Delta was the first airline to introduce the concept of an all-suite business class back in August 2016, and is still the only U.S. airline to offer suites in business class. (Qatar Airways also unveiled its own suites version of business class in 2017.)
With doors that slide shut for privacy, lie-flat beds, bigger entertainment systems and signature Delta amenities like Westin Heavenly Bedding and designer Alessi serviceware, the new Delta One Suites began winning awards shortly after going into service aboard next-generation Airbus A350s in October 2017.
So far, Delta has taken delivery of 11 A350-900s from Airbus. Delta also started refitting some of its Boeing 777-200s with the suites, and plans to put suites aboard its Boeing 767-400s, too. In all, the airline expects to have 13 A350s in service and to refurbish all 18 of its Boeing 777-200s by the end of 2019.
However, the new suites are still only aboard a select number of flights throughout the airline’s network (note that some of these start dates might change). Fliers can find them on routes from the airline’s hub in Atlanta to Seoul, Paris (starting March 1, 2019), and Tokyo Narita (starting March 1, 2019); from Detroit to Amsterdam, Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo Narita; from Los Angeles to Shanghai, Tokyo Haneda (starting March 31, 2019), Sydney (starting April 5, 2019) and Paris (starting May 25, 2019); from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Tokyo Haneda, Paris, and Seoul (starting April 1, 2019); and from Seattle to Tokyo Narita (starting March 1, 2019).
Because of the limited number of flights and aircraft with the Delta One Suites on board, it can be extremely difficult to redeem miles for them. But using one simple strategy can save you both a lot of time and money if you would like to experience the new suites for yourself.
Using Miles To Fly For (Almost) Free
International business-class flights on Delta range from around $3,000 to over $10,000 round-trip, depending on the routes and dates. Unfortunately, the Delta SkyMiles program also prices out awards in the new Delta One Suites at exorbitant levels – up to 465,000 miles each way, in some cases.
Unless you are racking up Delta SkyMiles right and left, that puts an award in Delta’s suites out of reach for most fliers. But by leveraging Delta’s partnership with Virgin Atlantic and that airline’s Flying Club frequent-flier program, awards in Delta One Suites become much more reasonable. Mileage levels range from 50,000-75,000 miles each way, depending on the regions to and from which you are traveling.
Don’t have Virgin Atlantic miles? Luckily, the Flying Club program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Rewards. That means if you have a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi ThankYou Premier, or the Platinum Card from American Express, you can transfer the points you earn on everyday spending to your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account. What’s more, Amex and Citi sometimes offer transfer bonuses of 30-40%, stretching the value of your points even further.
Sign up for a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club membership here. It is free and only takes a couple minutes. That way, you will have everything set up if and when you need to make a transfer.
Searching For Awards
When you are ready to search for an award ticket, visit the Virgin Atlantic homepage. In the search box at the top of the page, enter your airports and dates of travel. If your airport code or city does not automatically populate in the field, you might have to click on the “Full Airport List” link to search by country and city. You can select one-way or round-trip and the dates and number of passengers.
Then click on the “Advanced Search” link and another field will appear allowing you to select “Miles” and the class of service. To search for awards in Delta One, select “Upper Class,” which is Virgin Atlantic’s equivalent of business class.
Click the “Search” button and this should pull up a week of results, which you can scroll forward or backward through by “+/- 3 days.”
Up at the top of the page, you should also see a link that says, “Refine Search.” Click on it and more options will appear, including a search that should show availability for five weeks at a time. This is especially useful if you are flexible as to travel dates and would like to see all your options. Just make sure you keep “Pay with miles” checked under the payment field.
When the dates with award availability pop up, you can click on each one individually to see your options. Be sure to check what type of aircraft your flight will be operated with since Delta flies many of these routes with different types of planes on which the Delta One Suites might not be installed. Remember to look out for Airbus A350s and Boeing 777s.
Mileage Levels and a Transfer Bonus
Whereas Delta SkyMiles priced out awards at a jaw-dropping 230,000 miles plus $31 in taxes and fees, I was able to find awards on several dates that would have worked for me for just 60,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles and the same $31 in taxes and fees.
Due to the timing, I was also able to leverage a 30% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Rewards. I only needed to transfer 47,000 Citi points to my Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account to end up with 61,100 Virgin Atlantic miles – more than enough to book my ticket.
Curious, I did a few more searches on other routes operated by aircraft with the Delta One Suites aboard. Whereas Delta charges 86,000-300,000 miles for one-way flights between Detroit and Amsterdam, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club only requires 50,000 miles each way.
From Detroit to Tokyo Narita, you can find Virgin Atlantic awards in Delta One Suites for 60,000 miles...compared to 300,000 Delta SkyMiles.
Once the new Delta One Suites go into service on the route from Los Angeles to Sydney in April, you can book them for just 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, versus 120,000-465,000 Delta SkyMiles.
Award availability using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly on Delta is not always readily available, but if you can be a little flexible, you can save hundreds of thousands of miles on a single award redemption.
So what was the experience flying the Delta One Suite actually like? In a word: delightful.
The suites are arranged in a staggered, front-facing 1 – 2 – 1 pattern where seats are alternately closer to the aisle or to the window on the sides. The two seats in each center section are shifted either to the right or the left of the preceding row so as to maximize their seat pitch. Each suite is 21-24 inches wide and reclines to a fully flat bed that is 79-81 inches long.
The suites’ dimensions are like most of Delta’s other international business-class seats. However, they have doors that you can slide closed for privacy. I found that made it much easier to get a good rest on a long flight without being disturbed by activity on the aisle. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Delta provides plush Westin Heavenly Bedding and that the seat cushions are made from memory foam for a particularly comfortable ride.
My suite on the side of the aircraft felt spacious and stylish thanks to colorful upholstery, sleek finishes, and smartly designed storage areas, including a second shelf on the armrest under which you could stow a laptop for takeoff and landing.
In terms of technology, Delta One Suites have fast-charging USB ports and universal power plugs, not to mention customizable lighting settings and Do Not Disturb indicators that passengers can illuminate to be left alone, say, if they want to skip meal service. I did not quite get the hang of the customizable lighting, so I did not make many adjustments. But I did like the “Feature Light” setting, which provided accent lighting.
Each suite has Delta’s newest 18-inch high-resolution touchscreen entertainment system and passengers are given fashionable LSTN headphones to use with it. If you have your own preferred noise-cancelling headphones, though, I’d suggest bringing those instead. You can also expect TUMI amenity kits stocked with Kiehl’s skincare products to freshen up over the course of the flight.
The meal service, including dishes created by celebrity chef Jereme Leung, was decent, if not remarkable. I opted for a green salad with bamboo and beets in a sesame dressing, and beef tenderloin in a red-wine sauce with parmesan polenta and garlic spinach, which I enjoyed along with a glass of Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir from France.
When it was time for a snooze, I lit up the Do Not Disturb indicator, reclined my seat to lie-flat bed mode, slid my door shut and curled up under my Westin duvet. I got a solid six-hour sleep in and woke up just in time for breakfast service before landing at LAX.
Overall, the flight was very pleasant – all the more so thanks to the unique design and technological elements of the new Delta One Suites, the privacy afforded by those closing doors, and the fact that I was able to fly for nearly free by redeeming Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for the experience.