Review of Delta Air Lines flight Tucson Atlanta in Economy

Airline Delta Air Lines
Flight DL 1240
Class Economy
Seat 31A
Flight time 04:00
Take-off 17 Jul 17, 12:30
Arrival at 17 Jul 17, 19:30
DL   #40 out of 116 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 667 reviews
OH-LWE
By 853
Published on 29th July 2017
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Trip Report Series Part 5 - Delta Aviation Tour
Welcome to my first "Trip Report Series." During the spring, I was notified by a close professor friend of mine that I had been accepted to work at the University of Florida in Gainesville as a High School summer intern. Understandably, I was extremely excited about the ability to be working in a college laboratory during the summer. As such, I booked my flights from my home in New York to my job location in Gainesville, Florida, and from Gainesville to Tucson, where my professor runs a major laboratory and where I will be working for part of my summer. My itinerary is as follows:
Flight 1: [DL 1539, LGA-ATL, Boeing 737-900ER, N846DN, Economy] - Click Here
Flight 2: [DL 5451, ATL-GNV, Bombardier CL600-2B19 (CRJ200ER operated by ExpressJet dba Delta Connection), N871AS, Economy] - no report, although it's worth mentioning that this flight was delayed for over two hours due to "paperwork done incorrectly" and having to clear the runway immediately after lining up due to an aircraft that was about to land in the opposite direction.
Flight 3: [DL 3290, GNV-ATL, Bombardier CL600-2B19 (CRJ200LR operated by Endeavor Air dba Delta Connection), N8972E, Economy] - no report
Flight 4: [DL 1172, ATL-LAX, Boeing 777-200LR, N703DN, Economy] - Click Here
Flight 5: [DL 4836, LAX-TUS, Bombardier CL600-2C10 (CRJ701ER operated by SkyWest dba Delta Connection), N770SK, Economy] - Click Here
Flight 6: [DL 1240, TUS-ATL, McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30, N906DA, Economy] - You are here
Flight 7: [DL 5319, ATL-GNV, Bombardier CL600-2D24 (CRJ900 operated by Expressjet dba Delta Connection), N132EV, Economy] - Click Here
Flight 8: [DL 5347, GNV-ATL, Bombardier CL600-2D24 (CRJ900 operated by ExpressJet dba Delta Connection), N153PQ, Premium Economy] - Click Here
Flight 9: [DL 202, ATL-JFK, Boeing 737-900ER, N872DN, Premium Economy] - Click Here

Abstract
After 10 fantastic days at the observatory in Tucson, it was finally time to head back to Gainesville. Delta seems to operate from Tucson to several hubs, with TUS-ATL being the only route operated by mainline aircraft. I decided to fly a TUS-ATL-GNV routing because (1) that would be the shortest possible routing and (2) it would allow me to fly with my professor. I got even more excited when I discovered that the two daily ATL-TUS flights were scheduled to be operated by the McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30, a true rarity in these days. As you know, Delta is the last remaining MD-90 operator in the world, and has no plans to retire them until the next decade. Delta currently has 64 MD-90s (N902DA was retired last month to provide spare parts for the remaining fleet), more than half of which used to operate for Chinese airlines. In fact, Delta even owns the two MD-90s that were built under license by SAIC in Shanghai, China (MSNs 60001 and 60002, now registered N964DN and N965DN respectively). I was hoping to get a ride on one of the MD-90s built in China, but for the most part I was just trying to hitch another ride on a T-Tail before they're all gone. Without further adieu, let's get started.

Report
I spent the previous night at the Four Points hotel adjacent to the airport, which is a wonderful (albeit somewhat basic) hotel in my opinion. This hotel was a one minute drive (or five minutes' worth of walking) from the passenger terminal of Tucson International Airport. The check in area for Delta was not crowded at all, with just eight people (including four of my colleagues) ahead of me in the check in queue.
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Since I had TSA PreCheck, security was a breeze and I was through in just 4 minutes.
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Airside. At this time, many gates at the B concourse were empty.
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FIDS, with my flight showing a scheduled departure time of 12:23 PM.
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It was a walk of only 2 minutes from the security checkpoint to the B gates (gate B2, where my flight departed from, is one of the first gates that you'll see). At this time, the aircraft (N906DA) was still in the air.
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I sat down in an empty seat near my professor and started to read a book when I noticed a white and shiny object moving out of the corner of my eye.
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And there she was! N906DA, one of Delta's oldest MD-90s and one that had not previously operated for a Chinese airline, would be taking me to Atlanta today. Ship #9206 was delivered to Delta in July 1995.
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View of the gate area just before general boarding began.
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Boarding for zone 3 (the zone I was in) began at 12:09 PM, just 14 minutes before we were scheduled to depart.
Walking down the ol' plain and boring jet bridge.
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Boarding the aircraft.
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Obligatory jet bridge shot of the aircraft.
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Delta Comfort+ seat.
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Regular economy seat (the same type as the Y seats on the 767s, but without AVOD and winged headrests)
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My seat was 31A, an economy window seat right behind the wing.
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Wing view.
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Seatpocket contents.
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Seatback (unfortunately without IFE)
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View of the Y cabin from my seat.
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Overhead panel with personal air vents.
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Legroom was OK. It was a little tight but still acceptable for a 3 hour flight.
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Extendable tray table.
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We pushed back at 12:20, just 3 minutes before out scheduled departure time. Immediately after, the twin IAE V2525-D5 engines rated at 28,000 pounds of thrust each spooled up with a low-pitched hum.
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Taxiing to Runway 29.
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Sierra Pacific Airlines Boeing 737-2Y5 Advanced (N712S)
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KTUS also has a strong military presence. I could hear them flying above my head when I tried to sleep.
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Here's where the one thing that bothered me during the whole flight began. A mother was sitting behind me with two toddlers, one in her lap and one in the seat right behind me. Both children simply could not keep their mouths shut during the entire 3 hour and 18 minute flight! Those kids weren't simply crying; they were screaming bloody murder and woke up many passengers when they were trying to sleep! The screaming sound literally penetrated through my noise cancelling headphones, while the noise from the V2525 engines didn't! Worst of all, the mother didn't discipline her kids at all and just shrugged it off when the FAs and other passengers asked her to keep the kids quiet! This was not Delta's fault by any means; they tried their best to provide a comfortable experience for the passengers, which I commend them for, but sometimes, there are unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the reach of the flight crew.
Lining up with Runway 29.
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Rolling down the runway. It was a typical MD-90 fast rotation with a rapid climbout.
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Typical desert terrain, commonplace in Tucson.
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A Tucson suburb.
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Views during the climb to an initial cruising altitude of 27,000 feet. The reason why the MD-90 rarely cruises above 30,000 feet is due to the fact that it has a relatively small wing for its size. Furthermore, the MD-90 has a stretched fuselage (over the MD-88), a tail stretch, and other improvements which added weight (instead of reducing weight) to the plane. The MD-88 also was limited to low flight levels, so the same can be expected for the MD-90.
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We flew right past the San Catalina mountains, where the UFL 50-inch observatory (my workplace for the past week) is located.
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View from FL270. Notice how the mountainous terrain gradually changes to desert terrain.

Once the seatbelt sign turned off, I decided to visit the lavatory in the rear of the Y cabin. It was fairly clean, but was starting to show its age. It was also fairly large; I estimated it to be 1.5 times the size of the "spacelavs" found on newer 737 aircraft. It also featured a decent-sized sink.
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View of the Main Cabin from the rear.
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Once I got back to my seat, I decided to check out the streaming version of Delta Studio. This version contained much less content than the AVOD version of Delta Studio; only around 50 movies and roughly the same number of TV shows were available. Still, information and an airshow were provided via the GoGo wifi network.
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I settled on Arrival(2016), an intriguing science-fiction film. Drinks were also served at this time; I went with the usual, a cup of apple juice with Delta's signature Biscoff cookies.
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At this time we were flying over Texas.
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Here's a demonstration of the recline, which was not bad at all. So unfortunate that I wasn't able to use the recline at all…
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View from our cruise above the state of Texas. We frequently ran into clouds due to our low cruising altitude. Notice how the desert terrain of the Southwest gradually changes to the lush green landscape that's so characteristic of the East Coast of the United States.

Flying over the city of Dallas, TX.
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Movie selection. Your Name (君の名は) was available on the streaming version of Delta Studio!
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There is no rear galley at the rear of the MD-90, but a tailcone that serves as an emergency exit.
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Things started to get interesting as we flew over Decatur, Mississippi. Due to thunderstorms in the Atlanta area, we were put into a holding pattern for over 40 minutes and almost diverted to Tallahassee as we started to eat in to the fuel reserves. I must say, the view during this time was not bad at all. After we exited the hold, the view was amazing. We flew right past the airport, which can be seen in some of the below photos with downtown Atlanta in the background, and made a 180˚ turn to make a semi-hard landing on runway 28.

Screenshot of our holding pattern, courtesy of FlightRadar24.com
photo screen shot 2017-07-28 at 6.17.48 pm
We parked at gate B31 of the B Concourse next to N918DE, an MD-88. Most of the planes at the B concourse seemed to be DC-9 derivatives.
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Main cabin.

A few more shots of Delta Comfort.
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I went up to the front and introduced myself to the First Officer. He gave me a tour of the cockpit, which seemed really vintage by modern standards. We talked about the imminent MD-88 retirements, as well as other changes that the Delta fleet was currently undergoing.

After bidding farewell to the First Officer and the flight crew, I was released into a very crowded concourse B.
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Thanks for reading this report and hope to see you again soon.
See more

Verdict

Delta Air Lines

7.3/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Meal/catering6.5

Tucson - TUS

9.1/10
Efficiency9.5
Access10.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Atlanta - ATL

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Conclusion

This was a very enjoyable flight on the MD-90, a vintage aircraft that is incredibly hard to find on routes these days. In fact, Delta's MD-90s exclusively operate on routes throughout the East Coast and the Midwest; Tucson is its westernmost destination. I was fortunate enough to be on a flight with an extremely polite flight crew, including the first officer who showed me around the cabin. Most of all, however, I believe that the flight crew handled the incident with the toddler screaming and kicking my seat extremely well; they were extremely professional and tried their best to ensure a comfortable passenger experience for us. In fact, one of the flight attendants cuddled one of the sleeping toddlers while the mother tried to calm the other one. The screaming baby was not Delta's fault, however. Except from this and the weather hold, this flight on the MD-90 was one of the most enjoyable that I've had with Delta, mostly due to the fact that these T-tails are extremely rare nowadays. Still, I hope to catch a few more flights on the MD-88 and -90 before they're gone for good.

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