Even on a Short Flight, Delta Just Feels a Little Different (Trip Report)

Delta, Trip Reports

There are certain events that really make you step back and realize just how quickly time passes. My recent 20th grad school reunion fits into that bucket. Most of us look older, but it’s incredible how we all fall right back into it as if no time has passed at all. I don’t go to my high school or undergrad reunions, but I have never missed a Stanford one, and I wasn’t about to break that streak now.

I planned to fly up north from Long Beach to San Jose on Southwest, but then I realized I had an expiring credit on Delta. I would brave the journey to LAX so I could use it up. I plunked down $246.20 in credit — yes, intra-Cal pricing has gotten out of hand — for the weekend trip.

My wife was going to drive me to the airport, but then I looked on cheapairportparking.org and was surprised to find I could get parking for only about $13 a day all-in. That was a steal.

The day before travel, I got the app notification telling me to get my boarding pass. It didn’t say anything about checking in. The language Delta uses is a little different, and it does make the experience feel just a bit different as well. It’s smart.

I parked a good 20-minute walk from Delta’s Terminal 2, but I enjoyed the stroll. I entered in Terminal 2 and walked past the old security checkpoint. The stairs are long gone and there is a security station there. It’s so strange to see it like this.

The new Terminal 2/3 security checkpoint isn’t set up very well. I came in from the Terminal 2 side of the checkpoint and someone checked to see that I had TSA Precheck.

But then I just walked all the way to the far Terminal 3 side of the checkpoint where they then checked it again to let me into the real line. There were people going in the other direction to get in the non-Precheck line. It just seems like there’s a lot of overchecking.

Once through security, I split off to Terminal 2 where I headed to my favorite spot. There’s a little mezzanine above the end of the concourse with seating that never seems full. It’s also quieter. The power outlets didn’t work, but I didn’t need that.

Twenty minutes before departure, I went downstairs to the gate and found the airplane fully loaded. The app never alerted me that boarding had begun until after I got on the airplane.

Delta Connection 3762 (operated by SkyWest)
May 3, 2024

From Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled Departure: 11a
➤ Actual Departure: 1056a
➤ From Gate: 26B
➤ Wheels Up: 1112a
➤ From Runway: 24R

To San Jose
➤ Wheels Down: 1202p
➤ On Runway: 30L
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1215p
➤ Actual Arrival: 1206p
➤ At Gate: 10

➤ Type: Embraer 175
➤ Delivered: September 26, 2018
➤ Registered: N263SY, msn 748
➤ Livery: Standard Delta Widget

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 12D
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 50m

The flight was pretty full, but I had no problem with overhead bin space. I took my seat on the right side and stared out at that sexy new A321neo. From an Embraer, that looks like a widebody.

The pilots came on to say we’d be on our way soon and it would be a nice ride up. Not long after, we were pushing back. It was a longer taxi than usual, because runway 24L is closed for construction. They threaded us between arrivals. I waved to In-n-Out, and soon after we were taking off into the marine layer.

Once above the clouds, we hung a right and the flight attendants swung through with an abbreviated service. This is another way Delta differentiates itself. Even though they only had coffee, water, or tea available, they did also offer four different choices of snacks. It’s a small thing, but having a choice feels more premium. (I naturally went Biscoff to bring back to my kids, because they insist the Delta ones taste better.)

Despite the ads about free wifi, these planes do not have that. (The flight attendants apologetically announced as much earlier.) I had to wait until we passed 10,000 feet. Then I connected my phone to try to watch a TV show, but they don’t even have that on these regional airplanes. There isn’t even a map, just this:

Since I use T-Mobile, I just flipped on wifi for a free hour, and it was pretty slow. I ended up just messing around on Flightradar24 until we were below 10,000 feet and wifi shut off again.

There’s nothing quite like the Bay Area at this time of year after a rainy spring. The hills are green, and the place just looks so beautiful.

We landed from the south and parked at gate 10 in Terminal A. The real problem with Terminal A is that it’s far from the rental car center. I thought about walking all the way down the concourse and then crossing, but I wanted to go outside instead. I did that and realized walking would be pretty tough, so I just took the rental car shuttle.

I made the mistake of grabbing a Buick Enclave from National’s Emerald Aisle, and I never figured out how to use the radio the entire time. I feel like I clearly was doing something wrong, but Android Auto worked, so that was good enough.

Being able to connect with some old classmates after so much time away was wonderful. It’s the one-on-one opportunities that mean the most, and it reminded me why I felt my time in grad school was so meaningful.

On Sunday, I tried to pry myself away from the breakfast but it’s always hard to get out of there. By the time I got in my car, the map said I’d arrive only 55 minutes before departure… and I still had to stop for gas. After a quick pit stop, I dumped the rental car and then went through security in Terminal B right across the street.

I stopped into the bathroom and it was a mess. There was a giant puddle on the floor which I hopped over. Meanwhile, the first soap dispenser I found didn’t work. I went to the next sink where the soap worked but the faucet didn’t. So I went back to the first one, grabbed a towel and then hopped back over the puddle, walking all the way up to gate 10 in Terminal A.

Boarding had begun, and my app told me that was the case this time around. I have no idea what group they were on, but there were several people around, so I stood there waiting to see. They called group 5 next, which was good since I was in 6. The two people boarding in 5 took forever. I don’t know what was going on, but once it was done, the agent lost her place and called group 7.

That wouldn’t really matter except that they were also saying that only five more roller bags would be allowed before they started checking. I don’t have a roller bag, but I bet some people were mad.

Delta Connection 3914 (operated by SkyWest)
May 5, 2024

From San Jose
➤ Scheduled Departure: 1255p
➤ Actual Departure: 1252p
➤ From Gate: 10
➤ Wheels Up: 124p
➤ From Runway: 30R

To Los Angeles
➤ Wheels Down: 217p
➤ On Runway: 24R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 217p
➤ Actual Arrival: 226p
➤ At Gate: 23A

➤ Type: Embraer 175
➤ Delivered: October 30, 2018
➤ Registered: N291SY, msn 759
➤ Livery: Standard Delta Widget

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 12A
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 53m

The plane was full, but I had no trouble finding a spot for my duffel. I took my seat, still in row 12 but on the other side this time around.

The captain came on to tell us that we would have a remarkably quick 42 minute flight down to LA, but having just flown up from LA, it was turbulent so he would keep the flight attendants seated for awhile. I just assumed on a flight that short, nobody would get up.

We pushed back and then sat. The captain came on again to say we had just been given a wheels-up time due to an air traffic control delay in LA. We would be there for 25 minutes. I appreciated the explanation.

About 15 minutes in, we spooled up and slowly started heading toward the runway. Right on time, we got in the air and turned around to head southeast toward LA.

After getting above some light chop, it smoothed out immediately and the flight attendants surprisingly sprang into action. They came through with the same limited beverage service as on the way up, and I was impressed.

Once at altitude, we were clearly going too fast. They started slowing us down with a wide turn to the left. At one point, we turned as we were below an Emirates A380 that was going to end up in front of us on descent into the LA area. I tried to capture the beast with a photo, but I couldn’t quite get it.

As we got lower, the gusty winds kicked in, and the captain had the flight attendants sit down right there. They came on and did announcements, just asking people to put up their tray tables and all that. I don’t know what people were supposed to do with trash, but clearly he wanted them sitting right away.

Over the LA Basin, it did get squirrely with those gusts pushing us around. I wondered if there might have been some wake coming off the A380, but I don’t think so.

Once we got past downtown LA, we turned right before Emirates and got in front of him to land. It stayed just as bumpy the rest of the way down.

I had a good view of the new Intuit Dome which will be home to the LA Clippers starting this fall. The pilots greased the landing, and on our way back to the gate, I saw the Emirates A380 touch down.

As I got off the plane, I noticed that we had parked next to a WestJet 737 still painted in Swoop colors. Swoop lives!

I walked behind security over to Terminal 1, and then I walked out and over to the parking garage for the drive home.

Overall, Delta does a really nice job. The language used just seems a little different, and the onboard experience feels superior even if it’s only marginally so. It might just be the choices of snacks or the willingness to get up and hustle on a short, bumpy flight, but regardless, I noticed the small differences.

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

43 comments on “Even on a Short Flight, Delta Just Feels a Little Different (Trip Report)

  1. Hi Brett, first I want to say is that I enjoy your podcasts and articles so much! I LOVE how in depth you go. I love how you cover areas no others cover like the Seattle to Boston hubs, UA transatlantic/transpacific routes, etc. Keep up the good work :)

  2. After the years and years of reading about how great the Delta experience is, I finally flew Delta twice last year (once TATL in C-class, once domestically in Y) – both experiences were thoroughly underwhelming, dirty planes and uninspiring in-flight service. They certainly have a nicer terminal at DTW, but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

    1. Same. I’ve had some good experiences on Delta, for sure. but my worst experiences in first class have been on Delta, hands down. Whether the unprofessionalism of the Flight Attendants flirting nonstop or the horrible legroom in the bulkhead of first class. It’s always amazing to me more bloggers don’t call out Delta more often for the atrocious first class bulkhead legroom on mainline jets

    2. I think that finding a dirty plane belonging to Delta it’s like finding a needle in the haystack. I fly on Alaska & American But mostly Delta. Alaska and Delta had the cleanest and freshest planes from my experience.
      And I fly a lot. So I guess that just leaves AMERICAN as the dirty dog. I only fly on them when I have to.

      1. you must somehow be avoiding their fleet of ancient aircraft and lucky you. All the renovations 10 years ago can’t hide all the dirt and grime I’ve found on those delta birds. AA and, usually, UA planes are far newer or more newly renovated and nicer.
        A dirty plane for delta is like finding a fly near a horse. It’s not there always but it’s very common.
        And their staff. wow. I’ve had one good FA on Delta. the rest were just horribly flirtatious and wouldn’t leave me or seatmates alone. To the point of kneeling at our seats for nearly the entire flight to flirt. Never seen anything like it except on Delta.

        1. Julie,
          Just like many of the other comments on here, your comment is rooted in an inability to admit that Delta really does run a better business and airline. The airline industry breeds enormous loyalty esp. among its employees and former employees that are the backbone of airline-related social media. Everyone gets to have an opinion based on subjective factors but no one gets to alter facts because they don’t like reality.

          UA has the oldest mainline fleet among large jet US airlines at 16.2 years, older than Allegiant. DL is at 15.2 years, AA at 13.4 and WN at 11.7 among the big 4. As much as AA touts its mainline fleet age, it isn’t younger than WN – highlighting yet another exclusion that AA likes to make from its competitive set.

          Fleet age doesn’t really matter when the difference between the big 3’s fleet age is just a couple years from one end of the list to the other. Fuel efficiency and maintenance costs do matter from a financial perspective and DL does the best job on both of those metrics even while generating the best on-time and top tier rate of cancellations (both of which involve other factors). Since fuel burn is reported by all of the big 3 including regional jets, part of the reason for DL’s fuel efficiency is its lower number of regional jets; there are no NEO or MAX RJs, at least in the US.

          Passenger perception is shaped by customer amenities – which is why your statement about AA and UA being “more renovated.” AA doesn’t have seatback AVOD and UA, despite assurances that it would reconfigure hundreds of aircraft per year with that feature has managed to reconfigure less than 10% of its older aircraft with that feature because supply chains never were able to support such a grandiose undertaking. DL has the largest fleet of AVOD equipped aircraft in the world and while regional jets wont’ get AVOD, DL will have the largest fleet of high speed, free WiFi aircraft. Neither AA or UA are even trying to match that. Kinda hard to understand how anyone can argue that amenities are the same or better on AA or UA.

          As for whether the flight was operated by SkyWest or Delta, if Biscoff cookies are as readily available as some say, then why don’t other airlines not just buy Biscoffs but also the larger size and the almonds and the Sun Chips and the other snacks that DL offers?

          CF proves that, when you can credibly discuss the airline industry using data, your subjective opinions carry much more weight. He has accurately noted aspects of the industry which favor and raise concerns about every airline. Conversing accurately where data is involved is intimately tied to how accurately subjective factors are discussed.

    3. I’m used to flying UA out of ORD, but had the opportunity to fly a DL A220 out of MKE. The A220 is a fantastic airliner, and the DL staff were solid. At least as good as UA (and I have gold status with them). That said, I flew on a JetBlue A220 in the opposite direction and found it to be an even nicer experience. In other words, DL is good and perhaps the best of the big 3. But not by all that much – and you can still have a bad flight with them. AA, on the other hand, sucks right now.

      1. Apparently you weren’t in the middle seat for either of those flights.. 2-3 should have died with the DC-9.

  3. Great observations for such a short flight. I think that Delta Airlines is head & shoulders above their local competition. I simply get treated better, with more appreciation and respect when flying Delta. Thanks for the review.

    1. I’m wondering where he finds the time! And the dedication!? And the perseverance!? Is he… Ed Bastian’s Executive PR Assistant?!

  4. The difference seems to be really minor compared to, say, Skywest or Horizon flying for AS. And some of the small things were things that didn’t work as expected – the app not notifying of boarding started, or the gate agents skipping a boarding group. And AS even has a inflight map on the app.

  5. I’m sure they had their reasons for rushing it, but every time I try Delta’s “free” wifi and it’s not free, it’s frustrating.

    Also, three cheers for communication from pilots. Makes all the difference.

  6. Hi Brett, You mentioned that intrastate CA fares have gotten out of hand. I noticed this as well and have been wondering about this for a long time. Any thoughts of why that is? I live in San Jose and from time to time make trips to LA but have noticed that the fares are absolutely ridiculous.

    1. Al – I wish I knew, but Southwest is good at keeping fares high on these routes. It’s hard to think there’s really room for a disruptor, but Frontier and Spirit do some limited intra-Cal flying.

  7. Delta is the most disgusting airline in North America. FAs who were trained by concentration camp guards, planes that are just on this side of the average pigsty, the worst elites around in terms of egocentricity and expectations, the leader of the worst of the three alliances, the fact that you can’t get into their overrated lounges…and yet people still support them. What do they see that I don’t? Or, more likely, what do they not see that I do? Delta pumps a mind control gas through the AC system that builds up over time and makes people think they’re actually a good airline.

    I’ve never had a good flight on the Widget, from short-haul RJ to trans-Atlantic. I avoid them as much as possible, and being out of O’Hare, I can easily ignore them since they’re shoved into Terminal 5 and are thus not visible to real airlines. To Hades with the Widget.

    1. Wow! Concentration camps! I never seen any comments on here that were just so outrageous and ridiculous. There must be something underlying here that would make you say such things.

      1. I loathe Delta. Like I said, I’ve never had a good experience on a Delta flight and had very bad experiences with the ground staff when irrops hit, especially at MSP. What I really hate is people making Delta out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and worshipping at the altar of Ed Bastian, sincerely believing that I must be hallucinating since Delta is the world’s perfect airline. I hate JetBlue for the same reason, magnified by the sheer egotism of the New York and Boston fanboys.

        1. If ORD is your second home, does that mean you are an airline employee there?
          If you are a committed passenger even of AA or UA, ORD would not be your second home. Their planes would be.

          1. No, Tim. I fly so much that I spend as much time at ORD as I do at my apartment. I am a loyal UA flier.

  8. Perceptions of quality, including in trip reports, invariably involves subjectivity. When companies serve over 100 million customers – as all of the big 4 US airlines do – subjectivity and bias is neutralized.

    Delta sits at the top of the US airline industry – and the top of the global industry for some metrics – because it strategizes and executes in total better than its competitors.

    While this flight was operated by SkyWest, the alignment with Delta is clear on Delta’s Connection carriers; DL thinned the ranks of its Connection carriers just to create size for each operator and consistency with DL’s standards.

    The DOT just got around to releasing its April Air Travel Consumer Report and it shows that DL is still in the #1 position for on-time and at or near the top in every other category the DOT measures. When DL outperforms its competitors in measurable and quantifiable metrics which other surveys see, it is hard not to argue about the leadership Delta provides to the industry including in financial metrics. Delta has simply built a business and an airline that delivers what customers want and DL knows how to monetize its services for higher profits.

    Brett is not biased; he flies multiple airlines and presents data and his opinion honestly. If he perceives a difference in a 1 hour Delta Connection flight in coach, others perceive it even more on longer Delta flights, even if others might come to different conclusions.
    DOT data also shows how big of a lead (11%) DL has over AA (the number 2 domestic airline) in flights at LAX as well as UA (30%), similar to what is seen in NYC’s 3 airports where DL is 15% plus larger than UA and twice as large as AA. Running a good business begets growth.

    His data on other subjects says what it says; while there is enough data so that the results can be manipulated many ways, the real, complete picture ultimately comes out. I have long been a CF fan but am even more so with his recent partnerships to deepen his data-driven analysis of the airline industry which few other sites do.

    Delta said that high speed free WiFi for regional jets would come later this year joining the international fleet and the remainder of the domestic fleet which will give Delta the largest marketed network of free high speed airborne WiFi in the world. Even the consistent choice of snacks which has been around for years is unique. Delta does the little stuff that makes a difference on top of being reliable. The fact that they get more revenue from corporate and business travel than any other airline in the world is not a surprise.

    The good news is that the global airline industry is still very competitive. No one can rest on their laurels. DL’s competitors are also improving. On-time and cancellation stats are the best they have been in years. Competition is good. Delta just happens to do better than its competitors.

    1. One Delta metric that should be published is the percentage of loyal SkyMiles flyers who refuse to play Ed’s stupid new tiered qualifying game. Count me as one of them. Ed blew it. Delta had a good thing going. FY 2025 should be an ugly awakening for him.

      1. Agreed, I’m one as well. Delta blew it and then gave me then”opportunity” to see what else was out there. This isn’t to begrudge Brett’s experience with the “express” service Delta does on flight under TWO HOURS, but there is not an abundance of choices on Delta when AS and WN can offer their entire catalog of beverages and snacks on the same flight time/routes, not just coffee, tea, or water. Also, just last year the Delta Reginald’s still had Wi-Fi connected IFE. Then for some reason yanked it out of all their regionals (or more likely just turned it off). Why? It was nice to go from mainline to regional and keep watching your programming. UA and AS and AA still have it! And don’t get me started on if your IFE is broken, or you are on an 800 and get the Penguin of Despair. The Wi-Fi IFE now requires you to sign up for a Paramount subscription, so cool, now you’ve got to hope you remember to cancel something after your flight. Agreed on the dingy planes comments others reference here and the flirtatious, please give me your “good job” points cards, or the completely indifferent, I’m functional but not friendly service experiences. I’ve rarely had such a polarizing experience with a brand as I’ve had with Delta in the last year – aiming higher, but definitely shooting lower.

  9. I’ve always agreed with Cranky that Delta was just a bit better. But I’ll also say that my experience depends on what Delta hub you are flying through. MSP and DTW are legacy Northwest hubs and the folks in those hubs tend to show the old NW attitude.

    But Atlanta is different. I traveled through Atlanta a few times and had wonderful experiences. One time in particular stands out. I was coming from a business meeting and dressed in a suit and tie. Four Delta people stopped me, offered to help and pointed me in the right direction to see if I could catch an earlier flight. Even a Delta ramp guy, complete with yellow jacket, stopped me and asked if he could assist me.

    I am a million miler on United and I’ve met a lot off good people over the years who worked there and served me. But I never saw anything like the genuine hospitality I saw at Delta Atlanta. If this is how Delta operates every day, no wonder they are number 1!

    1. I’ve generally had good experiences with DL at ATL – most of the problems I’ve ever had at ATL were weather-related, so I just avoid it during peak thunderstorm season, and if I can’t…well, they can’t do anything about weather. IRROPS has always tried to do their best by me, never perfect but sometimes you just appreciate the effort even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you want it to.

      Their employees at JFK…that’s another story. For every positive experience, I’ve had ten bad ones.

    2. I beg to differ… Arrive ATL on Delta from Montego Bay at midnight and connecting flight to RDU cancelled by weather which is code for good luck old man! (I’m 75). So? No handout as to what to do at midnight and no departures… Not a single open venue even for snacks… Saw a vending machine sign but when I got there only blank walls ..
      Apparently there was an all night McDonald’s another time zone away…I sat in seat near terminal A and had 10 hours to go to next available flight…”good luck to you” I could here the Delta board of directors whispering from a future get together at the Club which I cannot access with my skymiles and Amex Delta gold card…I tied my cell phone charger cord around my wrist and thru my luggage so if I feel asleep I would catch any thief in action…at 3pm I awoke to sirens blaring and lights flashing and speakers blast “there is an emergency event in this building ..please stand by for further instructions”…I remember the exact words because they kept the sirens and announcements going on a loop in that early morning while Delta staff hardly blinked…when my morning Delta flight departed after 3 gate changes and I’m hobbling on a bum hip each change I felt like a refugee in my own country and the home base of Delta Airlines… it all felt like my fault…I’ll do better next time…

  10. All this talk about Delta, and this trip really wasn’t even on Delta. It was on Skywest.

    Their crews work multiple lines. Some will work multiple airlines even on the same trip, though it’s more common with the flight attendants than the pilots.

    It would be interesting to compare trips on various regionals. In my exoerience…



    1. I do a lot of flying on regionals, having to go to a lot of smaller destinations from the Ancestral Homeland of Regionals, ORD. To me, the GoJet experience on the CRJ-550 is the best, especially in F. GoJet FAs seem to be very attentive. SkyWest people are very professional and beat out most of the FAs on mainline, but they do have a tendency to postpone at the first whiff of wind (in Chicago, that’s expected) or to cancel. Republic, Envoy, and Endeavor just sort of blend into each other, nothing phenomenal or horrid, just average. Mesa…oh, Mesa.

  11. I am fascinated by the number of people on this site (as well as other travel sites) that are so traumatized by Tim Dunn. Not one day passes where his name his name is not mentioned in the comments section. LOL

      1. Don’t forget the obligatory lead in sentence with the semicolon; it is just to make a point instead of creating two sentences…

    1. About one-third of his posts are insightful, or at least interesting. Another third tend to be excessive Delta boosterism, mixed with a little excuse-making and the rest are a mix of the two. And he sometimes goes out of his way to mention DL in comments on stories that have nothing to do with Delta at all, or at best tangentially connected by going out of the way to compare Delta to someone else.

      Other participants just get weary of the fanaticism. I do too, and I’ve allowed myself a couple of one-sentence snarky reactions here and there.

      The facts that he just posts so often, his posts are so long (I thought I was verbose!), that some of them have bits that read almost like Delta press releases, and that he also posts on other sites also makes some people wonder if he’s actually getting paid to do this and he’s not being honest about this. I’ve pondered that a few times myself, but don’t really have any evidence.

      But it’s all part part of participating in a free forum. C’est la vie.

  12. I have to echo John G. Maybe your flights were good because you flew on SkyWest. Not only that, but I see Biscoff cookies (I.e., sawdust) on sale at Costco quite regularly. LOL

    1. Considering Brett makes this site available to readers for free, and only has the occasional sponsor, I’d guess not.

  13. Late post, perhaps after this blog thread has gone quiet….

    Given SkyWest operates flights for AA, DL, UA, and AS, how much of The On-Board Passenger Experience is controlled by SkyWest vs their Partners?

    I know the On-Board Staff (Pilots, Flight Attendants) work for SkyWest, so The Employee Factor seems outside of the direct control of their Partners except for Contractual T&Cs on such matters.

    Lastly, I believe The Equipment (Bombardier, Embraer) is controlled by SkyWest too, thus again leading the question as to how much of the In-Cabin and In-Seat experience is controlled by SkyWest vs their partners.

    I do know that The Equipment Livery is unique to each Client, so I believe the entire relationship is controlled by contractual T&Cs but the overall Pax Experience is not directly comparable to Mainline Equipment-&-Staffing, right?

    1. LaxLgbSnaFlier – That is something that Delta has more aggressively tried to control. It knows that regionals need to provide similar service to mainline and it moved early to try and fix that.

  14. Reading this while riding a train between Paris and Amsterdam, which is a similar distance (~350mi vs 320mi), makes me sad for our infrastructure. Flying and planes is first love but high speed trains have won me over for <500mi trips when traveling in other countries. HSR would also free up airports/pilots for other routes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier