April 24, 2003
Departure: 6:22, Gate E87
Arrival: 11:50, Gate G9
I checked in on nwa.com the night before departure so I decided to head to the airport quite late for a transborder flight. Got in at around 5:15 and went to the counter to have my luggage tagged. NW
/QX counters are grouped together at the far end of the terminal, and it was busy that morning, with a lot of AS
departures to west coast cities. Thankfully, the NW
counters were empty. I approached the First/Elite desk and the lady behind the counter was as robotic and mechanical as they all get: no greeting, no acknowledgement, nothing. I don't find NW
at fault here because I know that GlobeGround is their handling agent, but even then, they should be trained to be courteous especially to the premium passengers!
I then passed through the duty free and on to the US immigration where there was a very long line. Not totally unexpected as between 6-9AM is YVR
's peak time for transborder departures. It's quite funny how above the counter reads "Welcome to the United States" when technically you are still on Canadian soil, and subjected to Canadian law. The INS officers are not even allowed to arrest anyone - they have to contact the RCMP to make the arrest on their behalf and would have to file an extradition request! Anyway, I lined up and was greeted with a surprise as I have never encountered a more friendly INS officer. The gentleman just asked me where I was going, why, how long and when was the last time I was in the US and told me "enjoy your visit!" I was expecting to be harrassed because my final destination was New York, and especially because of the current political climate between the Canadian and US governments! Anyway, I moved along to the customs checkpoint and handed my declaration form to the officer. Dropped off my checked luggage on the carousel and off I went to clear security.
By the time I finished with all the pre-departure formalities, I had about 40 minutes till departure. Went straight to the smoking lounge and finished two sticks to compensate for the next 5 hours not having any! By the time I got to the gate, they were already pre-boarding first/elite passengers so I joined the short qeue. As I was about to enter the jet bridge - you guessed it - I was selected for security screening and went through the whole nine yards! The whole thing was painless but nonetheless annoying. Proceeded to the aircraft and was greeted by two middle-aged FA
's. One took my coat and the other asked for my pre-departure drink order. Took an OJ as usual. Flight was full in both classes. FA
’s were cheerful when doing the safety demo – “If you are seated next to a child, or someone who acts like one……..”
Take off roll was an incredible 13 seconds, but it did not surprise me as it has always been the case with my A320 flights with CFM engines. My only flight on an IAE-powered aircraft was on an LH
A321 and that was a while ago so I can't quite remember. Anyway, the lead FA
offered more drinks about 15 minutes after take-off so I took another OJ. A few more minutes later, and prior to the breakfast service, coffee was served first and I found this a little strange as most airlines usually offer coffee either with or after breakfast was served. Today's choices were the usual cereal and banana or scrambled eggs with sausage and hash browns. 15 out of 16 pax, including myself, took the eggs. Fairly standard F Class breakfast on North American carriers, and it came with the quintessential fruit plate. Again, 15 out of 16 pax took the blueberry muffin, while I was the exception and took the bagel with cream cheese.
The rest of the flight was relatively smooth, and the FA
was constantly making drinks rounds. Had a nice chat with her and she explained that today's crew was LAX
-based. Arrival into MSP
was on time and I decided to leave the sterile area as my nicotine craving couldn't wait for another 3 hours until JFK
. With only an hour in between my flights I was really pushing it but then again Noon is usually off-peak so what the heck...... Made it back into the terminal and re-cleared security. I set off the alarm so I was frisked. Another surprise was the TSA
agent - very courteous and he was explaining his every move as he was searching me. I couldn't believe it, but I guess every government organization has a select few who are just naturally kind.
Departure: 13:05, Gate C16
Arrival: 11:50, Gate A3
Decided to kill the short time by walking all the way to the gate from the central terminal area instead of taking the people movers. By the time I got to the gate, it was only about 5 minutes until boarding. The FA
greeting the pax at the door was geriatric – much like the DC-9 itself! Boarding was quite slow for this full flight, and it was hot and uncomfortable inside the aircraft. Even the granny FA
was getting antsy with her announcements: “If you wanna get out of here on time, don’t wait for us to help you store your luggage. Just do it! Left side bins are an inch wider so make sure you store your Pullmans there!”
Anyway, boarding eventually finished and I took a Budweiser for my pre-departure drink. Take off was smooth and I love hearing the whine of the Pratt engines. This was probably one of my last few flights on the DC9 since I don’t plan on flying NW
in the near future, so it was a very nostalgic moment. The last time I was on a DC9 was 13 years ago aboard SK
when I went to a summer camp in Europe. The interior of this particular aircraft has little resemblance to the original DC9’s since NW
has refurbished them with 717-style interiors, but my god they still looked dilapidated and I was concerned the plane would break up in mid-air or something!
As soon as cruising altitude was reached, the FA
came back and passed around a basket containing spinzels so I took a couple to keep me from getting hungry for the rest of the short, 2.5-hour flight. I asked for another Budweiser to go with my spinzels. The FA
made a few drinks rounds so I asked for more Bud, thinking that this was it as far as nourishment goes for this flight. I couldn’t be more wrong – as the FA
was clearing my drinks, she asked if I wanted a roast beef sandwich or the chicken on asian noodles. What? There’s a meal? Much to my surprise, indeed there was a meal. I took the chicken and it came with mixed greens and peppercorn ranch dressing, as well as a carrot cake with cream cheese topping. The meal tray looked exactly like the standard NW
F Class meals as seen on airlinemeals.net, but the quality of the food reminded me of an institutional cafeteria! Anyway, I was more than happy to get something so I ate everything. As soon as the trays were cleared, the FA
asked if I wanted anything else so I asked for a glass of red wine.
The weather was just great for flying, and in no time we were overflying Newark airport with a great view of Manhattan just ahead. Everybody was glued to their windows the entire time, and soon we were on final approach to JFK
. Touch down was uneventful, and we taxied to Terminal 4. While waiting for the jetbridge to connect to the aircraft, the FA
started talking to us F Class pax how she loves these reliable, old DC9’s and that she hated the Airbuses. She said she felt safer here than in the A320. I got offended because the A320 family is my favourite narrowbody, but decided not to say anything because what the heck – she’s an old lady! You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
Anyway, got off the plane and onto the beautiful Terminal 4. It’s my first time inside this terminal and I must say I’m impressed! Finally, a terminal in the US that is a showcase to the world! The only thing I didn’t like was that as this place was designed to handle international traffic, it’s not very user-friendly for domestic passengers. We had to go all the way to the end of the terminal and out to the greeting area, and then over to the other side and enter the sole domestic baggage carousel area via a sliding door. Baggage took a while, and it was clear to me that the priority labels mean nothing to NW
! Exited the terminal and was soon on my way to Manhattan.
The verdict? NW
delivers a very basic product with very little attention to detail. F Class doesn’t feel special at all, and in fact it seems worse than Y Class on short-haul European or Asian flights. The seats look worn, FA
’s very casual (not really a bad thing but they just don’t live up to the formality of European and Asian FA
’s that exude a more professional look!), meals that are sub-standard, no hot or cold towels, no entertainment, and most importantly seat pitch that equals only Y Class on airlines like AA
. All in all, an acceptable product on this part of the globe, but definitely not worth your money. It makes me wonder how people on this forum and on flyertalk can rant and rave about domestic F Class service in the US when it cannot even match Y Class service on SQ
, etc, etc, etc……. Anyway, to sum it all up: the glamour of F Class travel is lost in the US!