Review of Delta Air Lines flight Beijing Detroit in Business

Airline Delta Air Lines
Flight DL188
Class Business
Seat 6C
Aircraft Airbus A350-900
Flight time 12:30
Take-off 09 Jun 18, 19:05
Arrival at 09 Jun 18, 19:35
DL   #65 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 549 reviews
socalnow
By GOLD 1575
Published on 19th July 2018
Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that ticked off a couple of boxes on my airline nerd wish list. The first objective was to visit the second United Polaris Lounge to open, this time in SFO. Was United able to capture the excellent qualities of the ORD lounge in their second offering? The second objective was to experience The new Delta A350-900 and specifically the Delta One Suite product. Is a suite in J class a gimmick or substantive. With the goals in place let's have a quick discussion on how to accomplish them.

My trip on the Delta A350 would be of the NRSA variety so availability would dictate my route. At the time of this trip you could experience the A350 on DTW-NRT-DTW, DTW-ICN-DTW, DTW-PVG_DTW, DTW-PEK-DTW, and ATL-ICN-ATL. I honed in on the PEK route spotting good availability for a Saturday PEK departure. With this flight in mind I set about on getting to PEK, preferably on a Star carrier via SFO. The Polaris Lounge is available to United Business and First Class customers as well as those of Star Alliance members. As much as I enjoy a good lounge the idea of a TPAC flight in UA J was not a desirable one so I turned to the Star Alliance partners for help. I had United Miles to invest in this leg of the trip so I limited the scope of my search to J class as I don't find the UA F mileage redemption to be as good of a value. Of the Star carriers I would rank BR as my preferred J carrier with SQ and ANA coming in just behind. I located the BR space I needed to PEK but could only find it via LAX (although it was the Kitty flight so i was tempted). I set Expert flyer to watch the early morning SFO departures and 3 days before departure the email arrived that space was available on BR27. I quickly booked via united.com and prepared a whirlwind trip.

Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:



United Airlines - SNA-SFO - CRJ700 - Economy - No Lounge - United Mileageplus (No Report)
EVA Airways - SFO-TPE - 777-300ER - Business - United Polaris Lounge - United Mileageplus
EVA Airways - TPE-PEK - 777-300ER - Business - EVA The Infinity and The Star - United Mileageplus
Delta Air Lines - PEK-DTW - A350-900 - Business - Air China First And Business Class Lounge T2 - NRSA - (This Report)
Delta Air Lines - DTW-ORD - 717-200 - Economy - No Lounge - NRSA (No Report)
American Airlines - ORD-LAX - A321-200 - First - No Lounge - AAdvantage (No Report)

Check In and Seat Assignment



The bus ride from T3 to T2 was only about 10 minutes and the stop is just across the street from the terminal.

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Terminal 2 at Bejing Capital Airport is quite a contrast to Terminal 3. T2 is much older in appearance and not nearly as inviting. There is a document check before you are able to proceed to the check in counters.

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I arrived at 14:45, just over 2 hours before our scheduled departure time of 16:50. Flying NRSA (Non-Revenue Space Available) is a little different then a ticket on miles for cash. I presented my self at the check in counter and was checked in by the friendly agent. As an aside the agents appeared to be Delta employees rather than a contract or MU staff. I was told to return to a specific counter position at 15:50 to see if a seat would be available. Roger Wilco. This extra time allows them to sell the extra seats or cargo and even accommodate passengers from IROPS of other carriers. The thinking is that at T-60 they have a good idea of the number of passengers flying and the weight and balance of the airplane so if they assign a seat to me and send me through immigration and customs and security I have a high likelihood of flying on that flight. As a measure of comfort I am able to monitor the passenger load on the flight in real time via a company travel portal so I have a general idea of my chances. On this day there were at least 10 seats open in each cabin and I was the only NRSA waiting for a seat. These data points give me the impression that travel today on DL188 is likely.

I pass the hour dozing in a chair around the corner from the counter. I set an alarm on my phone in case I am asleep. I return to the specified counter at the agreed time and I'm asked to wait while the agent taps on the computer and makes a phone call. Eventually I am presented a boarding pass for 2C in Delta One. I am relieved and at the same time rushed as now there is only 50 minutes until stated departure time and I have yet to pass through immigration or security.

Much to my surprise I am through in only about 20 minutes and have time to pop into the Air China First and Business class lounge (Via Priority Pass) to use the toilet and drink some cold water. I'm sorry but I don't appear to have taken any pictures of the experience.

I make my way to gate 10 at 35 minutes before stated departure to find large queues of passengers and It's apparent that there will not be a 16:50 departure. I take a place in the Sky Priority line wait for boarding to commence. The line stretched all the way around the corner from the gate down the concourse.

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I wasn't able to hear if announcements were being made in the gate area as to the delay. After about 15 minutes I was approached by a Delta staff and asked if I was Mr Socalnow. I identified myself by saying yes and she asked if I could come with her to the podium. Uh - Oh. This is always bad news for the NRSA flyer. I have a few sayings about NRSA travel and one is "beware the hand" as in it can pluck you right out of your comfortable seat at any time. It is only when the door is closed and the jet bridge is pulled away that an non-rev can relax and feel confident that they are traveling as planned. I felt the (figurative) hand tugging on my shirt collar with this interaction.

For some reason the entire NRSA process raises my heart rate and fills me with extra adrenaline. I'm not sure why. It's not a negative exhilaration rather just a heightened sensation. Anyhow, I'm feeling this now as I walk with the sweet young woman around the corner to the gate 10 podium area where I am introduced to another Delta staff, a young man this time. Perhaps we went to him as he was a strong English speaker. Anyhow he presented me with the news that several HVCs (High Value Custmers) upgraded at the last minute and there was now a shortage of Delta One meals so I could not travel in Delta One. I told him I understand completely and I require no meal service. Unfortunately this is against policy, for understandable reasons, the airline wants the same experience for all passengers in the premium cabin. I responded that I wasn't aware of that but I completely understand and I would like to re-enter China and come back tomorrow and try again. (I mean I came all this way to fly Delta One on the A350 so I could wait another day. I didn't offer this bit of information but that was my thinking.) I think he was surprised by my calmness and ease of letting go of the flight and he left me to make arrangements. I took a seat near the podium and waited. He returned after talking to some colleagues and making a phone call and offered a new plan. He said he would talk to the purser on the flight and if she agreed to carry me in spite of the meal counts that I could go. He also mentioned he had been talking to the catering company but they just could not get meals here fast enough. I re-iterated that I was very appreciative of his efforts but please do not take any extra steps on my account I can wait for the flight to depart and then work on my re-entry. He was so above and beyond the call of duty in his efforts and kindness I was blown away.

While I was waiting I was able to get a couple of pictures of the aircraft and fellow ST A350 from VN departing.



Well, the entire crew was walking by to board (hence the delay) shortly after our conversation. I could see him engage the Purser, explain the situation, point to me, some conversation and then smiles from both of them. He returned to me and informed me that I would be traveling and everything was sorted out. I thanked him profusely and expressed my sincere gratitude for all of his efforts even though I was somewhat mortified that I took up his time but it was solely at his discretion. Delta really has a superstar of a staff member here, in fact all of my interactions were extremely pleasant and professional and my lack of Mandarin speaking didn't seem to impair the situation as much as it could have.

DL188 PEK-DTW



I boarded at the end of the Sky Priority group through door L1. I was greeted at the door by a friendly and smiling flight attendant and directed to cross the galley and make a right turn for seat 6C. The cabin was bustling with excitement for the folks that were seeing the suites for the first time. There also appeared to be several groups of folks traveling together so there was more conversation and a festive air among the passengers. As a result of boarding late I had to take some of my pictures of the seat at arrival.

The seat and cabin in general are quite smart looking. I was in a middle seat and seat 6B was vacant. I think if you have to have a non-window seat the seats with the table to your right, providing a buffer between you and the aisle, are preferred, like 6C.



Here's seat 6B positioned with all of the amenities that were on my seat as well.

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There is a sliding divider between 6B and 6C.

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The suite has some nice lighting features including some indirect ambient lighting and a wall sconce that doubles as a reading light.



The side table is handy to place a phone on the top shelf and a table or notebook below. Another side table is also available for a drink or snack, more where your hands would naturally fall when seated. The ambient lighting is carried over here too.

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Tray able.

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Various seat and IFE controls.



The IFE screen itself has good resolution and is nicely proportioned. No tail camera. ;(

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The suite has a coat hook and Delta One branding in the headrest.

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There is a cubby for storing your headphones and water bottle. The red color contrast is a nice feature.

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The seat was provisioned with a Westin Heavenly Bed duvet, two pillows, slippers, and amenity kit.



I do see that if the suite next to me was occupied there would be an issue storing all of this bedding as there are not overhead bins over the center seats. As it was I just placed everything next door until I needed it.

The purser was making rounds introducing herself and taking meal orders. When she got to my seat I let he know that I was standby and any or no meal would be fantastic. She asked for my preference (the Chinese set was already spoken for) and assured me that the meal was a non-issue and "we will take very good care of you." I took a quick look at the menu and indicated the salmon sounded lovely. She had presented me a menu earlier but I hadn't looked as I didn't think i would need to. The pruser turned out to be a fun and witty person with an amazing voice for PA announcements.

Here's that menu.

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The view from the seat with the door open.

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Eventually we pushed back and joined the line for takeoff. There was some weather over the field so there was a ground stop for 20 - 30 minutes. The flight deck made frequent announcements letting us know the status. Eventually they announced that the airport was reversing ops and that we had to taxi to the other end of the runway but that we were next for departure. All in all we took off about 2 hours after stated departure time, having left the gate about 1:15 past departure time. I am certain that flight times are padded in anticipation of Chinese ATC issues and today was no exception.

Once airborne the service started with a bar service from a cart along with the offer of heated mixed nuts. I requested a Delta Sunrise and a glass of San Pellegrino.

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The next pass of the cart yielded the base tray with appetizer, soup, and salad. There is a lot of food presented here. The highlights for me were the passion fruit salad dressing and creamy soup. Bread was passed separately and I can never turn down a pretzel roll.



I also enjoyed a glass of the Spanish Garnacha Carinena. It seems a good choice for drinking at altitude in the bold fruit flavors.

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The salmon main was served next and was cooked perfectly The macadamia nut topping was rich and flavorful. The eggplant and lentils didn't do much for me and the garlic ginger green beans lacked a snap that I would like from a green bean.

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The dessert cart made an appearance next and for some reason i opted for some cheese even though i was quite sated. I think it's a reflex.

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I took a shot of the seats behind me and the lav on one of my visits. The lav is nothing special, really, but was kept very clean throughout the flight.



At one point after dinner our aircraft strayed off course and was approaching Nigeria but our position was quickly corrected.

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I enjoyed a generous pour of Woodford before turning in for the night. I felt the sleeping space was ample and as spacious or more than any other Delta one equipment.



The suite with the door closed are really quite private. The bed sinks lower to the floor when deployed so you are way down from the top of the suite walls.



I napped off and on for several hours. My sleep clock was fairly scrambled turing to another TPAC right after arriving in Asia. I was offered a snack at some point and chose the Chinese assortment with a cold noodle salad, siew mai and pan fried dumpling. I was just curious to see it really. I took a taste of everything and found it to be a great mid-flight snack offering.

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Again I slept, awaking just before breakfast service commenced somewhere over Ontario, Canada. It's nice they still let us fly over.

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Hot towels to start.

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Drinks were offered and I went with a bloody and San Pellegrino.

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The meals are a one tray affair and I was offered my choice. I selected the eggs. I really didn't read the menu well as I should have selected the pita bread soaked in lamb soup just to see what that is. The rolls were pre plated and not passed separately. Not a very pretty pate but the components all tasted fine.

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After breakfast we landed uneventfully at Detroit Metro Wayne County and taxied to our gate only a few minutes tardy.
See more

Verdict

Delta Air Lines

8.1/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment8.5
Meal/catering7.5

Beijing - PEK

7.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Detroit - DTW

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

The Ground Service: Flying stand-by is not a true representation of the experience but I was completely stunned by the kindness, professionalism, and English language skills of everyone I encountered. The meal shortage, that was somehow resolved, gave me additional interactions with the staff and I can't say enough about how caring and thorough they performed.

The Lounge: It didn't look like much. There was a row of windows with good tarmac views and natural light. I didn't try any of the food and beverage other than water. The toilet was clean.

The Cabin: I was skeptical about how much value this "suite" concept would add to a good seat but to my surprise I think it does add value. The additional privacy and lack of distraction when there is activity in the aisle does lend to better rest, for me. Many times in J I've been trying to sleep and the position of another passenger's reading light makes it really bright directly on me. This isn't possible now and my light or TV flickering cannot bother or distract others. The low position of the bed does make the walls of the suite seem higher. The seat is challenged for storage, especially all of the bedding. I think the lighting is great and varied. Unfortunately the middle seats don't have individual air vents.

The Crew: I thought the crew sis an excellent job executing the service. The purser was excellent and the service was well paced with many passes to offer top ups on beverages or an extra roll, etc. Also, the lavatories were kept very clean.

The Food and Beverage: There were no flops but there were also no superstars. I don't expect a memorable dining experience in J, for the record. I felt the food was thoughtful and attempted to be interesting. Asparagus and feta in a salad, ginger and garlic green beans, a soup course, these are all welcome touches. The wines are on the cheap but Lanson makes drinkable Champagne.

Overall: The A350 in Delta One is the best way to travel in J on Delta for me. I'm looking forward to trying the 777s.

Thank you for reading and happy flying.

Related

7 Comments

  • Comment 454911 by
    bgboiflyer 30 Comments

    Looks wonderful haha. I flew to China this year as a non-Rev on Delta and on United, and on the way back we did stop in Beijing, but unfortunately due to ATC directing us to the farthest runway and our flight already delayed another almost hour we missed our connection and we would again need to be rebooked as a non-rev. It was a very long process and once we were in the US needing a connection some of our family were "no-shows" due to the missed connection and so it caused us another hassle again. DL's product looks great, and their latest economy product is amazing, although the screen on the 777 showed its age given its lackluster response time.

    • Comment 454914 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 737 Comments

      Greetings Bgboiflyer and thanks for leaving a note.

      "I flew to China this year as a non-Rev on Delta and on United, and on the way back we did stop in Beijing, but unfortunately due to ATC directing us to the farthest runway and our flight already delayed another almost hour we missed our connection and we would again need to be rebooked as a non-rev. "
      -So you're familiar with the process. It's a treasured privilege and when it works well it's a fantastic opportunity. When there are complications it requires a lot of flexibility and patience. China ATC is a wildcard that can really complicate travel for a non-rev as you experienced. I had a similar experience in PVG.

      "DL's product looks great, and their latest economy product is amazing, although the screen on the 777 showed its age given its lackluster response time."
      -The 777s are going into the shop now for new seats nose to tail so the IFE will be improved for all customers. I hope you get a chance to try it out.

      Happy flying.

  • Comment 455020 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4475 Comments

    Hi Socalnow, great to see a report on the DL A359 and the DeltaOne Suites! A beautiful report as always, of course.

    "For some reason the entire NRSA process raises my heart rate and fills me with extra adrenaline. I'm not sure why. It's not a negative exhilaration rather just a heightened sensation."
    - Back in the days when I could non-rev, it became too stressful for me. Sure, there was some thrill to the process, but it only took getting burned a few times with last minute Misconnects of Cancellations filling up otherwise wide open flights for me to stop flying NRSA and ultimately start earning FF status. I'm glad your experiences are more positive!

    "there was now a shortage of Delta One meals so I could not travel in Delta One."
    - I've always found that policy to be silly for several reasons, especially with today's modern Business class seats where people generally don't sit right next to each other so noone can really tell what someone else is eating, or cares. My thing is, they know they have a bunch of NRSAs listed and SWUs are also listed ahead of time for the most part, so they should take all of those listed for J into account in ordering catering. And with a Premium Economy cabin now, they could always take an entree from W, which look similar, and dress it up on a J tray setup. I've actually had this done with Y meals in J a few times years ago when non-reving.

    I'm glad it worked out for you, and the gate agent/supervisor really went above and beyond, but these kinds of situations stress me out. And of course, in these stressful situation, you have to stay calm and collected, so in that sense you were an ideal NRSA pax!

    "She asked for my preference (the Chinese set was already spoken for) and assured me that the meal was a non-issue and "we will take very good care of you.""
    - This is what I love about DL, whether you are a rev pax or nrsa, they treat everyone so well!

    "The next pass of the cart yielded the base tray with appetizer, soup, and salad."
    - I remember DL J soups always being delicious--it's crazy to me that on AA, the soup is what differentiates F catering from J, lol

    "At one point after dinner our aircraft strayed off course and was approaching Nigeria but our position was quickly corrected."
    - Hah! Everyone knows that when flying between China and the U.S. you pass by West Africa ^^

    The mid-flight meal looks tasty. I like that the seats sink lower to the floor when in bed mode as it adds more privacy. Overall, the D1 Suites product looks great. After a few years of AA leading the pack of US carriers on J hard product, DL seems to have moved back to the top with the D1 Suites.

    • Comment 455062 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 737 Comments

      Thanks Kevin, it's always a pleasure to read your thoughtful feeback.

      "Back in the days when I could non-rev, it became too stressful for me. Sure, there was some thrill to the process, but it only took getting burned a few times with last minute Misconnects of Cancellations filling up otherwise wide open flights for me to stop flying NRSA and ultimately start earning FF status. I'm glad your experiences are more positive!"
      -I must say a rarely non-rev on the domestic for all of the reasons you just listed. Routes are not predictable as they are all used to balance the network so you can never track if your flight could become victim to IROPs somewhere else in the system. The International is more predictable with fewer moving parts so I can study carefully and pick my spots.

      "My thing is, they know they have a bunch of NRSAs listed and SWUs are also listed ahead of time for the most part, so they should take all of those listed for J into account in ordering catering."
      -I'm certain they do just as you describe. This was different. This was a (likely very) HVC customer, who at the check in counter, decided his party of 4 should be upgraded. I saw them passing his cell phone from the agent to the customer (presumably with the Platinum Titanium Super Diamond phone agent on the other end). I can sniff out these things but I didn't think much of it as there were 8 seats open in J and I was the only one on the list (non-rev or SWU). I didn't think about catering...

      "This is what I love about DL, whether you are a rev pax or nrsa, they treat everyone so well!"
      -More often than not this is my experience too. I never feel like my presence is an inconvenience to their work rather it's like an old friend dropped by to call.

      "After a few years of AA leading the pack of US carriers on J hard product, DL seems to have moved back to the top with the D1 Suites."
      -They have long way to go rolling this out to the rest of the fleet. And there are still the 767s....

      Thanks again Kevin and happy flying.

      • Comment 455075 by
        KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4475 Comments

        "The International is more predictable with fewer moving parts so I can study carefully and pick my spots."
        - That is so true. Long-haul is much more predictable and safer from network issues/IROPS

        "I'm certain they do just as you describe. This was different. This was a (likely very) HVC customer, who at the check in counter, decided his party of 4 should be upgraded."
        - Ah, ok, yep that makes sense. Long gone are the days when carriers catered at 200% to ensure everyone would get a choice or meals and there were always leftovers for nrsa

        "They have long way to go rolling this out to the rest of the fleet. And there are still the 767s...."
        - True indeed, but I'm sure they'll get the fleet retrofitted faster than UA and the Polaris fiasco! AA's 767s are even worse with no fixed IFE, or any IFE at all in Y. Though I like the AA 767 seats better than the DL seats, granted they're the same moder, but AA has nicer finishes and more bells and whistles (except IFE lol).

  • Comment 455078 by
    Rewardflying GOLD 401 Comments

    Hi Christian!

    Been waiting for your take on the DL Suite. Great report and a nicely told story. I guess you are used to NRSA. Me, if I don't have the flight booked 331 days out I'm nervous. I've not had many encounters with Delta employees, but I will say all, even the call center agents, have been super nice and helpful.

    >As much as I enjoy a good lounge the idea of a TPAC flight in UA J was not a desirable one
    -Come on, you have to try Polaris the seat, not just the lounge. You might just be surprised.

    >No tail camera. ;(
    -Too bad all airlines don't get this. Don't they know there are lots of Avgeeks out there? China Airlines didn't get them either. Maybe it's a Skyteam thing.

    >At one point after dinner our aircraft strayed off course and was approaching Nigeria but our position was quickly corrected.
    -Haha

    >The bed sinks lower to the floor when deployed so you are way down from the top of the suite walls.
    -Precisely what I didn't like about the seat. Felt to me like you are sleeping on the floor. Plus didn't you get the feeling the seat itself was lower than normal? I just felt like it was sitting in a fish bowl, not that I have actually had that experience. And the door seemed to be just added weight. The seats are staggered so if they just cocooned the suite in my opinion privacy been fine. Plus it's still just a Vantage XL seat which isn't on the top of my BC seat list. And yes, I did prefer Polaris (window, not aisle) seat over DL. I can hear you scream!

    Certainly trust your judgement on the taste of your meals, however the presentation looks very domestic.

    Thanks again, but now can we get back to SoCalNow first class adventures?

    • Comment 455103 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 737 Comments

      Hi Mark and thanks for the note and thoughtful comments, as always.

      "I guess you are used to NRSA. Me, if I don't have the flight booked 331 days out I'm nervous."
      -In every other aspect of my life I am just as you describe. Having grown up my entire (44 years and counting) life flying NRSA it's just second nature.

      "Come on, you have to try Polaris the seat, not just the lounge. You might just be surprised. "
      -I'll never say never but I just can't envision the scenario... Got any pals that work for UA? I'll non-rev... ;)

      "Precisely what I didn't like about the seat. Felt to me like you are sleeping on the floor. Plus didn't you get the feeling the seat itself was lower than normal? I just felt like it was sitting in a fish bowl, not that I have actually had that experience. And the door seemed to be just added weight. The seats are staggered so if they just cocooned the suite in my opinion privacy been fine. Plus it's still just a Vantage XL seat which isn't on the top of my BC seat list. And yes, I did prefer Polaris (window, not aisle) seat over DL. I can hear you scream!"
      -I didn't notice seat height issues but the bed is closer to the floor than I have experienced but I didn't find it to be negative. Perhaps more challenging to stand up from the bed. You are far more thoughtful and objective in your reviews and you have flown both products so I'll differ to your expertise. I think my low expectations of the DL suite were surpassed so I was quite content.

      "Thanks again, but now can we get back to SoCalNow first class adventures?"
      -Do stayed tuned. Lufthansa treated me to the flight of my life.

      Thanks again Mark and happy flying.

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