Hello, and welcome to another quick trip to Asia with your humble flight-reporter. This time, I’m off to Beijing in Delta One. This trip was inspired by a very low YYZ-PEK business class fare that Delta offered for much of the first six months of this year. As it happens, this is a week before my birthday, so happy (early) birthday to me.
I booked this flight with the best-available options at the lower price – that meant Toronto to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Seattle in a flat-bed 767 domestic service, and then again on to Beijing, still on a 767. It’s probably the worst long-haul Delta One seat available, but it’s something different for me, so there’s that. The return will take me from Beijing to Detroit on a A330-200, and things wrap up with the short hop home on a CRJ-900.
Alas, the adventure began at about 5:00 on July 3 when I woke up, ready to head to the airport. Checking my phone, as I am wont to do, I see a notification for an e-mail from Delta at 03:00 – “Last Minute Information about Your Trip.”
A quick check, and it turns out my scheduled YYZ-ATL flight is running about 75 minutes late. I’m scheduled to have a 53-minute layover in Atlanta before going on to Seattle, so… hmmm… let’s do the math on that, shall we? Yeah. It’s not looking good, is it?
I fire up my laptop, log into my Delta account, and see what other options are available to me. There are a number of them. I could keep the same flight to Atlanta, then catch a later ATL-SEA flight, and have a 55-minute connection in Seattle. Or I could route to Seattle via MSP or DTW. If I really hustle, I could theoretically make a YYZ-JFK-SEA option. But the 757 JFK-SEA segment is a regular 752, not one of their Delta One-configured 75s.
Or… I could accept one of the more esoteric options made available to me – YYZ-DTW-PEK one-stop was not available for the 3rd, but had I wanted to just wait a day and go on the 4th, it was available – and take a totally different route – YYZ-DTW on a CRJ-900, DTW-PVG on a 747, and then PVG-PEK on an MU 321.
I had been planning on doing this whole “every longhaul Delta seat” thing, and these two 767 flights were going to be the only ones on that bird, so giving up my SEA-PEK flight meant giving up on that idea. But in the end, an unscheduled 747 upper deck ride with their retirement looming is not the kind of gift horse one looks in the mouth. I pulled the trigger on the DL/DL/MU option, and felt pretty good about it. I couldn’t select a seat for the PVG-PEK flight, though. But I’ll get that resolved at some point.
So let’s revisit that rundown, shall we?
DL2467 YYZ-ATL - 7/3/2017 - You aren’t here DL1336 ATL-SEA - 7/3/2017 - Not coming soon DL129 SEA-PEK - 7/3/2017 - Not coming soon DL4062 YYZ-DTW - 7/3/2017 - You are here DL583 DTW-PVG - 7/3/2017 - Coming soon MU5186 PVG-PEK - 7/4/2017 - Coming soon DL188 PEK-DTW - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon DL6217 DTW-YYZ - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon
Well, that’s certainly not what I was expecting. But I’m perfectly okay with it.
I arrived at the delight that is Pearson’s Terminal 3 about 6:15 am on a very nice early July morning. Traffic was light all the way to the airport due to this day being the “lieu” holiday for July 1 falling on a Saturday this year. But once I was at the airport, it was the same traffic trying to get into the terminal. No holidays for fliers.
I arrived inside to find quite a lineup for Delta service. There were two counters open, both serving SkyPriority passengers, who had a bit shorter lineup.
I ended up behind two groups in the SkyPri lineup, and the main cabin lineups opened up in the meantime, starting to relieve the pressure. I ended up having to wait about 10 minutes to get checked in, and in the end, the the gate agent was unable to do seat selections or print a boarding pass for my MU segment, so the whole point of actually checking in at the airport was kinda lost.
From Delta’s check-in, it’s a very short walk to security, and thanks to my Nexus, the security lineup was very short.
I was through security and US CBP in another 10 minutes or so, and was spit out of customs into the new duty free store. Thanks for that “upgrade” guys. We couldn’t have got some sort of Priority Pass Lounge instead in the crowded, miserable T3 transborder zone?
I arrived at my gate well before the inbound aircraft. The gate area isn’t too busy at this hour.
However, down the end of the transborder pier, things are even more quiet, and there’s an abundance of seats and power outlets, so I set up shop there.
I check in my itinerary, and lo and behold, delta.com is now showing my flight as simply YYZ-DTW-PVG – no mention of the flight back up to PEK. Time for a quick call to the Diamond line to find out what exactly is going on.
The friendly agent quickly notes that MU said the space Delta had booked was unavailable, and sets out to seek alternatives. However, when she comes back to me, she reports the space is now available again, so she’s going to request it again and see what happens. It comes back confirmed, the ticket is reissued, and I’m all good, apparently. Still no seat assignment, though, and she can’t find the MU PNR for me either. But at least the flight is showing as confirmed. I’m still a little dubious. I’ll keep a close eye on this.
The Delta site provides a clue as to what went wrong, though… before my seat on MU5186 was showing as business class, but I believe MU runs its premium cabin on narrowbodies as F on domestic flights, much like Delta. Now, ticket re-issued, it's showing as an F reservation for that segment. Therefore, my working theory is that DL requested a J seat on the flight, and MU's system said "No such thing, tough luck."
Another reminder to keep a close eye on your reservations, no matter who you fly… especially when things have gone even slightly weird on you.
I settle in, and putter a little bit on the Web. Corporate shot time? You betcha. WiFi is decent, although my notebook stubbornly refuses to connect. No such problem on my phone or tablet, though. Very odd.
About an hour before departure, I check my reservation again and notice it’s not showing me as checked in, which makes sense given the ticket re-issue. Time to wander over to the gate and make sure I’m good to go. There’s a bit of a lineup at this point – it seems like there are a number of pax without seat assignments.
When I get up to the gate, the agent is initially dismissive of me – “If you’ve got a boarding pass, you’re fine to go,” he keeps repeating. But I get the word “re-issued” in often enough and eventually he checks – and sure enough, I’m not checked in. He quickly checks me in and verifies my Chinese visa. To my surprise, a boarding pass is also presented for my China Eastern segment, with seat 8L, a window seat, assigned. That’ll do nicely. I’m still gonna keep an eye on that segment, though. What can I say… I’m paranoid, and have read too many stories of weird things happening with Chinese airlines.
I get back to a seat by the now-crowded gate just in time to see my ride pulling into the gate, so things look promising for an on-time departure this morning. According to FR24, this bird is coming in from JFK, which is unusual. Most of the planes Delta sends up to Toronto turn around and return to the same hub.
Boarding begins right on time at 9:20, and I’m on my way.
Flight: DL4062 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Detroit Wayne (DTW) Date: 7/3/2017 Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-900 (operated by Endeavor) Registration: N937XJ Seat: 3A ATD (STD): 10:11 (09:55) ATA (STA): 10:57 (11:08)
For this flight, I’m in seat 3A. I know RJs aren’t exactly considered cream of the crop, but I quite like DL’s CRJ and ERJ fleet, outside the CRJ-200s. If you can snag an A seat, you’ve got a window seat with aisle access – practically international business class. (Okay, not at all.)
The seat is equipped, as expected, with a typically tiny and useless pillow, and old-school Delta red blanket, and a little bottle of water.
Legroom is adequate for domestic First. Especially on the A-side, I find these little birds quite comfortable up front – more than adequate given their short missions.
Typical Delta seatback with typical Delta seatback pockets.
Pre-departure beverages are offered almost as soon as I’m sitting down. Coffee seems to be the order of the day, given the hour. We’ll go with black for now, thank you. I don’t know if it lives up to the advertising on the cup, but as per usual with Delta, it is pretty good coffee, by airline standards.
Out the window, it’s still quite a lovely day. Not a lot of apron action at this hour.
Boarding is done quickly enough, and we push back right on time. According to our captain, this epic flight will be 43 minutes gate-to-gate, a whopping 21 minutes in the air. I settle back, put a favourite podcast on, and settle in for the flight.
We push back just about on time – about four minutes behind scheduled departure, and taxi out past the end of the domestic/transborder pier, which is mostly inhabited by WestJet 737s at this hour.
It’s a short taxi out to the north-most runway at Pearson, from which we’ll be departing today. Just a couple of flights before us, starting with this WS 737-700.
And then a little private jet action.
And then it’s our turn to get off the ground.
It’s a pretty quick roll, and we’re off and on our way across Southern Ontario towards Detroit. Again, just a beautiful morning as we climb out over Toronto’s western suburbs and satellite communities.
As we level off, drink orders are quickly taken, and I go for a coffee, but this time with some Bailey’s. Because it’s delicious. Checking out the in-flight magazine, I see Delta has decided to give My Home and Native Land some shine in honour of our 1-5-0.
As mentioned, these birds do fly short missions, but they are equipped with in-flight power up-front, located in the outside armrest, in my case.
As one of the flight attendants is getting beverages ready, the other makes a quick round of the snack basket. Good thing too, because I’m getting quite hungry at this point. Dinner last night was a long time ago. Both of my choices are fine, although I prefer the oats and honey bar for its chewiness and the little bit of coconut flavour it shows through.
Shortly afterwards, my coffee comes through. It’s every bit as good as coffee with Bailey’s should be.
Despite the short duration of this flight, a second pass of the snack basket is offered, followed by top-ups of coffee, for those who want them. I decline both, since I’ll be in a lounge in DTW soon enough, and will hopefully have something a bit more exciting to try once there.
Garbage and cups are quickly collected, because by this time, we’re getting into our descent. It’s a bit more cloudy over Michigan than over the GTA, at least today.
But we break through, and here we are, over the Detroit area.
And finally, on the ground.
It’s a fairly short taxi, and we end up racing this Mad Dog up the end of the McNamara Terminal.
And then we end our flight parked next to another Mad Dog.
I’ve got a fairly long layover here in DTW, so a little bit of walking around the terminal before I hit the SkyClub. There’s not a lot of variety on display at this hour.
Jut various Delta tails…. such as this 757.
And this A330… which will be heading to Beijing this afternoon, albeit not with me aboard.
And finally, the sister ship to my ride over to Shanghai later this afternoon. I didn’t think to check the gate, but I imagine this bird is headed to either Narita or Incheon.
Finally, no report covering the McNamara Terminal would be complete without a quick look at the centerpiece fountains.
And with that, we’ll call it a day for this trip report. I’m gonna head to the SkyClub, and I’ll catch you there on my next flight-report.
Thanks for reading!
Toronto - YYZ
Detroit - DTW
There’s not a lot to say about this short hop on a regional jet. The service was about as good as one can expect given the duration, and once again, Delta’s handling of IRROPS impressed me… it was all as pain-free as possible, although I’m glad I kept an eye on that PVG-PEK segment and got it confirmed properly.
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