Hello and welcome to the 4th and last post in this series of flight reviews.
Like every summer, we headed to France for a few weeks to visit family and friends. This time would be a little different than previous years as we would be flying from the West Coast and with a 7-month-old.
We'd bought our tickets earlier in the year, when we still lived in DC, and well before we knew we'd be moving to San Diego. We'd flown la Compagnie before, and wanted to try the brand new A321neo, which was due to be delivered later that spring.
Now that we lived on the West Coast, we had to find transcontinental flights. We elected for Alaska on the outbound trip as it was a non-stop from San Diego to Newark. For the return, I looked for flights out of JFK as I had wanted to take the opportunity to stay at the recently opened TWA Hotel.
Delta Air Lines turned out to be the best non-stop option between JFK and SAN as they operate long-haul configured 757-200s reserved for Transatlantic and premium Transcontinental flights. American Airlines, the competition on this route, operate 737-800s with a standard domestic First class cabin for the 6 hour flight. Priced similarly, Delta was a clear winner with a superior product, fully flat seats in Business class–the same model seat as La Compagnie, in fact, so it will be interesting to compare the two.
Stick around for a JFK TWA Hotel bonus at the end of this report!
DL2288 - Business - New York ✈ San Diego - Boeing 757-200 You are here
Booking & Pre-Flight
Booking was quick and easy on Delta.com, with the exception of the infant ticket. There was no way to add an infant during the booking process. Of the 5 airlines we've flown as a family since our son was born, 3 allow an infant-in-lap to be booked online (AS, BA, B0) and 2 do not (AA, DL), meaning that you have to call reservations to add an infant.
Luckily, there is a live chat feature on Delta.com, which is a much more convenient than having to call.
After a few minutes the infant showed in the reservation.
About 3 days before the flight, I received an e-mail from Delta encouraging me to pre-select a main dish on my upcoming flight. I'm glad that Delta has introduced this feature. Previously, I believe only American offered online meal pre-selection.
check-in & lounge
It was an early wake-up to make our 8:00AM flight, luckily we were still on French time to it wasn't too bad. It was also nice knowing that our destination was only a few AirTrain stops away.
The TWA Hotel is conveniently connected to Terminal 5, where we were able to catch the AirTran.
Our flight was leaving from Terminal 2, just 2 stops away.
The Terminal 2 AirTrain station is a bit far from the terminal. Terminal 2 isn't my favourite terminal at JFK–I find it dark and outdated. A sharp contrast to the Delta operations in the new concourse in Terminal 4.
T2 isn't really worthy of "New York's #1 Airline" but Delta have made some improvements in recent years, so it's not quite as bad as it used to be.
One thing I do really like about T2 is the large dedicated SkyPriority area and generally fast security compared to T4.
The SkyPriority counters were completely empty so we were checked in super quickly by two very friendly agents.
Security through the Pre-check lane was equally as empty and for once we made it through very quickly despite the usually checks of all the baby formula.
After security, we still had about 45 minutes before boarding so we headed to the Sky Club. Passengers flying international and premium transcon business class branded as "Delta One" have lounge access, whereas domestic First class passengers do not.
The Terminal 2 Sky Club is located on the mezzanine level and accessed by an elevator across from gate C67.
Though the T2 Sky Club is not nearly as nice as the huge T4 club with the awesome Sky Deck, it has been renovated and looks much better than the last time I was here a few years ago.
The lounge wasn't busy at this early hour and some sections were totally empty. We were easily able to find a quiet area.
Food offerings were decent by US lounge standards, with some hot options like sausage links and scrambled eggs, in addition to the usual bagels, oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit. Like most US domestic lounges, the plates were paper and cutlery plastic, which didn't feel very premium. Nevertheless, it was nice to have hot food options, which only a few years ago didn't exist in US carrier lounges.
Although I love Delta and find them to be the most customer-focused of the big "US3" Legacy carriers, their new boarding process, introduced earlier in 2019, isn't particularly friendly or helpful to families travelling with infants.
Notice that passengers with infants are not eligible for pre-boarding, but are the third group to board (fourth group on widebodies).
In fact, it's obvious from the comparison of the previous and new boarding processes that families with infants were the only group singled out to be removed from pre-boarding. The worst part is that Delta seems to have completely forgotten customers travelling with infants in premium cabins…passengers like us.
When we approached the podium for gate check tags and pre-boarding, the gate agent told us we couldn't board. "We have to board Delta One first," she advised, to which I replied "We are in Delta One."
The gate agent looked embarrassed and apologised, taking our boarding passes to scan them. She then made an announcement that she was currently boarding passengers with infants in Delta One only. I appreciated how she tried to make up for the faux-pas.
Though I can't say I was happy with the fact that the gate agent assumed we weren't travelling in Business class because we had a baby, I couldn't really blame her since it's essentially Delta's policy to assume that First and Business class passengers don't travel with infants.
The Delta One cabin on the "75S" Premium transcon/transatlantic 757 subfleet is comprised of 16 fully-flat seats in 2-2 configuration.
The finishes aren't quite as nice as the La Compagnie version–these are more plastic-y. On these premium transcons, amenity kits and noise-cancelling headphones are provided, similar to international long-haul Business class. There is a USB port and universal power outlet located in that storage area.
The kid checking out his new digs
The legroom is very good, but the foot space is more restricted than the same seat model on the La Compagnie A321neo reviewed on the previous flight. Due to the narrower cabin on the B757 vs A321, the ottoman is narrower on the 757 and pushed right up against the sidewall, whereas there was a gap on the 321.
Seat controls and the IFE remote are located in the center console.
Tumi amenity kits are provided on these premium transcon flights.
A few minutes after settling in, a very friendly FA came through with pre-departure drinks–choices were orange juice or Prosecco. I was surprised they were in plastic cups, which is normally just domestic First protocol, whereas Delta One (Intl & premium transcon Business class) normally has pre-departure drinks in glasses.
Menus were distributed a short time later.
Boarding was completed early and doors were closed a good 10 minutes before scheduled departure time.
We pushed back from the gate 5 minutes early.
The safety video played on the monitors as we began to taxi.
This safety video is more generic and not as funny or creative as past Delta safety videos. It seems that after several years of several airlines doing flashy safety videos, the trend in the industry is going back to more serious videos.
The in-flight entertainment system, branded as Delta Studio, is available in 15 languages, which is quite impressive.
There's a huge selection of films, series, and music.
And even live TV.
There's also some fun content for AvGeeks
It was the usual conga line for takeoff at JFK that morning. All of the traffic ahead of us was Delta as well.
Another 757-200 in the Intl/Transcon 75S configuration.
A beautiful bird, especially under the good morning lighting conditions.
Lining up for takeoff with a view of downtown.
Sad I never got the chance to fly the passenger version before it was retired.
And we're off on this beautiful clear day.
We were treated to some amazing views of the city.
Both Downtown and Midtown
One World Trade Center dominating the southern tip of Manhattan.
Shortly after takeoff the cabin was bathed in mood lighting.
About a half hour into the flight, the service began with drinks and warm nuts. I had a mimosa, my usual drink of choice for breakfast flights.
The flight attendant confirmed my pre-selected choice and delivered it a short time later.
I was surprised to see that everything was served on one tray, which felt more like Domestic First or Intl Premium Economy, than Premium Transcon or Intl Business class. Nevertheless, the presentation and quality were better than Domestic First.
Starter: Smoked salmon with herbs, dill cream sauce
Breakfast is difficult to elevate while remaining appealing to the majority, but Delta did a reasonably good job. It was a bit more interesting than the usual bland omelettes often served in Domestic First.
The rest of the flight was mostly uneventful and comprised of watching cartoons with my son, or more grown-up movies when he was napping. The FAs made several passes through the cabin topping up drinks and offering items from the snack basket.
We began making our descent over the California desert.
I believe the large lake is the Salton Sea. The desert southwest is always beautiful from the air.
Shortly before landing, the lead FA came to thank each passenger in Business class and offered chocolates. That's always a nice gesture.
San Miguel Mountain, which houses some radio and TV towers as the highest point near downtown San Diego.
I usually pick seats on the left side of the aircraft when flying into San Diego to get the awesome downtown views, but wanted to see what the view would be like on this side, and I was not disappointed as there were some beautiful views of the San Diego zoo and Balboa Park.
The beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture of the buildings lining El Prado at Balboa Park
The San Diego Air & Space Museum.
The airport's close proximity to downtown always makes for scenic landings.
Over Bankers Hill and Little Italy neighbourhoods.
We landed early around 10:40 AM
It was a short taxi time as this was one of the less busy times.
We pulled in to the gate 10 minutes prior to the scheduled arrival time.
A few more shots of the cabin upon deplaning.
These seats were very comfortable for the 6h flight.
One last view of our good looking aircraft–I've always found 757s to be so elegant.
Once we arrived in the baggage claim area, our checked luggage came out almost immediately. This is also a big difference with my experiences on American Airlines, where bag delivery always seems to take forever.
Within minutes we were curbside waiting for the long-term parking shuttle.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the JFK TWA Hotel below.
TWA HOtel review
Bonus : Click here display hide
As mentioned in the last review, I'd worked out an overnight into the routing to be able to check out the TWA Hotel that had recently opened at JFK. Also, it helped to give the baby an overnight break between two long-haul flights.
The TWA Hotel is access from an Elevator on the baggage claim level of JetBlue's Terminal 5
Immediately upon stepping off the elevator, there are interesting TWA displays.
Then it's a trip down the tubes with the iconic red carpet.
And here it is! Wow, a very impressive space. It really feels like being in the 60's version of the future.
The check-in lobby is located on the opposite side of the building, which is the side directly access by car.
There were check-in staff, but I wanted to check out the self check-in terminals, I'd read about.
As I'd been hoping, there were upgrades available to runway view rooms for only $30! I took the deal in a heartbeat as it saved a significant amount (around $100) over the original price difference between a standard and runway-view room.
The friendly check-in staff came over to chat and make the room cards for us. They explained how to get to the building where our room was located, which was again, a bit of a walk.
The main lobby.
Down another cool red-carpeted tube to the Hughes Wing, where we took an elevator up to the 8th floor, the highest floor.
Red carpet everywhere
Rooms are definitely on the small side by US standards.
But that view! Gotta love having multiple A380s out your window.
The pool is heated, and it was still warm out during our mid-September visit.
If you're feeling peckish, there are snacks available at the pool bar, but they're on the expensive side, like the drinks. But hey, it's New York, and enjoying the awesome view with a cocktail is a great experience.
After a good 2-hour cocktails and planespotting session on the rooftop, we did a little more exploring.
The "Sunken Bar"
The main lobby looking towards the ckeck-in desks
Old school flight information board with retro airline logos.
Sitting area in the check-in lobby. All so very fantastically retro and TWA.
And of course no visit to the TWA Hotel would be complete without checking out the beautiful TWA Constellation, which houses the "Connie Bar"
The Constellation with the Hughes wings in the background.
Beautiful from every angle! #AvGeek
The rear stairs are used mainly as an exit from the bar
Let's check it out!
Some of the bar supplies by the entrance.
It really feels like taking a step back in time to the golden age of travel.
The menu is the same as the rooftop bar.
Definitely a cool space, though I preferred cocktails on the roof.
The Connie is accessible to the public, no need to be a hotel guess, so feel free to check it out next time you are at JFK.
On the Mezzanine Ambassadors Club level there is a cool retro TWA uniform collection on display.
I assume this was the TWA First class lounge area in the 60s.
Nice views of the terminal from up here.
Also on the mezzanine level is the Paris Café by Jean-Georges, the only eat-in restaurant in the hotel.
There is a food court area with some take-away food vendors on the opposite side of the main lobby from the check-in area.
There are several old cars around the terminal.
Overall I really enjoyed our stay at the TWA Hotel. It really is very appealing to aviation nerds like myself, but it's also a very cool space for those who appreciate history or mid-century modern style and architecture. The layout of the hotel is awkward because it is an airport terminal and was never meant to be a hotel, but this space is made to be explored so a little walking isn't unpleasant.
If I weren't an AvGeek, I would still have enjoyed that the TWA Hotel is reasonably priced (I paid $240/night) and as close as you can get to the terminals at JFK. It was perfect for an overnight layover.
Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to ask any questions in the comments section below.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines Sky Club - 2
New York - JFK
San Diego - SAN
An excellent premium transcon experience with Delta. While the overall experience wasn't quite as nice as the La Compagnie A321 flights with similar seats, this was about as good as it gets for a domestic flight within the US. Delta beats the competition on this route as AA operate 737-800s with a domestic First class cabin. JetBlue come close; however, with their highly-rated Mint Business class product, though JetBlue don't offer a lounge product like Delta.
While I'd assumed the meal would be course, in a similar fashion to long-haul Business, that's difficult to do with breakfast. I often say that breakfast is rarely exciting in premium cabins, but I think Delta did a good job here.
In-flight entertainment was top notch with a good reactive system and tons of content. The only thing that would have gotten Delta a 10 here would have been free WiFi, which Delta plan to begin offering at some point.
The cabin crew were gracious and attentive, constantly checking in on us. Delta crews are consistently great--it is much less hit-or-miss than American, in my experience.
Thanks for reading.
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