Delta Brings Me to Visit the Mother Ship (Trip Report)

As mentioned yesterday, I had the chance to go visit Delta this week for a visit. While I’m putting together posts from my time there, I figured it would be easiest to just start with a trip report. Remember, these Delta SkyPriority Check-In LAXflights were provided by Delta.

I wanted to fly out on Monday midday because I had an appointment in the morning. Sure enough, there was an 1145a flight out of LAX on the 777LR, the one that comes from Sydney. I picked that one and found myself booked into BusinessElite. This was gonna be goodRotunda in Delta SkyClub LAX.

I headed to the airport a little early and found the terminal bustling even though it was a relatively low time of day. I went over to the SkyPriority area for first class and elites and I checked myself in at the kiosk. Then it was off to security.

Like I said, this wasn’t a peak time, but security was disorganized. I looked for an elite line and didn’t see one (nor did I see any signs at all, really). A Executive Golfers Fly Delta Apparentlylineminder pointed me to a line on the far side and I went there. Then I sat. With only a few people in front of me, it still took more than 10 minutes to get through.

Once through, I headed to the SkyClub. It was set up for me to go in so that I could see the newly-renovated club, and they’ve done a really nice job. The club is quite large with one huge room separate by a snack bar with, of course, ample free liquor. On the other side, there were a couple of small rooms, one for working and one for “quiet.” I’m fairly certain that the entire club was reserved for golfers, actually. Check out this Sterile Corridor Between Terminal 5 and 6 at LAXmagazine rack.

My flight was leaving from next-door Terminal 6, (Delta doesn’t have enough room to handle all the widebodies in its own Terminal 5) so I realized I had to get a move-on. I came back downstairs and then went into the old underground tunnel to get to the other terminal. That is one long, white, and barren pathway, but it popped me out right on the other side so that’s all that matters.


August 30, 2010
Delta 1754 Lv Los Angeles 1145a Arr Atlanta
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 68B, Runway 25R, Depart 13m Late
Atlanta (ATL): Gate E10, Runway 9R, Arrive 9m Early
N701DN, Boeing 777-232LR, Spirit of Delta, ~100% Full
Seat 14D, BusinessElite
Flight Time 3h40m

I walked up to the Mob Boarding 777 to Atlantagate to find a mob of people in the throes of boarding. I looked for the SkyPriority (old Breezeway) lane for First Class boarding but it was mobbed as well. When I finally got to the front of the line, I said, “No SkyPriority line today?” The agent looked at me and said, “No, it’s just too hard to do over here. I’m sorry about that.” At least he was nice about it, I guess. With that, I went onboard.

Most of the airplane had already boarded, though there were still a few behind me. I found my seat, the prime spot at the back of the cabin, and started to explore. The back of the cabin is excellent because you have a tall fixture on the back and side that gives you more privacy. There’s nobody looking in on you, as is often the Delta Flatbed BusinessElite Herringbone 2case with herringbone seats.

The seat itself looked good, but the wear on this new plane was already showing. The blue leather looked a bit tired and the plastic fixtures were chipping a little as well. But the seat itself was comfortable, and I just waited for takeoff. The next thing I saw was actually quite shocking.

I saw flight attendants taking bags from passengersDude with Bare Feet in coach and finding empty spots for them in BusinessElite. No, it’s not shocking that they were using BusinessElite bin space. It was surprising that the flight attendants were doing the heavy lifting. It was great service. What wasn’t great was the dude who sat down, promptly flipped his shoes off, and displayed his dirty bare feet for the world to see.

Soon, it was time to push back but the captain said we were just waiting for more cargo to be loaded. We pushed back about 15 minutes late and then headed toward the runway. The safety demonstration was interesting. Since there are no open monitors allowed on the ground in BusinessElite, we could only hear the video but couldn’t see good ole’ Deltalina. Instead, we just had a couple Herringbone Seat Controlsflight attendants up front doing the demonstration for us.

Then we took to the skies and I sat back to play with the seat. There are 7 different buttons and I found it pretty confusing. I can’t imagine what an older or less tech-savvy person would do with this. I brought my seat down into a relaxing position and then went to pull out the television. It came out and then slammed back shut. Yep, the screw was a little loose and my guess is that it was on the way in from Sydney as well since there were some plastic wrappers shoved in there to try to make it steady. It became less of a problem once we leveled out, of course.

The other problem was with the headset jack. It’s a two-prong jack and they give you a single prong headset with an adapter. Unfortunately, the headset kept popping out of the adapter. It took me awhile to find a magic spot where it would stay still.

The lead flight attendant came by with a very long paper print out from a dot matrix printer. She took my order and wrote it down on the page. I said, “That’s a heck of a long list you have there.” She unrolled it and said, “Yep, take a look at all those precious metals. I’m just kidding, everyone is precious.” It’s amazing how much nicer things can sound with a southern accent.

I opted for a ginger ale and the hot chicken sandwich, and I went to pull out my tray table. That’s when I realized you couldn’t do it without getting out of the reclined position. So I did and then pulled the tray out after some difficulty. The tray itself got stuck, so I had to jiggle it out. Then I was ready to go. I had a movie on, I had my tray out, and I was in a semi-comfortable Brett the Laviator in Spacious 777 Lavposition.

The food was pretty good, and I kept the bag of Ruffles for later. Then I watched a couple movies and settled in. The bed was actually quite comfortable in the flat position. I had plenty of room to stretch out since I’m short, and the width wasn’t a problem.

I had the chance to finally join an exclusive club. Yep, I’m now a laviator. I had a heck of a large lav to work in – on the right side between the two BizElite cabins. There was even a full length mirror in there. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

Back at my seat I had a nice scotch and watched another movie. Thrust Reverser on Landing 777 in AtlantaLater, the flight attendants came through with a snack basket. Somehow, I was able to pass on the junk food (they had Twix, this requires serious self-restraint) and instead had a really good banana.

As the afternoon grew longer, we made our way into the deep south. Soon we were descending through a high layer of clouds. We had an uneventful landing to the east. After parking at the E gates (the plane was heading on to Dubai), I had a long way before I got back to the terminal.


September 1, 2010
Delta 110 Lv Atlanta 735a Arr LAX 914a
Atlanta (ATL): Gate E3, Runway 8R, Depart 1m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 53A, Runway 25L, Arrive 6m Late
N648DL, Boeing 757-232, Red Widget, ~70% Full
Seat 2A, First Class
Flight Time 4h7m

As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, the visit was fantastic, but soon it was already time to come home. I arrived at the airport by 620a for a 735a flight, but I didn’t need that much time.

I used the SkyPriority line and it took me a little more than 10 minutes to get through security. I’m actually surprised that there was only one x-ray machine and security gate for SkyPriority in Atlanta. Then I hopped on the train for the long ride out to gate E3.

The gate area looked empty and the flight clearly wasn’t full. They boarded the flight on the early side, so I just hopped on and did some work online. I was determined not to log on Domestic First Class Seat Deltain the air despite this airplane having wifi. I like being disconnected up there.

This flight was on a 757 with the regular domestic First Class. As mentioned, it had wifi and it also had individual screens. I was set.

It was a beautiful day in Atlanta, and we had only a short wait before launching into the morning blue. We turned around and started making our way west. Breakfast was served and I opted for cereal, which also came with yogurt, a bagel, and fruit.

I finished a movie from last time, and then I flipped on the Karate Kid. I missed about an hour in the middle when I actually fell asleep. That does’nt happen to me very often, but I was exhausted. When I woke up, we were somewhere over New Mexico and they brought back a snack basket for anyone who wanted. Eventually, we landed at LAX and had to wait a little while for the alleyway to clear. Just a few minutes late, I hopped off and went home.


36 Responses to Delta Brings Me to Visit the Mother Ship (Trip Report)

  1. AB says:

    Loved the trip report, Brett! Thanks so much for putting this together.

  2. Frank V says:

    Well done.

    I’m little suprised with all the small maintenance issues you noted. In the good old days of aviation (pre-dereg) Delta had in incredible maintenance reputation. The old storyline was that if it needed one rivet, Delta always used two.

    I wonder if the maintenance is slipping, or if the issues you encountered are the kind that never get written up.

    • Jason H says:

      I’d be willing to wager that the issue cropped up on the LAX-SYD or SYD-LAX leg and that it would be resolved when the plane landed at ATL where maintenance techs are all over the airport.

    • CF says:

      My guess is that it never got written up or, as Jason says, it happened while it was away from home base.

  3. frank says:

    I saw flight attendants taking bags from passengers in coach and finding empty spots for them in BusinessElite. No, it’s not shocking that they were using BusinessElite bin space. It was surprising that the flight attendants were doing the heavy lifting. It was great service.
    ====================================================

    If all BusinessElite passengers had boarded and there’s still space up there, of course, it’s used.
    Heavy lifting??? I thought this topic had been discussed ad naseum in the 90’s. The KEY word here is assistance. NO Flight Attendant should be lifting a HEAVY bag for anyone. That’s why it’s called, “carry-on”. You are responsible for your own bag and if you dont want to, there’s a counter at the front of the airport called, check-in.
    You’d be surprised how many flight Attendants have been injured with bags. I know someone who was knocked unconsious. Know someone who had their hand broken, surgery on their shoulder, etc..etc….the list goes on and on. And, lets not forget the struggle to get your medical bills paid off because most companies with fight the fight with On-the-Job injuries. I would know, I had to hire a lawyer to have my medical bills, in the thousands, paid for.
    And, realistically, these are suitcases with WHEELS. Not some 5 pound make-up case. With the real heavy rollaboards, passengers will ask for assistance and as you both lift the suitcase, half way up they let go and they watch YOU struggle with it.
    Lifting bags is NOT great service. Expect assistance or it being checked.

    • JamesK says:

      This past weekend, I took the nonstop ATL-YVR, and my parents and I were assigned 19ABC on the ex-Song 757. It’s the exit row next to the 2L door (the slide pack has a cushion velcroed to it to save kneecaps).

      Apparently no one knows about this nonstop except for the cruise lines, and the average age of passengers on the flight was in the high 60s, and the vast majority seemed to be part of a single tour group. EVERYONE brought a rollaboard in addition to the “personal item” and assistive devices (walkers and crutches and canes, o my!). However, despite Delta’s policy of treating Canada as part of the US, the TSA does not, so no gate-checking bags. As standbys, we have no idea whether we will get on a flight, so we almost never check a bag on an international flight in case we have to route ourselves differently.

      All of the forward coach bins were taken up by preboards, who unlike us DID have seats in front of them to stow stuff. One elderly couple in a regular row across from us put nothing under their seats but insisted on putting their windbreakers folded in half across the bin (and gave Mom the hairy eyeball when she put the plastic bag with her lunch in the bin). The flight attendants did everything they could for us and the guys in the exit row catty-corner across from us by putting our bags in First, but I felt awkward doing it knowing that in addition to the precious metals (side note: does Diamond count as a metal?), many people actually pony up the extra gelt to get the upgrade on this flight for the peace and quiet.

      Not complaining–we had a terrific trip and the nonstop made our first day a lot easier. It’s just a reflection on one of those little irritations that makes air travel these days so much fun. The other is the people who inevitably stand perfectly still at the top of the 5-story escalators in the ATL airport while people behind are scrambling to avoid tumbling to their deaths.

  4. it always baffled me when DL had a flight like that leaving from one of the stepchild gates in terminal 6 (61, 63, 65) when, seemingly, terminal 5 was half empty. couldn’t there have been another flight in T5 that could have been moved to T6 (a skywest flight or even a 757 transcon to someplace like MCO)? seems like that would make a lot more sense than schlepping hundreds of 777 pxs through that abandoned mental hospital type corridor between the two terminals? i was doing an ATL-LAX run from 96-99, looks like LAX ground ops still hasn’t learned to properly triage the three T6 gates.

    • CF says:

      The problem is that Terminal 5 wasn’t really designed to handle 777s. (Heck, it was barely designed to handle jets, originally.) So if you put that 777 on almost any gate in that terminal, you end up taking out a couple of gates at a time. There are a couple that can handle it, but those probably were full. There just isn’t enough room for the operation Delta runs in Terminal 5.

      • really? wow, i did not know that. the terminal itself seems pretty spacious from the px point of view, adequate spacing between gates, etc. obviously, things are not always as they appear!

  5. 1. I can’t believe they still use those old underground tunnels. But I always thought they were fun. They could paint the walls some bright colors.

    2. Please explain: Since there are no open monitors allowed on the ground in BusinessElite….why? Having F/A’s doing the old stand up demonstration doesn’t give the feeling of a 21st century modern jetliiner that flys long distance travel around the globe on an airline who know wants to fly everywhere on the planet.

    3. Would you have been comfortable for a mega hours flight between LAX-SYD or ATL-DXB?

    • ptahcha says:

      The monitor needs to be stowed for takeoff and landing. I believe the folks in the back gets to see Deltalina.

    • Jason H says:

      To your question 2 – The monitors are not built into a seat, they are on a swing arm that must be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing. Not the most elegant solution since you can’t start using the system until 10k feet and you have to stop early. I personally like the seatback systems in coach over the arm systems in business elite.

    • CF says:

      1) I believe that area is LAX property so the airline can’t do anything to make it better. As to why LAX won’t make it nicer, beats me.

      2) As Jason says, the monitors swivel out. On some airlines, they swivel but the monitor still faces out. On Delta, it swivels and faces in so you can’t see it. Lame.

      3) Yeah, definitely. It’s a comfortable bed, but I didn’t want to sleep so I didn’t spend much time in that position. I could have comfortably done it for the long haul, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice.

  6. Forgot to add about the guy with the bare feet, that is one down side to that type seating is that everyones bare/socked/smelly feet are right at the aisle where everyone can see and smell them? Yeah that really screams first class.

  7. Steve says:

    That picture in the bathroom of the 777…. makes becoming a member of the Mile High Club a bit more comfortable :)

  8. FBKSan says:

    Curious : did you try entering your frequent flyer number for these flights, and if so, did you get credit? Or did they book into award buckets?

    • CF says:

      I did put my FF number in so that I could check-in using my number instead of having to remember the confirmation code. The boarding pass printed out “No FF Credit” and it even showed up on my activity list saying “Air Activity Rejected: Fare basis not eligible for mileage credit”

  9. clip says:

    Well this is all well and good but I am more interested in how it is for the rest of us flying. No business class, no elite service…you know the huddled masses on the other side of the curtain. And I am sure that Delta wining and dinning will have no affect on your objective reporting of this or any other carrier. Just me thinking. If you can flip me some peanuts, I’m back in coach, the guy in the center seat.

    • Jason H says:

      clip – We all know what coach feels like, I prefer to hear about premium cabin products for those flights where I am considering which premium cabin to fly. Coach reports are a dime a dozen, premium not so much.

    • CF says:

      clip – If you’ve bothered to read my other trip reports, you’ll see that the vast majority are in coach. But really, if you’re so concerned about my objectivity, you are more than welcome to pay to read this blog. Because without that, guess what? I don’t have the luxury of buying plane tickets to go and learn more from the airlines themselves.

      If that’s not good enough, then you’re also more than welcome to stop reading.

      • clip says:

        CF – whoa….don’t get all upset I’m just trying to keep you honest in your thinking… we’ve all watched over the years as the airlines often added razzle-dazzle with one hand while taking away some of the essentials we have come to expect with the other. Often the powers that be running some carriers tend to forget the true nature of their business is to transport people safely from point A to point B. Hopefully within a reasonable cost to the traveler and an equally reasonable profit for the owners.
        I look forward to more in-depth reviews of some other carriers and hope they give you similar access to their service and facilities as Delta did. In addition, keep asking the tough questions.

  10. Daren S says:

    Good trip report CF. My father just took the 772LR from ATL-JNB in BusinessElite this week. His comment was that Delta just doesn’t get it. They had a good opportunity with these new planes to really make a step up in the onboard experience. Yes they now have flat beds, which clearly is a huge improvement but the interior is just so drab and depressing. These planes are mostly doing ultra-longhaul flights, you would think that they would have tried to make it a bit more aesthetically pleasing. BA and Virgin are still leagues ahead in terms of their premium product.

    • DL just announced today they are going to redo the interiors of the NW 747-400’s, hopefully they will see your post and not make it drab. Dark and drab decor doesn’t make for a happy feeling when traveling.

  11. Mark says:

    Excellent article, Brett! Love that lav space, and the bare feet on the seat! :p

  12. Craig says:

    Thanks, Brett, interesting report! Those seats just do not look like a state of the art product, and I hate herringbone business class seats where the “window seat” faces away from the window, defeats the whole purpose of a window seat. The tray table and button situations make it sound like simply poor design.

  13. Allan says:

    7 buttons confused you??? Really??? Seven?

    • UI isn’t just a matter of how many buttons there are, but how they’re arranged and how they work.

      You seem to be having trouble with one of the 104 in front of you.

    • frank says:

      Try FOUR……………..three READING LIGHT buttons and a CALL BELL.

      ……can I help you?
      Uhhhh, no. I thought that was the reading light.
      Uhhhh, no. That’s a person holding a tray sign above you. That’s the call bell.
      The Reading light is the ONE WITH THE “LIGHT” BULB.

      Ignorance comes in ALL AGES.

    • CF says:

      Take a look at this picture (that was in the post above) and you will see 7 buttons that control the seat:
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/crankyflier/4948709545/sizes/l/

      There are some that are quite clear, but there are others that are not well marked. If you consider that you’re not looking at it in perfect light and the buttons are small, it’s easy to get confused.

  14. gordon says:

    took the same plane from LAX a few months ago, and after the lady next to me in the aisle used her tray, it would not retract back into the slot. at least 7 different crew members tried to force it back but no go. finally the engineer just took it apart so it wouldn’t be in her lap the entire flight.

  15. Brian says:

    Brett — how did you find the angled seat when you wanted to look out the window? I’m contemplating taking the same equip. HKG-DTW and if it’s uncomfortable I might be inclined to go another way. Thanks!

    • CF says:

      Well, the herringbones suck for looking out the window. As a window-lover myself, that part was not fun. I ended up with a sore neck from having to look back so often.

  16. tharanga says:

    That endless white tunnel looks like something out of a horror movie.

  17. nicobruno says:

    Awesome report! My mom and I were on the same 777LR flight from SYD-LAX leg of the trip yesterday and it certainly is a great plane, even in a packed coach section. (The plane had maybe 3-5 seats TOTAL empty both ways from LAX to SYD.) I’ve been increasingly more impressed with the Delta service. I feel like 85% of the staff really enjoy their work, which says a lot in this day and age.

    As for the LAX facilities, they are decrepit! From walking for a good 10 minutes after disembarking to get to customs, then a packed baggage area, to another long walk to go BACK through security and then ANOTHER 10 minute walk between Terminals 5 and 6 (only to realize that the Sky Club is in Terminal 6), it’s a poorly laid out situation that Delta really needs to remedy.

    p.s. I strongly considered taking the 777LR flight to ATL, but after such a long flight from SYD, we wanted to get out on the first reasonably timed flight, which was a 763.

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