In a recent trip to Europe I flew business class using points on Delta from New York to Zurich and on American Airlines from Milan to New York. In both cases the seating configuration of the lie flat beds were the same, “1-2-1”. This gave me an opportunity to compare food, service, and amenities.
Delta’s JFK Lounge
I arrived at JFK almost 3 hours prior to the flight so that I could visit the Delta lounge. Going through security I had the choice of the TSA pre-check (thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve) or the business class security line. A TSA employee suggested the TSA-pre-check line and my wife who does not have pre-check went through the business class security line. Sure enough, I breezed through security in a few minutes and my wife about 5 minutes later.
The next stop was the Delta lounge, which luck would have it, was very close to my gate. As anyone who frequents JFK knows, this is not always the case. My wife and I settled into the crowded, but well stocked lounge. I was pleasantly surprised with the buffet which included salad options as well as hot food. We did not eat much as we were saving our appetites for the flight and the meals we chose a few days earlier online.
Delta’s In-Flight Experience
Boarding on the A330-200 began on time and my wife and I settled into 2 seats in the middle so we could chat and smile at each other while we watched movies. We found a nice Tumi kit with a set of toiletries as well as ear plugs and a mask. In addition to noise canceling headphones, we found bottled water at our seats. The headphones were not Bose headphones, which I bring with me everywhere I travel, but my wife was happy with the sound quality.
As we were getting settled in, the captain came by and introduced himself to everyone in “Delta One”. This was an especially nice touch. He made a valiant, and much appreciated, effort to pronounce my last name which is no small task.
The food and service were outstanding. The meal service began with warm seasonal nuts and cocktails followed by salad with warm goat cheese. I ordered cuttlefish and my wife ordered baked chicken with what she described as an amazing sauce. Everything was cooked perfectly. For dessert I chose warm chocolate cake which was delicious. The food service is where Delta really shines.
The entertainment system was great, as well as the comfort of the lie flat bed, down comforter, and down pillow. We both watched movies and eventually dozed off. Being a very light sleeper, I appreciate the ability to sleep on the plane even if it is only for a few hours.
The Delta A330-200 flight was fairly smooth and comfortable but not as nice as the American Airlines Dreamliner we flew home from Milan.
Pros: excellent food, service, and entertainment system
Cons: No Bose Headphones (this is me nitpicking), small bathroom at the nose of the plane
Fast forward 3 weeks later and my wife and I had a morning flight from Milan to JFK. Since it was an early flight we did not have an opportunity to try any of the lounges in Malpensa. Aside from lounge access because of our business class seats, we also have Priority Pass access with our Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
American Airlines In-Flight Experience
Aside from normal security checks, the boarding went well. The American Airlines Dreamliner is an amazing aircraft. While it had the same seat configuration as the A330-200, the bathrooms were larger and the cabin experience was better. I always feel more rested when I fly a Dreamliner or an A380. The Dreamliner is quieter, has better air quality/cabin pressure, as well as anti-turbulence technology.
We did not meet the captain on the American Airlines flight but the service we received was excellent throughout the flight. We were offered Bose noise canceling headphones which in my opinion, not only helps to block outside noises while you watch movies, but more importantly while you sleep.
The food was not nearly as good as the Delta flight with the exception of dessert. The food was fine but the Delta food experience was similar to a fine dining experience at a restaurant in New York City. I had pasta and my wife had chicken. My wife enjoyed her meal while I found the pasta to be just OK. For dessert we had an excellent ice cream sundae which I was surprised they were able to pull off.
About 45 minutes before we landed, we were instructed to return the Bose headphones. This seemed odd because almost everyone was in the middle of watching a movie. While they gave us cheaper headphones for the duration of the flight, this policy seemed penny wise and pound foolish.
Pros: Excellent Aircraft, Service, and Dessert
Cons: Food was OK, Required to return Bose Headphones 45 minutes before landing
Delta vs American Summary
Both Delta and American provided excellent service but meeting the Delta captain gives a slight edge to Delta. Delta’s food was much better than that on the American Airlines flight. Both entertainment systems were excellent so this is a tie. As expected, the American Airlines Dreamliner provided a better flight experience. Delta should consider Bose noise canceling headphones and American should collect the headphones right before exiting the plane.
Whenever possible, I try to fly on 787s, A380s, and A350s because of the flight experience and you should too. The air quality, cabin pressure, cabin lighting, anti-turbulence technology, window shades, and noise suppression makes a big difference.
As a travel blogger part of my job is to review flight experiences. To be fair, both flights were very good and I would definitely fly Delta One and American Airlines business class to Europe when given the opportunity.