ANA business class vs Delta One Suites: which was better?

I recently had the opportunity to fly ANA in business class aboard its 777-300ER from New York (JFK) to Tokyo (NRT) and then back to the US in Delta One Suites abroad its 777-200LR. Which one was the better pick? Rather than fully review either (you can easily Google either one and read a plethora of reviews), I wanted to directly compare the two in a number of categories that meant something to me. You won’t read about the in-flight entertainment options since I didn’t watch them on either flight, but rather I’m comparing them based on features that made a difference in our experience. It’s worth repeating that both of these are good options: I think most readers would be totally satisfied with either Delta One Suites or ANA business class. I’d ultimately choose ANA over Delta One Suites without hesitation in the future, but depending on what you value, Delta might be your choice. Here’s how they stack up.

Pre-flight (Check-in/lounge access): Tie

In this case, it’s a tie. Both airlines have a dedicated check-in area for premium cabins with fast and efficient service. However, the airline lounges for both were pretty disappointing.

At JFK, ANA sends you to the British Airways lounge, which is small and mostly just has packaged muffins and fruit to eat. My Priority Pass instead got us into the Alaska lounge next door, which was much nicer but still had no hot food options other than soup or its pancake machine. I did make some pancakes — but, again, that was thanks to my Priority Pass membership, not ANA’s contracted lounge.

At Tokyo Haneda airport, Delta shares the lounge  with numerous other SkyTeam airlines. It’s quite spacious and has very clean bathrooms, showers, etc. It also had some hot food options (vegetable curry with rice, onion soup) as well as the usual croissants / muffins / etc. This lounge was better than I expected, but not good.

In either case, you can’t really count on the lounge for a meal. Given that guidelines generally call for you to be at the airport 3 hours before an international flight, I’d like to be able to grab a more substantial bite before my flight than either of these two provided with their contracted lounges.

First impression / cabin aesthetics: Winner = Delta One

 

There is no doubt that the Delta One Suites look sleek and cool. I’d seen plenty of pictures and I wasn’t really all that sold on them honestly. They reminded me of office cubicles with the short boxy walls. But in person, they look really nice. From the leather stitching to the ambient mood lighting, it just looks modern and cool.

I didn’t edit this photo to add some sort of superhero glow, this was just the way it looked. Lighting was cool and modern on this flight.

The in-flight entertainment screen feels huge and it was very responsive to the touch. On the other hand, my wife hated the Delta One Suites. The boxy design made her feel claustrophobic and she thought it was not as good for traveling with a baby (more on that later).

Honestly, I feel like ANA’s seats just look too simple. ANA’s website looks like it was created by someone who designed Nintendo games in the 1980’s and I feel like its seat hasn’t been given much more attention in terms of modernizing. However, like most things we encountered in Japan, it’s entirely functional and space is used well. It just doesn’t look as pretty.

Seat Comfort: Winner = Delta One Suites

This is obviously a very personal preference, but if I had to pick one of the two for comfort, I’d go with Delta One Suites. I’m sure my wife would go the opposite way on this one, but I thought that the Delta One Suite’s seat felt slightly wider and the leather was a bit more comfortable to me than the fabric of the ANA seat. It definitely stayed cooler than the fabric (even when I used ANA’s mattress pad). I found the foot cubby on both airlines to be more cramped than it needs to be, though I’d admit that it felt more cramped on Delta (so if foot space matters to you, ANA might be the better choice by a slim margin). Delta’s bedding (both pillows and blanket) were much more substantial.

But what really made the difference here was the suite door. On the one hand, it feels like a gimmick because these suites are so short that you can stand up and look over those doors. But on the other hand, they really reduce noise and traffic in the cabin. In fact, at some point during the flight, I took this picture looking down the aisle:

As you can see, all of the suite doors were closed. That meant two things: very little foot traffic / noise from passengers since everyone was cocooned in their suites and very little disturbance from flight attendants since most people weren’t looking for much service. In fact, my son and I slept for just over 6 straight hours on this flight. If meals or snacks were served to my neighbors, I sure didn’t notice. I think having the suite door shut kept him sleeping like a baby, if you will.

Food: Winner = ANA

Truthfully, this one is a little unfair. As I noted above, my son and I slept through a little over 6 hours of the Delta Tokyo-Minneapolis flight. We missed both the mid-flight snack and the pre-arrival meal, so I only ate the initial meal service on Delta One. I had a pasta Alfredo dish that was fine, but not memorable (not that I expected it to be when I ordered pasta Alfredo). I tried both red wines available and thought both were awful (I didn’t finish either).

ANA, on the other hand, has terrific catering and solidly good wine. Here was the amuse-bouche.

And here was my salad course.

Despite having previously learned not to ever order beef on a plane, I did order the beef this time and it was by far the best beef dish I’ve ever had on a plane (better than in Etihad or Singapore first class cabins).

But even further than the above, ANA went above and beyond with baby meals. Baby meals can be requested by calling at least 24 hours in advance of your flight and are free of charge. The flight attendants were happy to make up an empty seat for my wife and son at meal time to serve his baby meals. Since we ordered baby meals (rather than toddler meals or something), they consisted of basic stuff: baby food jars, a banana, a soft pasta dish, rice pudding, juice boxes, crackers, etc. But there were several served throughout the course of the flight and that was really helpful for a 14-hour trip.

ANA’s website also indicates that they have limited supplies of powdered milk and paper diapers on board as well, though we didn’t need those things.

On the Delta One flight to Minneapolis, we ordered our son a “toddler meal” as he has been less and less interested in pureed baby food and more interested in whatever we’re eating. We thought the toddler meal would be more substantial, and it was. It’s healthiness was perhaps inversely related to its substantialness, but it did the trick. The funny thing here was how the flight attendant kind of excitedly served it saying, “Don’t the Japanese people do such a good job preparing this?”, as though the catering in Tokyo is significantly better than in the other direction, yet it didn’t look quite as aesthetically pleasing as ANA’s meals.

As someone who ate a donut while writing this post, I am no health nut. But does a toddler meal need to have sweet bread with a piece of candy in it, chocolate cake, and a Milky Way bar?

Family-Friendliness: Winner = ANA

In this case, both airlines did a decent enough job in terms of catering to our needs in traveling with a baby, but ANA had the overall edge for a few reasons.

First, service on ANA is excellent. We kind of had a lot of stuff to carry on the plane.

Yeah, there was a baby to carry, too. Hey, this time we only checked one bag — we’re improving.

An ANA flight attendant noticed us struggling a bit before we even got on board and jumped into action to grab one of our bags for us and follow us to our seats. Not only did that not happen on Delta, but an attendant insisted that one of the above carry-ons would not fit in the overhead compartment even after I opened a closed compartment to show her the identical bag had indeed fit in another bin. It did fit, but the interaction certainly wasn’t the same as on ANA.

Beyond that, the cabin layout on ANA is much easier for traveling with a family. Unlike the Delta One Suites, which are each a closed compartment, ANA has a very open layout. Our son could walk back and forth between our seats with ease.

ANA has a large main business class cabin with a mini-cabin in front (with just 2 rows) and behind (with about 5 rows) . We were seated in the rear mini-cabin and there were only 2 or 3 other people in our section, which made it easy to walk around the empty rows with Baby Rey to burn some energy early in the flight.

On the Delta flight, he was just on our laps / in our seats the whole time. The only option would have been to walk up and down the aisle. Passing him back and forth over the divider between seats in Delta One Suites (without kicking over any drinks, etc) was a pain. ANA was much easier in that regard.

Customer service: Winner = ANA

Until the past year, I hadn’t flown Delta since the mid-1980’s. Having flown many American, United, and Southwest flights in the interim and having now flown Delta a handful of times in premium cabins this past year, I can understand why people like Delta. Service is more consistently good than with other US-based carriers.

However, it just doesn’t come close to matching the level of service on ANA.

On our Delta flight, my flight attendant was perfectly nice and friendly and made it clear that she would be happy to do whatever possible to make things a little easier on us. She was sincere, but she forgot to take my meal order until after most of the plane was served and said she would come back with dessert (since I finished eating so much later than everyone else) and never did. The flight attendant on my wife’s side of the plane was noticeably less warm.

On ANA, the flight attendants were constantly helpful before we even realized we needed help. They made up empty seats for meal time, noticed when drinks needed to be refilled, were happy to fill a bottle for us, etc.

But what really exemplified the level of service to me was something very simple. My son absolutely passed out on my lap, but I was awake for the final meal service.

Takashi, the flight attendant on my side of the plane, initially prepared an empty seat with my meal and as I thought he might wake up. He didn’t even stir when I moved around a bit and she noticed and asked if I’d like the meal served on my side table. I said sure and she put my meal on that table, where I managed to feed myself despite being in a reclined position and not having a lot of mobility. I had lasagna and there was apparently a cup on the tray with sauce, but I couldn’t see it. The flight attendant noticed and stopped to tell me it was sauce and ask if she could pour it on the lasagna for me.

But the standout to me was this: in this pic, notice the drink.

I had ordered orange juice, which was served in a glass. The way I was positioned lower than that side table, I couldn’t bend my arm to reach the glass (which was behind the tray / bread). It wasn’t the end of the world to me as I don’t generally drink much while I’m eating. But Takashi noticed that I couldn’t reach it without me saying anything and she came back with the orange juice in a cup with a straw and placed it within my reach almost without me even noticing what she had done. Was that a big deal? Not at all — but it shows the way that ANA looked for opportunities to provide good service even before I realized I needed it.

Award value: Winner = ANA

ANA is a much better value in terms of award cost. I booked my ANA flight as a round trip between New York and Shanghai (I flew the Shanghai-New York leg in 2018 and this was the “return” trip) for 95,000 ANA miles round trip (an Amex Transfer partner) plus about $400 in taxes/surcharges. If I had booked ANA round trip just to Japan (rather than Shanghai), it could have cost as few as 75K ANA miles round trip. More on that in tomorrow’s sweet-spot spotlight. The Delta flight was booked with 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles plus about $60 in taxes/fees one-way. That’s certainly not a bad deal, just not as good a value as ANA in my opinion (especially when you consider that I preferred ANA overall).

Bottom line

Both ANA’s business class and Delta One Suites were great ways to travel between the US and Japan. I think you’d have to be fairly jaded to find either option disappointing in terms of a comfortable premium cabin experience for a long-haul flight. That said, between the great value of the ANA award chart and fantastic customer service, I’d definitely choose ANA again. Traveling with a baby that is quickly turning into a toddler, the ANA layout and great service become even more compelling for me. While it doesn’t look particularly snazzy, I’d take it over the other options I’ve flown to and from Asia almost without hesitation. For a bargain price in terms of miles, you get great food and great service. With most business class options offering flat bed seats these days, it’s those “soft product” details that really make a flight memorable — and I’ve been impressed with ANA on those fronts.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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mulbry
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mulbry

ANA allowed you to order orange juice with lasagna??? sacre bleu

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

Next time a US airline flight attendant insists something won’t work or isn’t correct when you know it is, I suggest saying the following, which I admittedly stole from my favorite legal blogger: “Are you TRYING to insult me, or are you just THAT STUPID.” I think that will go over really well for you.
It did wonders at Macy’s when I bought a $500 watch that was supposedly returnable for 30 days, but was told if I removed a link that made it non-returnable. Given you’ve seen me, you’d know 99% of people would have had to remove more than 1 link, making the return policy stupid. BTW a review of satellite watches that adjust based on GPS instead of the old atomic timekeeping would be helpful.

Sergey
Guest
Sergey

How old is your son? Were you afraid to bring him to business cabin? Our son is 20 m/o and we have a trip scheduled to Europe in summer and to Japan in the Fall. I have miles to fly in business in both trips, but I’m afraid that my baby would make too much noise (he is quite loud if something goes wrong) and it wouldn’t make a pleasant flight for us and for the rest of business cabin.

BabiesShouldntFly
Guest
BabiesShouldntFly

Don’t be an ass like the poster and fly up front with your kid. There is no reason to fly with very small children/babies.

Signed, The Public
Guest
Signed, The Public

Couldn’t agree more. Self centered behavior these days. No consideration for others. The vast majority of cases people don’t need to take these trips with infants and toddlers. Wait a couple years until the kid is old enough for flying or find alternative arrangements.

Mitch Cumstein
Guest
Mitch Cumstein

We’ll be sure to ask for your permission the next time we want to take a family trip.

Debit
Guest
Debit

People should have to pay more taxes if they have babies.

Al f
Guest
Al f

Wow I can’t believe some of these pompous comments.

Realllllyyyy wish I could bring my kids to sit next to your “ VIP luxury first class platinum uranium” seat and knock on your divider the entire flight …..

Al f
Guest
Al f

One other thing…
Shaking my head that not one but several of the above posters stated essentially: “people w babies should sit in the cheap seats, they shouldn’t sully the environment of my seats reserved for the wealthy”

Just shocked .

Makes me sad about some of the mindsets of people we have in this country …

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

I will say I thought the door on Delta One Suites would be a gimmick as well, but I slept better than I’ve ever slept on an plane (almost 8 hours!!) I really do think it kept things quiet as you mentioned, and also kept some of the ambient light out of the way which is usually what wakes me up during the flight.

Lancelot
Guest
Lancelot

Thanks Nick for the comparative review! I’ve flown both of these products too and share a similar view. I’ve flown the Delta suite much more than the ANA planes. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience as well.

The issue you mentioned about the overhead bin space on Delta has been an issue on almost every Delta flight I’ve had. There is little storage space in the suite itself; and to make the cabin look more open, Delta chose not to install overhead bins above the middle seats in the Delta One cabin. Storage space is limited overall in Delta One compared to most any other airline. On a couple of my flights, some of the Delta One passengers had to store their bags in Premium Economy because we were out of space up front.

Regarding aesthetics, I agree, Delta nailed it. The cabin is fresh, modern and visually pleasing. The lighting is cool. The suite doors are nice (although mine has gotten stuck a few times). The seat comfort is very good. I also like the Delta seat better than the ANA seat for comfort and sleep. The only real negative remark about the comfort of the Delta seat is the TV. The clarity of the screen is exceptional. It is also (in my opinion) very bright, and seems to sit pretty close to your face. The screen seems extra bright when the cabin lights are dimmed, to the point where it hurts my eyes a little. I have never been able to fall asleep watching a movie on a Delta One flight. The TV is just too bright.

I agree about the meals. I like ANA better too, but food is definitely subjective. The food on Delta is not bad at all. I have not had a bad meal on a Delta One flight. The food on ANA was just better, in my opinion.

I also agree about the service, although I feel it’s almost unfair to compare a domestic airline to a premium Asian carrier. It’s sad that I even wrote that, but I feel it’s 100% true. You laid out the small details well, but it’s those details that create the gap, and leave a lasting impression. Asian carriers are consistently a notch above. That’s not to say Delta is poor because they’re not. They do a good job hitting their marks, and of the domestic big three, they are probably the best of the bunch. It’s just that ANA is exceptional, much like Cathay, JAL, Qatar, Singapore, etc.

frequentF
Guest
frequentF

If you flew ANA from Japan, the ANA lounges are great. I’ve never been to the Skyteam lounge in Haneda, but it sounds very poor compared to what ANA offers.

Mitch Cumstein
Guest
Mitch Cumstein

Great review, but I don’t think you visited the correct lounges. You should have reviewed Delta’s dedicated lounge at JFK (not the shared lounge at HND), and ANA’s dedicated lounge at HND (not the shared lounge at JFK). I think the comparison would be much more useful had you booked the Delta and ANA flights in the opposite directions so the airline’s own lounges could have been reviewed.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

Hi Nick, what is the folding stroller you have? We’re having our first baby this fall and we want to be prepared for travel! Apart from that stroller, would you recommend any other must-haves for travel with a baby?

Grant
Guest
Grant

Nick, the reason why you liked ANA so much is “Omotenashi”. Omotenashi means taking pride in anticipating and fulfilling people’s needs in advance, the influence of omotenashi is everywhere in Japanese hospitality. I really enjoyed your review of both airlines 🙂

Hao
Guest
Hao

Hi Nick,

Thanks for sharing the experience. I am wondering how the airline handle the ticket(assume I booked award ticket) if the infant is less than 2 years old in outbound and more than 2 years old in inbound for either ANA and Delta. Thank you!

Michael karpiel
Guest
Michael karpiel

Just my 2 cents worth in regards to in flight service. My wife and I flew in DeltaOne FCO/ATL last week on a A330. We had the best FA I can remember in years. The entire crew was great but Umilio was exceptional. The seats service and meals were great and we were on a SkyMiles ticket. The Alitalia lounge at FCO was very nice with a good buffet and a cook to order pasta bar.

I’ve also flown Delta several times to NRT or through NRT and the SkyClub there is great.

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Based on your description, ANA provided exceptional service. They proactively solved the problem for you. Impressive.
Btw, did your wife take the picture while baby Reyes was sleeping next to you? Were you awake or you just closed your eyes for the picture? ^_^
Since talking about picture, do bloggers use certain equipment to take a picture while they lied flat? Because some of the angle seems impossible without the help of certain equipment or another human being. And I saw FA holding the wine for the picture in many business/first class flight review. If you ask nicely for a picture of the bottle, will the FA hold it for you to take a picture?

G Liang
Guest
G Liang

One comment to Award Value session, Yes ANA has better value, but VS often provide MR/TYP transfer bonus like 30%, in that case, 93k mr/typ will be enough for NorthAmerica-Asia round trip, w/o fuel surcharge, and more flexible (can book one-way).

On the other hand, ANA never provide MR transfer bonus (correct me if I’m wrong)

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[…] other day, Nick published a great review comparing ANA business class to Delta One Suites.  He and his family flew ANA to Tokyo and Delta on the return.  While there are many details in […]

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[…] an absolute steal for business class to Japan, especially given ANA’s stellar service (See this post where I compared ANA’s business class to Delta One Suites for pictures and details about what it’s like to fly ANA business class). Keep in mind that […]

DaisyO
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DaisyO

Delta One service is pretty bad, especially in comparison to Asian carriers. On a recent flight LAX-CDG on Delta One, my husband and I sat in the middle seats (A330 reverse herringbone). More than once a flight attendant would stand next to me and reach over to hand something to my husband on the other side, even when I had my tray out with food and drink on it. It was very unpolished service and if not for the cheap price through VS and Amex transfer bonuses, I would have never considered from Delta One to begin with.

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[…] ANA business class vs Delta One Suites: which was better? […]

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[…] recently flew Delta One between Tokyo and the US and compared it to ANA business class. While I ultimately preferred ANA, I noted several reasons why Delta might be a preferable choice. […]