The original itinerary - which Delta sold to me for the unbelievable price of $240 - had me routed via CVG on the outbound flight, but Delta cancelled the SAN-CVG flight and re-routed me through ATL.
Flight #1: SAN-ATL
Delta Flight #12
Photo © Dan Valentine
I arrived at the airport about two hours early - that was the only time I could have free transportation to the airport - and used Delta's self check-in kiosk. Simple, user-friendly, and quick. Before I knew it, the agent had a tag on my bag and checked my ID, and I was off to security. Kudos to Delta for such an easy to use system!!
WARNING: RANT AHEAD
And then every single stereotype of the TSA and the typical American traveller appeared. Yes, I realize that I had plenty of time, but my experience would test the patience of Mother Theresa. First of all, TSA had lots of signs posted, designating lanes for "families", "experienced travellers", and "frequent flyers"...so I got in the "experienced travellers" line...only to get behind people who obviously had never been to an airport before. I politely asked the nearby TSA agent, "is this the experienced traveller line?" only to get the reply of "oh, we're not doing that anymore".
So why are the signs up? I almost asked that, but I decided to hold my tongue as pointing out government stupidity will get me a nice long cavity search and possibly kicked out of the airport.
And wouldn't you know it? Bitter Betty herself opened up a line JUST after I had passed her, so everyone behind me got through before I did. Finally, standing there shoeless, beltless, and phoneless, I switched to another line being held up by a couple who were taking inventory for the fifth time of all their things. I smiled at the TSA agent who glared back with complete and total disinterest and got through.
I have tried to defend TSA, knowing that the average travellers' intelligence level is below theirs, but this one left me thinking that security is completely hopeless. Thanks for listening to my rant.
Okay, here's another rant for Delta, although it's VERY minor...why do you bother having strict "Zone Boarding" if you won't enforce it? I was in zone 9 of boarding, and when I got on the plane, I found people scattered throughout the coach section! However, there was room for my small carry-on and cowboy hat, and I waited for my seatmates. Only one person showed up, and she had seat 27A.
I don't care that seatguru.com doesn't rave about row 27 on Delta's 757's - I will do it for them!! You simply cannot do any better in the economy section than this row, as (a) there is extra legroom (see the picture), and (b) row 26 doesn't recline. Add an empty middle seat, and you've got the makings for an extremely comfortable flight!!
And it was - I settled back into my good books and Delta's very good coffee, and the 4 hour and 9 minute flight zoomed by. We were ahead of schedule, but due to afternoon thunderstorms near ATL, we circled a bit over Alabama. However, we landed almost precisely on schedule, and taxiied to the gate.
I had 2½ hours to kill at ATL, and I only had to get from the A wing to the B wing. Getting hungry, I set out in search of food, and I came across a GREAT place to eat in ATL in the A terminal:
Paschal's (a name I've never heard of) serves chicken, meatloaf, and pork chops with traditional southern side dishes. I had fried chicken (white meat) with collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread:
Okay, so I wandered over to my next gate and proceeded to read more of my book before boarding the next flight:
Flight #2: ATL-TPA
Delta Flight #139
Photo © Matthew C. Lyons
Again, zone 9, again I was one of the last to board, but at least there was a tiny bit of storage space in the overhead bin.
On this plane, row 19 is directly opposite the mid-ship entrance, with only the flight attendant jump seat across from the seats. Nothing but legroom, so I didn't take a picture of it, but I did get a snapshot of the first class and open cockpit as best as I could:
We left the gate exactly on time and did the usual taxiing parade out to the runway, passing by what seemed to be most of Delta's entire 767-300 fleet - it was international hour, though, so our imaginations wandered as to where all these planes were heading...
Once airborne, the air over Georgia and northern Florida proved to be quite turbulent. Twice a drink service was tried, and twice the captain discontinued it. However, with flying time being only one hour and nine minutes, this wasn't disappointing. The Tampa area, however, proved to be quite clear at that time of the evening, and after a scenic flyover of the airport and a 180 degree turn to land on runway 36L, we were on the ground and taxiied to our gate. Luggage at Tampa can be quick or it can be painfully slow. This time it proved to be quick, and I was ready for my short vacation!!
Ironically enough, this San Diego boy ended up going to Orlando to visit Sea World...and my year pass for Sea World San Diego isn't valid at other locations. Disappointing, but I'll live. The park was great, and as usual in Florida, about mid-afternoon a drenching downpour hit:
Tuesday morning we spent walking the boardwalk at Clearwater Beach, a very beautiful stretch of coast with the softest sand I've ever felt - more so even than Coronado in San Diego!! And here I could put my feet in the water without fear of frostbite...
And then it was time to get me back to TPA for my flight home. Rested and relaxed, but still with several good books, I once again used Delta's self check-in kiosk, and once again had their same delightful service!! Since there wasn't a rush this time, TSA was virtually empty, but wouldn't you know it? Again, the yutz parade managed to sneak in front of us and slow the line down. At least this time other passengers noticed it. That's comforting, at least - when you don't feel like the only person noticing. TSA was efficient, if as friendly as Patty and Selma at the DMV.
Flight #3: TPA-SLC
Delta flight #1137
Photo © Oleg Shiryayev
Tracking down the N number of this aircraft proved challenging, as in both TPA and SLC it was parked at a corner gate and the view was completely blocked on both sides. A VERY friendly agent in SLC gave me the ship number (3711), and thanks to the database here (and knowing how to ask it correctly), I figured out it was N381DN.
Again, zone boarding proved to be utter chaos, but not really any problem. We pushed back almost exactly on time, but our captain told us we should expect not only some turbulence on the way, but that headwinds were going to be fairly strong. The flight took 4 hours and 34 minutes, and we hit turbulence most of the way, although none of anywhere near uncomfortable.
I wished that there had been information available on the screens the whole flight as to our location, as my curiousity was piqued about our route - we would be overflying Fort Smith, Arkansas (my mom's hometown), but possibly her small Arkansas town just east of Fort Smith. However, I wasn't in a window seat, and the movie had to be shown - with the shades up - so it became a moot point. Besides, even if were just a few miles off, I wouldn't have seen anything I recognized...but the feature, if available is really interesting!
The 737-800 is virtually identical to the 757 in terms of size and comfort:
Again, emergency exit row seating on the aisle - you just can't go wrong!!
From one D gate to another at SLC - probably the quickest transfer I have ever done at any airport. I talked shop a bit with the SLC agent who gave me the ship number for the 737-800, and explained to him what airliners.net is all about - maybe we'll see him on here one day!
Flight #4: SLC-SAN
Delta flight #1165
757-232 N615DL (only one in the new colors!)
There are only pictures of this aircraft in the Song livery, but it has since been repainted in the newest scheme.
Two odd things about this part: This is virtually the same plane as the other 757's, yet I was in zone one for boarding this time instead of zone 9, and row 19 - technically an exit row - has less legroom than any other exit row I've ever been in!
However, this was an ex-Song bird, and I was delighted to see that the trivia game is still available. Immediately after taking off, we started.
And yes, being the fountain of trivial knowledge that I am, I won three of the five rounds, took second place in two others, and was winning the sixth when the plane landed at SAN. Amazing how fast one hour and thirty-three minutes can go by!!
Truly, this is as fast as I have ever gotten out of an airport - for some reason, we docked at the USAirways gates - the closest gates to baggage claim as there are at SAN. So instead of the usual schlep from the lovely but distant Delta gates at T2W, we were literally at the escalators. Arriving at the luggage carousel, we were all horrified to see that Delta was doing both their Atlanta flight AND the SLC flight on the same carousel!! Yet in less than ten minutes - and with nary a break between ATL pax luggage and SLC pax luggage - my bag slid onto the carousel and I grabbed and went. My ride was at the curb just as I walked out, and I was home in North Park 30 minutes after landing.
To all Delta personnel: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for an outstanding trip. Please know your hard work is appreciated and I truly hope I was a pleasant surprise in this day and age of an unappreciative public and stressful times. Other than enforcing the size of carry-ons and a decision as to how you want to do that zone boarding thing, my flights were flawless. I look forward to flying Delta again in the future!!