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Happy 2020, flight-report community!
It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, and once again, I got over-ambitious early in the year and ended up stranding a report on the way home. It didn’t end up being that exciting — I literally slept for 90 percent of my ICN-JFK flight.
But it’s a new year, and although I’m traveling a bit less these days, I am kicking the year off with a couple of adventures — and this is the first one.
This trip came together in September, when I did a search for Cathay Pacific First Class availability to or from HKG early in the year. To my considerable surprise, I found space on HKG-ORD on a Thursday afternoon, and when I called Alaska, they could see it to.
With the trip home booked, now there was just the matter of getting myself to Hong Kong, and getting back from Chicago to Toronto.
Because things never go the easy way, this brief adventure turned into seven flights on four separate tickets, and a bunch of changes in plans along the way — all of which we’ll discuss over the course of this series of flight-reports.
Let’s get into it!
This flight wasn’t part of the original plan.
Originally, I went through all the rigmarole required to get a YYZ-JFK-TPE-HKG award with Delta, mostly on China Airlines, and had that booked.
But then I remembered I had a Global Upgrade Certificate available that was expiring at the beginning of February. Were there any options that I could cash that GUC in on?
I checked with Delta’s Twitter support team, and to my considerable surprise, they had immediately confirmable upgrade space available on the Sunday DTW-PEK flight, and that fits my schedule perfectly.
When I hopped on Delta.com, I got an even better surprise — while international one ways are typically pretty expensive, I was able to grab a V fare on the date in question for just $415, all-in.
I snagged the fare online, then immediately called in and applied the upgrade to a nearly-empty Delta One cabin on DTW-PEK, and a wide-open First cabin on YYZ-DTW. The agent who helped me commented that she hadn’t seen a one-way international fare that low “in twenty years.”
I guess demand for YYZ-PEK is pretty low in January.
So with that, I had my ticket to Asia. Then it was just a matter of finding my way from Beijing down to Hong Kong. But that’s another story for another flight-report.
I had originally booked this trip with DL6235 as my YYZ-DTW flight, but it allowed me only a 58-minute connection in Detroit. That’s close enough to make me nervous. I had to call in 24 hours before my departure anyway, because I couldn’t check in online, suggesting the upgraded ticket needed a reissue. So I decided to check on the possibility of moving to the earlier YYZ-DTW flight option. After some humming and hawwing — it seems there was some debate in the call centre as to whether same day change is allowed on the domestic segment ahead of an international itinerary — it was done, and I had a much more leisurely three hours in Detroit, just in case there are weather shenanigans to deal with.
The earlier departure meant an earlier wakeup call. But at least when I woke up, I had this message awaiting me.
On the one hand, really cool that the Medallion upgrade cleared on this award segment at the five-day window. On the other hand, a reminder that although I’ve yet to leave home, five days from now I’ll be boarding a flight back home from Detroit.
It being early on Sunday morning, I pretty much had the whole car on the commuter train into Toronto to myself, and the express train up to Pearson was only slightly more packed.
I arrive at Pearson about 8:30 am for my 9:45 departure. Not a lot of extra time, but enough time not to be rushed. It’s a fairly nice January morning — hovering just around freezing, and nothing falling from the sky. I’ll take it.
I head inside, and make my way towards the Delta check-in desk.
There’s only one person ahead of my in the Sky Priority line, so I’m quickly served.
I chat a bit with the agent, who notes there are two passengers with my surname today. I’m surprised he has that kind of detail top-of-mid. My surname is uncommon for my ethnicity, and not terribly common in North America, but isn’t super-unusual in a global sense.
Once I explain that I’m connecting on to Hong Kong on a separate ticket, my boarding pass is issued, and I’m on my way to security.
Things must be a little bit of a zoo at the U.S. security checkpoint, because they’re asking pax for later flights not to check i at this point. I’m earlier that the current 10:30 deadline — and it appears Nexus passengers are exempt from this restriction anyway.
The Nexus security line is longer than usual, but still only takes about 15 minutes. Global Entry immigration another five minutes or so, so all in all, I’m airside about 25 minutes after arriving at the terminal. Not bad for a “long security line” and having to pre-clear U.S. immigration. My experience would have been much different if I did not have access to Global Entry — the queue for “regular” immigration was significantly longer.
My flight today will be departing from “A6” which is a multi-gate serving regional aircraft — the only gate at Terminal 3 without a jetway. It’s downstairs at ground level, and there are three gates sharing the space. Generally, it’s too small, crowded, and miserable.
Abandon all hope, ye who go down this elevator.
Fortunately, it’s not actually all that bad at this hour, and there’s plenty of seating available. I arrive with just about 15 minutes before my likely boarding time, so I take a seat in relative comfortOur crew arrives a few minutes after I do. So that’s a positive sign.
Our crew arrives a few minutes after I do. So that’s a positive sign.
Our ride — a 13-year-old CRJ-900 operated by SkyWest, has overnighted in Toronto after operating a mid-afternoon DTW-YYZ segment on Saturday. So the plane is here and ready to go, but we’ll probably have to make a stop at the de-icing facility prior to departure.
Boarding is called as expected at about 9:15, and after a quick check to make sure my bag will fit in the cabin, my boarding pass is scanned and I’m o my way. We’re at the closest hard stand to the doors, so I don’t get a great long shot of our CRJ-900, but still, a nice look and a little of that jet fuel aroma to start the day.
From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
To: Detroit Wayne (DTW)
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-900
ATD (STD): 09:43 (09:45)
ATA ( STA): 10:58 (11:22)
I’m in my preferred CR9 seat for this flight — 2A, a solo seat. It’s equipped as Delta standard with a light blanket, a decent pillow (for a short hop) and a little bottle of water.
Legroom shot — more than adequate for the relatively short flights these birds operate.
There aren’t a lot of amenities on these planes, but at least there’s a USB port and power outlet at the seat.
A look out the window during boarding. This WestJet Q400 would be off to Boston shortly.
The friendly flight attendant working first class makes the rounds for PDB selections, and I opt for a cup of coffee. It takes a few minutes, as she puts on a fresh pot, but it arrives in its oh-so-humble paper cup. It does not disappoint.
We push back right at 9:45 — no stop at de-icing today, apparently. I guess it’s warm enough not to warrant it.
WestJet’s lovely Frozen 737 as we taxi by — she’s clearly going to be following us out this morning.
It takes about fifteen minutes to taxi out to runway 23, and there’s a bit of traffic ahead of us, including a pair of AC Rouge 767s (one without winglets, one with), a WestJet Q400, and a Sunwing 737.
Finally, it’s our turn, and my first flight of 2020 is just about airborne
Behind us, an ACr A319, and the WestJet Frozen plane are lined up behind us.
A short run later, and we take off about five minutes past ten.
It’s much nicer once we’re up through the clouds, where the sun always shines.
Our flight attendant sprigs into action as soon as we’re past 10,000 feet to make sure everyone in /F gets a drink. I ask for another cup of great coffee, this time made even greater by a little bit of Bailey’s.
Once she’s done her drink run, she makes a quick pass o a basic snack basket — just granola bars, Biscofff cookies, Cheezits and almonds on offer. I take one each of the first two options since I haven’t had breakfast yet.
By the time our flight attendant is done her snack run, we get a PA from the flight deck announcing we’ve begun our descent, and are about 20 minutes out of Detroit. Yep, this is a short flight. It’s a low ceiling, so we’re nearly on the runway by the time we see anything other than clouds out the window.
And touchdown, at about 10 minutes to 11.
It takes us a little short of ten minutes to make our way over to Regional Row, the B concourse of the McNamara Terminal, and find our gate.
We’re quickly released into terminal, which is pretty quiet.
One last look at my first ride of the year before I make my way over to the A concourse.
Making the connection is a short walk through the ever-funky tunnel under the apron, with its trippy lights show and, today, some Motown tunes to entertain.
Over at the main terminal, you arrive right next to the dancing fountains at the centre of the terminal. And who can resist taking a shot of that in action?
And that’s where we’ll leave this flight-report. We’ll pick things up second later, as we get ready for our ride over to Beijing.
Thanks for joining me for this quick segment, and I hope to see you on the much longer Delta One flight up next.
I appreciate Delta’s flexibility in allowing the same-day change. I probably would have been just fine with the 58-minute connection, but taking the stress out by arriving early is great. As for the flight itself, friendly service from our flight attendant and a perfectly adequate experience for this 213-mile transborder trip.