Hello, and welcome to a series of flight-reports chronicling a quick trip to Hong Kong in business class with Delta and Korean.
Here’s the rundown of what to expect:
DL2551 YYZ-ATL 1/29/2017 - Right here KE36 ATL-ICN 1/29/2017 - Coming soon KE607 ICN-HKG 1/30/2017 - After that KE608 HKG-ICN 2/1/2017 - And again, after that DL158 ICN-DTW 2/1/2017 - Later still DL6197 DTW-YYZ 2/1/2017 - And finally, this
I’ll save the background of how I ended up with this particular routing for the next segment, but some quick thoughts. This flight was booked for a day of meetings in Hong Kong with clients, and built to be as short as possible, because as much as Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities, I’ve already been on the road too much. The travel agent with whom I worked on this was somehwat dumbfounded at my willingness to double-connect when direct options were available, much less one-stop routes. But that would preclude me trying something new and continuing my push to get to know SkyTeam a little better. Ultimately, I think she appreciates my sense of adventure on such things. Or so I’d like to think.
When I was booked onto this flight (or more properly, rebooked onto this flight… but more on that in the next sector’s flight-report), it was scheduled to be operated by an MD-88, which would have been a first for me, at least in recent memory. However, about three days before departure, this day’s flight was downgauged to a 717. No big deal, but I would have liked to have “checked” the Mad Dog box.
This flight is a very early morning departure out of T3, and I arrived just over an hour before scheduled departure. When one has Nexus/Global Entry, there is absolutely no point in arriving to T3 at Pearson any earlier than absolutely necessary on a transborder flight, because there is quite literally nothing to do in the transborder zone at T3. No lounge, no nothin’.
There was a little bit of a mob around the entrance for the A gates, and a bit of a lineup in the “normal” security queue, but in the Nexus lineup there were only about five passengers in front of me. I was through security about five minutes after arriving, and using the Global Entry Kiosks, I was through customs in another five minutes, leaving me airside at T3
And what an airside it is! To be fair, the transformation of the T3 transborder zone from “truly terrible” to “something slightly better than truly terrible” is still a work in progress. But of course, right now, with construction going on all over the place, it’s actually more like “aspiring to be truly terrible.” Oh well. At least I don’t have to wait long.
For this flight, we’re leaving out of gate A17, one of the “swing gates” that can be domestic or transborder as required, right down the end of this particular pier at T3. By the time I arrive, there’s an agent at the gate, and she’s starting with the “pre-pre-departure announcements,” so we’re likely on time.
Shortly before boarding, I’m called up for a quick doc check as I’d checked in online and used a self-printed boarding pass to head in.
About two minutes after my ID was checked, they started pre-boarding for those who needed extra time, and with no one coming forward, about 30 seconds later, the Premium zone was called, my boarding pass scanned, and I was on my way down the jetway towards the awaiting 717.
Flight: DL2551 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) Date: 1/29/2017 Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 Registration: N952AT Seat: 2A ATD (STD): 06:34 (06:15) ATA (STA): 08:16 (08:53)
For this flight, I was seated in 2A, the port window seat in the middle of three rows on the DL 717. A pillow and blanket were provided on the seat. As I’ve mentioned before, I find the modern Delta narrowbody F seat both aesthetically pleasing and very comfortable. I really like the “quilted leather” look, and as these birds were just converted upon joining Delta a couple of years ago, the cabin is still pretty new, and certainly well groomed.
Legroom is acceptable but not fantastic for domestic F.
And as always, the nice Delta touch of a little bottle of water awaiting at each F seat.
Shortly after I sat down, the very friendly 30-something female flight attendant working F asked my pre-departure beverage request. As it was still before 6:00 am on a Sunday, I think it’ll be coffee, black. And don’t spare the beans. It is quickly delivered. Delta’s coffee can be a bit hit and this isn’t the strongest coffee I’ve had on DL, but still miles better than anything I ever had on United. (Pre-Illy partnership, that is the epitome of damning through faint praise.)
The seat back in front of me. I like the Delta multi-pocket approach, with space to stow various things, including the safety card and magazine, one large enough for a laptop and/or blanket, and one that seems purpose-designed to stow that little water bottle. I know these birds are generally used for flights of two hours or less, but I do wish they’d gone ahead and put in seatback IFE. Of course, I think that’s going to be an increasingly dying breed in this area of BYOD WiFi IFE.
Out my window as boarding continues, a WestJet 737-700.
During boarding, they seem to be doing some testing or diagnostics or something on the flight deck, which leads to a series of clearly audible warning messages coming from flight system. Nothing like sitting there at the gate and hearing “Terrain! Pull up!” and “Wind shear detected! Go around!” Hopefully there are no particularly nervous fliers near the front of the cabin.
Boarding is quickly complete, and the captain comes over the PA to tell us that he expects us to be about 20 minutes early into ATL, where it apparently is currently a balmy 35 degrees. I presume Fahrenheit. Please don’t be frozen and therefore broken, ATL.
Pushback is right on time at 6:15, as an El Al 767 is towed into its gate behind the WestJet.
Goodbye, little tug. Thanks for the push.
We end up with 11 of 12 First Class seats occupied. I’m always surprised flights with complimentary upgrades offered to even 25,000-level pax go out with premium cabin seats free, but I guess an o-dark-fifteen departure out of Toronto on a Sunday morning isn’t exactly prime time for the average Delta Medallion customer.
We taxi for a bit, surprisingly bypassing the de-icing station. This plane got in from Atlanta around midnight the night before this flight, which is about two hours after the last snowflake fell on Pearson, so I guess that’s why. We pause at this random point on the taxiway for a few minutes, well back of where we should be holding based on the captaiin saying we’re number three for takeoff. Just a long enough pause that I wonder if there’s something wrong and we’re going to have to turn around. But then the engines spin up, and we start rolling again. I guess it was just waiting for traffic.
We line up, and are indeed number three for takeoff after a Sunwing 738 and a AC Rouge 763. We take our turn at the end of Runway 23, and after a quick roll, we’re airborne and into the pre-dawn sky over the western Toronto suburbs.
As soon as we cross 10,000 feet, we get the ping from the cockpit, and the blue “WiFi” logo appears next to the seatbelt and no smoking icons overhead. The flight attendant working F is quickly up, and asking those of us still awake if we want “anything else.” I request another coffee, this time with some Baileys, and it is quickly delivered. And delicious.
Outside, the sun is starting to come up.
The flight attendant is quickly back with snack basket. Delta offers meals, I believe, on flights over 800 miles. Sadly, YYZ-ATL is 740 or so, so it’s just the packaged goodies. It’s “the usual suspects,” and unlike my experience on UA, DL doesn’t seem to offer a specific breakfast snack basket with a higher incidence of muffins, bananas, and other breakfast-type fare. I make a couple of selections, as I’m quite hungry at this early hour. The Dancing Deer cookie is quite good. The Almond granola bar is a little bit too crumbly for my taste. On one hand, AC would offer a light but hot full breakfast on a flight of this length, assuming they’re offering it on a plane with a J cabin. On the other hand, I can’t complain given the US forces being dominated by cheap F fares and buy-ups with the rest mostly filled by complimentary upgrades. Still, a little continental breakfast or something of that like would seem appropriate on a flight of this duration and departure time.
Since last I’ve flown DL domestic F, they seem to have introduced a new blanket, continuing the “Westin Heavily In-flight” branding they use in their international J bedding. The blanket is light and comfortable, and quite nice. I feel like it’s an upgrade over the previous blanket.
It’s getting brighter outside.
And then, finally, the sun is actually breaking over the horizon. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as having a seat on the right side for a sunrise from above the clouds, but with my seatmate trying to get some sleep, I snap my couple of pictures and close the shade to avoid lighting up the cabin too much.
I kill a little time listening to podcasts and working on this flight-report. Oh look, an exclusive sneak peak into my flight-report workflow!
In the interest of completeness of this report, I decide to connect to WiFi and at least check out the WiFi-based IFE. Pulling up a browser quickly brings up the connection page. $15 for WiFi on a 90-minute flight? What a deal!
Fortunately, Delta Studio content is available free, and there appears to be a decent selection of both movies and TV available, especially given the short duration of most of the flights these narrowbodies are operating.
The WiFi portal also offers a pretty decent flight information section. It doesn’t full replace the moving map, but does do a nice job of presenting relevant flight information and a map. That’s appreciated by those of us who enjoy such details.
About this point, the FA working First asks if I’d like anything else. Another coffee and Baileys is requested, and cheerily delivered.
I putter away a little while working on this flight report and doing this and that, and soon enough, I can feel our descent begin. The captain comes over the PA and confirms we’ll be arriving into Atlanta about 20 minutes early (hooray for slot-time padding!), arriving at the D concourse, and that it’s a beautiful 1 degree Celcicus outside in Atlanta at the moment. Perhaps I won’t hang out on the SkyDeck in the lounge.
Soon enough, we’re getting close.
How can you tell you’re lined up for the runway at ATL? Well, this parallel traveler about to land on the other side is a good hint.
Landing was smooth. As we pulled off the active runway, lots of Delta metal to be seen hanging around. And one interloper.
It’s a fairly short taxi, and this journey came to an end at the D-concourse of ATL. Sure enough, we were well ahead of schedule. Again, I’m sure DL is padding it’s slot times by a fair bit, but “early” is always a better answer than “late,” and Delta seems to be very good at “early.”
On the way off the plane, I was given a very friendly goodbye by two flight attendants and one of the pilots, and another “goodbye and thanks” from a ground agent on the jetway. Then I was free on the D concourse.
One last look at my ride this morning.
Signage was good, and it was no problem to find my way downstairs and on my way out to the F concourse, from which my flight to Seoul would depart. A train is offered, but I decided to hoof it. It’s a bit of a hike — maybe 12 or 13 minutes at a decent pace, but a good opportunity to stretch my legs. Everyone seems so friendly — there’s even a very nice airport worker standing under the FIDS near the entrance to the F concourse to help people find their gate information for their next flight. I guess a few people have asked about the KE flight, because when I tell him I’m headed to Seoul, she immediately replies “F1, just turn right and it’s all the way to the end. Have a great flight!” I know ATL gets some flak in some frequent flier circles, but in this very short experience, I’ve been extremely happy with the service and attitudes I’ve encountered.
Thanks for joining me for this short flight. I hope to see you on the next leg of this journey, which will pick up right where this leaves off, as I arrive on the F concourse at ATL.
Delta Air Lines
Toronto - YYZ
Atlanta - ATL
All in all, I was pleased with this flight. It sort of emphasizes what Delta does best. Great on-time performance, friendly and service-oriented flight attendants, and somewhat questionable catering, especially on these “snack basket-only” short hauls. This is a 750-mile flight, after all. If they’d just upgrade to some sort of breakfast, they’d be about perfect on this. Except, of course, for having to depart from the less-than-useless transborder concourse of Terminal 3 at YYZ.
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