XNA-ATL-ORD-CVG-XNA on Delta 7-9 Apr 2011 by Bruce

by Bruce K.

Thu., Apr. 7
DL5083 dep XNA 07:10 arr ATL 09:59
DL1677 dep ATL 10:50 arr ORD 12:00

Planned return:
Fri., Apr 8
DL1977 dep ORD 18:05 arr ATL 21:10
DL5059 dep ATL 22:05 arr XNA 22:57

Actual IRROPS return:
Sat., Apr. 9
DL3225 dep ORD 06:05 arr CVG 08:26
DL6264 dep CVG 09:30 arr XNA 10:22

A last-minute trip for a personal appointment, I would not have chosen this particular itinerary or carrier. I did look online and it was the cheapest fare – AA and UA direct would have been $300 more because it was inside of 24 hours. I was concerned that 51 and 55 minutes might not be enough time to change planes in Atlanta. But it wasn’t up to me – the client travel agency did the booking. At least I was able to credit it to my SkyMiles account, where I have no elite status.

Thursday morning, the taxi to the airport dropped me off at 06:25. XNA is still a sweet little airport with a minimal TSA presence. Magnetometers but no full body scanners. Yet. My stuff and I went through without issue.

Boarding was an “all” call at 06:55 and we pushed back on time. This was a Mesaba-operated CRJ-200 and the seat was a small fit. Beverage service was a half-can and a choice of cookies (Biscoffs), peanuts (dry-roasted) or pretzels. We landed on time in Atlanta and pulled up to our gate at the end of the D terminal. I made it to the gate at A in 15 minutes, which gave me enough time for a coffee.

The O’Hare flight was called on time. One passenger tried to board ahead of his zone and was turned back. My seat was behind the exit row, a window. Another small seat, I really don’t like the MD-88! We pushed back on time, but sat at the end of the taxiway for ten minutes before the Captain announced that we were being held by O’Hare for flow control. He said he was on with the Delta dispatch office to find out if we would go back to the gate or would wait and that it could be as much as 90 minutes. It ended up being 40 minutes of penalty box before we headed to the runway. Arrival was 46 minutes late.

For the return, I dropped off the rental car at O’Hare at 14:30 (the appointment finished earlier than I expected) and the shuttle dropped me off at terminal 2. While eating cheese cubes in a full RCC, my phone rang at 14:53 to inform me that my 18:05 departure was canceled. I called Delta. A pleasant operator (Southern accent) informed me that I had been protected to the soonest available – the next morning. I headed to the gate, but there was no one there. At the nearby SkyClub, where the club angel was able to print a “distressed traveler” coupon and I headed to the Marriott Courtyard.

Saturday morning, 4:00 wake-up call and their shuttle dropped me off at 4:55. A long line of sailors was arriving at the same time to access the USO. All clutching their manila folders and huge duffel bags. And all so young!

Security at Terminal 2 was slow, taking 20 minutes. They switched the line at the last minute, pointing us to the imaging machines. The woman ahead of me opted out and insisted on a private screening. She gathered up her stuff and was led elsewhere. I also opted out, but let them do it there. I was pleasant and smiled so no hassle and no attitude from anyone. The pat down was 90% thorough, narrating what he was doing as he did his thing. I was able to keep an eye on my buckets of stuff on the belt. He did not “meet resistance” and I was cleared.

From this point, everything was standard. Boarding on time by zone, small seat on the CRJ-900 with a wide-hipped seatmate. On time into CVG, where I transited from one end of Terminal B to the other. The gate agent called our flight early, where the 11 of us boarded the CRJ-200. Everyone had a row to themselves. Full can beverage service with peanuts. We landed 20 minutes early into XNA where my taxi driver was waiting for me.

Summary: I was on three different aircraft (2 x CRJ-200, MD-88 and CRJ-900) and all had very small seats, though they were all clean with a noticeable lack of duct tape. Pleasant gate agents and flight attendants. The IRROPS was handled as smoothly as I’ve ever experienced. I was very pleased that the pilot came out of the flight deck to welcome passengers after each of the four flights (where I thanked the ATL-ORD for keeping us updated). Overall grade: B-. I think CO’s planes have bigger seats.

XNA now offers free wi-fi, but ATL, ORD and CVG still do not.

Total Trip Cost: $ 875.47
Actual Airfare: $ 774.58
Actual Miles Flown: 2021
Yield: $ 0.383 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 100.89, 11.52% of ticket price

**Beth’s note:  I checked and the CRJ-200 seat width is comparable to those of other domestic carriers that use that aircraft.  However, the MD-88 seats are narrower than those of American.**

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TRI-CVG-SFO on Delta 31 July 2009

DL 6520 TRI-CVG 12:30 pm-1:33 pm CRJ Seat 8C Exit No Seatmate
Actual 1:23 pm-1:59 pm (36 minutes takeoff to touchdown)

DL 1162 CVG-SFO 4:50 pm – 6:37 pm 737-800 Seat 2B Aisle
Actual 5:16 pm -6:46 pm

The first flight was fairly uneventful except for the fact that it was delayed.  The weather was awful at TRI, high winds and pouring rain, so I assume that the inclement weather played a role in the delay.  The inbound aircraft arrived late, around 12:50 pm.  Deplaning and aircraft turnaround was rather quick all things considered.  However, for some reason, TRI only had ONE gate agent and ONE baggage handler for three flights, our flight to CVG, one to ATL, and a NW Airlink flight to either MEM or DTW, so it caused additional delay.  The ATL flight, then the NW flight, then our flight boarded, in that order.  And it was “all aboard,” no Breezeway or zone boarding.  I felt badly for the lone baggage handler, who kept running between checked luggage and valet.  I actually patted him on the shoulder and said, “It’s tough having to do it all, isn’t it?” and he shook his head yes.  We pushed back fairly quickly and were airborne by 1:23 pm, 53 minutes late.  There was no service in flight “due to the short duration” and we landed at 1:59 pm, only 36 minutes in flight and only 26 minutes late.

I spent my next two and a half hours in the Concourse B Delta Sky Club.  I have to say that I enjoyed my complimentary Internet and the peace and quiet, but the beverages left a lot to be desired.  I first tried a Bloody Mary.  Apparently there was no Mr.  & Mrs.’s T’s Bloody Mary mix, because it was made with plain tomato juice and lime and I had to “doctor” it myself with the provided salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco.  I much prefer the mix.  So for my next drink, I asked if he could make a margarita, hoping for the Rande Gerber Signature version found aboard Delta flights.  Again I was disappointed, as the mix was not that and was not good.   One nice touch was the offering of mixed nuts, in addition to the standard Biscoffs, pretzels, dried fruit, and Nutella.  As I was leaving, the club had put out the evening fare that I love so much:  chicken salad, hummus, cheese and crackers, and olives.  I confess I took a few olives and ate them quickly before leaving!

Around 4:20 pm, I proceeded to the gate and as I walked up, the gate agent called first class to board.  Perfect timing!  In my seat were the standard pillow, blanket, and mini Dasani.  The flight attendant offered a full pre-departure beverage service.  I had a glass, not a plastic cup, of white wine, the Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc, which after having a few times on Delta, is a pretty “uneventful,” bland offering, but otherwise harmless.

We were ready to push back on time, but the pilot announced that we were going to wait a few minutes on a group of passengers that were coming through customs.  Honestly, if I were one of those customers, I would be eternally grateful to Delta for holding my flight.  We pushed back only about 12 minutes late at 5:02 pm and were airborne by 5:16 pm.

About 30 minutes in flight, the flight attendant offered dinner service, which consisted of hot towel service, drinks in glassware, and dinner.  I was sort of shocked, because the dinner offerings were the same as I had back in March 2009, the short ribs or penne pasta with red sauce.  I would have thought Delta would have changed the menu by now, five months later, but I guess times are tough all over!

The meal was served on different dinnerware than before, but the meal was essentially the same, a nice-sized portion of very tender, no knife needed, beef rib; salad, grilled squash, mashed potatoes, and a very rich, chocolate mousse-like dessert, similar in texture to cheesecake.  My seatmate, a wine geek turned businessman, and I opted for the “safe” Fetzer as the beverage, but wow, it did not taste very good with the meal!  So we inquired about the red offering, which was a 2008 Copperfish Shiraz from “Central Baja,” whatever that means!  We assumed it would not be very good.  It was slightly better with the food than the Fetzer.  To be honest, it tasted better after the rich, sweet dessert. I suggested to him that we needed to move away from the wine and on to the Rande Gerber Signature Margarita, with a soda water and lime in between as a break!

The flight did not have Gogo Inflight Internet, but it did have Dish Satellite TV and On Demand movies and music.  I watched some of WNBC NY local news and NBC Nightly News.  While writing this trip report, I opted to listen to Delta’s On Demand music offerings.  My seatmate tried to listen to the standard music channels, but the system kept resetting to Channel 1, so I suggested he try the On Demand offerings on Channel  1, which worked!

My seatmate actually told me in flight that this was his first transcontinental upgrade on Delta as he usually flies other airlines as per his company travel budget and policy, so he was not familiar at all with the Delta 737-800 first class service and amenities, and that I steered him correctly on the power outlets under the center console, the choice of the short ribs for dinner, and the music on Channel 1.  I think he was surprised I knew so much!  Being a travel geek does have its advantages!

The rest of the in-flight service consisted of the standard Delta snack basket and full beverage service.   The one disappointment was the margarita I ordered.  What happened?  The mixer for this one was the same as the Sky Club and it was not very good, so I asked the flight attendant to take it away and bring me an Amstel Light.  We landed at 6:46 pm, nine minutes late.

TRI-CVG-LGA on Delta 24 April 2009

DL 6027 TRI-CVG 615P-720P seat 12A EMB-145
DL 1218 CVG-LGA 800P-1005P seat 3B First Class 737-800

This trip was flawless.  I arrived at TRI about an hour before my flight, reprinted my boarding pass at the kiosk, and passed quickly through security.  I spent about 15 minutes in the TRI Business Center, aka our lounge, except without food.  Apparently most of the power outlets in there are not operational anymore, as I tried three cubicles, no go.

We boarded quickly, pushed back about 10 minutes early, and were airborne about five minutes early.  In-flight service was by request only.  We landed at 7:01 pm, 19 minutes earlier than scheduled, which gave me a quick 15 minutes in the Delta Sky Club in Concourse B at CVG.  My snacks included a glass of Chardonnay, chicken salad, chickpea salad with yogurt drizzle, and mixed nuts.

When I arrived at my gate, the plane was already boarding.  When I arrived at my seat, there was a pillow, blanket, and mini bottle of Dasani.  The flight attendant took my pre-departure drink order and I had an Amstel Light.

We pushed back early and departed about 10 minutes past scheduled departure.  In-flight services consisted of a full beverage and snack basket service and Delta television, which included “How I Met Your Mother,” “Big Bang Theory,” and “Delta Destinations.”  The snack basket contained Twix® bars, Biscoff cookies, Pretzel Crisps®, and peanuts. I had two of Delta’s signature margaritas made with tequila and Rande Gerber Midnight Bar Collection MixWe landed at 9:37 pm, 28 minutes early, which might be a record into LaGuardia!