Before I get started on the second part of this series, there is something I would like to clear up. Many have pointed out my frequent trips on Delta - well, with the limited options out of GFK and MSP being the nearest ‘big’ city, there really isn't much of a choice, barring Delta. I did look at AMTRAK and Sun Country options - they simply didn’t line up. Plus, being an employee for the state it is nice to get a bit of a discount from Delta. And so, Delta it was.
MAY 13TH 2017 - AN EXTENDED LAYOVER?
Back on with the trip report… An hour-long layover turned out to be a little longer than planned. I wasn’t complaining (yet).
I knew there was KLM around - and would be departing soon. Squeezing through the large crowds towards concourse G was not fun - however once I got to the gate itself, it was a slightly tricky to get a decent picture of the beautiful A330 to Amsterdam, moments away from pushback. It was 1449 hours, just under thirty minutes since I landed at MSP.
I took the scenic route to Concourse D - instead of the skywalk, I stopped over at concourse E & F - and boy was it sweet to see some Alaska Airlines and United Express planes. DL B712
And the other end of Concourse F with DL planes
Concourse D is where the SkyDeck is at - the observation deck. A great place to spend some time during a long layover. The (only) downside: the view is mostly Delta. And Delta Connection. The view I had of Concourse C was simply unbelievable. Most (if not, all) gates were occupied with aircraft ranging from the CRJ-200 at one end, and A320s/B737s on the other. Sandwiched in between were the ERJ-175s, the MD-90s, and at C5, N916DE - the MD-88 that was scheduled to operate DL411 to New York JFK.
MD-90 departed in between
Hub time at MSP - concourse C was starting to get more and more empty as planes pushed back. There were three planes in the sequence at one point, and they were pushed back within seconds of each other! It was great seeing all this activity, in addition some Spirit activity in Concourse E. Looking northwest was downtown Minneapolis. Another passenger up there was also to take DL411 to JFK, but the two hour delay was more than enough make sure he had to be rebooked. Oh, he was in for something much worse…. Sequence of Mad Dog departures…
Some non-Delta stuff?
Delta departures - this is when I was supposed to depart, too….
934th Airlift Wing and 133d Airlift Wing
I headed back down to Concourse C5 about forty minutes before the rescheduled boarding time. A Delta B737-800 at C1…
N916DE, the MD-88 that would take me to JFK….or did it?
AND THEN IT ALL CAME DOWN….
As a curious passenger, and an aviation geek, I genuinely wanted to know what was happening. The ground agent there was surprisingly calm and decent about answering questions - very often does one find an under-pressure and stressed agent maybe just beginning to lash out on the passengers and leaving them more frustrated.
But anyway, back to this. I was informed that the plane is all ready to go, the crew were ready to go, but we were just waiting on ATC clearance from JFK. Strange, I thought. Why would ATC be holding us back, we had a scheduled flight. I wasn’t able to join the dots just yet. The agent requested me to stick around at the gate, if in case we were able to leave earlier. I also picked up a bottle of water, Sprite and Goldfish as a quick snack. One can't go wrong with the cheese-flavored crackers!
UNCLUKY 4, 5 AND MAYBE 6 - THE DELAYS CONTINUE TO EXTEND! …
1612 hours. So close to the ‘new’ boarding time. A SMS text. An email. An announcement. Flight DL411 was delayed by another 1hr15min. And this time I really wanted to know what was going on. And by now, the entire ground staff had changed - the person with the (relatively) chirpy mood had taken off for the day, and the rest of the folk had a visible frown on their faces. No wonder the first person was in a decent mood - they didn’t have to deal with irate(ish) passengers!
Things pretty much turned for the worse with the latest delay. There was an air of uncertainty, the only delay information they had was that JFK ATC was preventing us from departing. The curios me walked up to the desk, just wondering what was going on. The new agent clearly had something going on - when asked the reason for the delay, I just got a stone cold ‘There is nothing I can do about the weather, please wait here’, as the other agents were working on rebooking others. That was just so unnecessary and uncalled for!
WEATHER DELAYS - AGAIN!
With the ‘weather’ word in my mind, I remembered checking New York’s weather the night before this trip - it showed some rain was around in the vicinity, but the extent of that was unknown. As I laid out my ‘bed’ of sorts - using my bag(s) as pillows, I started scrolling through the internet - there was quite a bit of weather around in the North Eastern part of the country. Heavy rains, some flooding, and some winds as well. The average delay coming in to JFK showed a pretty high 3hr38min. And this was just the average, mind you. Newark was showing a relatively less-worse 1hr22min. The same was reflected on FlightRadar24’s delay index. Nothing for LaGuardia, just yet.
Most, if not all, flights to JFK, EWR and LGA on the day of this planned flight reached their destinations on time. It was just the afternoon time when stuff hit the roof on the East Coast.
NOT THE PIZZA PARTY WE WANTED, BUT ONE WE NEEDED….
A clear indication of a further delay: the crew announced that we’d be receiving free pizza. I had some pretty terrible thoughts running through my mind. I had the memories from the last trip home, especially the ERJ-145 flight from Fargo to Chicago. I was in a similar situation here: stuck in the midwest due to weather, wondering if I’d make my Etihad connection. (oops, spoilers?! :) ) Of course, the last time it was Chicago, this time JFK and that I wasn’t on the same itinerary, and that I had an entire night’s sleep to depend on. I was just worried that this delay was just digging in to my sleep, and how much sleep I’d get before the ultra long haul. I also had the terrible thoughts of a long delay leading in to an entire crew change because of duty hours and whatnot. So many news of that sort that we’ve all read, but they’ve only led to further delays.
Dejected spotting - at least its not Delta…
Things weren’t helped by the fact that at 1702 hours, I received another text, another email and another announcement stating the obvious: a delay till 2030 hours, and no definitive time as to when exactly the flight’d leave. Perfect. I was just so stressed out by all of this, I really didn’t want to be there. An attempted nap was down the drain as I heard more and more planes took off. ‘Why do I bother flying home?’ I said to myself. ‘I fly home because of I want to chase all these planes but they never happen. Should’ve stuck to the BOS itinerary’. With all these thought in my mind, I joined the line for free pizza as many boxes of large pizzas were brought to gate C5. Most passengers (me included) had just one slice each. More than half the boxes were taken back to the freezer. It was 1722 hours, still a long ways to go till departure.
The unease of the situation meant that I headed to the restroom quite a few times. The unease also meant that there weren’t too many pictures and video footage, so I take this moment to apologize for lack thereof. N948DN, a Delta MD-90 pulled in to gate C3 at 1840 hours. A quick restroom visit later, the Delta agents finally had some sort of solution for passengers.
A RAY OF HOPE?!
‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to fly to LaGuardia instead, there is a flight leaving in an hour. So far the flight is on time. Please come see us up at the podium if you’d like to get on this flight instead.’ I was in touch with my AirBnB host all the time. He was very understanding of my situation, and advised me to stay patient (which, to be accurate, I do lose easily sometimes…oops!). I asked him if it’d make sense to land at LaGuardia instead. Other than a higher taxi fare, I was more inclined to get on the flight to LGA: it guarantees a decent amount of sleep (pending no delays), but maybe no window seat.
I hopped across to the podium, and initiated my rebooking with a friendlier agent. The frowny agent was no where to be seen. After some typing here and there on the keyboard describing my suitcase, a revised itinerary was duly sent to me. Via email, via SMS. Props to Delta for keeping me updated, but my God these notifications were annoying, especially since most of them were pertained to the delays. :P
LAGUARDIA BOUND! SO LONG MD-88….
With everything sorted, I was sent over just two gates across - Gate C3. It was the MD-90 that I talked about. And here I was, once again, with the chance of an increasingly rare MD-88 gone. And now I wonder when I’d be able to log in an MD-88 flight….. ….I put this sad revelation behind me - I was on a flight that was on time, albeit about 4.5 hours behind my intended schedule.
Pre-boarding was just about to be called. Before I took a seat, I wanted to ensure I didn’t have a middle seat. I went to the podium and greeted the nice agent - and requested a window seat. ‘Are you willing and able to operate the exit door in the event of an emergency?’ ‘Absolutely!’ I said with perhaps the biggest smile on my face, as I scored a window seat! Seat 26A assigned to me, I just had to wait for boarding to start. So it shall be, a McDonnell Douglas MD-90..
A quick look online - seat 26A had the most legroom since seat 25A being non-existent, and thanks to Delta’s fantastic baggage tracking system, I was able to ensure that my suitcase had made it to the MD-90 after sitting around next to the MD-88.
New boarding pass…
CRJ-900 at C4
C3 - boarding gate
My trip was looking up again. Sure it wasn’t as bad as December 2016, but I had started to have some pretty terrible thoughts anyway. With that behind me, boarding was called at 1859 hours. I walked over to the jet bridge in anticipation of a smooth sailing journey from here on.
Onboard at 1909 hours - to a welcoming view of the cockpit - absolutely amazing to see all those buttons and switches, instruments and round dials - loved it! I took my seat 26A, as the rest of the plane filled up. A mid-aged Asian lady sat next to me in 26B, more on this later.
With great legroom came great responsibility - and right on cue a friendly flight attendant came around to the emergency exit rows - it wasn’t as informational as one would find on the Indian carriers (where there is a proper briefing of the same), the flight attendant just wanted our verbal confirmation, ensuring that we’re willing to operate this door in the event of an emergency. All well!
It all went very quickly from here on - even the Captain couldn’t come online for a quick welcome onboard! We pushed a minute early at 1944, or in my case - roughly 4.5 hours late. :) One engine was fired up for taxiing, while the second engine was fired up as we got closer to Runway 17.
DEPARTURE - PUSHBACK: DL411 ABOUT TO DEPART?!
At this point - the unbelievable happened - there was some activity gathering around N916DE - DL411 to JFK was finally looking at a 2030 hours departure time! Part of me wondered if I actually stuck with this flight, but with a 11pm arrival in to LGA, and then heading to the BnB, I realized it wasn’t very fair on my host. Oh well, I enjoyed the sounds of the IAE V2500 engines fire up. Shoot, should I just have stayed with DL411?!
A bit of a long taxi to Runway 17 like I said before there was more than enough time to start up the second engine as well.
DEPARTURE - TAKE OFF
By now, my seat mate had figured out that I was using my phone(s). I had both of them on airplane mode, but the one moment where I would have liked to be recording, there came the words. "Sir…no…phone off". These very words made me put my phone away, but I wasn’t giving up without a fight! It took me a good while to explain to her that my phones were in airplane mode and that the safety card permitted this. By the time this was cleared away, an epic spool up has been missed! We blasted down Runway 17 at 1956 hours, before making a pretty steep bank to the East just seconds after take off.
Everyone in the cabin were largely settled. Being summertime, we pretty much took off in to the golden hour of sunset. I waited for some decent pictures, but in the meantime I got the wifi on (much to the surprise of the seat mate!) to check out Delta studio. And fair to say, as much battery this may drain, it was a fairly decent collection of content, in fact, plenty even for a long haul flight. While I did not have the airtime app downloaded, Delta gave me full wifi access - which meant I could browse the regular internet for about half an hour.
DELTA'S STREAMING CONTENT
The only caveat - arrival time, flight time remaining/ elapsed and stuff was just blank. Also, for whatever reason, the WiFi was convinced we were on ship 3714, a B737-800 registered N384DA, lol! The horror movies included Lights Out and Conjuring 2, both of which I had seen in the movie theaters over Summer 2016 - no, there is no further detail that has to be discussed :P 'The Disappointments Room' was the only one that I hadn’t seen yet, so this lined up as my IFE…..
….however, the best form of IFE is in fact mother nature’s beauty - be it the landscape underneath, or the sun taking a dip for the day. I had some super stunning views of the sunset itself. Another awkward moment with the seat mate occurred when she tried to take an image of the sunset - I offered to help because I was on the window seat. This was instantly shot down with an instant no. Wow, didn’t know being nice actually hurts some people….
I was pleasantly surprised to see some new offerings for us cattle in the back - rather than the usual pretzel peanuts and cookies option, Delta actually has a granola bar and almonds in addition to the three mentioned items. Nicely done, I suppose! I had some pretzels and a granola bar. It had been over a year since I flew Delta on a bit of a long flight, but this was definitely a positive.
Following service, cabin lights were turned off and most folk rested it out. I continued with my movie as we had a rather calm flight enroute. We were to arrive a good 40 minutes before the scheduled arrival time.
DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
A quick nap later, at 2240 hours Eastern, we were already well in to the descent phase of the flight. The Captain confirmed this with a 2305 hours arrival time! However, there were still some gusts of wind from the South East, pretty low clouds but visibility had gone up, and light rain. The storm was on its way out. It hadn’t even been 1hr55min in flight, and the nose was pointed down, way down!
A rather unceremonious arrival in to New York for me, to be honest. I always pictured my first arrival in to the USA was on a big plane in to JFK. While the big plane happened, it was in fact all the way at the other side of the country, at SFO. With that being said, I wasn’t even landing at JFK this time - it was a rainy night with barely any glimpse of….anything! I could vaguely make out Brooklyn Bridge.
Despite the fight with the wind, a smooth landing was executed onto Runway 31. 2303 hours EST, a whole 41 minutes before time. The rain picked up a little bit as we docked at gate C4, 2310 hours.
The seat mate was in a real rush to get off, but I had some time to kill. Thanked the crew for the flight and here I was in New York!!
The baggage claim looked interesting, a little bit on the run down side, to be honest. Didn’t look like an airport, and not helped by what seemed like seepages inside the terminal itself making for a bit of a swampy situation. I guess this is the only time I’d agree with Donald the 45th.
Found a Lyft, unfortunately for an excessively expensive rate, although it was a bit weird to have an Indian driver! At the BnB, my host mentioned that since they are used to such delays and arrival times at JFK, one could hypothetically check in at 3am….and N916DE had just touched down at JFK. And it was here that I really wanted to kick myself. Oh well, I tucked in to bed, waiting for bigger things to happen the following afternoon!
Delta Air Lines
Minneapolis - MSP
New York - LGA
Not an ideal situation, for sure. I would’ve liked to be on the MD-88, but there is really nothing one can do about the weather. What was supposed to be the two A319s to BOS and JFK, changed. A lot. I didn’t appreciate the tone of some agents at MSP, but in the end it all worked out thanks to very helpful people. Appreciate the snack and supper, so credit where due to Delta there. Flight itself was decent. Indifferent crew, but nice to see them amp up offerings at the back, as well as a pretty reasonable IFE system. Loved the seat - and especially the legroom!
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