TYS-DEN-TYS on United Express June 14 and June 18, 2012

Note: Both flights were UA 6075 operated by ExpressJet on the Embraer 145 (E145, EMB-145, ER-145) regional jet aircraft with only one class of service and no Economy Plus or “premium” seating except for exit row 12.

When I checked in online for my June 14 outbound flight, I discovered I had lost my paid, premium seat assignment and had been moved to 19A. I had to re-select exit 12A. The baggage fee was easy to pay online. I wasn’t offered the option to buy extra redeemable miles or Elite Access.

When I arrived at TYS (Knoxville MGhee Tyson Airport), I discovered the two Uniteds (United/former Continental) still had separate ticket counters, one for DEN/IAD/ORD and one for EWR/IAH departures.

Security was very quick and easy, but I was disappointed that TYS had a full-body scanner.

We boarded by groups. There were a few passengers in groups 1-4, but most were 5-6.  I think I boarded last.

In flight, there was only one beverage service. No snacks or food were offered. I spent the flight reading a wine book I had downloaded onto my iPad from amazon.com. A 2-hour 37-minute flight (1162 nautical miles) was too long without any in-flight entertainment, Internet, or snacks/food for sale. However, my flight arrived on time and baggage arrived promptly at baggage claim.

On Saturday, June 16, I checked my return seat assignment for Monday, June 18 and I had been bumped again to 19A. I re-selected 12A, but it did not take on the website or app. A call to United confirmed I really had 12A. When I checked in at exactly 24 hours out, the website and app said I had 19A, but in reality, I did have 12A, and I prepaid my luggage. Again, I wasn’t offered the option to buy extra redeemable miles or Elite Access.

I arrived at DEN (Denver International Airport) on June 18 and took advantage of curbside check-in, where there was absolutely no one waiting. I tipped the skycap $3 and she directed me to security. I also re-activated my Clear card. The Clear line was shorter than the elite line and there was only a metal detector. I will renew my Clear membership when it comes up for renewal in about eight months.

After boarding by group number, the aircraft was sweltering. The auxiliary power was either not available or not working, so there was no air conditioning until we departed at 10:15 a.m.

One hour into the flight, there was still no in-flight service. Thank God I had the Southwest peanuts and pretzels from my TBEX conference swag bag! Finally the flight attendant showed up with a tray of cups with water, Coke, Diet Coke, or ginger ale. Really? On a 2-hour, 35-minute flight after sweating on the tarmac? I helped myself to two drinks. The flight attendant did not offer any additional service.

Again, I spent the flight reading a wine book I had downloaded onto my iPad from amazon.com. And again, this was too long of a flight with no in-flight entertainment, Internet, or snacks for sale.

In summary, I’d rather connect on my usual airline and save myself baggage and premium seat fees, feel confident about my seat assignment selections, have Internet and/or in-flight entertainment options, and receive in-flight service that includes free and/or paid snacks options.

Grade = C (only because we were on time both directions and I had no baggage issues)

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Trains, planes, TSA, and exit row seating compliance

Yesterday could only be described as a comedy of errors of sorts.

I arrived at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TN/VA), checked my Wine Check without incident, passed through security, checked e-mail, etc. Boarding was announced for the plane, which was a few minutes late arriving. Pre-boards and people needing extra time boarded first. I saw one lady board. Zone 1 was next, so I boarded and discovered the pre-board seated to me in the exit row, which I thought was probably not appropriate if she needed extra time to board. I wondered why the flight attendant didn’t notice and switch her with somone else. During the exit row spiel, she even said, “I didn’t even know I was in the exit row, but I will do whatever I need to do.” The flight attendant’s eyes lit up, but she still didn’t move the passenger. I tweeted, “‎@Delta Why is a special assist pre-board in the exit row?” and one of the @DeltaAssist team send me a private message asking for the flight information, so they could follow up.

We departed and it was the longest 45 minutes of my life, as this 65-year-old woman (yes, she told me her age) with some sort of nerve battery implant (why she was a pre-board) told me about her entire life, family, and how she ended up on the flight. She had missed her delayed US Airways flight because despite having medical documentation of the implant, was subjected to not just a secondary search, but one behind the curtain, a full-on, comprehensive body search. She appeared frazzled and shaken from it all, and told me she hadn’t flown in years. I felt sorry for her and at the same time thought, “This passenger should not be sitting here.” Once we landed, I told her to see a gate agent and to check the monitors in Atlanta to obtain to her connecting flight gate. Incidentally, she had shown me her other boarding pass and she was also seated in the exit row on that flight.

I wished her safe travels and visited the Delta Sky Club before heading to my departure gate. Unfortunately, when I boarded the train to my next concourse, it was declared inoperable, so we had to disembark and walk to our concourses.

Once at the gate, we boarded and were ready to depart at 5:40 p.m. when two mechanics boarded. The pilot announced that the forward lavatory was broken, but would be repaired quickly. The mechanics exited and the gate agent tried to shut the door, but it appeared jammed.  It took about three people to finally get it shut and we backed away from the gate. This was a 757-200 with individual in-flight entertainment at all seats, so one of the flight attendants turned on the safety video. It froze, so the flight attendants scrambled to find seatbelts and face masks and gave the fastest pre-departure safety presentation I’ve ever seen. We departed about 25 minutes past the originally scheduled departure time.

After all of this, my trip settled down. I used coupons to purchase a snack box and beer and enjoyed Gogo Inflight Internet on my iPad until we landed 31 minutes early at LaGuardia. My Wine Check, priority tagged and marked fragile, was the third bag to arrive on the carousel.

UA: GSO-ORD-(LAX)-PHX 2 Dec 2011 by Bruce

When I booked the ticket, I needed 2517 miles* to reach and maintain my Gold status. A search through the Matrix for flights to places where I wanted to go (LAX, SEA, FLL) suggested that the cheapest itinerary would be to go to PHX with two outbound and two inbound stops from GSO. VanMetrics at the bottom of the post.

For the 06:00 departure, I let my alarm clock wake me at 02:15. There was very little traffic on the highways at that crazy time of the night, so I arrived at the airport and parked at 04:45. It was still dark and I ended up in the $6 a day long-term uncovered lot. I’ve never been to GSO before, so I was impressed with the size and modernity of the place when the two mega-hubs CLT and RDU are nearby. It sort of reminded me of PBI (though I haven’t been to that airport since 2001). I did not need to check-in, but the departure boards did not show my flight. The ticket agent pointed me in the right direction, since the two halves of the terminal are not joined up.

Security was a breeze and my transportation security officer was friendly. I did not alert the magnetometer, I was not randomly selected and my bags did not need any additional attention. With a short bathroom detour, I was at my gate by 05:00. Or at least I thought it was my gate – there was still a lot of confusion with the departure boards. Even the crew was wondering if they were at the right place.

Boarding was called about ten minutes late (at 05:45) with military in uniform and special assists. No takers. 1K, Platinum and Gold were called together and I was second onto the plane. An ERJ-145, I was in 12C (the first guy was 1K and was in 12A). Operated by Trans States under United Express, it’s the same configuration as the ExpressJet flights I’ve taken that were Continental Express livery.

At 06:10 (about ten minutes past scheduled departure), the captain announced that there was an issue with the floor panel where the handle hides that allows manual deployment of the landing gear. He updated us constantly on progress and said that if it looked like it was going to be an extended delay, he would allow us to leave or anyone who wanted to get off now was welcome to do so. The flight attendant came down the aisle to help passengers understand if they had connection problems. 12A called the 1K service line from his phone and I overheard him decide to stay on the plane rather than head to the other gate where an IAD flight would allow him to connect to SEA about four hours late. At 06:30, seeing that I would now only have a half hour instead of a full hour to connect at ORD, I called and learned that I was protected onto a direct ORD-PHX flight (instead of my scheduled ORD-LAX-PHX) that would actually get me to Phoenix 90 minutes earlier. Bonus!

More announcements about the missing handle and such, before we were informed that it was resolved and we were just waiting on signoff. Doors closed about ten minutes later and we pushed back at 07:10 and immediate clearance to take off. As soon as we reached altitude, I put on my sunglasses and my noise cancelling headphones and slept the rest of the flight, only waking for descent into O’Hare.

A very short taxi to the last gate of terminal B, we used the aircraft’s stairs to disembark. Nearly ten minutes of standing in the freezing cold waiting for our gate-checked bags. Ugh.

Inside the terminal, the first kiosk I found said to pick up the phone and in turn that told me that I needed to see someone at special services in order to be rebooked. So now I got to walk all the way to the main concourse where the special services guy helped me with my new boarding passes. (He insisted on having my original ones, which made zero sense. Maybe someone can explain this one?) Sadly, the only Economy Plus seats available were middle ones, so I kept the seat he gave me and crossed my fingers to get the middle seat open.

Over to the C terminal and with 45 minutes until boarding, I headed into the United Club for coffee and a bagel and also topping up the charge on my phone. This is a really nice club with a lot of seating in “noisy” and in “quiet” areas, as well as a TV that seemed to capture the attention of several. After stocking up on a banana and some other snacks, I headed to the gate.

Flight 661 is an A319 operated by United with only six seats in F. I was number 23 for the 2 available seats, so I didn’t have my hopes up (I hadn’t been upgraded on my original ORD-LAX either). I was well back into the crowd when 1K, then Platinum and finally Star Gold were called. Waaaaaay to the back of the plane, seat 37F is the last seat before the lav and rear galley. There is a space behind the seat and it did offer some recline. The middle seat remained open and we pushed back on time. Smisek did his thing to introduce the video and it’s just as “fake” as ever. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel any connection with him like I did with Larry.

Channel 9 was awesome as usual. It was very bumpy for the first hour and I listened to our Captain searching for weather reports from other altitudes. We eventually got up to 36000 before it smoothed out some.

By that time, the in-flight entertainment started. Flip-down monitors revealed an episode of “Big Bang Theory” I hadn’t seen, followed by “Our Idiot Brother” (Paul Rudd with a beard) and then Suits. Frustratingly, the in-flight entertainment system does not pause when there is a PA announcement so I missed a good amount of the movie and the show.

Buy on board was offered which I declined (I had my stuff from the club) and then a full can beverage. A few water services and before I knew it, we were descending into Phoenix for a good landing and then taxi to the gate.

Summary: Our crew in GSO did a great job of handling the potential mechanical. I was pleased with the communication that was at least every ten minutes. UA did a good job of rebooking me onto another flight that saved me a bunch of time, but I would have preferred to get the job done at the kiosk instead of having to find special services. I didn’t need those 500 miles for the LAX-PHX segment. My ORD-PHX seat was bad but would have been unbearable if I had to share the armrest and floor space with a middle-seat. It was nice to have in-flight entertainment, it could have operated better. Grade: B-.

Original itinerary:
Total Trip Cost: $ 288.20
Actual Airfare: $ 221.40
Actual Miles Flown: 5601
Yield: $ 0.040 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 66.80, 23.18% of ticket price

Updated:
Total Trip Cost: $ 288.20
Actual Airfare: $ 221.40
Actual Miles Flown: 4296
EQM’s earned: 5318
Yield: $ 0.042 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 66.80, 23.18% of ticket price

*I’ve since earned 2000 Flex EQM’s, so would only need 517!

Another great Delta experience

When I read all of the horror stories online about Delta Air Lines, I don’t get it. I fly at least four flights per month and I rarely have issues. When I do, they are resolved in the best way possible. If I feel like I have been treated wrongly, I contact customer service. Most airline delays, cancellations, and misconnections stem from issues beyond the airline’s control, primarily weather and air traffic control. If the issue is mechanical or related to crew scheduling, then the airline should re-accommodate you on the next available flight to your destination. That’s the reality whether we like it or not. I have learned to expect the worst and go with the flow, as long as what happens is according to airline and/or federal policy. The key is good customer service, even in a time of adversity, and I think Delta has made great improvements.

At any rate, I had another good experience on Delta this weekend. All four of my flights were on time or early, thanks to splendid East Coast weather this weekend. I was particularly pleased with the first class service from Atlanta to New York, as there were a few differences from four weeks ago. Delta has upgraded their tablecloths and napkins to cream-colored linen. They have upgraded their glassware as well. All of the new amenities can be viewed at this link. I love the new glassware, which is perfect for cocktails, beer, and wine, and much easier to hold than a standard highball-type glass.

The other three flights were consistently good and I received the service that I have come to expect from Delta.

TRI-CLT-SFO roundtrip on US Airways 11-14 July 2011

This was a 50,000-mile first class award ticket redemption booked on continental.com. It was very easy to research and book and I was able to find the US Airways record locator by entering my flight number and passenger name at usairways.com. I was automatically assigned seats according to my preference (aisle).

The day I was scheduled to depart, I went to check in for my TRI-CLT flight and usairways.com wouldn’t let me. Then I checked my BlackBerry and my first flight had been canceled, according to the Tripit Pro alert I received. Since I am affiliated with a travel agency, I called the US Airways travel agent center to be rebooked. Luckily there was another flight option I could take so that I could make my original connection to SFO. However, I was never notified directly by US Airways that my flight was canceled.

The rebooked first flight was rather uneventful, except that it was blazing hot on the Dash 8-100 prop plane. The flight attendant said that US Airways almost canceled that flight due to the heat. It was in the 90s on the East Coast and she indicated that maintenance would be waiting on the plane upon its arrival in CLT. To help compensate for the heat, she offered us an unscheduled beverage service.

Upon arriving in CLT, I spent my time waiting in the club until I received a Tripit Pro alert, not a US Airways alert, that my flight was delayed until 6:40 pm. Around 6:10 pm, I headed to the gate and when I arrived, the gate agent announced that there was a weather/ATC delay into SFO and that he had not received any updates from operations except that the flight’s wheels-up time was estimated to be 8:45 pm. However, he advised customers to stay in the gate area. 6:40 pm came and went with no further updates, so I returned to the club and hoped that I could rely on my Tripit Pro alerts to keep me informed. When I reached the club, I overheard another passenger on my flight asking the club agent the CLT-SFO flight status and the club agent promised to contact the gate and monitor the flight. After that, there was no further information about the flight provided. The flight even dropped off the departure board, as operations neglected to keep the ETD current.  Finally at 7:45 pm, the club agent announced that customers should go to the gate for an 8:00 pm boarding time. The flight did board around that time and we pushed back and headed toward the runway. However, just short of the runway, the pilot announced that the plane was overheating and we had to return to the gate. We spent another hour at the gate while the plane was repaired and finally took off around 9:40 pm, three and a half hours late. In-flight service in first class consisted of two dinner choices and beverage service. There was no pre-departure beverage, no hot towel service, no snack basket, no in-flight entertainment, and the Gogo Inflight Internet was inoperable. It was a long five hours to SFO. We arrived three hours late. My bags arrived after about a 45-minute wait.

My return was scheduled for 7:25 am July 14. This was the one, near perfect flight of the trip. I was able to check in quickly and pass through the security checkpoint by way of a first class/elite line. I was not chosen for the full body scanner, but instead the metal detector, because apparently there was a problem with the scanner and the agent called for someone to “recalibrate it.” We boarded on time: specials, first class, then by zone. There was no pre-departure beverage service or snack basket service, as catering did not provide snacks. However, the Gogo Inflight Internet worked, the in-flight beverage service was plentiful, there was hot towel service prior to the meal, and there was a choice of two breakfast entrées. We arrived early, but were given an arrival gate change at the last minute, so we arrived at the new gate a few minutes late.

I hurried from gate B13 to E29 for my connection.  Around our scheduled departure time, 4:12 pm, the gate agent announced a delay until 4:40 pm due to a late-arriving crew. Finally the crew arrived, we boarded, and we took off close to our delayed departure time.  There was no in-flight service, but the flight attendant did have time to sit and chat with one of the passengers.

Upon arrival in TRI, my two bags, tagged Star Alliance Priority, arrived as scheduled.

Grade = C-

*Only one of four flights was not canceled or delayed; customer service and communication regarding the canceled and delayed flights were poor; there was simply nothing to do on the CLT-SFO flight with no in-flight entertainment and inoperable Gogo Inflight Internet. The saving grace was the one on-time flight.

LCY-GVA-PRG-ZRH-LHR 21 June-23 June 2011 on Swiss by Bruce

My team’s quarterly meeting was in Prague this week. Several direct British Airways flights from LHR, but I wanted Star Alliance miles and I also wanted to arrive into PRG before noon so that I could catch a 14:00 walking tour. The only option was a 06:50 departure from LCY (London City) on LX (Swiss). Because it takes me 2+ hours to get to the other side of London, I spent the night at a Travelodge near the airport and was able to walk over and arrive at 06:15 for the 06:50 departure. Security was magnetomers only. Swiss-like timeliness – boarding was organized. No jet bridge, we walked 20 yards to the Avro RJ100. I had 8F with no middle seat passenger. Surprisingly quiet, despite being right next to the engines. Good legroom. The seats on the right side seemed to be installed too far to the left. There was a three inch gap between the arm rest and the wall which made for really comfy leg and shoulder room.

In flight service was a pre-wrapped muffin and a drink tray with water, coffee, wine and Coke or Diet Coke. We landed 10 minutes early under sunny skies and were shuttled from the aircraft to the terminal in a bus. Swiss immigration took 10 minutes, followed by a long walk to the other part of the terminal. I made a quick stop for souvenirs and then a bus to the plane. It turned out to be the exact same aircraft and the same crew. And my same seat!

We pushed back on time and were wheels up a few minutes later. In-flight service was a cheese sandwich (not individually wrapped) with same limited drinks. After cleanup, the crew passed through the aircraft with a chocolate basket. Swiss Air-labeled chocolate bars. I greedily took two and saved one for the Mrs. We landed in Prague 15 minutes early. There was no immigration and I was out to the taxi stand a few minutes later.

For the return, I went with the electronic boarding pass option. I arrived PRG at 13:45 for 14:50 departure. Very quick security took only two minutes with six baggage scanners open and three magnetometers. The combined SkyTeam/Star Alliance lounge was open with salads sandwiches and and other nibbles. Self-serve beer, wine and a soda fountain. At the gate, boarding did not start until 14:35 (it was scheduled for 14:20). Very un-Swiss! Worse, it was a gate rush. They did let a special assist passenger go first at least.

The aircraft was a Fokker 100 operated by Contact Air with Star Alliance livery. Doors closed at 14:45, ten minutes of waiting and then wheels up at 14:56. Very nice legroom and super great recline – 5 inches back. I slept the entire one hour flight. Zurich was an apron stand with shuttle bus.

I found the Swiss Lounge at Zurich even though I only had five minutes. They had drinks but no food with a voucher for only one hour of free wi-fi. I stole a bottle of beer but had to toss it at the security line because I wasn’t going to guzzle it and also I didn’t have an opener. Magnetometer that I did not alert. (Which was odd, because I found my camera battery in my jeans pocket later.)

The gate area was a zoo. Very crowded. Boarding passes were scanned and that led into a corral that in turn went to a shuttle bus that went to the apron. We climbed up a flight of stairs onto an Airbus 320 that soon became completely full. Extremely small seat, 9A. Absolutely no legroom and a tight fit with a middle seat passenger. 90 minutes I could handle, but more than that would have been very uncomfortable and cramp-inducing. Again with the sandwich service and a plastic cup of soda followed by the chocolate basket.

One completely new feature on this aircraft. After the safety video, the screens remained down with a live view from a camera that must have been mounted on the landing gear doors. We could see out the front of the plane as we taxied and then a look down at the ground after takeoff. At altitude, this switched to a boring slideshow of Swiss Air offerings and such, changing back to the ground over London and then Heathrow runway. Me likey!

Summary: Good service and three out of the four seats were very comfortable only to be completely lost on the final leg. I do understand using the shuttle bus instead of a jet bridge to maximize airport space, but it doesn’t respect elites very nicely. Boarding could use some Swiss efficiency. Decent lounges. Final score: B.

Total Trip Cost: $ 308.82
Actual Airfare: $ 110.40
Actual Miles Flown: 1727
Yield: $ 0.064 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 198.42, 64.25% of ticket price

LHR-ORD-XNA-ORD-LHR on United and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 13 May to 16 May 2011 by Bruce

Fri., May 13
UA949 dep LHR 12:20 arr ORD 15:18
UA6063 dep ORD 18:00 arr XNA 19:43

Mon., May 16
UA5927 dep XNA 10:21 arr ORD 12:02
VS40 dep ORD 18:00 arr LHR 08:00 (+1 day)

This trip was outside my usual rotation (my daughter’s Master’s degree graduation ceremony), so I paid for the tickets instead of my employer. Rather than spend $1200+, I opted to use miles. CO’s super-saver was 55,000 miles for the RT in Y but they also offered some partner fares. Since Tuesday was a work day, I chose the VS seat in Upper Class for an additional 25,000 miles, totaling 80,000 miles (plus taxes and fees).

The UA 767-200 LHR-ORD (2-3-2) in Premium Economy did not have power outlets in the seats and the IFE was 8 channels on a rotation. Four-inch screens were mounted in the seat back area. Channel 9 had a loud whine that made it impossible to enjoy. I watched movies on my iPhone instead and plugged it into my laptop to recharge until that too was drained. For dinner, I chose the cheese ravioli.

The departure from ORD to XNA was delayed by a half hour due to a late inbound, but it was communicated well at the gate. The ERJ-145 XNA-ORD was completely full and 12A is still a great seat. Beverage service only. Otherwise, the three of the United flights were boring and without any memorable or noteworthy comment. The Red Carpet Clubs I visited in Chicago were also unremarkable other than being very busy.

For the return, the only itinerary that lined up with the Virgin Atlantic flight gave me a six-hour layover in Chicago. I spent it at the SAS Business Lounge in Terminal 5. ORD terminal changes are outside security, so I rescanned. All four security lines led to full body scanners (the one where you stand between two blue boxes) and I politely said “I’m not going through that!” The TSO was polite, thorough and complete – he briefly brushed up against ‘resistance’. I then spotted that there is no food in T5 and decided not to leave because I would have to be rescanned.

Terminal 5 does have lounges – Star Alliance (and Virgin Atlantic) are in the SAS Business Lounge. Self-serve alcohol and beer (Carlsberg Export, Sam Adams and Miller Lite) with sliced bread, smoked cheese and sliced turkey plus sliced red and green peppers and pickles. I made a couple of sandwiches. Free wifi worked well. Plenty of chairs and power outlets (as well as three Mac desktops), so what was left of my layover passed quickly.

And then the fun begins! Boarding for the 18:00 PM departure started at 16:45. They called Upper Class and I was prepared so I was the first passenger to board. A left turn and down to seat 3K on this A340. Upper Class is an angled seat (with personal IFE) that converts to a 180-degree lie flat bed. Three seats across with two on the left separated from the one on the right by a three-foot wall. Extremely polite (and very attractive) flight attendant offered me a pre-departure champagne that I allowed to be refilled once. On reaching altitude, I asked her to help me convert the seat (including the “mattress” and duvet from the overhead bin). I slept for about four hours (through dinner) and woke at 5AM. It was still too soon for breakfast, so I sat at the bar (yes, there’s a three-seat bar!), drinking sparkling water and chatting with the flight attendant for a bit before heading back to my seat. I chose the “Full English” breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms and tomato, served with a toasted croissant) with two cups of excellent coffee.

If I wasn’t planning on going to work immediately after arriving, I might have chosen to partake more of the champagne or tasted the “guest” vodka and mixed drinks. The amenity kit included a shoe bag, eye mask, ear plugs, flight socks, toothbrush and toothpaste. I was also offered a sleep suit (like a track suit) but declined.

Great smooth landing at Heathrow and Economy passengers were held so that the Upper Class passengers were allowed to deplane first. The usual mile-long hike to border security. The non-EU citizens queue was backed up and looked like at least an hour. The EU citizen line moved faster and only took 15 minutes. I had no checked baggage (in fact, I traveled with only my backpack) so I was on to the Heathrow Express train to Paddington moments later.

Summary: United’s flights were comfortable and unremarkable. The seat in Economy Plus was good, but there was no power outlet. Food was good and there were sufficient drink and water services during the long flight, full can on the regional jets. Grade: B. The Virgin Atlantic flight was top notch. Absolutely excellent, but possibly influenced by Upper Class service and a superior flight attendant. I can’t imagine paying three times or more than the regular fare for Upper Class but two times in miles was quite reasonable. Grade: A+ with extra credit.

Notes: Seat Guru’s review of the VS configuration is correct. You want to sit in the middle of the section, away from the bar (chatty passengers and clinking glasses) and away from the lavatories. I’d also recommend the right side seats with one across as there is less foot traffic compared to the left side which has two across.

Total Trip Cost: $ 173.20 and 80,000 miles
Actual Airfare: $ 0.00
Actual Miles Flown: 8949
Yield: $ 0.019 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 173.20, 100.00% of ticket price

ROA-DTW-JFK-ATL-ROA on Delta 15-17 April 2011

I decided to write this trip report more about the handling of the irregular operations, rather than the in-flight service, because I think Delta responded well to both situations.

I won’t spend time on the Roanoke-Detroit and Atlanta-Roanoke flights except to say that they both boarded by zone, were on time, and were standard Delta Connection CRJ-200 flights, complete with a full beverage and snack service (peanuts, pretzels, or Biscoffs).

When I arrived in Detroit, I visited the main Sky Club in the center of Concourse A.  It has a self-service bar and ample room, as it is a very large club.  It was quite busy the hour or so that I was there.

We boarded the MD-88 for JFK and as we were about to depart, the pilot shut down the engines and performed a “maintenance check.” Then mechanics boarded the flight.  This did not bode well.  About 15-20 minutes later, the pilot asked us to deplane and inquire about alternate flights, because the ground power that starts the plane had experienced a power surge that basically fried the computer system.  As I was waiting to speak to the gate agent, the crew deplaned and announced that we were going to the next gate to board an alternate MD-88.  We quickly boarded and were on our way.  The in-flight service consisted of the usual full beverage and snack basket service.  We only arrived about 45 minutes late.

This morning, Sunday, April 17, I was scheduled to depart JFK at 7:00 am through Detroit.  When my alarm sounded at 4:00 am, I checked my BlackBerry and I had one e-mail and three missed calls from Delta.  My flight had been canceled and I was automatically rebooked for Monday, April 18, which I could not do.  I called Delta and reached a Platinum Medallion agent.  He asked me how close I was to JFK and I said, “I’m close, at an airport hotel.”  He asked if I could make 6:20 am and I said yes, and he rebooked me in full F (first class) and Y (economy) through Atlanta to Roanoke. He finished the call by thanking me for my loyalty and understanding of the situation. I dressed and packed quickly and arrived at JFK Terminal 2 around 5:00 am.  I checked in at a kiosk and there was no line at the Sky Priority security checkpoint.  Delta at JFK does not have the full body scanners yet, thank goodness. I enjoyed a coffee at the iPad/charging station/restaurant located near gate 15.

The flight itself was what I have come to expect from Delta: blankets, pillows, and Dasani at every first class seat, Gogo Inflight Internet for purchase, in-flight entertainment (in-seat, on-demand on today’s 737-800), hot towel service, full beverage service, and continental breakfast (croissant, fresh fruit, cereal, and yogurt).

When I arrived in Atlanta, I enjoyed a couple of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever had in the C Concourse Sky Club.

Grade = A, in spite of the two irregular operations incidents

JFK-SFO-JFK 13 and 17 March 2011

JFK-SFO-JFK is a BusinessElite service route in the first class cabin and it was an outstanding experience, really top notch. It was one of the best upgrade scores of my frequent flying career since I started earning status in 1997. Both my boyfriend and I, Delta Gold Medallion, were upgraded at the gate both directions. The aircraft configuration was an international configuration with reclining seats with footrests, personal reading lights, and personal television monitors. The amenities and service were as follows: 

1. Dasani, larger pillow, lightweight comforter-like blankets, and a noise-canceling headset at each seat
2. Full pre-departure beverage service
3. Hot towel service
4. Beverage service
5. Warm nuts service (lunch)
6. Two-course meal service (breakfast and lunch)
7. Dessert (lunch)
8. Warm chocolate chip cookie service
9. Numerous beverage refills and snack basket service
10. Personal in-flight entertainment
11. Gogo Inflight Internet for a fee

The first 16 photos of this album were taken on this trip.  There you will find the meal and amenity photos.  The album is part of my public travel assistant company page on Facebook, so please take a look. I also welcome you to become a fan of the page while you’re there.

TRI-ATL-LGA-ATL-TRI on Delta 11-13 Feb 2011

What a near-perfect trip!  All flights departed on time and arrived either early or on time.  The service can be summarized as follows:

1.  TRI-ATL and ATL-TRI:  In-flight service was by request only since the flights are only 40 minutes, so both directions were uneventful.  On the return, the flight attendant called out Delta elites by last name and thanked them for their business, then proceeded with the usual announcement about SkyMiles and how one can earn miles and status.

2.  ATL-LGA:  Since the flight was after 8:00 pm, service in the first class cabin consisted of a full pre-departure beverage service and a full in-flight beverage and snack basket service.  Pre-departure drinks were served in plastic, while in-flight beverages were served in glass.  Gogo Inflight Internet and television entertainment were available.  All seats in first class were “adorned” with a red Delta blanket, bottled Dasani, and earbuds for the in-flight entertainment.

3.  LGA-ATL:  Service in the first class cabin consisted of a full pre-departure beverage service and a full in-flight beverage and lunch service.  The meals on this flight were a sandwich with potato soup or a salad with potato soup.  The salad had grilled chicken, Romaine lettuce, carrot and celery sticks, tomato, radicchio, real bacon bits, and a choice of dressings: blue cheese or ranch.  No cheese, for my lactose intolerant friends! Both meals came with a pre-packaged brownie for dessert.  My only complaints about the meal were that the chicken was dry and the white wine was bad.  Again, pre-departure drinks were served in plastic, while in-flight beverages and the meal were served in glass and real dinnerware.  Gogo Inflight Internet and television entertainment were available.  All seats in first class had the same red Delta blanket, bottled Dasani, and earbuds for the in-flight entertainment.

While in ATL, I noticed that the gate areas has the new recharging stations that Delta is installing at all hub and major airport gate areas.  At LGA, the Sky Club renovations are nearing completion.  This time, the old Northwest club side was open, with new seating and a new bar.  The club should be quite large when the old Delta section reopens.

Grade = A