The Life From Business Class: Delta and Virgin Atlantic Style

The last time I flew in a Business Class seat on an international flight was 2009. United, Delta and Northwest had recently unveiled a plan to upgrade their fleet to lie flat seats, a subject I was familiar with as an airline seats program engineer. At the time the most recline you could get to sleep on B/C was 135°, which was difficult to pull of because I kept sliding down the chair! The seat tilts a bit to level with the 3° flight angle, which made the task even harder for me. Going from SEA to Heathrow, I was hoping for the 180° lie flat seats. Apparently the airline gods heard my plea and granted my request. Woohoo!

For the first part of my trip, I flew Delta from SEA to NYC on a 757. The Business Elite section was really nice, with pod style seats that have privacy dividers in a staggered configuration that allows easy access from the outside row and full size stowbins. When the seats are flat you have to step over a sleeping person but it can be done. The pods also have huge IFE screens, noise cancelling headsets, blankets, pillows, cup holders, USB ports and charging outlets. All these amenities helped pass the time comfortably. For lunch, they served gourmet hamburger lunches or a cous cous salad with chicken. I paired mine with a Miller Lite, although the had rum, vodka and scotch cocktails. I skipped the Tennessee Honey and Sprite that I traditionally order because it qas 11 am and needed to be fresh for the JFK terminal run. The beer selection included Sam Adams, Heineken and a third choice I can never remember. It can vary depending on the destination so always ask for the options. They may surprise you.

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Delta Business Elite Seat, 757. Copyright MrsEnginerd

The NYC based crew was really nice and on top of things. The head flight attendant chuckled as she offered me the paper for a second time. She smiled and thanked me for my patience – “After a while all flights start feeling and looking the same.” I welcomed her honesty and confidence. These are definitly the friendly skies. To compensate she gave us in the last row a chance to order lunch first. It is the little things that make me love flying business class; the crew always finds a way to make you feel special.

My second leg of the trip was on a Virgin Atlantic A340-600. (We can cross this plane off the bucket list now.) The pods weren’t as new or posh as Delta’s, the stow bins were not full size, and with no center bins, the space filled up so fast some B/C patrons had to place their bags in the nearby closets. The charge port required an adaptor, and the airline did provide them free or charge. On their 777s, the seats will be replaced by a model similar to these but with improved electronics. I hope I get to fly on those soon.

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Virgin Atlantic Business Class. A340-600. Copyright MrsEnginerd.

The IFE quality was subpar compared to Delta’s and the interior was done in a fancy eclectic modern style that somehow made purple and red work together nicely. The crew provided us with sleep suits, Hershel toiletry kits and duvets right off the bat and apologized profusely because we would get less thab 6 hrs of sleeps, 4 hrs if we ordere breakfast. I didn’t mind the lack of sleep since I knew I would need a nap anyway after landing and checking in to the hotel. The pod accommodations also included a bottle of water, noise cancelling headsets and trinkets you could take as souvenirs that read “pinched from VA”. The serious yet sassy tone of the airline’s message came across as classy yet approachable. I had so much fun catching the idiosyncrasies that to me, the experience alone was worth putting up with the uncomfortable pod.

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Virgin Atlantic menu. Copyright MrsEnginerd.

However, the service made up for all of the inconveniences in terms of technology. The food menu included snacks, cold and hot entrees, dessert, cheese platters and an apperitif. The single malt scotch, wild mushroom tortellini, mouse tart and cheese platter were divine! The meal was served with wine, choice of Malbec or Red Blend. The cocktail and wine list was also being served at the bar unit near Door 2 where you could hang and stretch for a while.

Since this was the true international part of my journey, and the longest stretch, I needed to sleep. I deployed the ancient tech pod design and did my best to muffle the noise to avoid waking up the other passengers. Managing this step is a hard task to complete under the cover of darkness. The flight attendants helped me finish my masterpiece right after dinner service ended. I had already changed into the very warm sleep suit and had to fight with the duvet because the temperature kept fluctuating from very warm to very cold. (Must have been my own homeostasis working against me after such a rich and lavish meal.) In this aspect, the Delta seats won by a mile! I’m sincerely hoping they don’t disappoint on the 767 ride back home.

The one thing I regret is not trying to get into the Virgin lounge. Because I have the Delta Skymiles Reserve American Express, I had access to the Delta lounge already. As part of the B/C package you are permitted to access the airline’s lounge while traveling internationally and because I was more interested in getting a massage I missed the chance to try an access VA’s. My return flight will be a direct one via Delta, so I can’t sneak in and check it out upon my return. Rats! It is safe to bet it has to be as outrageously fun and inviting as their interior cabin which makes me even sadder to have missed it. Maybe next time?

The TSA Pre Check and Premium security line access at the airport are worth it. Pair these perks with Global Entry and you won’t have to spend too much time going through passport control or customs. Always check airline rules to make sure you get the most out of paying for business class and take a gander at SeatGuru to get acquainted with the seating arrangements and limitations on recline and leg room. The comforts, included extras and treatment in B/C are totally worth the pricetag for international and business travel. Enjoy!

As a side note: The one thing I noticed that surprised me and caught me off guard was the ratio of women to men traveling in business accommodations. Out of the 30 seats, about 5 were women. I hadn’t realized this because on most domestic flights I catch couples and moms with kids occupying half of the 16 seats in B/C or F/C. Knowing however that women account for 30% of most businesses related professionals or occupations it shouldn’t surprise me. Needless to say I felt out of place because of this and made the best effort to not let it bother me. 😉

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