hard product is the pits.

  28. @eponymous coward: I was of the understanding that DL didn’t offer one-way awards using AS mileage, and at last check, BE from NA to Europe was 90k. Hardly a value vs. the competition, but am I incorrect – how do you get to 45k to Europe with no one-way award??

  29. After flying in BE on Delta’s 777s on multiple occasions, I just flew to LHR on a 767-400 in BE. I like the 767 seat much better than the 777 as I felt too cramped on the 777. When lying down, I felt I had more room to extend on the 767 vs the 777.

  30. @Lucky Was just wondering have you ever listened to the podcast Betty In The Sky With A Suitcase, who is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines (although she’s never officially confirmed it) and she has monthly episodes regarding funny stories while working in the air.

  31. As a Delta Diamond, it is finally appreciated to get some love towards Delta. Yes their milage program for redemption may not be the best, but at the end out of 4 international trips I do a year, the rest of my 200K is done domestically. Their service is always great, and their food is definitely one of the best in the industry. You need to use them for Asia, or in the transcontinental route for dinner, as those meals are quite amazing (Caramel Gelato if you get lucky!) I hope you get the tomato Basil Soup in one of your flights as it is quite tasty. Also I feel they have been loyal enough to me this year as I have had to change by tickets probably 10+ this year and I have yet to pay a penalty fee. It is not always easy, but after talking to the right supervisor they have been more than generous.

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