It has been a few months since I took this flight from Los Angeles LAX to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and I see Delta has changed the aircraft on this route to a B767 with their new flat bed seats. However, this service would be very typical for any of their Japanese routes from the USA (including Hawaii) and the seat is the same for all of Delta’s flights on the A330-200 (that has not had their new seats installed).
I was actually scheduled to fly United to Narita, but do to fog in Southern California and the pilots decision to return to the gate in San Diego, I missed my connection. After getting nowhere with the United Club Resv. Agent I decided to speak with a Customer Service Rep who was able to book me on the Delta flight.
I still had plenty of time until my flight left as the Haneda flight left LAX around 6pm and the Narita flight on United around 11:30 am (but was around 2pm before I was booked on Delta flight). I walked from Terminal 7 to Terminal 5 and checked-in for the flight at the Delta Sky Club.
I had a hard time waiting the three hours in the Sky Club. Going from the worry of maybe missing my flight, to trying to get on another flight, to then having almost four hours to wait until the flight departed, all left me a little restless. Plus, I am not the biggest fan of LAX’s Sky Club (even after renovation). Some of the seats are uncomfortable and I don’t particularly like their snack selection. But they do have shower facilities and the wifi connection was very good. After taking a shower I relaxed a little and the announcement to board came almost an hour before flight time. I took my time to the gate, but once there realized I was one of the last to board. There was no line to enter the jet-way and I walked straight onto the plane.
Once I boarded the A330-200 I quickly realized why there were no lines and I was one of the last to board. The flight was less than a quarter full. In both Business Elite and Economy. I have not been on a flight that empty in over twenty years (this may also explain why Delta has switched to a 767 on this route). There was plenty of overhead space for my bag and briefcase. I took my bulkhead aisle seat (1H) and confidently put my pillow and blanket that were placed on my seat on the seat next to me, as I knew no one would be sitting there. Already, I felt this would be a good flight. Shortly after getting seated a very friendly flight attendant came by and introduced herself, giving me a menu, slippers, and amenity kit (with Korres moisturizer, lip balm and the usual contents), while offering me a welcome drink. Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne was offered as well as any other drink you wished. I ordered my typical orange juice, and unlike Delta’s domestic flights where they serve Minute Maid from a can (pet peeve of mine), this was from the carton, which is much better. I got situated, and started to make a few last minute phone calls when the announcement was made that the boarding doors were closing. We pushed 20 minutes early. The safety announcements were in English only with Japanese subtitles on the overhead TV monitors.
Delta inherited the A330 from their purchase of Northwest Airlines a few years ago. In fact, this was my first experience flying on the Delta BusinessElite version of the A330-200. It has been a few years sine I flew on this aircraft when it was operated by NWA, but from what I remember, the cabin layout and the BusinessElite seats are essentially the same as NWA’s (Delta is slowly reconfiguring their A330 fleet to herringbone flat-bed seats). There are two cabins on this A330 with 32 BusinessElite seats. Both with 2x2x2 seating. There are four rows on the A&B side in the forward cabin and three rows on the C&G and H&I sides.The other cabin is behind the galley and in front of Economy. With only two rows it has a slightly more intimate feeling. The seats are 21″ wide with a seat pitch of 60″. With the exception of 1A&B the bulkhead seats have a few more inches of pitch. My seat had plenty of leg room. Delta calls the seats in this layout, Sleeper Seats, and they have 176 degrees of recline (so sort of at an angle, not really good for sleeping). Their new Flat-Bed Seats on the A330 in BusinessElite have 180 degrees of recline (so they lie-flat) and have 80″ of pitch and are also 21″ wide.
After a short taxi we were quickly in the air. The pilot informed us our flying time would be 11 hrs. and 30 min. The flight attendants came around and distributed a hot towel (more like a hot rag – not the best quality) that was followed by a small bowl of cashews and almonds. At the same time taking drink and dinner orders. Like all airlines flying to Japan, Delta has both a Western and Japanese selection for the main meal. On the menu it states that there is a limited number of Japanese meals and to guarantee receiving a Japanese meal you should order 48 hr. in advance. The Japanese meal consisted of Sakizuke, Zensai, Kobachi, Aemono and Shusai. I am sorry but there were so few on board that I did not see anyone take this meal and therefore, do not know how it was presented. The Western selection was comprised of four courses. The first course was a curried Crab Salad with Cantaloupe and/or a Cream of Vegetable Soup. A nice selection of bread was also offered at this time. I opted for a pretzel roll and crusty dinner roll. This was followed by a Mixed Green Salad. The Main Course selection feature was Roasted Chicken Breast from Delta Chef Michelle Bernstein. The other options were Seared Beef Tenderloin, Panko-Crusted Halibut, or Pork Stir-Fry. I chose the Beef Tenderloin in bearnaise sauce with risotto and broccolini. I was pleased with my selection. The beef and risotto were very good (I am not a fan of broccoli, so I can’t comment there) and the portions were generous. The soup was also very good. Flavorful and hot. The salad, while not memorable, was edible. The leafs and tomatoes were fresh. There were three white wines and three red wines available with your meal. A Tupun Torrontes from Argentina, Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay from California, and from Bordeaux, Le Charme de Marjosse. The reds were; Albert Bichot Mercurey from Burgundy, Burgess Merlot from Napa, and from Chile, Antu Ninquen Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere.
The final course consisted of a selection of Cheese with Fruit, Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae, or Creme Brulee Cheesecake. All three options were on a cart and I thought it would be a bit gluttonous to have both the sundae and cheesecake so I settled for just the sundae (I really wanted both 🙂 ). The only topping option was either strawberry or chocolate with whipped cream and nuts. The sundae was refreshing and a nice way to finish my meal. A 10 year-old port and dessert wine (Chevalier Du Pastel Sauternes) was served with dessert.
After dinner I continued watching the Inflight Entertainment System (IFE) for about an hour before I tried to sleep. Delta’s A330 IFE in BusinessElite is on-demand (AVOD). The screen size is certainly better than I remembered from their 767’s, but not as large as some of the newer Business Class products (including Delta’s). I would guess the size of the screen at 12″. There are 100’s of movies and TV shows to choose from. The latest Hollywood hits, classic movies, and International films (including a few Japanese movies), as well as popular sitcom’s, and HBO & Showtime programs. In addition, there are plenty (over 4500 songs) of audio options. Albums from every genre to listen to. Plus games and a moving map (the overhead screen had the map on continuously). One of the nice things about Delta’s IFE in BusinessElite was the TV was touch screen. So besides the hand held controls you could also manipulate the programming directly on the screen. This came in handy as my seat’s hand held device did not work very good. Headphones were provided, but I used my own. They did look to be of decent quality (not sure if noise canceling). The one thing I was disappointed with in Delta’s IFE was that some movies were edited. You could see from the films description whether the movie was edited or not. Wifi was not available on this plane, but there was a 110 watt power plug if needed between the seats.
I was able to sleep for a few hours, but not nearly as long as I would have liked. As I said, the seat is not completely lie flat. This is never an issue for me as I prefer to sleep in a cradle position (like a reclining chair). However, these seats were one of the first to have the angled flat seat. So the seat is flat, but at an angle. You get the feeling you are sliding down so not the most comfortable for sleeping. The seats are in a shell and move a little forward and down as well reclining back. This is also one of the reasons I like the bulkhead. As the shell does recline and it infringes into the seat area behind it. In those rows you slide a little under the seat in front of you, not as bad as some of the newer Business Class seats, but enough to make me feel slightly claustrophobic. But that was only a small reason I did not sleep that long. I also felt the cushion did not have a lot of padding. I felt this while I was seated and continued when I was sleeping. I just couldn’t get into a 100% comfortable seat position while sleeping (maybe I was just a little antsy from missing my original flight). I also felt the seat was a little narrow, but certainly wider than Delta’s 767 BusinessElite seats. On the positive side, the blanket and pillows were very nice and did help aid in my falling asleep. There was also a massage function in the seat that was a little loud, but did feel good on my back. Besides the overhead light, the seat also had a snake light that worked great and is less obtrusive.
After I gave up on sleeping more (I did sleep 3 hours). I walked back to the galley and had a look to see what mid-flight snacks were available. Most of the snacks they had were they same as what Delta provides in their snack basket on Domestic First Class flights.Twix, Biscoff Cookies, whole fruit, Sun Chips, pretzels, nuts and Dasani Water. In addition to those staples, Walker Shortbread Cookies, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Noodle Soup were also available. A flight attendant saw me looking around and asked if I wanted anything. She made me a soup and so I ate a little and watched another movie.
About an hour and a half before we landed a second hot towel was distributed and a pre-arrival meal was served. There were three choices available. A Sweet Onion Quiche with sausage, Muesli Cereal, or Roasted Chicken. I liked that all the choices were not breakfast oriented and since we were landing in the late evening, I opted for the chicken and ginger sauce with sauteed spinach and steamed rice. All the dishes came with fruit and bread and the chicken came with a nice piece of chocolate cake. As much as I liked the beef at dinner. I enjoyed this chicken more. It was one of the better meals I have ever eaten on Delta. I wish they would serve this on their Domestic First Class flights.
Prior to arrival the head flight attendant personally thanked each passenger for flying Delta’s Business Elite and for their business (nice touch). There were very few if any announcements made during the flight other than the one after take-off and before landing. However, the one prior to landing also included a pitch for Delta’s SkyMiles Amex Card. This was a little annoying as the announcement was in both Japanese and English and I was trying to watch the end to a sitcom. The flight was very smooth with little turbulence.
Now the best part of this flight. We landed on runway 34R an hour early!!! Since I was not in Tokyo for long and was scheduled to arrive into Narita that afternoon I really appreciated making up this time. Despite parking at a bus gate I was thru passport and customs in no time (no line). With Haneda’s proximity to Tokyo, after a short taxi ride(expensive, I took train back), I was actually checking into my hotel (Conrad) at our scheduled arrival time. Enough time to unwind and get a good night sleep for the next day.
Like I have written about United’s BusinessFirst, Delta’s BusinessElite product does not have all the nicities as some Asian or Middle East carries. But the food was very good, the flight attendants friendly and available throughout the flight, and I was entertained for an 11.5 hour flight. The seat could certainly be more comfortable to both sit and sleep, but as I said, Delta is upgrading their seats. So I was very happy with how my day turned out and flying Delta. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is a great alternative to Narita. Much closer to town. The only issue is that International flights are only able to operate between 10pm and 7am at Haneda. But flying Delta from LAX (or SEA) to HND you arrive in the evening and can go straight to bed and get a good night sleep when you arrive and on the return have a full day to work or visit before your flight leaves. The neat thing is you actually arrive a day before you depart. Sort of like a time traveler!