Review of Delta Air Lines flight Detroit Beijing in Business

Airline Delta Air Lines
Flight DL9927
Class Business
Seat 5A
Aircraft Airbus A350-900
Flight time 13:14
Take-off 27 Jan 20, 10:22
Arrival at 27 Jan 20, 12:36
DL   #41 out of 115 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 667 reviews
hometoyyz
By SILVER 1940
Published on 28th January 2020

Introduction


Hello, flight-report readers, and welcome to the second of seven trips on this series documenting my brief getaway to Hong Kong, designed around an Alaska Cathay Pacific First Class award.

This report covers a Delta One flight from Detroit to Beijing, the second of four flights on the way to Hong Kong

Enjoy! 


the rundown


Routing

  • DL4489 - Domestic First - Toronto → Detroit - Bombardier CRJ900 Past
  • DL189 - Business - Detroit → Beijing - Airbus A350-900 You are here
  • MU5128 - Business - Beijing → Shanghai Honqiao - Boeing 777-300ER Coming soon
  • MU721 - Business - Shanghai Hongqiao → Hong Kong - Airbus A321-200 Coming soon
  • CX806 - First - Hong Kong → Chicago - Boeing 777-300ER Coming soon
  • DL2828 - Comfort Plus - Chicago → Detroit - Boeing 717-200 Coming soon
  • DL6217 - Domestic First - Detroit → Toronto - Bombardier CRJ-900 Coming soon

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Booking


The booking of YYZ-DTW-PEK was discussed in some depth in the YYZ-DTW flight-report, since otherwise, there’s not a lot to talk about on a YYZ-DTW flight-report.

Cole’s Notes version: Got a cheap international economy fare for YYZ-DTW-PEK that was instantly upgradeable to Delta One by Global Upgrade Certificate. Score!


Ordering dinner way in advance


This is the first time I’ve taken a Delta flight since a new version of the app that supports ordering your entree for the first meal from the menu up to three weeks ahead of flight time.

Sure enough, three weeks before departure, a “Select Your Entrée” button showed up in the app, and I decided sure, why not figure out what I’d like to eat three weeks ahead of time?


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When we last saw our intrepid flight-reporter…


… he had just arrived into Detroit from Toronto, made his way over to the A concourse of the McNamara Terminal, and was getting ready for his flight over to Beijing in Delta One.

Fortunately, the gate for this flight was right next to the dancing fountains at the centre of the McNamara. But all’s quiet at the desk.


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And all’s quiet outside, too. My ride over to Beijing has not yet returned from China.


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So there’s not much to do at this hour, except going up to the Sky Club for a bite to eat, a plug, and some WiFi.

Fortunately, that’s also just across the hallway.


Delta SkyClub DTW Gate A38


So I make my way across the way to this SkyClub, the “main” lounge here in Detroit. There are also satellite lounges towards either end of the very long McNamara Terminal, and one over at on Regional Row for the B and C gates.


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My boarding pass is scanned, and upstairs I head. But not before noting that it appears that the long-the-tooth lounge is getting a well-deserved facelift in the near future. That’s good news. This lounge definitely doesn’t share the modern look of most of the SkyClubs in the system.


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I’ll not go too in-depth on the review of this SkyClub, as I’ve done so before. But I’ll say this — as suggested last paragraph, a renovation is well-deserved for this lounge, which still has notes of Northwest despite being the primary lounge for one of Delta’s major international hubs. I’m of mixed feelings about this lounge. It’s perfectly decent for a domestic SkyClub. But for an international J lounge at a keystone hub? I’d expect more. Delta would be well-served to consider something along the lines of Polaris Lounges, but for international Delta One passengers.

A few random shots of the lounge, which is fairly large and has a number of seating options.



There have been a few changes in this lounge in recent years — this area of “restaurant” seating, for example, used to be home to the reception desk, from which agents would greet and help customers. That whole function has been moved downstairs, I suppose to open up more space for passengers. The lounge can get very crowded at rush hours.


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To my considerable surprise, one of the four surviving work cubicles in the lounge is open as I walk by, so I snag it and set up my home there. It’s a more private space from which to charge up my devices, do some writing, and relax for a bit.


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Soon enough it’s time to grab a bite to eat. The buffet area used to be more of a TV lounge, but they’ve changed it up to allow a slightly larger space for food, as well as a couple of bar areas. It’s pretty much the Delta-standard SkyClub fare, although I don’t recall having seen any kind of sparkling wine at the bar in the past.



I grab a small snack of some meatballs with barbecue sauce and some macaroni and cheese, accompanied by a bit of the sparkling wine. It’s all pretty good. The meatballs and mac and cheese are among my favourite SkyClub treats.


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WiFi is fast and reliable, as always in the clubs, and behind a password that’s prominently posted throughout the lounge. Corporate shot time!


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I check in on my ride over to Bejing, which is at this hour just about to arrive into Detroit from Shanghai, before turning right back around and going back to China. So all looks well for a fairly on-time departure.


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For laughs, I load up the Delta app’s Upgrades and Standby screen to see what today’s load looks like, and my jaw just about his the floor. 


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Are there seriously 274 empty seats on this plane with less than three hours to departure? By my math, that suggests there are about 30 seats occupied on the while plane.

There are 26 of 32 seats in Delta One unaccounted for at this hour, according to the app.

My mind races with questions — Is this because it’s the day after Lunar New Year as opposed to the day before? Trade wars taking their toll on US-China traffic? Coronavirus fears? How many empty seats on an A350 before Delta decides there’s a “mechanical issue” with the plane and just cancels the flight?

For posterity, here’s what the app is showing in terms of seat availability for today’s flight. Note the 1 (one) seat booked in Premium Select.


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I previously said YYZ-PEK demand must be low this time of year. Let me revise that — EVERYWHERE-PEK demand must be low this time of year.

With about 20 minutes to go before posted boarding time, I decide to head downstairs, stretch my legs a bit, and see what’s going on at the gate. 


Boarding Time


Downstairs, there are staff at the gate, but a look at the gate area seems to support the data provided by the Delta app. I mean, does this look like the gate waiting area for a 300-seat widebody that’s about 15 minutes from boarding?


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But, there’s an A350 being readied outside, and that’s a good sign. Hello, beautiful.


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I take a seat — it’s not hard to fine one — and people-watch for a bit. The crew arrives at the gate, and has a brief chat, then all depart. “They’re still cleaning,” one tells her compatriot who is just arriving on the scene. “We’re going to go grab some food.” So I guess we’re going to be a few minutes before boarding.

About 1:40, a gate agent announces boarding will begin in ten minutes. It’s surely not going to take too long to get everyone on this plane this afternoon.

True to her word, boarding is called at about 1:50. Our gate features the new facial recognition boarding system, but of course, everyone has to show their Chinese visa to board anyway. 


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The Flight Report


Flight: DL189
From: Detroit Wayne (DTW)
To: Beijing Capital (PEK)
Date: 1/26/2020
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Registration: N507DN
Seat: 5A
ATD (STD): ??? (14:22)
ATA ( STA): ??? (17:00+1)

At the door, I’m greeted by Rosemarie, our in-charge purser, who welcomes me as “one of the brave ones,” informing me there are a total of seven customers in Delta One this afternoon. Yikes.

For this flight, I’m seated in 5A, one of the “closer-to-the-window” window seats in the staggered Delta One Suites cabin.


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An over-the-shoulder look at seat 5A 


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Here’s the view across the aisle — 5B would remain unoccupied, except for when one of the pilots would occasionally stand in it while talking to an off-duty pilot seated in the other side of the middle pair.


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A look forward from my seat as boarding begins. 


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The seat is equipped with the Delta One standard bedding — two pillows in one bag, and a duvet in the other.


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Along the back wall between the seat and the aisle, there’s a storage cubby with a holder for a water bottle and a hook for hanging headphones.


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Power and USB ports, and the headphone jack are located immediately below the storage space.


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A look at the side “table” between the seat and the aisle, which includes another little raised area to offer a bit more space to put your things.


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Seat controls. 


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And some additional controls along the side wall of the seat, designed for use while in bed mode.


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The alleyway to the aisle is relatively slim, but not a problem to navigate in my experience.


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The side wall of the suite contains a reading light under this sconce, and a handle for closing the suite door.


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The IFE display is large, and feels even larger because it’s just arm’s length away.


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A look out the window as the short boarding process continues. 


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It’s worth noting that two of the flight attendants I see in Delta One are wearing surgical masks for the flight. Both are Asian women. So there is some concern clearly.

A male flight attendant asks if I need an arrival form — I respond that I’m connecting on to Hong Kong, but have a domestic segment first. So I’m not sure. He gives me one to be sure. I always appreciate when there are distributed at the beginning of the flight so they can be prepared and put away long before arrival. 


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I tap my monitor, and to my surprise, the IFE is active. I’m able to take a look through what’s available to watch on this flight. 


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There are a lot of options available, although not many films that I’m exactly aching to see.


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As I’m perusing the IFE system, a flight attendant stops by offers headphones and an amenity kit. Both are new since last I flew Delta One. Slippers are also offered.


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The amenity kit deconstructed. It’s about the same as always, although there’s a clear shift away from single-use plastics, which is nice. And I love that the socks and the pen are in the new Delta purple share. The pouch is attractive, and looks like something I should be able to find use for. 


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A bottle of water is also offered, and stowed in its holder. 


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The slippers are the same as always with Delta. They may have done away with pajamas on their Chinese routes, but at least slippers are still on offer. 


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I see Delta has moved away from their heavily-hyped and disappointing LSTN headphones, which looked great, but neither sounded good nor did much to reduce ambient noise. These new ones are comfortable, sound good, and appear to do a bit more to block out noise, although still not on the par of quality noise-cancellers.


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Pre-departure beverages of orange juice or sparkling wine are offered, and I go with the latter. I’m not sure if this is the same champagne as in-flight, but I fid it quite enjoyable.


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Ultimately, I decide to watch the Downton Abbey movie. Having watched the whole series, I guess I should catch the film. I can’t say as I really enjoy it.


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Finally, the menu is offered. Let’s take a look at what we have to eat and drink.



It’s about the quickest boarding of a North American widebody I’ve ever experienced. The captain indicates that after we push back, we’ll head over to de-icing to “take a look,” and then we should be on our way. “You should be able to spread out back there and be comfortable,” he says in reference to the light load on today’s flight.

The safety video rolls as we push back right on time at 2:22, leaving behind our twin at the gate next door.


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We sit there for about ten minutes, and then the captain informs us that “one of the engines is not responding as it should,” and that we’re going to have to go back to the gate. 


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We wait a few minutes for ground crew to return, and by about 2:45, we’re headed back to the gate.

The captain lets us know that maintenance is on its way, and that he doesn’t anticipate we’ll have a significant delay, but he’s waiting for their report. We won’t be offloaded, but we’re free to roam the cabin as we see fit.

As soon as the door is opened, four maintenance people stream aboard and head for the flight deck.

I decide this would be a good time to check out the lav, since it’s clearly going to be a minute or two. There are two lavs at the front of the Delta One cabin, one on either side. There’s nothing particularly special about them — other than there’s only a handful of us in the cabin today, so there shouldn’t be too much waiting for a lav. 


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While I’m up, I take a look aftwards to see if it really is that empty in the back. Oh yes, it certainly is. We may not have been offloaded, but we sure didn’t have many on-loaded.


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Just after Three o’clock, the captain updates us that they’re running a couple of tests, and he’s hoping we’ll be ready to go.

But about twenty minutes later, he announces that the reset they tried hadn’t worked, and that we’re going to take a different A350 to Beijing today — the one pictured in my pushback picture one gate over at A40.

Because that plane may not have been full serviced, the flight attendants to take everything — headphones, menus, slippers, amenity kits, even pillows and bedding — over to the new plane. So I pack up as best I can, and head off-board.


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I pack up as best I can, and head back into the terminal. Meal vouchers are offered as a result of the delay, but I decline. I’m hungry, but I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we get going again.

Meet the new plane. Same as the old plane. (But one gate over.)


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I migrate over to Gate 40, where it appears we’re going to be delayed by about 2.5 hours all told as a result of this — assuming there’s no further delay.  


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If this holds true, I should still have about 2.5 hours to connect to my China Eastern ticket in Beijing. So I’m optimistic I’ll make it, assuming there’s no more calamity. Flightradar24, meanwhile, is a lot less optimistic. 


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It’s showing us likely to arrive at 9:20 pm, which would likely be too late to make my flight, and would probably result in me having to figure out a new strategy to get to Hong Kong, since my SkyMiles ticket will be pretty much useless if I misconnect, thanks to Delta’s silly no changes within 72 hours rule.

I’m hoping this is a worst case scenario. There’s not much I can do now except for roll with the punches. And take a quick look at Google Flights to come up with my “Plan B” in case things go further sideways.

Travel is always interesting, no?

Flightradar24 does note that we’ve been changed from flying N507DN to N505DN.

About 4:00, our crew shows back up and starts making their way aboard our new A350, which hopefully will respond better than our previous plane.

I try to figure out if there’s anything Delta can do should I misconnect — a long story short: They cannot.

I manage to check in online for my PEK-SHA flight on China Eastern, and get the idea to head to the lounge to print out my boarding pass, which will hopefully streamline things upon my arrival into PEK.

But when I approach the gate agent to ask if we’ll be boarding shortly, or if I can run for the lounge, I get some news that is very bad for my trip — because of the delay, our crew is going to time out.

A few minutes later, the announcement makes it official. A new crew is on the way, but our new departure time is 6:40 pm, which means I’m pretty much guaranteed to misconnect in Beijing.

Time to figure out plan B, I guess, which will be a Tuesday morning flight to Hong Kong.

Boarding time isn’t until 6:00 pm, so back to the lounge I go to get some eats and figure out my plan. 


Delta Sky Club Part Two or: Who wants some rolling delays?


By the time I’m back up in the lounge, the app has updated to show me that I’m going to be arriving into Beijing after my PEK-SHA flight departs. So it’s officially time to move on to Plan B.


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The first order of business, though, is to get some food. I’m starving at this point. And unfortunately, the evening internationals rush hour is on, so it’s hard even to find a seat in the lounge. But I eventually do, and then grab myself more of the same as before, and sit down to re-strategize my way to Hong Kong.


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Unfortunately, there are no options on either SkyMiles or Aeroplan for days, so it’s time to book the cheapest economy fare possible — a Tuesday morning departure on Hong Kong Airlines. Actually, I end up booking a ticket that’s $20 more than rock-bottom because it includes one free schedule change. You know, just in case things go further pear-shaped.

Lesson learned — even with a fairly long layover, there is a risk inherent in separate tickets.

It’s amazing how the lounge ebbs and flows — when I come up at 4:30 or so, it’s so packed. By 5:30 or so, it’s all but deserted again as a bunch of the European departures have left over the ensuing hour.

Having recovered the trip as best I can, for now, I sit back and reflect on the irony about being so concerned I’d misconnect because of the short layover in DTW, and not the long layover in PEK.

Life’s funny, huh?

I grab another snack, this time trying the chicken and white bean chilli. It’s pretty good.


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I’m heading downstairs for boading at 6:00 when my Delta app shares another update with me.


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Oh. Well, this is getting ridiculous, isn’t it? Back upstairs I go to kill three more hours. Maybe I don’t need a hotel room in Beijing after all?  

I kill a couple of hours puttering on the Internet, and soon enough, it's approaching 8:00, around which time we should probably start boarding. 


Boarding Time part 2: Boardinger


I head back downstairs about ten minutes to eight. Our crew may be changing, but the same gate agent is still on the scene. Getting this flight out has become an all-day job for her.


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A few minutes later, I watch as a captain shows up, chats with the gate agent, and goes aboard. That bodes well. I mean, assuming the plane doesn’t flunk out after we’re all boarded. But what’s the chance of that happening twice in a row, right?

Over the next few minutes, more crew shows up at the gate and make their way on-board. I'm starting to feel like we might have a flight. 

But then 8:15 comes and goes.

And 8:30 comes and goes.

Finally, as I'm near the podium, I hear one of the gate agents telling a passenger that they're still waiting for one more pilot to show up, and once that pilot does, it'll be a quick boarding. But our departure time might slip again.

I know. You're shocked! 

About 8:50, I would think it might be time to make a PA updating the faithful in the gate area as to what's going on, and more people are seeming more agitated by the situation. What we have here is a failure to communicate. 

And sure enough, about 8:55, the Delta app confirms what we all expected. 


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Shortly thereafter, they make the official announcement – we're still awaiting our fourth pilot's arrival. And they offer another meal voucher, which I guess is decent of them.

According to the Delta app, our flight has now been boarding for almost nine hours. That's gotta be some kind of a record. 

More time comes and goes until we're getting close to the new scheduled departure time. About 9:45, we get the announcement I figured was coming a while ago. They can't find an additional pilot right now, the flight has been cancelled, and will be rebooked as a new segment tomorrow, with a 10 am departure. Come on up to the podium and get yourself a hotel voucher.

I get a meal voucher and a hotel voucher – the Delta by Marriott, which means a  shuttle rode. I was hoping to get into the attached hotel. Oh well. They're unable to issue a boarding pass for the new segment as of yet. 

But when I come back half an hour later after grabbing a quick bite to return my blanket, pillows and headphones, which I had stowed in my luggage and promptly forgotten until I went to get my jacket, they are able to issue a boarding pass for tomorrow's flight, DL9927.

And by the time I get to my hotel, my reservation is updated to reflect my new reality. 


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So we'll try this again tomorrow. 


A new day, a new start, a Better result?


I got some sleep at the Delta – which, I recall when I get there, is the same hotel I ended up overnighting at when my DTW-YYZ flight was cancelled after I flew PEK-DTW last year. Talk about coming full circle!

Refreshed and optimism restored, I take a hotel shuttle back to DTW around 7:40am, and arrive at the McNamara Terminal about 10 minutes later. 


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I've already got my boarding pass, so there's no need to check-in here. I head straight over to the PreChek security check.


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It's surprisingly empty, and I'm through security and airside in about two minutes. Positive momentum!


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Straight ahead of me at Gate 40 is (I presume) the same A350 that would have taken me over to Beijing yesterday, had we managed to find a whole crew. 


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Behind me, perhaps the defining picture of the McNamara Terminal – the red monorail tram pulls into a station above the dancing fountain at the centre of the terminal. 


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Back to the Skyclub


I head back to the SkyClub to kill the hour or so before boarding, and to get a bit of breakfast.


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I'll spare the full review, since I've already discussed the lounge quite a bit in this report.

For breakfast, I grab some scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, and chicken sausage that has an unexpected cinnamon flavour to it, I think. All decently good.


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Checking in with the Delta app, I see we've lost a few more passengers. This isn't a surprise, since anyone with connections would probably be rebooked through PVG or ICN to take advantage of Delta's partnerships with MU and KE. We're down to less than 10 percent load on this plane if this information holds up.


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About ten minutes to nine, I decide to head over to the gate and see what's going on there. Fingers crossed!

Let's make this change official, shall we? 


The rundown, part two


Routing

  • DL4489 - Domestic First - Toronto → Detroit - Bombardier CRJ900 Past
  • DL9927 - Business - Detroit → Beijing Capital - Airbus A350-900 You are here
  • HX313 - Economy - Beijing Capital → Hong Kong - Airbus A330-200 Coming soon
  • CX806 - First - Hong Kong → Chicago - Boeing 777-300ER Coming soon
  • DL2828 - Comfort Plus - Chicago → Detroit - Boeing 717-200 Coming soon
  • DL6217 - Domestic First - Detroit → Toronto - Bombardier CRJ-900 Coming soon

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Boarding time part 3: Boardingest


The information screens at the gate confirm we’re down a few passengers.  


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About twenty past nine, they let us know that we’ll start boarding in about ten minutes.

And true to the gate agent’s word, boarding is called at about 9:30, and we’re going to give this a second try.

Boarding is once again by facial recognition, and by the same pair of gate agents who were working the flight last night.


The Flight Report 2: This time with 100% more flying!


Flight: DL9927
From: Detroit Wayne (DTW)
To: Beijing Capital (PEK)
Date: 1/27/2020
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Registration: N505DN
Seat: 5A
ATD (STD): 10:22 (10:00)
ATA ( STA): 12:36+1 (12:38+1)

At the gate, I’m greeted by Eileen, who’s serving as in-charge for this flight. She shows me to seat 5A, the same seat I was in during yesterday’s attempts to get out of Detroit. I’ve already explored the seat pretty thoroughly, so we’ll not tread over that ground again.


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I chat a bit with Eileen, who says she was “promoted” — she was working economy on yesterday’s flight, and now she’s up front. She says in general, it’s better working up front, because while there are more moving pieces, there are a lot fewer people, and the people who are there tend to be happier about their situation. Makes sense to me, I guess.

Unlike yesterday’s flight, where slippers, amenity kit, water bottle and headphones were handed out post-boarding, they’re all at the seat when I show up today. 


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Pre-departure beverages are offered by the Asian male flight attendant who was working yesterday’s flight. He’s the only holdover I recognize from the Delta One cabin from yesterday, although it’s possible others were like Eileen and working economy yesterday so I didn’t see them.


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The sparkling wine is lovely. I prefer it to what I recall Delta serving in D1.

One detail I forgot to mention in yesterday’s summary of the seat — there’s a wired remote ad a mirror under the armrest.


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We get into the Delta purple mood lighting while the brief boarding continues. 


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We push back about five minutes behind schedule, and the safety video plays. 


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By the time it’s over. We’re moving forward! We’ve officially gotten further than we did yesterday.


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The captain takes a moment to add his apologies for yesterday’s debacle, and provides details of the flight, taking extra time to mention that there are two complete flight crews on this flight, so please don’t be alarmed if you see pilots wandering around the cabin.

Or, y’know, snoozing in Delta One. I take it the seats here are more comfortable than the crew quarters above.

Once we’re moving it’s only a few minutes of taxiing until we’re lining up for the runway. Judging by traffic and by the number of planes at the McNamara Terminal, I’m guessing this isn’t exactly rush hour for DTW. 


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About 10:23, we start our roll, and to the surprise of the pessimist in me, we don’t have to reject takeoff.



We are outta here! Beijing, here we come.

As we climb out, it seems the powers that be are blessing our aircraft. I put my seat back, and enjoy the fact that I’m finally underway.


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About 20 minutes after takeoff, service begins with a hot towel, distributed by a younger female flight attendant.  


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We chat a little bit, and she seems very excited to be on this flight. She reports that some of the crew from yesterday were available for today’s flights, and some were not, so she jumped on the opportunity to take this flight. “Usually, you can’t get on an Asia flight unless you’ve been here for like 40 years,” she says. I’m not sure if this is the first flight to Asia she’s worked, but it’s still clearly an exciting novelty to her, which is energizing.

Drink service is offered about a half-hour after takeoff. I start off with a glass of champagne and some sparkling water, accompanied by very warm mixed nuts. 


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The tray of starters is offered about ten minutes later — the whole meal service up until dessert is offered by the Asian male flight attendant. 


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The shrimp starter is quite enjoyable, although I don’t pick up a whole lot of harissa flavour. But with a liberal squeeze of lime juice, it’s very tasty. 


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The salad is a bit small, but quite enjoyable — a bit of an upgrade from the usual Domestic First Caesar salad.


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Porcini mushroom soup is quite good also, although could be a touch hotter.


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The bread basket is also offered along with the starters, and I take a sourdough bread and a pretzel bread. Both are quite good. 


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To this point in the flight, I’ve been finishing up the Downton Abbey movie from yesterday. When it ends, I have to find something else. This one speaks to me for some reason, ad I find it enjoyable enough.


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As soon as I’m done my starters, plates are cleared and the main is presented. I’m instantly glad I chose this dish. It is excellent. The fish is perfectly done, and very tasty, and the salsa really adds some life to the dish. Simple, but highly recommended.


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I accompany it with a glass of the Pinot Noir from the wine list, which isn’t quite as much of a hit.


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When I’m done my main course, Eileen clears it up, and offers me dessert. I ask to have the cheese course. As always, I find the Delta One cheese plate quite wonderful.


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Rounding out lunch, I have a sundae with everything on it. As always, it’s good.


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Once the meal service is done, the lights are dimmed. With just a handful of us in Delta One, it’s very quiet up here.


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So I settle in, and watch the rest of the movie.

 When it’s over, I put the bed down fully, and and put my favourite go-to-sleep podcast on. 


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The new Delta headphones sound good, but when their noise-cancellation goes head-to-head with my Bose, it’s not contest.

A look into the footwell with the seat in bed mode. It looks pretty constricted, but I don’t have any problems with it. 


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Here’s how the suite looks with the door… uhhh… closed. It seems to vary by individual seat exactly how “closed” each door gets. 


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Before settling in for some sleep, I decide to check the moving map. 


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So apparently we’ve just been hovering right over Detroit this whole time. That’s a pretty cruel trick you’re pulling, Delta.

So I shan’t be keeping track of our progress this way. I just head to sleep, and manage to get a couple of hours of decent sleep. I find the Suite bed quite comfortable as long as I’m on my back, and a little bit less comfortable when I’m on my side — a bit hard for that.

When Eileen notices I’m awake from my nap, she offers me the mid-flight snack, and I gratefully accept. It’s quickly delivered, and accompanied by a glass of sparkling water and a Woodford on the rocks.


photo img_6694

It’s a really enjoyable snack — the sandwich is delightfully crispy and cheesy, and the potato salad is pretty good too.

After my snack, I chill for a bit listening to podcasts. At one point I take a look out the window, and happen to capture a sunset as we fly over…. uhhh…. clouds. Have I mentioned I miss the moving map?


photo img_6693

I sleep on and off for about another hour and a half, and when I wake up, decide it’s time for another movie. This seems like decent plane movie fare, and it does the job of keeping me entertained.


photo img_6695

When the younger female flight attendant (I would later find out her name is Eva) notices I’m up, she pops by with the snack basket, which has chips, nuts, chocolate — a pretty standard Delta snack basket. I take some things to enjoy during my movie, and request a Coke Zero to go along with it.


photo img_6696

Up next, I keep with the post-apocalyptic theme. Not a bad flick, but probably nothing I would ever watch except on a plane.


photo img_6697

Without the moving map, I have no idea where we are. But I’m guessing it’s somewhere north. Quite a beautiful rugged scene outside my window.


photo img_6698

With the movie over, I decide to throw on some podcasts for the remained of the flight. Shortly thereafter, Eva approaches with a menu, so I’m guessing we’re down to about 90 minutes left in this flight. I end up choosing the ziti pasta because they didn’t stock the noodle soup I was thinking of having. This seems to have been a catering issue for this irregular flight, because the Chinese menu for the first meal wasn’t loaded either. I’m guessing the plane just got the “every route” dishes.  

Before the meal, it's time for another hot towel.


photo img_6699

 It’s brought out quickly enough, and is pretty good, although would benefit from some more broth, or sauce, or something to add a bit more flavour. At least I feel like I got my veggies in, and the tomatoes and boccoccini were both really enjoyable.


photo img_6700

When I’m done, I chat with Eva a little bit — she’s just on a 24-hour layover, so nothing too exciting. Although she says she gave up a five-day trip to Shanghai that she would have been on at this point in time. She had big plans to catch a flight up to Beijing, see the Great Wall, do it up big. But it became kinda pointless when China extended the Lunar New Year holidays and shut down a bunch of attractions, including the Great Wall, for the time being.

A little before noon, we start our descent into Beijing. It’s looking like we’re going to be arriving right on time. Well, if you forget about that whole cancelled flight yesterday thing, that is.

Eileen, who had been resting for the latter part of the flight in one of the first row of Delta One seats, makes her way through the cabin to offer her thanks, and a pre-arrival chocolate.


photo img_6702

Descent is smooth, although it looks like it’s going to be another foggy/smoggy day in Beijing.


photo img_6703

Soon, Terminal 3 is in sight, and we touch down at Beijing Capital. 



Because we landed on that side of the airport, it’s a twenty-minute taxi over to Terminal 2, where our flight comes to an end. 


photo img_6708

At least I shouldn’t misconnect again this time! 


Arrival into PEK


Immediately upon landing at Beijing, all of the flight attendants put o face masks. And all but one of the passengers I see (other than myself) do too.

Terminal 2 is never exactly a bustling hive of humanity compared to Terminal 3, but it seems really quiet in the hangover of Lunar New Year and the fears around the coronavirus.


photo img_6709

Along with the usual fingerprint collection before customs, there’s a form offered that has to be filled out about health, possible exposure to the coroavirus, and travel to or from Wuhan in the last two weeks. It certainly seems China — both government and citizens — are taking this thing very seriously. Every passenger’s temperature is scanned as well.

Even with the extra steps, I’m through and into the nearly-deserted arrivals hall at Terminal 2 in about 15 minutes.


photo img_6710

From here, I step outside to find the airport shuttle for the Cordis Hotel waiting. I hop aboard and head over to the hotel to get a few hours of rest before I have to head back to make my way to Hong Kong.

Thanks for joining me for this flight-report, and I hope to see you in the next installment.

Cheers! 

See more

Verdict

Delta Air Lines

8.0/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Meal/catering7.5

Detroit - DTW

7.4/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Beijing - PEK

7.2/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services6.5
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

Rating a flight like this is difficult. The seat is very good, the crew and service were great, catering was mostly great, and the IFE system was just fine. So in each of the categories measured, this flight is fine.

But it seems like there should be marks deducted for the flight being nearly 24 hours late, and causing me to scramble to recover the trip.

Still, I’ll remember this flight — aside from the stress of the first attempt to get out — fondly.

Related

16 Comments

  • Comment 539764 by
    YGeorgeW GOLD 183 Comments

    Wow, what an experience! This is a brutal way to start the long-haul portion of your trip to China. More than a dozen years ago I had a very similar experience with Delta, except the rolling delays and lack of communications persisted well into the middle of the night (something like 2-3am) before Delta cancelled the flight. Then they refused to give any compensation or hotel vouchers because it was "too close" to the morning. My family and I ended up getting a $10 breakfast voucher per person, an amenity kit, and a Delta t-shirt as "compensation." We ended up sleeping by the gate area at ATL. That whole experience, especially the attitude of the agents, led me to refuse to fly Delta for years. Glad to see they handled it better this time in terms of accommodations.

    Otherwise, this sounds like a very pleasant flight - much like the last PEK-DTW flight you took in Delta One. How strange was it to be on such an empty plane?

    Looking forward to the next segment.

    • Comment 539847 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hey George! Thanks for popping by and offering your thoughts.

      Wow, what an experience!

      Yeah, it's a memorable one, alright.

      Then they refused to give any compensation or hotel vouchers because it was "too close" to the morning.

      Wow! That's garbage. I feel like DL's customer service has improved greatly since then... but who knows... I guess a bad gate agent is still possible, although I've been pretty blessed over the last few years.

      That whole experience, especially the attitude of the agents, led me to refuse to fly Delta for years.

      Justifiably so!

      How strange was it to be on such an empty plane?

      Definitely strange. Although upfront it just felt like a light load. But then you look back and it's pretty much tumbleweeds.

      I wonder why they didn't cancel altogether and just throw us all on the next day's DL189? Perhaps because there's a lot more demand for China-USA than USA-China these days? Or maybe this one particular day was an anomaly for the light load, owing to being (scheduled for) the day after CNY and perhaps other factors?

      I would also think, given circumstances, they could have been proacted, and upgraded everyone in the back to at least Premium Select, if not more. They could have put everyone in the plane in J and still had a few seats available for crew rest. I mean, sure... give those on a Y ticket Y service, but it wouldn't cost anything to let everyone have a bit more space as a way of saying "Sorry about the way this went down." And I'm no expert, but I don't think 20-odd bodies would make a lick of difference in terms of weight and balance on a 359.

  • Comment 539834 by
    henrythehippo 7 Comments

    Wild, surprised these flights are still going out. I'm sure the FA's arent exactly happy to be on the route. Surreal experience, thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 539848 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi Henry. Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts.

      surprised these flights are still going out.

      Agreed. I'm speculating that there's more demand ex-PEK to the USA right now than to PEK, so it makes sense for them to still run the flight to get people out of China.

      Surreal experience,

      That it was. Especially since I started off by joking that maybe we'd have a "mechanical" and the flight would be cancelled. Karmic payback for my sarcasm?

      Cheers!

  • Comment 539896 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5332 Comments

    O....M....G....What a surreal experience. You literally just took this flight 2 days ago....in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, wow. An almost totally empty plane...I don't think I've seen that in years, but under the circumstances I get it. It sucks that on top of everything the flight got delayed until the next day...kind of ironic. Good thing you had a plan B. Losing that much time on a short trip isn't ideal. But in the end it seems it was a pleasant flight...and you certainly had an amazing pax to crew ratio!! Wow, this'll be a story for the grandkids one day.

    So crazy to see PEK so empty...it's like a ghost town! Hope you're keeping safe with a mask and don't touch anything.

    Wow, just wow

    • Comment 540289 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts.

      Oddly, I felt very safe in China. Maybe because literally everyone else was wearing a facial mask. It was a memorable flight, but I hope at least one aspect of that memorableness dissipates over time -- I hope I'm not remembering it as surviving a brush with the great coronavirus of 2020. I hope that's just a footnote.

      A bit of a cautionary tale of the dangers of separate tickets -- but I'm glad I was able to pull it off.

      Cheers!

  • Comment 539903 by
    757Fan 594 Comments

    Wow, I have never seen a flight so empty before. 276 open seats? Holy cow. I'm surprised they didn't just move all Main Cabin to Premium Select and move some Premium Select to Delta One. Incredible!

    Sorry to hear about the hassle getting to Beijing and the long delay and never ending start to your trip. Looking forward to the rest of your journey!

    • Comment 540291 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi 757, thanks for stopping by!

      I'm surprised they didn't just move all Main Cabin to Premium Select and move some Premium Select to Delta One.

      Yeah, I was surprised they didn't do some of that as well, as a goodwill gesture. Don't necessarily change up the service, but give people some more comfort after a rather uncomfortable day before.

      Sorry to hear about the hassle getting to Beijing and the long delay and never ending start to your trip.

      Yeah, not a strong start to be sure. But one that led to some good stories. So there's always that.

      Cheers!

  • Comment 539940 by
    hybridace101 17 Comments

    Interesting report. Just one question: why not use the 'fourth' pilot from the original flight? Shouldn't the original flight have one anyway?

    • Comment 540294 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi Hybrid. Thanks for stopping by!

      Just one question: why not use the 'fourth' pilot from the original flight? Shouldn't the original flight have one anyway?

      The story was told was that after the first A350 went mechanical, the crew would time out before we could get a replacement bird to PEK. I'm not sure how that works when you're carrying two complete flight deck crews so that everyone can get a good amount of rest on the flight. But I don't know the nuance of the rules.

      So with that, the original crew was out. Then it became an issue of finding two full flight deck crews for an A350 on short notice. And they came up short

      Cheers!

  • Comment 541906 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Greetings Hometoyyz and thank you for sharing this most unique flight. I'm hoping the cancellation was not a harbinger of doom as you fly into the region.

    But not before noting that it appears that the long-the-tooth lounge is getting a well-deserved facelift in the near future. That’s good news. This lounge definitely doesn’t share the modern look of most of the SkyClubs in the system.

    -I wonder how they'll handle the disruption. It's such a huge club serving many guests daily. Perhaps just cordon off portions of the lounge at a time? Either way it's long overdue. I understand why the hub captives are last to get the upgrades, but I wonder if many appreciate the message it sends.
    Ultimately, I decide to watch the Downton Abbey movie. Having watched the whole series, I guess I should catch the film. I can’t say as I really enjoy it.

    -I fell asleep. I enjoyed the television series though.
    Actually, I end up booking a ticket that’s $20 more than rock-bottom because it includes one free schedule change. You know, just in case things go further pear-shaped.

    -You seem better at service recovery than Delta.
    How do you assess Delta's handling of the delay and eventual cancellation? I speculate that Delta delays too long for what is inevitably a cancellation. As you mention what is the likelihood of getting two A350 flight deck crews on short notice? Perhaps they believed in good faith that the flight would get dispatched.
    At the gate, I’m greeted by Eileen, who’s serving as in-charge for this flight. She shows me to seat 5A, the same seat I was in during yesterday’s attempts to get out of Detroit.

    -Nice touch with the escort to the seat. That's generally an F service. I guess when the staffing ratio is 1:2 you can do a little extra... ;)
    The salad is a bit small, but quite enjoyable — a bit of an upgrade from the usual Domestic First Caesar salad.

    -Speaking of Caesar, you've already spent a lot of time in the airport without enjoying one!
    The Delta One meal looks good and is identical to the one I enjoyed on PDX-NRT on 1/30. I had croutons on the porcini soup and opted for the braised short rib. Now I wish I had gone with the fish as the beef wasn’t that great.
    It’s a really enjoyable snack — the sandwich is delightfully crispy and cheesy, and the potato salad is pretty good too.

    -Yummy looking sando. Impressive they could preserve the texture.
    This seems like decent plane movie fare, and it does the job of keeping me entertained.

    -The irony of heading into the coronavirus outbreak on an all but empty plane and this movie is not lost on me!
    Although she says she gave up a five-day trip to Shanghai that she would have been on at this point in time.

    -DTW-PVG isn’t daily in the winter hence the long layover once a week. Well they’re not happing at all for the winter…or spring…

    To be continued...

    • Comment 541931 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi SCN! Thanks for popping by and offering your thoughts.

      -I wonder how they'll handle the disruption. It's such a huge club serving many guests daily. Perhaps just cordon off portions of the lounge at a time?

      The current "main" A lounge is A38. If they're saying the new lounge is A41, that would suggest across the hall from this lounge -- a space that I believe was an LH lounge in years past? So it should be a new space. Although in looking this up, I notice that there doesn't appear to be a gate A41. It jumps from A35 "behind" the current main SkyClub to A43 on the other side of the main entrance hallway (and presumed location of the new club. So perhaps, by calling it "close gate A41," Delta is trolling us.

      I fell asleep. I enjoyed the television series, though.

      I find it hard to believe you fell asleep during that action-packed, twist-a-minute adventure! Seriously though, the movie felt like "I think people who watched the show would like to see the characters one more time." And that was about the extent of the idea development.

      How do you assess Delta's handling of the delay and eventual cancellation? I speculate that Delta delays too long for what is inevitably a cancellation. As you mention what is the likelihood of getting two A350 flight deck crews on short notice? Perhaps they believed in good faith that the flight would get dispatched.

      Ehhhhh.... middling marks, I'd say? I know they want not to cancel, but I think they probably could have pulled the plug a couple of hours earlier than they did. The gate agents did a good job throughout in answering all of the questions people had for them -- probably a bit easier since there were only three dozen of us -- and they communicated regularly, but didn't have much to say. Others seemed to have a less kind evaluation that I do. I guess I'm in the "any landing you can walk away from...." camp.

      Some marks off though for the in hindsight misguided effort to get us all to take our pillows and blankets and stuff with us because they presumed we'd just hop on the new plane next door and get going. The GAs seem confused about why that was done, but perhaps it was an optimistic group of FAs hoping we'd just flip over to the new plane and get out of there before crew timeout became an issue?

      Nice touch with the escort to the seat. That's generally an F service. I guess when the staffing ratio is 1:2 you can do a little extra.

      Yeah, she didn't have a lot else to do, I suppose. :-) But seriously -- she was a great FA and a pleasure to talk to. I don't know if she'd have had enough time to do that for a full house, though.

      Speaking of Caesar, you've already spent a lot of time in the airport without enjoying one!

      Can we do something about the disturbing lack of Clamato in your country, please? It seems like airlines I fly either cater tequila (DL) or Clamato (AC), but not both. It's a real problem for me!

      To be continued.

  • Comment 541907 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    ...continued.

    Descent is smooth, although it looks like it’s going to be another foggy/smoggy day in Beijing.

    -I reckon you’re one of the last Delta landings at PEK. When the service resumes it will be to PKX.

    Thanks again for sharing this flight that occurred under most interesting circumstances. Now that the ship is righted I’m looking forward to the great indulgences of CX first and HKG lounge bliss! Happy flying.

    • Comment 541932 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      The Delta One meal looks good and is identical to the one I enjoyed on PDX-NRT on 1/30. I had croutons on the porcini soup and opted for the braised short rib. Now I wish I had gone with the fish as the beef wasn’t that great.

      There seems to be a lot of "similarities" -- I noticed on looking over old flight reports that the shrimp appetizer is the same as I had on a flight last year. But given DL's penchant for keeping the same menu items, glad to have the intel on the short rib.

      Yummy looking sando. Impressive they could preserve the texture.

      Yeah, I was seriously impressed with the way it came out. Nothing fancy at all, but so good. And very surprising that the bread turned out uniformly crispy without being either soggy or burned.

      The irony of heading into the coronavirus outbreak on an all but empty plane and this movie is not lost on me!

      Oh man... it was apparently lost on me. It didn't even occur to me that I was watching a pre-arrival training film.

      DTW-PVG isn’t daily in the winter hence the long layover once a week.

      Ahhhh... see? I did not know that. I though PVG retained daily service, but I guess since they've still got LAX, SEA (and ATL?) service to Shanghai, in the slower wintertime it could be overkill to be daily from DTW.

      I reckon you’re one of the last Delta landings at PEK. When the service resumes it will be to PKX.

      Yeah, I didn't really think of that either. Of course, at the time we didn't know that Delta would turn off the tap a few short days later. I look forward to seeing what PKX is all about once things either clear up or doom us all.

      Thanks again for sharing your reactions and insights. Cheers!

  • Comment 542449 by
    airchristophe 10 Comments

    Hi Hometoyyz : while it is a huge inconvenience, I enjoyed reading about the irregularity, how Delta handled it, how you handled it. For sure, as avgeeks and travelling in a premium cabin, it softens the blow. Non-aviation related question for you : you mentioned the hotel in DTW is "Delta by Marriott", how is it ? Thanks again !

    • Comment 542511 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      Hi Airchristophe. Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts. And you're right -- having a flatbed at the end of the adventure makes it a bit easier. As for the Delta by Marriott -- I can't offer much of a review as I pretty much got in, plugged in things that needed to be plugged in, and headed off to sleep. But I'd say it's a pretty standard airport hotel that largely exists exactly for reasons like this. The room was clean and none too fancy, the staff were nice, the decorations were attractive. The kind of place you expect to see for less than $100 USD last-minute and feel like you got your money's worth when you have to stay there. Cheers!

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