Flight Review: Delta BusinessElite JFK-Milan

May 22, 2013

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Last week I was planning on flying from JFK to Rome with a layover in Madrid, then traveling to Florence by train and ending up in Milan. After getting several reader recommendations when I posted my top 10 things I was looking forward to on my trip, I didn’t want to have to split my short 4 days between 3 amazing cities. Someone commented “Italy is best savored,” and since I’ve already been to Rome I really wanted to focus my time on Florence and Milan. Also having a 3 hour layover in Madrid would wipe out the majority of one of my days so I decided to switch up my plans last minute. Even though two days in Florence and Milan probably isn’t enough, I’m an ADD sort of traveller and knew that four days on the ground would be plenty- especially because I was going with three really fun friends.

Our seats were in the middle section of the very last row of the cabin.
Our seats were in the middle section of the very last row of the cabin.

I originally booked JFK-Madrid because there were two low level awards and I figured I’d get to Europe and figure out the rest from there. I was able to snag two Milan-JFK return tickets in Alitalia business so the low level roundtrip cost me 100,000 SkyMiles and $52. Even though Delta has a 72 hour no change policy on international award tickets, I called the morning of my departure and was able to switch to a nonstop JFK-Milan flight on Delta, but it was at the medium level so I’d have to cough up 50,000 more SkyMiles (if I weren’t a Platinum or higher, I would have had to pay $150 in change fees per ticket in addition to the extra miles). To my surprise, there was no hesitation by the representative and she had no problem overriding the policy. Although the new flight was 50,000 more miles because it was at the medium level (200,000 roundtrip, so with the low level return it would average to 150,000 total), I have lot of SkyMiles and I felt it was completely worth it since I could get another day in Florence, relax in lie flat seats each way and avoid a leg in European business class- aka coach with a middle seat blocked out. All in all I was able to fly roundtrip in business (one way medium, one way low) for 150,000 miles and just about $40, which I was happy with. Face value of the ticket was over $4,500, so I still feel like I got good value from my SkyMiles.

Lie Flat Position
Lie Flat Position

JFK and Lounge
Upon arriving at JFK and going through security, I was extremely thankful for the Terminal 2 SkyPriority line which was about 30 minutes shorter than the regular line. Before departing I had time to make a pit stop in the SkyClub in Terminal 3, which was crowded, but I was able to get a table with my friend. There were the typical veggies/hummus/yogurt covered pretzels laid out on the back table, but I was annoyed to get charged $3 for my bottle of Heineken. Besides Heineken there was only Bud Light, Budweiser and quasi-well liquor for free, which is a part of their new lounge “enhancements” that pretty much no one is excited about. Well I am excited for some of their new lounges with outdoor terraces, though frankly I’d still rather have free higher end alcohol and better food, but maybe that’s just me.

Completing the Fleet, Kinda
This trip was the last piece of the pie for me in terms of experiencing business class on the different Delta interntaional planes. So far I’ve flown in business on the 757, A330, and 747 angled lie flats (same as A3330), the 767 cradle, and the 777-200LR and ER.

I thought the seats on this flight would be very similar to Delta’s 777LR which I flew to  Tokyo, but they were drastically different. I’d much prefer the seats on the 777LR with a 78″ pitch and 21″ width and decent privacy over the 767-400 which had a 76.5 (81 in the bulkhead, which I should have chosen!) in pitch but only 20.5″ width. The 40 BusinessElite lie-flat seats are in a 1-2-1 format so if you are seated on the sides you will have some privacy, but hardly any if you sit in the middle seats. Luckily I was travelling with a friend so we didn’t mind sitting in the middle. While there’s only a small amount of space difference, I felt like the 767-400 seats were much more “coffin-like” and less comfortable than the 777LR.

For the main course we were given a choice of short ribs, pan-seared cod, fettuccine alfredo, or lobster salad and herb roasted chicken.
For the main course we were given a choice of short ribs, pan-seared cod, fettuccine alfredo, or lobster salad and herb roasted chicken.

Where Delta excelled on this flight was in food service and it was one of the best business class meals I’ve ever had.

Shrimp appetizer with tomato basil soup

We started with a small salad and a shrimp appetizer with tomato basil soup.

lobster salad with herb roasted chicken
Lobster salad with herb roasted chicken.

For the main course my friend and I went different routes, I got the braised beef short ribs with carrots and potatoes and she went for the lobster salad and herb roasted chicken with a deviled egg, grilled artichoke and balsamic cipollini onions. Both dishes were tasty (though the lobster presentation doesn’t look so fancy) and we ended up sharing to create our own surf and turf in the sky.


Dessert ended the meal with a bang with profiteroles (chocolate covered cream puffs), fruit and assorted cheese.

Seat was too short for me, couldnt 'lie flat'
The seat was too short for me so I couldn’t fully lie flat.

After a satisfying meal I was ready to lay down and get some sleep, but the bed was a couple inches too short for my 6’7″ self, so I couldn’t fully lie flat without having my neck propped up. While the seats weren’t long enough for me, I suspect most people under 6’4″ would be comfortable, though don’t expect a lot of space to move around- the seats seem narrower than they actually are.

Breakfast came with scrambled eggs, french toast, sausage and a bowl of fruit.
Breakfast came with scrambled eggs, french toast, sausage and a bowl of fruit.

Luckily I was able to get a decent amount of sleep so I wasn’t too exhausted for my two train rides and first day in Florence. I woke up in time for breakfast service which was a nice sampling of fruit, french toast, sausage and scrambled eggs, had some coffee and was ready to go explore Italy.

Overall, the flight attendants were extremely nice and the food and hard-product were strong. Although it was nothing amazing and was less comfortable than American’s new limited 777-300 business class, it was still a really good experience which will be even better come June when Delta rolls out the Westin heavenly bed in BusinessElite. As of now, there are no mattress pads, but you can always use an extra comforter to pad the seat- never hurts to ask!

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