It was time for another trip down to Houston for baseball so here we go again. Continental wasn’t an option on this trip because of their schedules on Sunday evening so I choose Delta instead. My first trip on Delta was eventful, so I was hoping this would be just the opposite. I was in for a surprise….
Friday, May 3, 2002
Arrive: 11:58 AM
As any of you that have read my previous trip reports I have had run-ins with the “prescribed two-hour before departure” rule of thumb. I decided that two hours was just way too much time. I arrived at Cleveland Hopkins International at about 9:15AM and walked right up to the Delta e-ticket check-in kiosk. I had my boarding passes and bags checked through to Houston in five minutes. On my way to the departure gate, B-04, I stopped by the Great American Bagel and got myself, what else, a bagel! Walked down to the B concourse and passed through security, which took no more than five minutes. The scheduled boarding time of 9:50AM came and went with no announcement. At a little bit after 10:00AM the gate agent came on and announced that Atlanta had a ground stop in effect due to thunderstorms over the airport and that our flight would be delayed until 11:20AM with a new boarding time of 10:50AM. I had a tight connection, 47 minutes, so I thought I would miss my connection. However, the agent also said all connections were still okay since all other flights were in the same situation. Makes sense. When boarding finally did happen it was quick and orderly and I took my seat in the exit row, 24E. The seats were not as uncomfortable as they seemed on my January DL flight. The plane was nearly full and our MD-88 was number one for departure. Take off, from 24L, was powerful and climb was steep. I am always amazed at the power of the MD-80 on takeoff. The first officer announced a flight time of one hour and thirteen minutes. About twenty minutes after departure the beverage service began. We cruised at FL310 and our route took us west of Columbus, OH, over Lexington, KY and Chattanooga, TN and then into Atlanta. The ride was smooth until we began our initial descent into the Atlanta area. We hit a pocket of turbulence and dropped considerably. At that point the captain asked the flight attendants to be seated. We rocked and rolled, excuse the cliché, all the to touchdown. After we landed we taxied to Ramp 3 where we waited for forty-five minutes for a gate. I finally got off the plane at 1:40PM. Needless to say I missed my connection. I retreated to the Crown Room to get re-booked and wait out the delay.
I was re-booked on Delta #735 which didn’t depart until 3:50PM with a boarding time of 3:20PM. No problem, I hung out in the Crown Room and watched CNN. I saw on CNN that I just missed being held up in CLE longer due to a security breach, something about a bomb. Anyway, at 3:20PM I took my glass back up to the bar, instead of just leaving it lying around, and headed for the stairs that would take me back out to the concourse. I checked the monitors before I left just to make sure there wasn’t a gate change. There was no gate change, but there was a time change! It was now departing at 4:45PM. Normally the delays wouldn’t bother me, but I actually had to be somewhere at 7:00PM. Oh well, I went back to the bar and got another soda and back to CNN. At 4:15 I headed down to the gate area, which was a zoo, and waited for boarding. It was kind of funny because they announced boarding at 4:15PM and estimated arrival into Houston at 4:50PM. Opps. Boarding began with the usual first class, then medallion members, and then cargo, I mean economy, class. When the boarding agent scanned my boarding pass the machine beeped and blinked red and said “RANDOM SECURITY CHECK”.
. The very nice security lady, who probably graduated high school with my great-grandmother performed a thorough hand-wanding and pat down. After I was found to be un-armed and non-threatening they let me board the 727-200 in the “new new” colors. I took my seat in the exit row, 20A. As we sat at the ramp waiting pushback it began to get very windy and then the rain started. No big deal, it wasn’t lightning. I could tell the flight attendants were trying to get everyone seated as quickly as they could. We pushed back from the ramp and began our taxi to the active runway. As we were about to turn to join the line the captain come on and asked everyone to look to the right. When we did there was a huge line of departing aircraft. He announced we were number eighteen for departure. At that point it began to lightning, as a matter of fact a US Airways 737 had just rotated and was climbing out when the first bolt struck. I heard the engines shut down and the captain again came on and said that “…Atlanta Air Traffic Control is not allowing westbound departures due to thunderstorms.” We waited an hour and thirty minutes on the taxiway. Finally, at 6:04PM, we rotated and made the slow climb to FL330 bound for Houston. Captain announced flight time as two hours and two minutes. Our flight path took us south towards Columbus, GA, then west over Mobile, AL, Baton Rouge, LA, Lafayette, LA and on into Houston. Landing was smooth and the taxi was relatively short for IAH. One thing that was odd. When we landed white smoke started to come out of the vent’s just under the storage bins alarming some passengers. However, anyone that has been to Houston in the summer knows that it is just humidity. By the way, in Atlanta I saw the usual array of Delta aircraft, nothing to note.
Sunday, May 5, 2002
After a couple of hot and humid days in Houston it was time for the return to Clevleand. I arrived at IAH at 4:30PM for my 5:50PM departure. I walked into the terminal and up to the e-ticket kiosks to find that there were in fact no kiosks, contrary to what Delta’s website said. Oh well, I went back outside and checked in with the skycap at the curbside check-in. This saved me time as the line at the check-in counter was growing pretty big. Security was a breeze, I was through in two minutes. I grabbed a bite to eat and then waited in the gate area. There was the America West departure to Phoenix and our flight to Atlanta and that was all. Boarding and pushback were uneventful. The flight was nearly to capacity. We taxied to the active runway and were number five for departure. The first aircraft was the British Airways 747-400 with service to Washington Dulles and continuing to London’s Heathrow Airport. A couple of RJ’s and 737’s later we were making the slow, and seemingly labored, climb to FL310. The captain announced our flight time at a quick one hour and twenty minutes. Our flight path took us east over Lafayette, LA, New Orleans, LA, then northeast over Mobile, AL, Montgomery, AL, and then on into Atlanta. Basically the same as the trip to Houston. Beverage service started soon after takeoff and with it came the proverbial bag of pretzels. We began our initial descent into Atlanta and were flying pretty low. The flight attendant announced our final approach and they took their seats. Odd part was we flew for nearly thirty-five minutes before touchdown. I couldn’t tell you which way we were flying because we made numerous turns with no real direction. Oh well, landing was a bit bumpy and the pilot flying hit the brakes hard. Taxied to the gate and I only had a forty minute connection. I quickly got to the train and made it to Concourse A. I “excused myself” all the way up the escalator. People just don’t seem to understand that some people do indeed have to make a connection and aren’t just aimlessly plowing through people just for the hell of it. I made it to the gate an boarded with the last group to board. I took my seat in the exit row, 26A. I dozed off during pushback, but it couldn’t have been a long time. Takeoff was again powerful and steep. The first officer announced the flight time at one hour and thirty-eight minutes at FL310. Our route took us north over Chattanooga, TN, then northeast just to the west of Knoxville, TN and Charleston, WV, then north over Parkersburg, WV, Akron, OH, then over the eastern suburbs and west over downtown Cleveland and a smooth landing at CLE on 24L. The flight was quite smooth and consisted of just a beverage service and pretzels. The airplane was to capacity, which sort of surprised me because the website showed at least twenty-five empty seats.
Overall my flights on Delta this time around were enjoyable. The delay on outbound leg sucked, but that isn’t Delta’s fault. One thing I will admit to is that MD-80 isn’t as bad as I like to think it is. I have never really liked that aircraft, and I still won’t go out of my way to fly on it, but it was not that bad. Delta still has the worst seats in the industry, but they were better then my January flights on Delta. They need to get higher seat backs and those winged headrests like Continental has. I didn’t realize what a difference those made. Hope you enjoyed the report, travel safe…..