I recently had the "opportunity" to experience business class on both Northwest and Delta airlines on a trip to Russia. Over the years, I've been in business class a number of times on Northwest (for obvious reasons), but this was my first experience with Delta and so I thought I'd do a bit of compare and contrast:
Seats: Essentially the same seats. It's nice that you can position them in a variety of ways, but until they get much closer to the ninety degree incline (as other airlines do), extended sleep is still a dream (at least for me). Slight edge to Delta for ease of use.
In-flight Entertainment: Delta's system is harder to navigate than Northwest's, but offered a much better selection of movies. I still don't understand while most--but not all--of Northwest's movies are edited. Delta's are not. If I'm going to watch a movie, I want the full-on version. Plus Delta also featured a variety of programs from HBO. which was nice for a non-premium cable channel guy. Delta.
Food: While neither was out of the ordinary, both had decent food. Since I did an enjoy an honest to goodness ice cream sundae (more of everything!) on Northwest, I'll give them the nod.
Booze: Probably the most important category. I was disappointed with Delta's selection of whisky, although I did enjoy the Woodruff brandy they served. They did have a decent offering of wine, which was a plus. The wines listed in the NW menu were the not the ones available on the flight and the flight attendant wasn't really sure what wines she even had on her cart. Room for improvement on both carriers. Because of the wine fiasco, I'll go with Delta here.
In-flight Service: In the last three years, I've flown Northwest's World Business Class to know that service is not a differentiator for them. The service isn't outright bad as much as indifferent. For the most part, the flight attendants do what they have to do, but nothing more. There is a perceptible attitude of "I'm here to do my job" rather than "I'm here to serve you." This seems to lead to an inattention to details and failure to follow through. It's not egregious, but it is noticeable and is annoying.
Again. this is not based on any particular experience with any specific crew on any individual flight. It's the cumulative experience of more than a couple of dozen of flights in recent years. And of course there have been notable exceptions of superior service, but the very fact that they are exceptions rather than the rule speaks volumes about the overall state of Northwest's service.
On the other hand, I wasn't exactly blown away by Delta's in-flight service either and I wouldn't want to draw any broad conclusion based on one flight. However, the service I received on the one Delta flight was definitely better than what I've typically gotten on Northwest. Advantage Delta.
Shortly after the recent trip, I received an e-mail from Northwest asking me to complete a survey on their World Business Class service. I hope that my responses help prompt changes that bring a bit more class into their service.