Welcome friends to the first leg of a trip my wife and I took over the course of 4 weeks in May/June.
I won't spoil the surprise by listing all the legs in advance, instead I'll reveal them as we go along!
This flight was a cash booking. I don't have any Delta Skymiles, not do I consider them to be a very useful currency for redeeming for Delta flights. They also aren't the easiest to come by in Canada so all things considered I simply hunted down the cheapest fare I could find.
There was not a huge amount of choice all told. I wanted to fly to JFK because our next flight was departing from there the next day, I also didn't want to trek across New York and also I was fascinated by the idea of staying in the rather wonderful looking TWA Hotel.
Strangely I was limited to either AA or DL. Neither WS or AC fly to JFK out of YYZ which seems like a strange omission. WS does fly to JFK but from YYC. AC used to serve JFK with Jazz CRJ's but those flights ended some years ago. I guess JFK isn't a big Star Alliance hub so it makes some sense that AC would chose EWR over JFK.
I found what a considered to be a decent fare however with a good departure time. This flight was booked in August 2018 as the genesis of this adventure came together and I managed to find one way flights in 'First' for CAD257 each.
Given we would be on the road for a month and we were packed accordingly First made sense on many levels, not least of which was the free baggage allowance. My one checked bag weighed in at a hefty 27kg alone. Besides we wanted to start a decadent trip in the right way!
We had a host of flight time changes between booking and flying, none more than 30 minutes or so. Our original booked departure was 10:34 and ended up being scheduled at 09:59. Delta seem very precise about their departure and arrival times!
The Delta website I find is very good for housekeeping with bookings, and it was easy to assign our seats and find out everything we needed to know.
The Delta app and website are very strong, so high marks to Delta for both.
Thanks to my SPG Amex (I still can't stand calling it 'Bonvoy') I decided to redeem my annual free night certificate at the Sheraton Gateway Terminal 3 for the night before. This meant we didn't have to be up super early and we could just walk out of the hotel and straight to the check in desk.
The Sheraton was quite nice, although its fair to say its showing its age somewhat.
Our standard room was unfortunately facing away from the airport, but as its my local I wasn't too fussed as I wouldn't be missing anything really exciting!
One nice touch was that I was given a voucher for a free drink for 2 from the bar for redeeming points for our stay, so that was gratefully accepted. The bar area was perfectly pleasant as indeed I found all the public areas of the hotel to be.
I would certainly stay here again for an overnight stop before a flight.
On the morning of our flight we headed to the airport around 0630 for our 0930 departure.
I was cautious because having departed from both T3 and T1 to the US before I've been stuck in huge queues at US immigration and I wanted to give ourselves plenty of buffer.
We approached the check in desk and were greeted by a very nice agent in the SkyPriority lane, although there was nobody else checking in at that time.
Our documents were checked and tags printed and we were invited to drop our bags off at the bag drop facility.
It was now time to cross the border and enter the US.
Toronto is one of many Canadian airports that offers US preclearance.
This effectively means you leave Canada and enter the US before your flight leaves so that you arrive in the US as a domestic arrival.
This feature is great because it generally avoids huge wait times when you arrive and at an airport like JFK with a huge amount of overseas arrivals it is especially handy.
The downside can be if you are departing in a big bank of US bound departures (like at 0630-0700) the wait times can be massive on this end. I've spent close to an hour before at T1 waiting in line for US immigration.
Once through the door above its straight into security and I was randomly selected for a bag swabbing by an extremely nice and friendly agent. As a reward for that she directed us away from the main line up and into another lane where we pretty much had no wait and were through right away. Very nice.
So far so good.
After a short walk it was off to US immigration where amazingly there was only a handful of people waiting in line.
We were seen and through in less than 10 minutes and the whole process was a complete walk in the park. I could have had an extra hour in bed!
This of course meant that we were now at the lounge at 0700 and had loads of time to kill. Our only lounge option today was the Transborder Plaza Premium as Delta don't operate a lounge at YYZ, nor do they offer any kind of lounge access for First passengers.
My Priority Pass membership allowed us access instead.
We arrived at the lounge and after a quick scan of my PP card we were granted entry.
The lounge is small and during our whole time there fairly quiet. It did get a little busier closer to departure time but there was always plenty of seating to be had.
We grabbed a table, connected to the fast wifi and I went off to check the breakfast offerings.
There were a few hot and cold selections to be had. Nothing ground breaking but perfectly serviceable.
Cold fountain drinks were available, as were coffee and tea.
There was also cereals, pastries and a toaster as well as a fridge with some cakes and cans of soft drinks
I made myself a nice cup of tea and a quick breakfast of sausage patties and toast.
Seating area and TV.
We spent the rest of the time in the lounge relaxing and puttering around online. The lounge started to fill up as time went on, but the staff were efficient in clearing tables and ensuring the food was refilled in good time.
Overall this was a decent way to kill time before our flight, and with an early start the quick, free breakfast was appreciated.
This lounge will never win any awards but like all Plaza Premium lounges I've ever tried its a clean, comfy, pleasant way to spend some time before a flight. Plaza Premium are a bit like a Toyota Corolla………..You will never be blown away by one but they are predictable, reliable and do exactly what they set out to do.
Airline: Endeavour Air dba Delta Connection
Flight Number: DL5538
Departure: Toronto Pearson YYZ
Scheduled Departure Time: 0959
Actual Departure Time: 0956
Arrival: New York John F Kennedy JFK
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1139
Actual Arrival Time: 1129
Flight Time: 1:33
Travel Date: Sunday May 26th 2019
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ900
This would be my first time flying in what I classify as a Regional Jet. I have flown an E190 before but that's tough to refer to as an RJ.
It was certainly my first time experiencing the Bombardier RJ series and I was quite nervous as I've never heard anyone say anything remotely nice about any of them!
I knew that we would have to gate check our rollaboards so I packed an empty backpack and took out my camera, meds and other valuables that I needed to keep with me. As we had Row 1 I was hoping the overhead bins would be big enough and thankfully they were fine.
With boarding scheduled for 0904 (very precise again!) we left the lounge around 9 having had more than enough time in there and made our way to the gate.
It wasn't a long walk and eventually we found an escalator down to the gate area where our flight and an AA flight to Charlotte I think was also going to board from.
Around 0920 boarding was announced and First and SkyPriority customers were invited to board.
Our boarding passes were scanned and we were given pink tags for our rollaboards to be checked at the aircraft.
We dropped them off at the cart and boarded as always on an RJ via the L1 door and up the built in steps.
At our seat was a small pillow and blanket, which would not be needed on today's 1hr flight.
There was also a small bottle of water each.
We were seated in Row 1, taking the pair together 1C and 1D.
As you can see legroom was more than enough for such a short flight, although I found the pocket on the bulkhead completely useless. The pouches were so tight it was almost impossible to get anything wider than a magazine into them.
There was effectively no storage at all on this seat.
Delta's CRJ900s feature 12 First Class seats which are set in 4 rows in a 1-2 configuration.
Then follow 20 seats of Delta Comfort+ seating set in 5 rows of 2-2 seats.
Finally there are 44 Economy seats in 11 rows of 2-2 seating. There are 2 emergency exit rows which offer additional legroom.
The leather padded seat itself was perfectly comfortable given the leg lengths these aircraft normally operate on.
I didn't try the recline, although there was a button on the seat for it.
Being my first time on a CRJ I was actually surprised at how spacious the cabin seemed to be. The overhead bins were indeed tiny and nowhere near big enough for a rollaboard. I was though easily able to get my backpack stored away and my wife added her handbag as well.
The bins on the C/D side were much larger than the A side bins.
There was no curtain or marker between the First and Economy cabins, simply a dog leg in the aisle where the seats went from 1-2 to 2-2.
Above the seat were lights, a flight attendant call button and individual air nozzles.
Infront of Seat 1A was a small closet where jackets were taken and hung.
We pushed back right on time and taxied up to Runway 23.
There was a short wait for an Air Canada 777 to depart ahead of us who needed the full length before we lined up.
The CRJ9 is a very quiet aircraft when you are sitting up at the front. Dare I say even quiet pleasant and quiet!
Takeoff roll was fairly sprightly and we were soon up in the air with some nice views of the FedEx apron and the massive sprawl of the GTA.
Above: FedEx and an Eastern 767 on lease to Sunwing
Our route today was the typical preferred route to JFK. A KEPTA SID then AEVON, EXTOL and the IGN1 arrival.
We would soon turn South then East and across Lake Ontario.
Its not easy to see in the shot below sadly as its a screengrab from my GoPro but we were treated to a lovely view of Niagara Falls.
Inflight service started and I had my expectations set appropriately low for the flight!
That said we had 2 cabin crew who were both very friendly and pleasant. The male worked the Y cabin and the female worked the F cabin.
We were offered a choice of drinks and of course the famous US snack basket.
I just took a coke to drink (served in a glass with ice) and had a bag of chips from the basket as I wasn't overly hungry
IFE was limited to whatever you brought on board or the magazine!
There was also wifi and I presume there is a streaming option on the Delta app if you want to watch anything. With such a short flight there was no point so we didn't bother connecting.
There wasn't a great deal of space between the seats. I was with my wife so it was OK but had I been sharing with a stranger it would for sure have been more awkward.
The flight attendant in First went to help in Y after the F cabin was served and then she came back to offer more drinks for anyone who wanted one. We passed as we were closing in on New York.
This was my first time in New York and I was very much looking forward to seeing the city from the air. We overflew Newark and had a great view of the airport………..
We also flew over Manhattan, but it was more or less directly under us so not possible to get decent shots, although it was very cool to see!
As Runways 13L and 13R are currently closed for construction work that meant all operations would be on either 04L/04R or 22L/22R.
The winds meant it was the 22s today so we were taken down far South out into the NY/NJ Bight before coming back around to the North over the Great South Bay for a final approach on 22L.
Above: Flying past Belmont Park racecourse
Above: New York skyline comes into view in the distance
Above: Wow, there it is. What a spectacular sight
Above: You can see 13L/31R closed off as we are seconds from landing on 22L
We touched down nicely right on time. We had a reasonably quick taxi to our gate at T4 as we were able to cross 22R with no wait.
We passed a South African A340-600 and pulled into Gate 51.
Our gate had a jetway which was a nice surprise and after a few minutes we disembarked with a thank you and goodbye to the kind crew.
We had a bit of a scare though as we were told that the gate check bags would be at the top of the jetway. We went there to collect them and my bag was there but my wife's was missing. Luckily after a few minutes a gentleman told those of us waiting and searching for missing bags that some of them were by the aircraft door. Indeed my wife's bag was there but it did cause a few moments of anxiety.
After we got our bags we had to take a bus to the main part of the terminal which was a fantastic drive across the apron.
From there it was off to the baggage claim where our SkyPriority tagged bags were among the first half dozen off the belt.
From there it was off to the AirTrain to get to T5. From there we would be staying at the very recently opened TWA Hotel, which is where we will pick things up in the next installment!
Whether it was a case of expectations being so low I'm not sure but this flight was surprisingly nice.
The CRJ9 wasn't anywhere near as awful as I was expecting, it seems perfect for these short 1 hour hops. I'm not sure I'd be so keen to spend 3 hours on one though.
Everything was better than expected. The lines at YYZ were non-existent and we cleared US immigration with no fuss at all.
The lounge was perfectly fine if nothing to write home about.
Aircraft was decent. It was quite, comfortable enough and legroom was good.
Cabin crew were a surprise. I was all set for the legendary surly US flight attendants we hear about but the two on our flight were very nice.
Inflight service was as expected. A drink and a snack, which when you compare to flights in Asia is pretty dire but that's not the standard in North America.
Overall this flight exceeded my expectations. Perhaps that has more to do with the rock bottom level of those expectations than anything else but I would be perfectly content booking a Delta CRJ900 flight again in future.