I hope all of you who observe had a wonderful 4th of July weekend. Last month plans got firmed up for a family reunion in the Gridley, CA area and I ended up going. I fly about an average of 6 times per year, sometimes more, sometimes less, and this flight to Sacramento would be on Delta because it offered a nonstop service, whereas with WN we'd have to fly through Vegas or Phoenix. (If it were just me flying I'd have taken WN just for the Rapid Rewards perks, but other family members were taking this trip and paying for it).
So, on July 1st the time came to drive to the Diamond parking garage near SLC Int'l Airport and drop off the car, then take a shuttle to the airport and check in for an 8:10 am departure on what turned out to be a DL 737-800. We used Delta's electronic kiosks to check in and handed our luggage over, then dealt with a long security line on the Delta terminal's second floor. We got up to the level and had to take a people mover just to get to the back of the line! There has got to be a better way. Anyway, after about half an hour we got through security, put our shoes back on, and had a bite at the airport Burger King before proceeding to the gate. (Burger King's breakfast fare is okay but nothing to write home about). I got a glimpse of the 738 (painted in the "Deltaflot" colors) before we boarded and sat down aft of the wing on the right side (I forget the row numbers, I was at a window seat). The plane was relatively new and clean on the inside and outside, and though the plane can carry 160-something people (I don't know the exact number in Delta's configuration) the bird was only half-full at best, I felt more relaxed and at ease because of that. I was also looking forward to my first-ever flight on the 738 and seeing Sacramento and its airport...I'm one of those who's almost always up to traveling.
We pulled back on time and taxied to the runway on a beautiful, sunny morning. Over our heads, small LCD screens flipped down over every 2-3 rows and aired the safety demonstration. The taxiways felt a bit bumpy, I could actually see and feel us going over bumps like on a road...how common is this? Anyway, I didn't think anything of it other than being merely curious....soon enough we accelerated down the runway and took off. I noted the shadow of our bird as we headed away from SLC and turned west, and I thought about how I've now flown in every model of the 737 except the -100 and -600. (Yes, when I was a kid I got to fly on the -200 a few times, and I got to fly on Alaska's -400 and -900 a few years back, and I'm a regular on WN). As we settled at our cruising altitude (35,000 feet) I got out my Palm Tungsten E and listened to some tunes, played a couple of games. We got served sodas and pretzels, which was fine for this flight, which lasted only over an hour. Also I checked out Sky magazine, and had some fun looking at the flight path and altitude airing on the flip-down monitors over our heads. (I like these monitors, the monitors plus radio channels are a good alternative to PTV's for me. Then again, I've never used a PTV, maybe my opinion may change!). Anyway, we flew across the length of Nevada, then got a good view of the Sierras and the forest, then the flatlands around Sacramento. The time came to land and we did without any problems....not even bumpy pavement. We taxied to our gate, which was next to a Hawaiian Airlines 767, and in time we got off the bird.
Now we know where all the lost luggage goes.
The Sacramento airport immediately impressed me. It's a nice, clean facility that's compact but offers good conveniences, like a good selection of shops and a food court. The glass windows in the roof and the overall look was "sunny and light", pleasing to my eyes, and to top things off, the baggage claim area certainly ought to get people talking. Also SMF looks like it's got a decent selection of flights and service - between DL, HA, CO, WN, HP, and other carriers SMF residents have a way to get to almost anywhere. We boarded the bus to the rental car area, which was not very far and was a shorter ride than the one in BWI 2 months ago. The only bumpy spot in all of this was when we tried to check in with Hertz...the agent had an attitude and was replaced by another one, then we (grandparents, mom, aunt, yours truly) got our car, then saw Old Sacramento, then got lost on our way to Gridley (60 miles north of Sacto), what a fiasco, but we made good time (lol) and saw the countryside! Finally we got back on track and headed north.
Fast forward to July 5....the way back.
We drove from Gridley to SMF and dropped off the car. We checked in at the Delta desk - no kiosks yet, they say they'll have them by September. We got through the security line, it took 10 minutes, no problems. We sampled the food court fare, they have California Pizza Kitchen, TCBY, others....I ended up with a big, salty buttered pretzel that was pretty good. Finally, we got up to the gate for our trip back to SLC. I'd thought we were flying on another 738, but instead the bird was a 752. And it would be completely full. We boarded on time and I ended up in row 44, on the left side - I got an aisle seat this time. The bird was ultimately headed for JFK and had a good number of pax flying there from SMF.
We pulled back from the gate and saw the safety presentation on TV sets permanently mounted over every few rows in the middle of the roof. I wasn't too impressed with their video quality, they're older units, and one of them near the front flickered noticeably. At length we took off. As we climbed through the early afternoon sky we got a good view of the flatlands, then the Sierra foothills as we climbed up to our cruising altitude. This time there was no flight path programming on the TV's - instead there was a sitcom called "Scrubs" and a long commercial about Skyteam. A different issue of Sky magazine was in the seat pocket and it had some articles about Delta's history, which I found interesting. The flight attendants came by and I got a Diet Coke and pretzels, and flipped out the Palm pilot again. I didn't listen to the inflight radio channels, but if we were headed to JFK I know I would have. (Headsets were offered at 2 bucks a pop).
We reached the Bonneville salt flats and started our descent...we flew over the Bingham copper mine (world's largest open pit, visible from space) and settled in on an approach path from the south. We landed without a problem and got to the gate, where we had to wait for a while before getting off. (I'd LOVE it if there could be front and aft jetways but I know that would be an extra cost which maybe can't be afforded). The pax headed to JFK stayed in their seats until we got off. As a side note, during the time we taxied to the gate the crew announced that the only meals on the SLC-JFK leg would be "buy on board" and that food would be available in the gate area for the JFK passengers. My aunt told me that one of her friends bought "buy on board" on Delta and it turned out to be a stale bagel - if they're going to do "buy on board" they need to do it right with plentiful, fresh choices for a reasonable cost, not dirt cheap, but not an arm and a leg. Anyway, when we got to the gate area, we saw a massive line at the California Pizza Kitchen and I thought how I'd hate to be one of the JFK-bound passengers in that line. Last time I flew on DL from SLC to JFK in October 2003 we got served a hot meal, hopefully DL will be financially sound enough to bring back their service levels soon.
Overall it was a pretty good trip. The Delta flight attendants were professional and did their job well enough. The planes were clean and the flights were on time and safe. I hope DL can keep flying, they're a good choice if I need to fly where WN doesn't, and I've got a Skymiles account.