I had to head out to Atlanta for a friend’s wedding, so I’d fly Delta, right? Wrong! Ok, half wrong. I did fly Delta on the return since nobody else had a mid-day option that worked at the time. For that, I snagged a nonstop to Orange County for $383.90, but that was later schedule-changed, so I ended up at LAX… but let’s not worry about that until later. Going out, I took the one, lonely, American Airlines flight since I had leftover credit to use and it was a relative steal at $223.90. Both flights were good, but I have to give the edge to Delta.
I had checked in on my phone and with a 10:10am departure, I planned to leave my house about 2 hours prior. It took about 40 minutes to get to LAX and then another 20+ just to make my way to Terminal 5 inside the horseshoe. Oh, LAX…
In the terminal, things weren’t terribly busy, but there was a mess in Precheck land. I got in line and waited for about 5 minutes when they decided to take people from the back half of the line and create another line just for kicks. This led to mass confusion, a very angry woman in front of me barking at the people to stop cutting, and general frustration all around.
Eventually it got sorted, but it still took me more than 10 minutes to get through. By the time I got to the gate, it was 9:30am and they were getting ready to board.
Gate 53A is one of those weird wedge gates that goes behind the concessions in Terminal 5. It, combined with 53B, has a seating area that is far too small and people spill out into the hallway. We got lucky that 53B had just boarded so we could stretch a little, but it was still too small to fit everyone on our A321neo.
Once it was time to board, I realized that I still had Group 5 on the boarding pass. I canceled my American credit card a month or two ago, so I figured my priority boarding would be gone. But there it was. Airline tech is the best tech.
May 10, 2023
From Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled Departure: 1010a
➤ Actual Departure: 1011a
➤ From Gate: 53A
➤ Wheels Up: 1029a
➤ From Runway: 25R
➤ Wheels Down: 522p
➤ On Runway: 9R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 536p
➤ Actual Arrival: 531p
➤ At Gate: T12
➤ Type: Airbus A321-253NX
➤ Delivered: February 1, 2019
➤ Registered: N400AN, msn 8647
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail
➤ Cabin: Coach (extra legroom) in Seat 9A
➤ Load: ~90% Full
➤ Flight Time: 3h53m
Upon boarding, I saw a sticker on the door showing that this was American’s first delivered neo. (I, of course, knew that since I looked at the registration like the nerd that I am.)
I treated myself to Main Cabin Extra on this flight. It’s not because I was willing to pay for it, but remember how American decided to end all of those Flex Fund waivers and favors as part of its plan to gut travel agent programs? We had a bunch left over to kill before the program ended, so I used them to sit in seat 9A. I never would have done that otherwise, but they would have just disappeared.
I still think the gray and blue look weird together, and the red highlights denoting Main Cabin Extra don’t really improve the situation.
There was a woman on the aisle with a lap child and then, miracle of all miracles, we had an empty middle in between us.
We pushed almost on-time and made our way slowly to the runway. It was a nice but hazy morning as we climbed our way toward altitude for our trip across the empire.
I first put my phone in the little clip on the seatback and turned on movies. As usual, I picked something truly terrible, starting with Easter Sunday and moving on to 80 for Brady. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Annoyingly, I couldn’t get my bluetooth headphones to connect to my phone, so I had to use the plug-in which meant I couldn’t charge while watching. Technology. Bleh.
My plan was to work on this flight and there was “fast” wifi onboard. Unfortunately, every time I tried to pay, I kept getting an error that rotated. This was one of them.
I tried multiple cards, and that wasn’t the issue. Frustrated, I took the 20 minute free option if you watched some promo video from American.
The wifi was fastish, but that was good enough for what I needed. After 20 minutes, my time was done, so I went and tried to pay again. It still failed.
The flight attendants came through with drinks, and I just had water and a Biscoff. I asked if they had heard of any issues getting online and they said no. I tried a couple more times and then… MAGIC. It worked.
I had been so focused on getting online that I didn’t think about whether I SHOULD have gotten online. American charged me $25 for access on the full flight (or a bargain $19 for one hour), and by this point there were only about 2.5 hours left. I shouldn’t have done it, because it was not worth it.
And now, a question… When I had my phone in the clip, there’s a piece of the clip that flips down and partially obscures the top of your laptop.
Obviously I had to take the phone down to take the photo, but you can see the overhang. Am I using this wrong or is this just bad design?
Anyway, once we got toward eastern Oklahoma the weather arrived. We spent much of the last hour and half dodging around storm cells.
The seatbelt sign was on much of that time, and flight attendants were told to be seated for a good chunk of it. Knowing the situation, I was beside myself seeing the woman next to me letting her child just roam around freely in the empty middle seat. There was no restraint at all. I had visions of this kid smacking into the ceiling if we hit some rough air, and it was making me anxious.
Fortunately, it never did get too rough, and the child lived. As we got toward Atlanta, the weather broke up though we did have a choppy arrival. It was so choppy that the flight attendants had to deeply and sincerely apologize for not being able to hand out all those credit card applications that clearly everyone desperately wanted. (Their original pitch was that they were telling us about the card because so many people had asked about it earlier. Riiiiight.)
The nice part about flying American into Atlanta is they use the T gates which make it easy to get in and out. There isn’t much to them, pretty spartan and crowded, but no train is needed. I left the secure area, and that led me to the ticket counter area and through a long corridor past security. They are doing some ceiling work in this part of the airport, apparently, and it looks… precarious.
After a long walk, I made it to the train to the rental car center which eventually led me to getting the heck out of the airport so I could sit in bad traffic.
After my first visit to Truist Park and other shenanigans, the wedding went off without a hitch on Saturday. I had been debating whether to get home earlier on Mother’s Day Sunday since my original flight wasn’t until 12:45pm. On the bus ride home from the wedding reception, I paid $75 to change to the 8:10am.
The collective AvGeek braintrust at the wedding told me to expect pain and suffering at TSA Sunday morning, so I really should arrive 2 hours early, even with Precheck. I did just that and after getting gas, dropping the car off, and taking the train back to the terminal, I was ready to face TSA hell with 2 hours to spare.
That did not turn out as expected. Though the regular line was busy, there was nobody in the Precheck line. I sailed right through, only tripped up for a couple more minutes waiting for the hilariously-named new Analogic machine to slowly spit everyone’s bags out.
I was on the other side and walking toward my gate — T3 this time, luckily still on the T gates — wondering what I’d do for the next 2 hours.
As I passed by gate T4, I paused. They had just started boarding the 6:25am flight to LA, so it was clearly running a little late. Could I get moved up again? It couldn’t hurt to ask.
I asked if the flight was full, and I was told it was not. The agent asked a colleague if she could still move me so close to departure, and he said if I didn’t have bags checked then I could do it. I had no checked bag, so I moved up again, asking politely for a window if one was available. The agent said “no problem” and told me to get in line to board.
Once I got to the front of the line, I asked him if he had a new boarding pass since my app still showed the next flight. He told me to scan that boarding pass and said “trust me.” So I did, and the scanner spit out a little piece of paper with my new seat assignment on this flight, 21F. I walked onboard.
May 14, 2023
➤ Scheduled Departure: 625a
➤ Actual Departure: 640a
➤ From Gate: T4
➤ Wheels Up: 655a
➤ From Runway: 26L
To Los Angeles
➤ Wheels Down: 750a
➤ On Runway: 25L
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 810a
➤ Actual Arrival: 805a
➤ At Gate: 23A
➤ Type: Boeing 757-351
➤ Delivered: February 3, 2003
➤ Registered: N588NW, msn 32988
➤ Livery: Standard Delta livery
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 21F
➤ Load: ~70% Full
➤ Flight Time: 3h55m
All three of the Delta flights I had planned on taking that day were on the 757-300. These airplanes are all around 20 years old, and they showed some wear and tear in common areas but the seats were newish and clean. And even if the -300 is stupidly-long and awkward looking, it is still a 757 and I love it dearly.
I took my seat and was very happy to find the door closing with nobody next to me in the middle or aisle. There’s nothing better than scoring a coach flat bed.
We took off to the west and climbed through the still morning air until we found our perch at 36,000 feet. A lot of people wanted to sleep, so windows were closed and it was dark. I, obviously, kept my window open and enjoyed the view.
The flight attendants were busy, doing a service at the beginning and end of the flight along with making multiple passes in between with water and for trash collection. They were working hard, and it was noticeable.
I once again settled in for some bad movies, but somehow I ended up watching a good one, Confess, Fletch. I later made up for it by watching an absolutely unwatchable movie called Leap Year.
I had the screen next to me set up with the moving map while I stretched out, so my command center was set up well. I thought about going online, but Delta’s much-promoted free wifi doesn’t work on the 757-300s. They still have old Gogo wifi which would have cost $20 for the flight or a much-more-reasonable-than-American $6 for an hour. I could have gotten my T-Mobile access for free, but I was really just curious about the free wifi login process. Since that wasn’t an option, I passed and decided to try to enjoy my Sunday morning.
We had a light chop much of the way, but it was never enough to convince the pilots to put the seatbelt sign on, something rare in the US that I always appreciate. As we got into California, we began our descent. After a brief trip through the very low marine layer, we ended up touching down early, albeit on the wrong side of the airport.
After just a few minutes of waiting for traffic to clear, we were at the gate 5 minutes early. After a warm Happy Mother’s Day wish from a flight attendant, we were off the airplane and I was heading home.
Both flights arrived on time and I had at least one empty seat next to me both ways, so there really isn’t much to complain about, is there? If I had to pick a winner, it would be Delta thanks to the in-seat video and far superior moving map option which really does make a difference, all else being equal. Had free wifi been available, that would have been another point toward Delta versus the overly-expensive American option.
I also appreciated the more frequent but non-intrusive service from Delta and the lack of a dedicated credit card pitch as compared to American. Of course, American flight attendants were dealt a bad hand since weather may have prevented them from doing a full service, so it’s hard to compare exactly. But Delta does get the edge overall.