Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Delta Air Lines
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Flight #: DL312
Route: New York (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL)
Date: March 23, 2023
Duration: 11 hr 37 min
Cabin and Layout: Delta One business class, 1-2-1
While those who live on the West Coast can choose from plenty of nonstop flight options to Hawaii, the journey from the East Coast can be grueling and often requires a layover (or 2!).
Fortunately, on my first trip to Hawaii, I scored a unicorn of a redemption with 2 of my Regional Upgrade Certificates afforded to me as a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion member — instantly elevating my experience for the nearly 5,000-mile route.
A few months back, I booked a round-trip ticket in economy between New York (JFK) and Honolulu (HNL) and applied my Regional Upgrade Certificates to guarantee a seat in the Delta One business class cabin. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to confirmed upgrades on domestic flights.
The downside is that this route is currently operated by Delta’s aging fleet of Boeing 767-300s. Still, you can’t complain about a lie-flat seat as you traverse multiple time zones and eventually land in the middle of the North Pacific.
Here’s my full review of the Delta One experience on one of the carrier’s longest domestic flights!
Booking Delta Air Lines
Every qualification year, Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Diamond Medallion elite members can pick from a selection of Choice Benefits, such as bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), 20,000 bonus SkyMiles, or 4,000 Starbucks Stars. We hope you don’t pick the latter, as the absolute best Choice Benefit is the upgrade certificates, saving you potentially thousands of dollars if you play your cards right:
- Platinum Medallion: Receive 4 Regional Upgrade Certificates (RUCs)
- Diamond Medallion: Receive 4 Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs) or 8 RUCs, or 2 GUCs and 4 RUCs
As a Platinum Medallion member, my prized RUCs are valid for upgrades from Main Cabin and Delta Comfort+ to first class — or Delta One, if available.
In December 2022, which was around the time I booked my spring Hawaii trip, Delta made a favorable change allowing you to see upgrade certificate availability and book your awards online. Previously, you had to call in, and it was often a gamble as to whether confirmed space was available. Even worse, you were put on a waitlist if there was no availability.
Therefore, using my RUCs with this customer-friendly change made booking simple. I searched for nonstop flights during my desired dates in late March and into early April. Fortunately, the once-daily flight between New York (JFK) and Honolulu (HNL) indicated that there was indeed confirmed availability to upgrade to Delta One.
By paying for Main Cabin — which cost me roughly $350 per one-way ticket — I was able to upgrade both segments of my flight to Delta One using 2 RUCs. That’s a screaming deal for a lie-flat seat to and from Hawaii, considering that cash rates are normally $2,500+ for Delta One.
In all, I paid about $700 for my round-trip flight using The Platinum Card® from American Express, netting me 5x points per $1 spent on flights purchased directly with the airline (up to the first $500,000 spent per year, then 1x points). Not only did I earn 3,500 Membership Rewards points, but I’ll be earning SkyMiles, as well as valuable Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), getting me that much closer to requalifying for elite status with Delta.
You could also consider using a Delta-branded American Express card to earn up to 3x SkyMiles on Delta purchases.
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Early on a Thursday morning, I took a Revel rideshare to New York’s JFK Airport, which cost me $60 from my Manhattan apartment for the 40-minute ride. Revel has become one of my favorite rideshare companies, as the fares are a fraction of the cost of what Lyft and Uber are charging — and you get to ride in a bright blue Tesla!
Just past 7 a.m., I arrived at the airport, about an hour before the boarding process began. This gave me enough time to clear security and grab breakfast. Delta’s Terminal 4 was crowded as it seems to be at virtually all hours of the day.
Once you’re at the terminal, passengers flying in Delta One or in business class with SkyTeam partners KLM and Virgin Atlantic can use the dedicated check-in area in Terminal 4.
Delta One passengers on this flight can check up to 3 bags up to 70 pounds each, but I was only bringing a carry-on bag for my 10-day trip. Therefore, I whizzed past the check-in desk to use the golden ticket combo of CLEAR and TSA PreCheck to get through the busy security line in a matter of minutes.
Amex Centurion Lounge JFK
I’ve visited nearly every lounge at my home airport, but I decided to stick to my favorite of the bunch: the Amex Centurion Lounge at JFK with access thanks to my Amex Platinum card. There was no wait to enter the lounge, likely due to the recent guest policy changes, for better or worse.
Even if you don’t have a card that gets you into the Amex Centurion Lounges, there are 2 pre-departure lounges that Delta One passengers can choose from at JFK:
- Delta Sky Club between gates 31 and 33
- Delta Sky Club Express for grab-and-go food and drink, located to the right of security
I always have a wonderful experience at the flagship Centurion Lounge. That particular morning, I enjoyed a bunch of hot breakfast items, including French toast, roasted potatoes, and even an artisanal iced latte.
While the Centurion Lounge is right past security, it can be a far walk from the gates in Terminal 4. To play it safe, I left the lounge 15 minutes before boarding.
Hot Tip: A new Delta One lounge will be coming to New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) in 2023 and 2024, respectively, offering even more exclusive space for the carrier’s premium passengers! But until then, the Amex Centurion Lounge is likely your best option in Terminal 4.
Delta’s boarding process began promptly at 8:15 a.m. Delta One passengers boarded shortly after passengers who needed additional assistance and active-duty military.
On Board Delta One Business Class on the Boeing 767-300
When flying nonstop from the New York City area to Honolulu, you have a few options when it comes to lie-flat seats: Hawaiian Airlines Premium Cabin or Delta One from JFK, or United Polaris from Newark.
Delta uses its oldest fleet — the Boeing 767-300 — to operate the route. And my particular aircraft was more than 30 years old.
Business Class Seat
All 36 seats in Delta One cabin were occupied for the long journey to Honolulu. Despite showing its age, the cabin boasts a 1-2-1 configuration, ensuring that every seat has direct aisle access — which is a major pro, whether you’re traveling with a partner or alone.
As a solo traveler, I chose seat 3A to be close enough to the front of the cabin and have all 3 windows to myself. Odd-numbered seats on this aircraft also offer a few more inches of legroom, which can make all the difference when traveling long-haul. Not to mention, the tray table can block the window views in even-numbered seats.
You’ll find a few items designed for your comfort placed on your seat: a pair of slippers, an amenity kit, a pillow and comforter packaged in a sleeping bundle, over-the-ear headphones, and a water bottle.
Unfortunately, there’s hardly any storage built into the seat, so you’ll have to stow away your belongings in random nooks and crannies before takeoff.
I ended up stuffing my backpack in the footwell, which just barely fit in the narrow space. My seat was about 80 inches when fully lie-flat, but with a slightly diagonal and slim footwell, the bed may not be the most comfortable for taller passengers — I fared just fine as I’m only 5 feet 2 inches tall.
The seat is padded and comfortable whether you’re working, napping, or lounging, though it will feel a bit tight at just 21 inches across. The seat controls were at the front of the console, getting you to the fully lie-flat or upright position when needed.
Where the seat really shows its age is its IFE touchscreen. Despite being quite small, the software is updated to offer a broad range of movies, music, and a detailed live route map.
I liked the placement of the tray table, as it was easy to put away when I wasn’t eating meals or working.
The tray table was large, and I had room to place my 13-inch Macbook Air on it without a problem. During meal services, I placed the laptop on the side console instead.
The overhead bins were large enough to accommodate all personal items and carry-on bags for Delta One passengers.
Also a sign of its age, the seat only provides 1 charging outlet and 1 USB port under the reading lamp. You’ll likely have to alternate charging up your devices throughout the almost-12-hour flight.
Overall, the seat was comfortable in lie-flat mode, and I was able to get in an hour-long nap during this daytime flight. Otherwise, I was working or reading as the flight spanned my entire day. That said, the aging seat didn’t bother me as much as the lack of storage for shoes and personal items.
Food and Beverage
All Delta One passengers could start with orange juice or sparkling wine (or both!) as a pre-departure drink.
Once the aircraft reached 10,000 feet, the flight attendants swiftly rolled out the beverage cart to offer a full selection of drinks, as well as a small mix of cheese, dried fruit, and nuts. I had a few sips of the sparkling wine before switching to sparkling water and other non-alcoholic beverages.
Although the flight departed in the morning, the Delta One menu presented 2 meals to choose from: a main course and a pre-arrival snack. For this route, I could choose from 3 staples that seem to be on every Delta domestic first class menu: braised beef short ribs, roasted chicken thigh, or spinach and artichoke risotto.
Not realizing that the first course would come out within minutes of the first snack, I ordered the short rib. At exactly 10 a.m. EST — 1 hour after takeoff — the first meal came to my tray table.
Needless to say, I was far from hungry this early into the flight, as I had a full breakfast that morning in the lounge. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have chosen the short rib as it was quite heavy with the red wine sauce and buttered mashed potatoes. Still, the short rib was braised nicely and was tender, cooked to medium.
The pickled onions and the side farro salad were fresh additions to the meal, but I was already too full to touch the dinner roll and the layered opera cake with buttercream, chocolate, and coffee syrup.
No matter what, I wish I would’ve asked the flight attendants to bring out my meal later in the day, as you’re only served snacks for the rest of the flight. But the benefit of the meal being served in 1 go was that travelers could get swiftly to work (or to sleep) right after and enjoy the rest of the journey ahead.
While the menu advertised espresso drinks, the flight attendants informed me that they weren’t available on this aircraft, so I ordered a steaming cup of black coffee that did the job.
Throughout the flight, the flight attendants brought around a snack basket of various options, such as classic Biscoff cookies, pistachios, chips, or bananas and apples.
For my pre-arrival snack, which arrived 1 hour before landing, I could choose between the fruit and cheese plate or the mixed green salad. I was pleasantly surprised at how robust the snack was with its plentiful protein options. The snack felt like it could substitute for a larger meal, with several types of cheese, fresh fruit, and a chocolate chip cookie.
Bottom line? You definitely won’t go hungry on this flight. However, the timing of the food service left me without a meal for roughly 9 hours of the flight (luckily my snack was substantial!).
The dishes I tried weren’t as good as what I’ve had on some international carriers, but I feel that Delta’s offering was sufficient.
Entertainment and Wi-Fi
While Delta announced that it would offer free inflight Wi-Fi for SkyMiles members starting February 1, 2023, there have been multiple occasions where I’ve flown the carrier in the past few weeks and have had to pay for Wi-Fi as the free service only applies to Viasat-equipped planes. Unfortunately, on some of Delta’s older planes — this 767-300 included — Gogo is still the provider.
Sure, free Wi-Fi would’ve been ideal. But the full flight cost me $21.95, which I thought was reasonable since I’d be in the air for 12 hours. I haven’t had the best experience with Gogo Wi-Fi in the past, and to my surprise, it worked well for the first 1.5 hours into the flight — I was able to load Trello, WordPress, Gmail, and other sites.
Then, I got the dreaded message: “inflight experience has been interrupted.” This message stuck around for the next 3 hours of the flight. The flight attendants apologized and said they would try to hard reset the system — but there were no promises that the Wi-Fi would begin working again.
The Wi-Fi technically did start working again, but it would only be functional for spurts of 15 to 30 minutes before once again not working. This was the experience throughout the entire flight, making it nearly impossible to get work done. Luckily, there were plenty of other entertainment options thanks to the library of movies and TV shows on the IFE screen.
I got in touch with Delta’s customer service via iMessage a few days after my flight in hopes of getting a refund for the Wi-Fi. However, Delta instructed me to reach out to Gogo’s customer service (877-350-0038). The phone call took a quick few minutes, and a week later, I received a full refund.
It was a handcrafted amenity kit that supports female artisans in Mexico. The personalized detail was a nice touch.
Inside were a pair of Delta-branded socks, a sleep mask, lip balm, ear plugs, and a dental kit.
The Delta One bedding kit was made of 100% recycled polyester, and it claims that more than 100 plastic bottles were used to make the bedding.
The bedding didn’t sacrifice comfort whatsoever. I found the pillow to be plush but not too tall, and the comforter was just as soft and warm.
There were 2 lavatories on either side of the Delta One cabin on the Boeing 767-300, and they were actually quite spacious. Delta uses Grown Alchemist hand soap and lotion for passengers, but amenities in the bathroom seemed to be light overall.
It wasn’t hard to tell that this flight was manned by some of Delta’s most senior flight attendants, as they provided expert service throughout the entire flight.
Whether it was offering pre-departure snacks or beverages, taking down orders for the meal services, or passing through the cabin with a snack basket, they went above and beyond to accommodate travelers’ requests.
I’ll note again that the timing of the meals was odd. I was served 1 hour after takeoff and 1 hour before landing, which left a considerable stretch of time between meals. If you find yourself on this route, it’d be worth asking the flight attendants to space out the meals differently.
Just about 12 hours after taking off, we pulled up to our gate in Honolulu just before 3 p.m. local time.
As one of the first passengers to exit the plane, I was able to find my friend at the arrivals curb within 5 minutes of disembarking.
Delta’s daily service to Honolulu from its New York hub makes it easier for Northeast-based travelers to reach the Aloha State. Despite the basically inoperable Wi-Fi and noticeably aging seat, the service was excellent. In all, I enjoyed the lie-flat seat to Hawaii — especially for the incredible price of $350 one-way.
It seems like Delta’s 767s will stick around for quite some time, as the carrier is actively in the process of retrofitting these jets rather than retiring them altogether.
While this Delta One experience won’t win awards for offering the best lie-flat seat, there’s something so special about getting to fly business class — especially when it takes you to paradise.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Featured Image Credit: Stella Shon. All images credited to Stella Shon unless otherwise noted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Delta One the same as first class?
Delta One is a business class product rather than a true first class product, although many people may associate it with the latter thanks to amenities including a lie-flat bed, dedicated meal and drink services, and more.
Is it possible to get upgraded to Delta One?
Yes! If you’re a Delta SkyMiles Medallion elite member, you can request to be placed on the upgrade list. If you’re a top-tier Platinum or Diamond Medallion member, you can choose upgrade certificates as your Choice Benefits every qualifying year, which can help you score confirmed upgrades on eligible domestic routes.
Does Delta have Delta One to Hawaii?
Delta currently offers its Delta One product to/from Hawaii on the following routes:
- Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL)
- Atlanta (ATL) to Maui (OGG)
- Detroit (DTW) to Honolulu (HNL)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL)
- New York (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL)
- Salt Lake City (SLC) to Honolulu (HNL)
Does Delta One get you into the lounge?
Yes, all Delta One flyers (including passengers with connecting flights to a Delta One route) get access to Delta Sky Clubs before or after their flight.
Can you use a regional upgrade certificate (RUC) for Delta flights to Hawaii?
Yes. You can search for availability to apply your regional upgrade certificate (RUC) on domestic routes, which includes flights originating from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii!
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