Welcome, dear reader, to another flight report, this time covering a short business trip to Tokyo, with Delta. Here’s the (very simple) rundown:
DL1822 YYZ-DTW 9/18/2016 - You are here DL275 DTW-NRT 9/18/2016 - Coming soon DL276 NRT-DTW 9/22/2016 - Coming soon DL1806 DTW-YYZ 9/22/2016 - Coming soon
Those of you who’ve read my flight-reports in the past know that I have heretofore been a Star Alliance loyalist. However, changes Air Canada has made to its frequent-flier program have changed the value proposition for me. Our “deal” used to be that I did my personal and discretionary travels with AC, generally in premium cabins, and in “return” I got some upgrades on my business travel. But between a very high (and AC-only) minimum spend for top-tier, and the proliferation of non-upgradable low-end economy fares meaning that I haven’t pulled a single domestic/transborder upgrade this year, it was time to evaluate options.
Plus, there are other airlines out there in this big world to try. Having already secure 75K status with Air Canada for next year, and basically unable to (or unwilling to) reach the spend required for 100K, I started looking at experiences I’d like to have and strategizing from there.
Although SkyTeam is probably by far the least interesting alliance to me, this trip came up, featuring a very compelling business class from Toronto to Tokyo, and the chance to do the long haul on Delta’s soon-to-retire 747. Combine that with easy access to a status match to Delta’s Platinum Medallion tier for next year (issued as a challenge that will be satisfied by the end of this trip), and I decided to have a go at it.
There’ll also be some OneWorld adventures in my future. But that’s another story for another day. Let’s stick to the one at hand, shall I?
I was originally booked for a flight to Detroit slated to leave Toronto just before 10:00 am, but the rather tight (less than an hour) connection to the Tokyo flight made me nervous. So 24 hours out, I called the Platinum Medallion line and requested a same day change to an earlier Toronto-Detroit option. After some typing, the agent explained it couldn’t be done — first because there was no First Class inventory on the earlier YYZ-DTW flight (a “fact” disputed by ExpertFlier and Delta’s own Web site), and then because the same fare bucket was not available. I tried to explain to the agent that Delta’s SDC rules say that premium cabin SDC is not bucket-dependent but on a space-available basis, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth swimming too hard upstream when HUCA was still a perfectly valid option. So I called back, and about two minutes later, my same-day change was confirmed.
Clearing security and customs at Pearson is pretty easy with my Nexus Card, and there are no lounge options in the YYZ Terminal 3 transborder zone for Delta fliers, so I wasn’t exactly motivated to show up too early for this very early flight, so I arrived at the airport about 5:15, 60 minutes before my flight.
I already had my boarding pass on the Delta app and was traveling with carry-on only, so it was straight to the gates for me. It’s been a while since I’ve flown from T3 at Pearson, but I knew they were in the midst of an attempt to breathe some life into this older and somewhat outdated terminal, so I was curious to see how T3 was right now.
There’s a new security and customs setup for transborder departures at one end of the terminal — this change was made because YYZ is going to a “drop off your baggage before you clear customs” model.
The lineup wasn’t too bad, and the Global Entry machines did their trick — it took me about 15 minutes from arrival to be free airside in Terminal 3. But definitely allow more time if you’re not a Nexus holder and have to join the “for real” security line and do a “for real” CBP interview.
Clearly, the renovations are still a work in progress. Unless, of course, this is the aesthetic they’re going for, in which case, I’d urge them to rethink.
Terminal 3 in general, and the transborder section of T3 in particular, is not a great experience. It’s basically one long, narrow pier with gates to the side and around the end. There are a few of the basic retail requirements (duty-free, snacks, magazines and sundries, currency exchange) a restaurant, and that’s about all. It’s pretty spartan. Don’t plan to show up here three hours before your flight and be entertained.
Down at the end of the pier, my 717 over to Detroit was waiting, and although things were pretty quiet at the gate, the boarding process began about the expected time. (Not at the time Delta prints on the boarding pass, though. It sure does seem Delta “pads” the actual expected boarding time in a bid to get people to the gate on tine. Either that, or in some strange alternate reality, they really do need 55 minutes to board a 100-seat narrowbody.
Boarding began about 45 minutes before scheduled departure, and went quickly, with nobody stepping forward for extra-time or traveling with kids pre-boarding. So Premium was called, my boarding pass was scanned, my passport checked due to my international connection, and I was on my way.
Flight: DL1822 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Detroit Wayne (DTW) Date: 9/18/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 Registration: N939AT Seat: 1A ATD (STD): 06:50 (06:15) ATA (STA): 07:24 (07:32)
For this flight, I was seated in 1A, the first row on the port side. This wouldn’t have been my first choice — I like to have space to put my laptop backpack under the seat in front of me — but when I did the SDC onto this flight, the only available seats were 1A and 1D. So 1A it is.
The seat was equipped with a small, economy-style pillow and light blanket, and each premium cabin passenger gets a cute little bottle of Dasani — I really like that Delta does this.
The 717 isn’t exactly a new aircraft, but the front cabin looks fresh and new. Everything is clean, the lighting is good, and the seats attractive, distinctively Delta, and comfortable. All in all, a pretty good hard product for a short-range narrowbody like this. My only criticism of the design is the lack of seatback IFE, although that is somewhat mitigated by BYOD streaming service offered. I didn’t explore that feature on this flight — perhaps that’s a project for my DTW-YYZ flight on the way home, which is also on a 717.
Like its DC-9 and Mad Dog predecessors, the 717 struggles to accommodate full-size carry-ons on the port side overheads, but my suitcase fit easily on the starboard side, and my backpack fit nicely in the port overhead, in front of a fellow passenger’s carryon (which had been put in length-wise, the only way it would fit.)
Another reason not to pick the bulkhead row — leg room is not as good as other rows, since there’s no cutout for feet to slide forward into on these birds.
I was quickly welcome aboard by the young male flight attendant serving first class, and asked if I’d like anything to drink. I requested a black coffee, and it was quickly delivered. I’ll give DL credit for this — compared to my domestic First experiences on United, the coffee they serve is actually pretty good.
Boarding was pretty quick. It had been rainy overnight in Toronto, so there was still some rain and other condensation on my windows, but here’s a look at the WestJet 737-700 parked next to us.
With no IFE, the pre-departure safety briefing was of course done manually, and the pilot’s briefing let us know this flight would be a whopping 39 minutes wheels up to wheels down, at a “cruising altitude” of 22,000 feet. We pushed back just about on time, and began our taxi as the sun began to make its appearance for the day.
We taxiied up towards Runway 23, but then stopped, the captain letting us know we’d been given a 6:47 takeoff slot, about 20 minutes from that moment. So we sat there and waited for some time, while I listened to a podcast. I do like that, unlike AC, Delta is quite okay with me wearing my noise-canceling earphones on the ground.
Soon enough, we joined the lineup for the runway, and after about four departures and a few arrivals, we were next in line behind this Air Canada Express E175.
We lined up, and after a short roll, we were off on the epic journey to Detroit.
Despite low cloud cover, we had good visibility for much of the way, getting a good look at the end of Lake Ontario and the Hamilton region.
Service began — and ended — with drink orders (I went with orange juice) and a pass of the snack basket — a disappointing offering of just Biscoff cookies, peanuts and pretzels, the same stuff that DL offered economy passengers last time I flew them. I had expected to at least see a snack basket similar to what UA offers on YYZ-EWR, with more breakfast-style options like bananas and packaged muffins. Oh well.
With snack time over, it was pretty much time to start our descent into Detroit — thin layer of clouds both above and below us.
Getting closer to Detroit.
We’re much closer to the ground than it would appear based on this picture — this was some very low fog over Michigan.
By the time we came out of it, we were almost ready to land.
And so we did.
Taxiing past the far side of the main terminal.
Eventually we came to rest at the gate.
Despite the delay in getting off the ground in Toronto, we managed to land in Detroit almost ten minutes early — so that’s great on-time performance, but also might just suggest that Delta is a little bit liberal with its block times in an effort to keep things on schedule. Can’t say as I blame them — it is the best possible result for all involved.
Arriving like a domestic flight, we were quickly let go, and I made my way into the terminal, pausing to get a snap as best I could of my ride to Detroit. The gate in Toronto had outright prevented me getting a good picture, and this gate didn’t do much better.
I have to say I like the terminal in Detroit — it feels big and bright and open and friendly, and there’s a certain cool factor involved with having the tram running the length of the terminal inside the building itself, where everyone can see and hear it.
Now to kill a bit of a layover. I checked the FID to see where my departure was going to be from, and having established that gate was currently empty, I headed out in search of the SkyClub. And that’s where we’ll pick up the next flight-report. Thanks for reading!
Delta Air Lines
Toronto - YYZ
Detroit - DTW
I'm never sure how to label these premium cabin flights on US airlines. First is how they brand it, but it seems such a misnomer.
Still, a decent experience for such a very short flight. Pearson T3 is not a great terminal, to put it mildly, but the fact that I needn't show up too early limits the impact of that.
The service offered certainly wasn't overwhelming, no should it be on such a short hop. But it was prompt and very friendly. And the hard product was good for a short-range narrowbody.
All in all, a perfectly acceptable flight.
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