Hello flight-report community!
Every year for most of the last decade, I’ve found myself looking back fondly on a year of travels as the year comes to a close, and looking forward to a year of adventures ahead, as my business tends to be slow in the early months of the year, making it an ideal time to have adventures.
But as it the case for most of us, 2020 has been quite different than most travel years.
As this year comes to a close, I haven’t stepped foot on an aircraft in more than nine months. And while I have no desire to travel in the current circumstances, I find myself missing it more knowing that I should be looking forward to some early-year excitement.
So I find myself reading flight-reports. Even reading some of my old flight-reports, to try to capture those feelings from years gone by.
And as I read about the adventures I’ve written up here, I think also of some of the adventures that never got posted. Trips that were photographed, and even in some cases written up in part, but never posted for any of a variety of reasons, most of which boil down to “I’m lazy and I never got around to it.”
But in a year where I can’t look back on this year’s trips, or look forward to the next year’s trips, I find myself thinking of some of those.
So I’ve decided to do what I can to bring some of those memories to life.
Some of these reports were fully written at the time — so they’ll more closely resemble my usual style.
And some of them will be little more than pictures with a few lines of text from what I can remember months or even years after the events.
I start this with a series from September 2017, with some reports that I’ve always been disappointed with myself for not posting. Because they include some of the more unique and memorable flights I’ve ever taken. Flights that don’t get a lot of attention, but deserve a closer look.
But, in the words of my children’s favourite author, “Before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.”
Which brings us to an innocent-enough flight-report of a flight from Detroit to London on Delta.
This is one of those “was fully written up at the time” reports, so I don’t have too much to try to remember.
I hope you enjoy. And may 2021 be a better year — for travel, and by any other metric we may choose to apply — than 2020 was.
Hello, and welcome to another flight-report series with your humble flight-reporter. This time, we’re covering a quick trip across the Atlantic from Toronto to London with Delta.
This trip was booked to position for a grander adventure — one which I’ll disclose in due time, but for now, let’s focus on this one.
I’m not super-excited about the Delta 767 business class product, but in this case, I found a fairly cheap economy fare that was instantly upgradable with Global Upgrade Certificates about three months out, so I’ll take it.
It will also add to the collection, having already covered Delta long-haul business class product on the 747-400, A330-200, and 777-200ER.
I had a tight connection at DTW — just 56 minutes on the ground between my arrival on DL5431 from Toronto, and the departure of DL16 to Heathrow. With a 3:35 departure scheduled, I was a bit concerned when I showed up a few minutes before 3:00 at the gate and there was no plane there, but it showed up soon enough, and they were able to turn it pretty quickly.
We started boarding just about 3:20, and were pretty quick to load up. But then things slowed down — apparently, they brought over a truck to provide power to start the engines of our CRJ-900 (I guess the plane has no functioning APU, as air conditioning was not working on the ground), but it “didn’t provide enough power,” so we had to wait a few minutes for a better boost, I guess.
Once we got going, there was little to note. A Bloody Mary was served, albeit in a plastic cup in F, and the snack basket was just the “simple” nuts/pretzels/cookies/granola offering.
We pulled into Detrot about five minutes before five pm, and it was a short taxi, although we pulled into A61, and were scheduled to depart for London from A24, meaning a fairly long walk between flights.
Boarding for DL16 was posted for 5:00, and sure enough, as we were waiting to get off the CRJ, the Delta app let it be known that boarding was beginning for London. So yeah… no lounge review in DTW on this particular flight-report.
I power-walked the terminal, and showed up at gate A24 just as they were calling Zone One to board — so a couple of “zones” late to when I could have boarded.
So I joined the queue, and after a couple of apparently late-arriving wheelchair pax, I scan the boarding pass on my phone, and away we go.
From: Detroit Wayne (DTW)
To: London Heathrow
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
ATD (STD): 18:06 (17:50)
ATA (STA): 06:06+1 (06:25+1)
It’s not a long walk to my seat, the starboard window in the first row, 1D. This is a staggered business class product with older Thompson seats. By no means state of the art, but at least it’s lay-flat and all-aisle-access, and in the odd-numbered rows, the staggered nature of the seats means you’ve got some space between yourself and the aisle.
The seat itself is equipped with the standard Delta kit — a very nice pillow, and a nice big Delta Heavenly Bedding-branded duvet. This is my first time flying trans-Atlantic with Delta — I’m surprised to see that at least on this route, no smaller lumbar-support pillow is offered. Too bad. I really like that little pillow.Legroom shot.
A look into the footwell. If you’re going to fly Business on a Delta 767, I strongly suggest row 1 — because the footwell goes into the bulkhead, the footwell is decidedly larger than in other rows, which have to accommodate for the IFE display in front of you.
The bulkhead and front wall of the seat includes the safety brochure, magazine, etc., and the IFE screen — which is quite small. The cabin definitely shows its age in that regard. As usual, it’s ads on a loop during boarding. One thing I definitely miss about Air Canada — gate-to-gate movie-watching.
The only storage worth mentioning is this tabletop, which in the case of row one window seats is on the aisle-side. It comes equipped with the amenity kit, Delta’s new LSTN headphones, and a large bottle of Dasani. No slippers on TATL flights, I guess?
Seat controls are in the front of the tabletop — pretty basic, and with the trim, another aspect where this cabin is showing its age a bit.
In the back wall over the tabletop is the reading light, USB and Ethernet ports, two-prong headphone jacks, and a power port.
The old-school wired IFE remote is located in a panel behind the flip-out table in the panel next to me. To my detriment, I only remembered this was here later in the flight, after once again playing the “where the heck is the personal light switch?” game on a Delta 767.
Pre-departure beverages were offered, and I took them up on a champagne — okay, so it’s actually sparkling wine, but who’s keeping score, right? It’s served too warm, but it’s still pretty good.
A look out my window as they finish loading the hold, and it’s starting to rain a bit in Detroit.
I notice they’re advertising the new Delta One Suites on the A350 pretty heavily int he rotation — but no mention of the “Suites Tax” extra fee they’re charging for A350 business class seats.
The purser, Nancy, introduces herself and welcomes me aboard as she makes her rounds, offering the menu as she goes. She seems quite nice. Let’s dive into the menu, shall we?
The first thing I notice is that there’s a lot of similarities between this menu and the menu on my DTW-NRT flight last fall — the lamb dish is identical, in fact. And many of the supporting players are the same. The Heidsieck (offered only in-flight, naturally) seems to me to be an upgrade over Delta’s typical J-class champagne. I wonder if this is Euro-standard, or only for certain “premium” markets like London? Not complaining.
Ultimately, although I quite enjoyed the lamb last year, I decide to go with something new. I know pasta is a risky and potentially dumb choice on a plance, but I decide to embrace my love of goat cheese and have the ravioli.
Boarding is done fairly quickly, and we push back a few minutes ahead of schedule. There’s a new safety video, which is very similar to the previous one, but with a new flight attendant, and with a tacked-on reminder of Delta’s partnerships with the likes of Aeromexico, Air France, KLM, Korean, and Virgin Atlantic. I wonder if this is for international flights, or if someone in Delta’s marketing department discovered recently that Delta has some partners. It’s an improvement. Maybe one day, they’ll even discover they’re part of some sort of worldwide alliance of some sort! I have to admit I do bristle at the suggestion that their partnerships mean you can earn “more miles.” Yeah… how’s that qualifying mileage working for you, Korean Air fliers?
After about a ten-minute taxi, we reach the end of the runway, lined up behind our twin — seemingly the only two 767s at a McNamara Terminal full of A330s this evening.
We line up and…
We’re outta here and into the rapidly-darkening sky just a few minutes after 6:00 in the evening. It’s a very overcast afternoon in the Detroit area, and we climb through a number of layers of cloud before finally breaking through, almost as we reach cruise altitude.
With IFE still not engaged, let’s take a look at some of the amentiies, shall we? First, the new hard-side amenity kit — still Tumi branded, but looking a lot more Rimowa than the previous offering. A nice change. Some of the contents are new too — the mouthwash in a tube, the hand sianitizer — and I’m disappointed to see my beloved Tumi mini-pen has been replaced by a more generic Delta mini-pen, which just doesn’t have the same feel to it. I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy.
The new LSTN headphones, which will apparently also be offered in Premium Select, when it launches. Which is nice. But I’ll ignore them there too, in favour of my trusty Bose set. While these headphones are certainly cool-ooking,
After passing 10,000 feet, we get a briefing from the flight deck that suggests we should be a few minutes early into Heathrow tomorrow morning, unless we run into holding patterns or vectoring. Well, that would never happen with an arrival into London, would it?
Once the captain is done his announcement, and Nancy gets done her service summary spiel, the IFE is activated. If the screen is too small, at least it’s responsive.And it’s loaded with new content — fairy impressive given that we’re pretty early in the month.
And it’s loaded with new content — fairy impressive given that we’re pretty early in the month.
As I explore the new offerings, we finally break through the clouds and into the clear as we rapidly fly into the night.
Ultimately I select a completely guilt pleasure movie from the IFE. Not something I’d ever watch in any situation but on a plane, but I’m amused in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. At one point, it almost has me convinced that it’s taking itself seriously — that it doesn’t know that it’s bad — but then it provides a bunch of entirely-unsubtle hints that no, it knows it’s bad, and it’s embracing that badness.
With a few minutes before service begins, I fire up my laptop and connect to iPass, which I scored through the current amazing US Cellular $10 a month unlimited WiFi deal. It works perfectly well throughout the flight, although I have to reconnect every time I close down my notebook. But for $10 a month on every flight I fly? I’ll take it.
Service begins with a hot towel. A very hot towel. An oh-my-god-how-am-I-going-to-hold-onto-this hot towel.
And then it continues with drink cart service. About 30 minutes after takeoff, the tablecloth is set, and I take a sparkling water from the cart, with the champagne — properly chilled this time — following behind it, along with some warmed nuts. Dear Delta — why can’t we get a nice little ramekin of warmed nuts before meals on domestic flights. It’s so nice.
A fairly full tray of starters is offered about 15 minutes later, complete with another glass of Pellegrino, and a glass of the rather nice pinot noir.
The smoked salmon starter is subtle, thick and firm, and quite enjoyable. It seemed very high-quality. The faro underneath (Delta has a fascination with faro!) is also quite good, especially when accompanied by the bright and tangy apple and vinegar dressing.
I can’t say as celeriac soup is my favourite soup, but with the smoky cheese flavour, this was quite nice — and served almost hot enough.
I really enjoyed the simple but somewhat deconstructed Caesar salad, which had a rich Caesar dressing that I used as a dip. I’ve been complaining about my inability to get a Caesar on Delta, but this wasn’t quite what I meant.
And really, what can one say about pretzel bread that isn’t summed up by the fact that it’s pretzel bread? It’s delicious, although no refills are offered.
Pacing is decent, and about shortly after I’m done the starters, they’re cleared, and my entree appears just a couple of minutes later. As I suggested earlier, pasta on a plane isn’t always the best bet, but in this case, I think it paid off. This was a very unique dish, and not full of big, bright flavours, but it had a subtle “autumn” quality to it. The pasta was tender, the sauce was quiet but enjoyable, and I was not disappointed by the goat cheesey-ness of it. All in all, a pleasantly surprisingly good entree. I was prepared to be disappointed, but this exceeded my expectations. And hey, look, more faro!
My dishes are promptly cleared, and about 20 minutes after I was served my main, the dessert cart starts making its way around. I feel like people further back in the cabin were just getting their entrees a minute ago. I start with a very satisfying cheese course — I always enjoy Delta’s cheeses, and I take a glass of the Muscat to go with it. Not bad, but I’m still not super-big on dessert wines, with the exception of the occasional ice wine.
I round out my dinner with the apple butter cake, which is very nice indeed. I think I’ve had it — or something quite similar — on Delta before, though.
After dinner, coffee is offered, and declined, and a flight attendant makes the rounds with another bottle of Dasani, which I accept, because it’s always a good idea to have some extra water.
With my meal complete, I decide to check out the lav immediately in front of my seat. Pretty standard, although bathed in very funky blue mood-lighting until one closes the door.
About 4:30 out of London, the lights are turned off. My movie ends on a decidedly silly note a few minutes later, and having been up since very early this morning, I decide to see if I can get a few hours sleep as we approach Newfoundland and appear to be ready to hit the Atlantic tracks.
I don’t get to sleep right away — it’s still pretty early in the night Eastern time, and one of the downsides of the first-row seat is that some blue light and some clanking sounds from the forward galley filter through, even with my noise-cancellers still in place. But I do manage to drift off eventually, getting some sleep before waking up about 70 minutes out of London.
Literally a minute or so after shooting this picture, as I’m reflecting on how Delta really does wait until the last minute to serve the pre-arrival meal, the light flick on quite suddenly — no subtle “raising the house lights” on these old birds, I guess. Service begins with a hot (but maybe not quite as hot as the first one) towel.
Moments later, my breakfast tray is set — for those (like me) who choose the eggs, it’s just the tray with the fruit. Then a choice of bread is offered — croissant or cinnamon roll. Then finally, the hot dish is brought out a few moments later.
The fruit is not great — some citrus and some rather hard honeydew melon.
The cinnamon roll is very tasty, although the one I got is kinda small and mangled.
The eggs in the main are surprisingly good, and the accompaniments are okay, but nothing outstanding. Given the relatviely short duration of the flight, and my insane propensity to eat all of everything that’s put in front of me, I’m appreciative that it’s a relatively small breakfast. I just wish they’d offered hot sauce or salsa or, well, really…. anything to jazz it up a little bit
With breakfast over, the house lights are plunged down again, and arrival forms are distributed, along with the ever-valuable Fast Track pass.
Outside, it’s starting to get light as we’re just about fifteen minutes out Heathrow. There’s a little bit of banking, but it feels more of the “getting lined up” variety, rather then the “holding pattern” variety.
In the distance, the first hints of the sun above the clouds.
Nancy makes one final round to wish everyone in business class goodbye and thank us for our business.
Soon we’re descending into the clouds — the IFE flight tracker says we’re at about 4,900 feet.
And then out of the clouds, into a rather gray London Tuesday morning.
There’s the first sign of Heathrow.
Yep, definitely LHR.
Touchdown was smooth, and the rollout fairly long. But at least the taxi over to T3 was relatively short.
Not exactly an exciting scene as we pull into our gate. But at least it’s got HSBC advertising on it.
The gate is quickly lined up, and being in the first row, it’s not long before I’m let loose into the mania that is early-morning Heathrow. The hall towards arrivals is a steady stream of passengers at this hour — but at least there’s a moment to finally get a look at my ride across the Atlantic.
The Fast Track comes in handy, but it still takes a good 15 minutes or more to get through it. The border control conversation takes all of two questions “What brings you to the UK?” and “So you’re leaving tonight?” and I’m on the loose. (Whew! I almost gave away what comes next there… but you’ll not catch me that easy!)
I make my way through the baggage hall, and then upstairs to the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge — it’s interesting that Delta makes no reference of this benefit for business class passengers.
nside, I’m quickly greeted. I like their entry system — rather than fumbling for an already-used boarding pass, I’m simply asked my last name, the agent looks me up, confirms me, asks if I’d like a shower, and gives me a briefing on the place. I’m assigned shower 10, it’s table service for breakfast, and the WiFi password is in the menu on each table. Simple, smart, efficient.
The shower stall is about standard side, and designed simply but in very Virgin style.
Amenities in the shower.
And this, of course, is set to a Virgin radio station by default, naturally.
The shower is good and hot, with plenty of water pressure, and the towel is good and fluffy. I feel quite refreshed afterwards, so I’d say mission accomplished.
Aside from the shower, this lounge is, like most arrivals lounge, a rather small room designed for people to grab some breakfast and get going. Amenities are relatively minimal, but there’s a variety of seating styles from a couch to a few variations of heights and configurations on table-and-chair setups.
I’m quickly approached by a server and asked for my beverage choices — once again, coffee and orange juice, please.
There’s a pretty nice menu, and I choose to go pretty simple — Eggs Benedict it is.
The Benny only takes a few minutes to appear — it’s a single egg, which is plenty for me at this point, and it’s a great little breakfast treat, with a perfectly poached egg, some tasty Hollandaise, a thick and smoky ham, and a nicely toasted English muffin.
Breakfast (part two) complete, I power up my notebook and connect to WiFi, which works easily and seems pretty decent. Not much has changed on ye olde Corporate Shot since the last one. That’s good, because I’m badly behind in my flight-report reading.
I hang out for about half an hour, checking in with the (mostly sleeping) North American world, and then decide it’s time to head out for the Hyatt Place, at which I’ve arranged a day room. I’m hoping to chill for a bit, and then get a few hours of sleep so I can be fresh and ready for what comes next.
And what, exactly, comes next?
Well, you’re going to have to tune in soon to a flight-report near you to find the answer to that one.
Thanks for joining me for this quick TATL jaunt, and I hope to see you in the near future as I continue the adventure with…. well…. let’s just leave it there, shall we?
A pretty good business class experience on my first Delta TATL. The crew was solid and professional, if not outstanding. The catering was pretty decent, and I got a fair amount of sleep for an eastbound TATL that departs fairly early in the evening. So all in all, I’m happy with it, and excited for what’s to come next!