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.
As a reminder, here’s the rundown of our agenda:
DL4062 YYZ-DTW - 7/3/2017 - Find it here! DL583 DTW-PVG - 7/3/2017 - You are here MU5186 PVG-PEK - 7/4/2017 - Coming soon DL188 PEK-DTW - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon DL6217 DTW-YYZ - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon
If you’ve skipped the YYZ-DTW segment, I recommend go checking it out. Not so much for that super-brief flight experience, but rather for the explanation of how I ended up this particular routing on this particular day.
When last we saw each other, your humble flight-reporter had headed off in search of the central Delta Sky Club location at DTW. And lo and behold, there it is!
Inside, my boarding pass is scanned, I’m reminded of the WiFi password, and invited upstairs to the lounge itself.
Things are pretty busy when I’m first settling in at around 11:30. This central lounge is quite large, and it spreads out seemingly in all directions from the central escalator and foyer. I find it very easy to get (momentarily) lost in here. But that’s probably just because I’m a newb.
As I’m staking out a seat — it’s actually a little scarce at this point, at least in terms of seats with access to electric outlets — there’s a young lounge attendant handing out what appear to be various ice cream bars. Sadly, I would not see him again once I had a free hand to actually sample such goodies. Oh well.
I settle in, and hop on the WiFi, which is coping well with the crowd, and provides me another opportunity to deliver a corporate shot.
A quick check-in with my ride over to Shanghai, which is showing on-time for its arrival in from Narita this afternoon. Gotta watch these 744s pretty closely, there have been a number of high-profile delays and cancellations in recent weeks as they limp towards their finish line in service with DL, less than six months from now.
Less than an hour after I arrive, I look up and notice that the lounge is much more empty than it was before. Much more empty than I’ve ever seen this lounge, actually. Perhaps it’s because it’s the Monday before the Fourth of July? Or maybe people are taking the day off to recover from their amazing Canada 150 celebrations on Saturday? Yeah… I’m sure that’s it.
Whatever the reason, there’s a much better opportunity to take a look around the lounge at this hour. It’s big. Its layout is confusing. The decor is pleasant but dated.
In a central area of the lounge is this “great room” centrepiece which remains pretty well-occupied. There are snacks and drinks and coffee stations throughout the lounge, but beyond this great room is the main buffet. And that’s a good thing, because it’s time for lunch.
On one side of the buffet area, there are crudités, some chips, and some hummus.
Followed by cheeses, and various salads an cold dishes.
Along the back wall of the buffet are a few hot dishes. These meatballs are a relatively new addition to the Sky Club lineup.
This macaroni and cheese is not. But it is delicious. Very hard to resist. Don’t judge me.
Rounding out the hot dishes, a couple of soups — first minestrone.
And then clam chowder.
Finally, on the far wall, is the bar, which is decently well-stocked.
I retreat to my window seat — sadly not facing airside — with my very health lunch of meatballs with barbecue sauce, and that ambrosia-like macaroni and cheese. I also grab some minestrone, which is quite good.
Round one of lunch over, I have a wee bit more, sampling the clam chowder, accompanied by a Coke Zero. The chowder’s pretty good, although some of the potatoes are still surprisingly hard and crunchy, given that they’re in a soup. This concerns me a bit.
After lunch, I notice the showers are open, and decide that would be a perfectly lovely way to kill a little bit of time between now and wheels up, as well as to freshen up a bit since it was an early start this morning. I got put my name on the list for a shower, and am quickly escorted to the shower suite, and shown “the trick” for registering that I’m done when I am, in fact, done.
The shower suites are nice, although a little dark, with Malin and Goetz amenties, and freshly made-up towels available. I always find that a much nicer presentation that the towel kits in a plastic bag seen in many airport shower suites.
The shower itself is nothing fancy, but the water is good and hot, and the pressure is good.
I feel quite refreshed after my shower, and retreat to a seat overlooking the Westin to do a little bit of writing, and enjoy a nice, cold beer. The Sky Club features this tasty Latitude 420 IPA, which goes down quite nicely.
Checking in on the Delta app, I notice that the flight to PVG is currently showing 24 available Delta One seats, with no waiting list showing up in the app. Looks like it’s a good day to be non-reving on this route — wonder how many seats will be filled last-minute by folks going on a 4th of July adventure across the Pacific?
About 2:00, I’m starting to feel a bit thirsty, so I get up to get myself a glass of water. And while I’m at it, I just can’t resist a bit of popcorn. And hey, that lemon cranberry cookie looks pretty good too. Clearly, willpower just isn’t my thing.
After puttering a bit more, I decide about 3:00 to go on a walkabout of the terminal to stretch my legs, see what’s going on, and get ready for what’s going to be a long time in a seat after this. From the central location of the Sky Club, my first stop is the nearby gate 50, from which we’ll be departing this afternoon.
Surely enough, there’s our ride being prepped for its flight over to Shanghai. Lookin’ good, old bird.
Things are still pretty quiet at the gate.
So it’s time to walk on. Once again, there’s not a lot of variety at the terminal, other than all Delta all the time. From one end, I do manage to spot a United 737 and a Lufthansa 747 across the way.
The view from that end of the terminal.
Nearly at the other end of the terminal, I find the sole non-DL tail at the McNamara Terminal at this hour — this AeroMexico 737 readying for its return to Mexico City.
And finally, the other end of the very long McNamara Terminal. No Lufty in the distance here.
Time to make my way back back to gate 50 and see what’s going on, as it’s rapidly approaching the boarding time on my boarding pass.
Sure enough, as I arrive back at gate 50, they’re starting to call passengers with young children and those needing extra time to board. A few minutes later, Premium Zone passenges are called — interestingly, they specifically say “there are 26 passengers in this zone,” I suppose as a way to try to discourage those not in the Premium zone from boarding at this time. A quick boarding pass scan, and one last check of my visa, and I’m on my way down the jetway towards the Queen.
Flight: DL583 From: Detroit Wayne (DTW) To: Shanghai Pudong (PVG) Date: 7/3/2017 Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 Registration: N662US Seat: 75A ATD (STD): 16:55 (16:38) ATA (STA): 18:21+1 (18:55+1)
I board at door one, head aft through the main deck Delta One cabin, and then head upstairs for my seat on the upper deck. It’s always a little exciting climbing stairs on a plane.
For this flight, I’m in seat 75A, just forward of the upper deck emergency exit on the port side. My seat is well-equipped with a pretty nice Westin Heavenly duvet, and a two pack of pillows — one nix big fluffy one, and a smaller one that is perfect as a lumbar support when I’m sitting up.
As I sit, headphones are offered. The standard Delta One offerings — they’re not fantastic, but decently comfortable and sound good enough that I don’t feel compelled to get my Bose set from my backpack. They hang conveniently over my pod’s reading light.
Continuing the tour de pod, on the outside wall of the unit are all your ports — a two-prong headphone jack, an electrical outlet, and a USB port. My seat also comes with two bottles of water, which is a surprise both in quantity (usually, one is offered) and brand (usually, it’s Dassani on flights ex-USA, while Evian is sometimes offered from outstations), and the standard Delta “outbound” hard-sided Tumi amenity kit.
Reading materials are in the outside cubby nearly at ground level.
The aisle-side armrest has to be stowed for taxiing and takeoff, and there’s a small cubby next to it that makes a handy stowing space for water bottles.
On the forward wall, we start with the screen ejector button, IFE wired remote control (which is a little dated at this point), and seat controls.
Speaking of the screen — it’s a decent size, but unfortunately, is not available during boarding, as Delta forces commercials on us until it’s time for the safety video. I particularly appreciate the commercial reminders about how much in-flight entertainment is available to me. Except. Not. Right. Now.
As one would expect, legroom is adequate.
A look into the cubby for those concerned about footroom. I don’t find it a problem in this seat.
A look across the aisle towards 75K, which would remain unoccupied for the flight. In fact, only six of the 14 upper deck seats would be occupied on this flight. I guess it would have been a really good day for non-revs… had any shown up. Nevertheless, with six pax upstairs, one dedicated flight attendant, and two available lavs, this was a really private jet experience, all things considered.
The gentleman sitting in 74A is clearly flying international business class for the first time, and it’s entertaining living vicariously through his amazement at the seat, mimosas, and everything else. A nice reminder not to get too jaded about this experience.
During boarding, we’re served by a very friendly flight attendant, who explains that she’s just helping out in pre-departure service. She’s got a great rapport with passengers, and despite this crew being Detroit-based, a very Southern accent and hospitality style.
After introducing herself, she offers menus for today’s flight, and explains our primary flight attendant will be by shortly to take orders.
Immediately afterwards, she comes by offering champagne, orange juice, or mimosas. Champagne it is to me, as I toast one more flight on the upper deck of the Queen. There's some amusing banter amongst the row in front of me, neither of whom are terribly familiar with the concept of the mimosa, but both of whom are quickly converted to its wonders.
The view while we’re here at the gate is not exactly outstanding.
The amenity kit, deconstructed. It’s nothing too exciting, but I’m happy to have another one of the little Tumi pens they include, and the pair of socks. I quite like the Delta amenity kit socks, for some strange reason.
Chinese landing cards are up next. I always appreciate when these are presented early in the flight.
Pam, who’ll be our primary flight attendant up here, pops by to introduce herself and take meal orders. I take a risk and go with the beef.
The other flight attendant proactively offers a refill, and I happily take her up on her offer. Here’s to a great flight ahead.
Boarding is quite quick for a 747 from a non-Asian carrier, and we’re buttoned up by 4:40 pm, pushing back right on time, with the safety video rolling.
It takes about 10 minutes to make our way out to the end of runway 22L, and very soon, we’re lined up and ready to go.
After a quick and powerful 747 roll, we’re up up and away into the afternoon sky over Detroit.
Once we’re climbing, it’s time to check out the IFE. Unfortunately, the selection appears about the same as on my domestic flights in June, so no exciting new flicks for me on this flight. I do, however finally get around to watching Logan for the beginning of my flight. A very different feel for an X-Men franchise film, but I quite enjoy what I see of it. More on that a bit later.
As we start to level off, (very) hot towels are offered, and quickly collected.
Up next, pajamas (sorry, loungewear) and slippers are distributed. So that’s as good a time to head to the lav — two of them are located just aft of the flight deck — as any. The lavs are nothing special, but with one of them for every three upper deck passengers on this flight, there are seldom long lineups.
I really like Delta’s loungewear. It’s light, comfortable, and relatively attractive.
When I return to my seat, a ramekin of hot nuts is awaiting me, and the table cloth is out. As I sit down, a drink order is taken. I request a sparkling water and a Woodford, and am presented a double. The nuts are very good — particularly the pecans.
Another bottle of water is also offered. I already have two, so I decline. This time, it’s Dassani.
Shortly after, the starters are all presented together on one of the new Alessi-designed trays. I quite like them, although I find the “semi-sticky” texture of the tray a little odd. I get it that they’re designed to feel that way, to help make sure things don’t fall off or slide around quite as easily, but it does result in them having a “not so clean” feeling to them.
Bread is offered from a breadbasket, and I choose a couple of pretzel rolls. They’re just as good as pretzel rolls should be.
A very different take on the standard airline salad, presenting unique textures from the carrots and the nuts. I very much like it.
The faro guacamole is also very good, although the pita with it are mostly hard — not quite stale, but not quite fresh, either.
The corn and chili bisque is good, but doesn’t have the usual wow factor of soup at altitude. If I had one criticism of it, I’d say that the bit of heat it has to it is the same chili flavour as was an undertone to the guacamole.
With the starters done, my main course is quickly brought by. The artichoke is very good, a surprising option for a vegetable, but an appreciated one. And the cheesy polenta cake is really good as well. The steak is a pleasant surprise. It’s a little overdone, but simply presented with a peppery crust, it’s quite delicious. I appreciate that it’s not over-sauced and just presented as it is — a nice and peppery grilled piece of meat. I do wonder what happened to the smoked tomato and onion salad described on the menu, though.
I select a glass of the Spanish red to accompany my meal. It’s quite pleasant. And I really like the Alessi wine glasses, which look like they should be tippy, but seemingly are not.
A look inside the beef. It doesn’t look impressive, but I didn’t find it tough at all. Not fork tender, but easily cuttable and chewable, with just that little bit of “yep, I’m eating grilled meat” resistance. I was fairly pleased with it, all things considered.
With such a light load, Pam is able to really personalize service. The two gentlemen in the row in front of me are done their main before I am, and are presented the dessert cart while I’m still eating. And as soon as I’m done, I get the same treatment. Let’s start with a very satisfying cheese plate.
And then, who can resist a sundae with the works — so much stuff on it, it’s hard to find the ice cream underneath.
I mean to try the dessert wine on offer, but honestly I’m too stuffed to have anything else at the moment. With dinner done, there’s about a half-hour left in my movie, so I put the seat back into lounge mode and relax. A little too much — I doze my way through the end of the movie, although I catch enough to not feel compelled to watch it again.
With the movie over, I put my seat all the way down, and try to get to sleep. I sleep solidly for a couple of hours, and then spend another 90 minutes or so in and out, sipping water and dozing intermittently. During this time, Pam and a number of the flight deck crew gather in the aisle, chatting amongst themselves — not loud enough for me to understand them with my noise-cancelling headphones on, but loud enough to hear they’re there. It seems a little odd to me for them gather right in the middle of the cabin, and if I were the woman in 73A — which they were standing next to — I’d be a bit perturbed.
Finally, just over seven hours out of Shanghai, and out over the Bering Sea, I decide it’s time to “get up.”
As soon as she sees I’m up, Pam asks if I’d like to have the mid-flight snack. I decide to go for it, and it’s presented along with a glass of orange juice. I pick at it a bit, but I’m just not in the mood for the smoked fish. It all tastes good, but just isn’t what I’m looking for. I pick at it a bit, but eat the fruit. (And the chocolate, of course.)
There aren’t a lot of movies on board that really grab me, but eventually I settle on the Independence Day sequel. Yeah… coulda just as easily skipped that one.
Mid-movie, Pam appears offering bottles of water. I’m down one by this point, so I gladly accept another bottle of Dassani. Better safe than sorry.
By the time the movie is over, we’re crossing over Sibera. I decide it’s time to get some more shut-eye, and see if I can be a bit more successful this time.
Indeed I can. I’m in and out a little bit, but as I fully wake up, Pam is passing out hot towels, which would suggest it’s just about breakfast time.
And, indeed it is, because we’re about 90 minutes out of Shanghai, actually flying right over Beijing. Hmmmm… if only they could just drop me off here.
There isn’t really enough time for a movie, but perusing the documentaries on-board, this seems pretty interesting, so let’s give it a shot.
Pam pops by with a coupld of the breakfast tray choices, and I choose the Frittata.
The main is a bit of a disappointment. The frittata, though “Southwestern,” is pretty flaourless, and the pico de gallo isn’t thick enough or tasty enough to really add much to it. The sausage is pretty typical chicken sausage.
The included croissant is quite lovely, though. Fresh and flaky.
And the fruit is quite a nice mix of some of my favourite fruits.
With breakfast over, I head forward to the lav to change back into my street clothes. The lav is pretty much still immaculate 13 hours into the flight. I guess with so few of us up here, that wasn’t a super hard job.
Having changed, I fill out my arrival card, and watch the end of my show on the Rosetta spacecraft. When it’s over, I find another — shorter — option that should just about fill the remaining time in-flight.
Sure enough, as I’m starting it, the announcement that we’re beginning our descent is made — one quibble with Delta’s IFE system here. It seems that no matter what volume setting you’re on, when an announcement is made, it’s made at ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM VOLUME, leaving to try to rip my headphones off as quickly as possible whenever an announcement is made to avoid torching my poor ears.
Pam makes one last appearance to make sure everyone’s all set and ready to go — and hands out these delicious dark chocolate mints. It’s so quiet and so empty upstairs, when she’s done, she simply stands at the front of the cabin and addresses the whole group. “Thanks everyone, you’ve been great!”
From there, it’s a pretty quick descent into Pudong, with some nice views out the window along the way.
And finally, we arrive, about half an hour ahead of schedule.
It’s a fairly short taxi back to the terminal, but as we approach, we turn the other way, parking at remote stand next to this hometown A330 in alliance colours.
Parking at a bus stand and deplaning by stairs means I get a chance to snap this pretty shot of a DL 747 with the sun setting behind it. Appropriate, no? I’ll pause a moment to let you wipe that solitary tear away from your eye.
There’s a woman holding a “Premium” sign for the first bus, but it seems to be whoever gets on the bus, gets on the bus. We make our way back over to the terminal, and head inside.
The lines for customs aren’t too long, and before I know it, I’m officially in China. But while I’m waiting, the app I use to track flights lets me know some bad news — my flight to Beijing tonight has been cancelled. Well, this is going to be fun, isn’t it?
This has been a long report, so I’ll pick up the next one with the tale of recovering from these IRROPS.
Thanks for joining me for this TPAC journey, and I hope you’ll join me for the next chapter.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines Sky Club (Gate A38)
Detroit - DTW
Shanghai - PVG
The catering after the first meal was a bit disappointing, but other than that, great service, as close to a private-jet experience one is going to get flying non-F commercial, and a very comfy seat for this jaunt across the Pacific. Great to get one more trip upper deck on the Delta 747. You know, before my for real last one.
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