The second part of this trip report will feature the flight from Charleston, WV, USA to Stuttgart, DE via Atlanta, GA, USA on Delta Air Lines. The first part can be found here: Delta Air Lines Transatlantic & Regional (1) (by Luftfahrer Sep 4 2010 in Trip Reports)
After spending 3 weeks in West Virginia and South Carolina, it was time to go home. Big advantage of eastbound TATL flights is that one doesn't have to get up so early. I checked with the Delta homepage in the morning and everything seemed to be alright, all bookings were confirmed, seat assignments made, etc. I tried to find out which aircraft would be flying ATL-STR but I wasn't successful, at least none that I had flown on before was scheduled to. But these things can change in a very short span of time...
The airport is named after native West Virginian Chuck Yeager, a retired USAF fighter pilot and first human being to break the sound barrier
I arrived in the terminal approximately 1 hour before scheduled departure time. The Delta Connection counters are located right by the entrance, where I planned to check-in. However, a sign indicated that only self check-in was available at the moment. I had never seen that before, but I had never used this method before either. The procedure turned out to be very easy, however I was not amused when I noticed my seat assignment for the homebound flight revoked – it had still been in effect the very same morning. Both boarding passes were printed out, 1 of them with the words „Seat request“ on it. I decided to ask the agent at the bag drop what the issue was.
„Hi, I had a reservation for seat 18A, which is now gone. Could you tell me what happened, please?“
„Most likely there has been an equipment change.“
„Could you look up what equipment is scheduled to operate this flight now?“
„No problem, …, it's still a 767. No info on what type exactly, though“
„Interesting, thanks a lot“
This got me quite excited. As I stated in the first part, Delta mostly schedules aircraft of their B76G-subfleet to Stuttgart. This had most likely changed, so either they would deploy a B764 (very unlikely, but I can dream) or send of their very own orginial B767 aircraft. I proceeded to the TSA security check and was airside within 15 minutes of arriving. Gotta love small airports.
Tracking the inbound flight (ASQ 5026), thanks to the free WiFi provided by the airport
The Captain, preparing the aircraft for the hop down south
Date: Wednesday, 1st of September, 2010
Carrier: Atlantic Southeast Airlines (dba Delta Connection)
Flight: EV/DL 5582
Route: Charleston-Yeager (CRW) – Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l (ATL)
Flight Time: 1h 11m (11:22 AM EDT – 12:33 PM EDT)
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet 200
Registration: N875AS (ship 875) (delivered 12/12/2001)
Photo © Peachair
Photo © Agustin Anaya
Boarding was completed ontime, with a full loadfactor. I had reserved seat 11D for this flight. As for the pushback procedure, one engine was started while still on the stand. Thereafter came a short-distance pushback, followed by an immediate sharp right turn onto the taxiway, which seemed to be far too short for a tug to be disconnected. My guess is either the pilots made a powerback using reverse thrust or the rampers used real manpower. Anyway, the aircraft taxied towards runway 23(/5), which is currently in the process of being extended.
The take-off was remarkably powerful for a CRJ-200 – I am fairly confident in saying that, having logged 6 flights on this type so far. After taxiing into position, the engines spooled up, but with brakes fully applied. Upon reaching their peak performance, the pilots released the brakes. Take off!
I recorded the engine sound using my iPod earphones. I like the result, so I decided to share it here. What do you think? Oh, and don't forget to turn your volume up. (The wild noises are from the other passengers, by the way.)
My boarding pass stub, printed on regular paper with Delta's custom font
The CRJ climbed out very slowly. As you can see, my window was really scratched. On a related note, I don't know why they are so run-down after not even ten years of airline service. Is it that they are not well taken care of by the passengers or the many legs they fly day by day that contribute to broken armrests, damaged seatpockets, unavailable bathrooms, and a handful of other, partly severe, issues? I feel safe on them, after all. It just makes me wonder. The FA soon began setting up the snack cart after passing 10 000´. Once more, I got Biscoff cookies, and some OJ. Only a single package this time, but the biscuits now come two a pack. Some FAs will dish out 2 packs, and provide refills on the drinks, this one didn't. But then again, the flight time was pretty short and the flight packed. As for the approach, it was essentially the same as the one when I coming in from Stuttgart (FLCON5, commonly pronounced „falcon five“). I wish I had chosen to sit on the other side of the aircraft this time...
I became a fan of Coca-Cola's new advertisement slogan „open happiness“ or „radost otevřít“ (my personal favorite) as they would say in the Czech Republic
Final approach runway 08L after a lengthy arrival procedure
Taxied off after a smooth landing and heading for gate D33
Once again, the ASA Captain was bidding farewell to the passengers. I, however, asked if could have a brief view into the cockpit, as I usually do. It worked out. Both pilots were super friendly and the cockpit unexpectedly spacious, particularly the screens were huge. We were talking about flying in general, the CA mentioned he was also type-rated on the bigger CRJ-700 and -900. Pretty cool, but he added that he liked flying the small -200 the most, as it was more challenging. Good end of a flight for me (not sure how many times I've flown on ASA in my life, but I managed to score the EMB-120 Brasilia) and for them as well, as this marked the end of their duty for the day.
Inside the terminal, I was faced with a locked door
The flight had arrived about 30 minutes early, which rendered my layover time as more than 5 hours.
I grabbed something to eat at McDonald's. Delta's Stuttgart flight was not on the departure screens yet, but with the help of my instincts, I found the gate without them: E27. By chance, an aircraft turned into the gate as I was observing the apron, but see for yourself.
So, what is special about this aircraft? Well, this particular airframe has winglets and Pratt & Whitney engines (a novelty for me not to fly with GE ones), is a „born&bred“ Delta Air Lines one, but most importantly: It underwent a major cabin refurbishment according to several sources on the web. This means the BusinessElite cabin features flatbed seats and the Economy Class cabin new seats including AVOD. It might even be a 767 IGW, which stands for „Increased Gross Weight“, but I don't know for sure. Considering this, I was very excited to fly on this aircraft. I had just returned from buying 2 magazines not available in Germany and settled down, when it boomed out of the speakers:
“Delta flight to Stuttgart is moving to gate E16. E16 is this way.“
What a bummer! I was kinda disappointed. Since the aircraft was already on blocks, being prepared for its next duty, it was too unlikely to be transferred to another gate. Well, there was not much I could do about this, so I quickly walked over to gate E16. Luckily, the counter over there had been staffed yet. I could go ahead, check with the gate agent and get a new seat assignment. I asked for one by the window and she honored my request, which I thanked her for. I received 14A instead of 18A that I had pre-reserved. Still good, I thought to myself.
I wondered which aircraft would be deployed now. After all, I had some hopes left it could be another refurbished one. They were soon crushed. You can guess why, right? I had this certain presentiment it would turn out like that.
Meanwhile, the waiting area started to fill up, and apparently I was not the only who had his seat assignment resetted (which, in retrospect, was rather pointless, of course) earlier the day.
Nose/taxi lights on
One after another, the flight attendants and pilots arrived at the gate and boarded the plane not much earlier than the first BE Class passengers. I would enter the aircraft right after them, being seated in zone 2. Once onboard, I glanced towards flight deck, but the pilots seemed busy with their preparations. The F/A at door L1 however, told me that now was my „chance to go up and say hello“. Seriously, how great is that? I don't even need to ask anymore. The flight would be operated with a three-man crew as usual. They were in fact busy doing some preparations, but talkative as always. After guiding me along some basic information about the flight (duration, route, etc.), the F/O on the jumpseat went on by explaining the crucial paperwork (maps, charts, weather reports) of the flight, but finally he came to speak of the "most important document on board". He grabbed the Business Class menu with their orders for dinner on it. He sure had humour. The pre-departure briefing and before start checklist is what followed – and the Captain himself allowed me to stay and listen. As soon as boarding was almost finished, I went to back to my seat, but not without thanking the cockpit crew for their generosity and for the great experience.
Date: Wednesday, 1st of September, 2010
Carrier: Delta Air Lines
Flight: DL 116
Route: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l (ATL) – Stuttgart-Echterdingen (STR)
Scheduled Departure Time: 5:45 PM EDT
Actual Departure Time: 5:44 PM EDT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 9:00 AM CEST (+1)
Actual Arrival Time: 8:54 AM CEST (+1)
Flight Time: 9h 10m
Aircraft: Boeing 767-324/ER
Registration: N394DL (ship 1521) (delivered to DL 21/04/1998)
Remarks: Ex Asiana Airlines HL7505 (delivered 10/11/1995)
Photo © Ole Simon
Photo © Christian Waser
To my surprise, Delta offered complimentary newspapers (New York Times, Financial Times) on this flight. I declined though, having bought the Time magazine as my reading material back in the terminal. After the pushback, the aircraft taxied about 30 minutes for a departure in easterly direction from runway 09L. As the Captain had told me, there would be an intersection take-off due to ongoing construction on the taxiway. This means the aircraft would begin its roll not from the very end of the runway, but from an earlier point.
From the very beginning of the flight, I liked this seat virtually better than any place else I had sat before on the aircraft – and therefore disagreeing with seatguru's rating (see below). I preferred having a bulkhead instead of a reclined seat in front of me. Also, the service starts here, so I was sure to receive a hot meal straight from the oven. Good! Other benefits include early deboarding, a short way to the bathroom and slightly increased legroom. Based on this experience, I would consider choosing this seat for future travels on Delta's B767 aircraft. I felt sorry for the passenger behind me, though: she had a window seat without a window.
seatguru's rating for 14A. Courtesy of seatguru.com
Service on the first part of this flight was largely the same as the outbound one. Refreshments for starters, followed by dinner. Throughout the flight, lots of water and also coffee runs took place. I didn't make much use of them, though, since I was trying to sleep (but couldn't...). Amenities consist of a blanket, a pillow and earphones. Before approach, a small breakfast is distributed. Light alcohol (beer and wine) is free of charge, hard liquor costs $7/6€. Very expensive for such small bottles. As for the route, we flew up the East Coast (directly overhead JFK/NYC, but I missed it), crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland, the Irish Sea, England (most notably London, I spotted the O2 arena and London City Airport), the Channel, Belgium and finally, we entered German airspace. The cabin crew was very nice as usual (one FA had already worked the outbound flight 3 weeks before). Also, I do like their dresses! Although you cannot really consider it a uniform since every FA wore a different outfit, at least on my flight.
My last flight on Delta had raised the bar for their catering substantially. I was curious to find out if they would fulfill the expectations that I now had. The answer is yes, and actually, they were even surpassed. While I preferred the cajun-type chicken served on the westbound flight (this one was still palatable), the dumpling tasted really good, and the same goes for the savory spinach and the well-cooked carrots. The sauce was flavorsome, they just should have included a little more of it. Especially the fact that a dumpling in favor of rice or mashed potatoes was served as a side dish made for a positive surprise. I relished the salad, the portion looked rather sizeable as well. But most importantly, no raw carrots this time! Got a properly-sized breadroll with it that was not too hard (I hate slicing them in this condition with a plastic knife) but really enjoyable with butter and cheese. The brownie, which was just delicious (not too sweet), topped off the entire dinner. Presentation was essentially the same as before, vegetarian pasta on offer as well.
The IFE on this aircraft consists of over- and bulkhead screens. An outdated technology that I normally only bother to look at when the airshow is broadcasted. However, since I was seated right before one of these screens, I watched a part of „Karate Kid“, a fairly recent movie. At night, over the Atlantic, I was quite surprised to find „James Bond 007: A Quantum of Solace“ to be shown. Since I wasn't really tired, I took up to it, however it's not so much fun when you know every second dialogue by rote !
I personally think they should show some real vintage Bonds instead. After the movies, Delta usually broadcasts sitcoms and other small shows in between the airshow.
Cloudy skies whilst in Belgian airspace. Note the reflections on the engine
This is a „warm continental breakfast“ according to Delta. The Danish was spicy – I like spicy food, but for breakfast? The banana tasted fine though, coffee was acceptable as usual. The breakfast snack was probably the weakest part of the catering. I wasn't too hungry, but some choice would be nice. A bagel with cream cheese and jam or cereal with milk along with some fruit should be appropriate for a flight of this length. A true, warm breakfast would be the most desirable option, of course. I've seen DL serving really delicious things on the longest flights in their network (like French toast, mhhh ).
As soon as the aircraft began its approach into Stuttgart, the sky finally cleared up revealing a gorgeous day with sunshine, almost no clouds and excellent visibility – just the perfect prerequisites for some good views on approach. I wondered whether we would land on runway 25, as the Captain had expected back in Atlanta. As this is subject to change due to winds and other factors, I secretly hoped we would land on runway 07, since I'd be able to see my house on final approach. So I was very pleased to find out we'd in fact be landing on that very runway. Even though it was a beautiful day with the perfect conditions for manual flying, I was told the aircraft would perform an autoland, as called in for by operational requirements. I found this pretty interesting, the more so as they are said to be harder than their manual counterpart. The rest of the cabin couldn't have cared less, I guess, if they had been aware.
The landing was remarkably smooth. I wouldn't have noticed the aircraft had landed by itself if I hadn't known it. The braking action was very light and it took almost the entire runway for rollout. It was a slow morning here in terms of aircraft movements. Only in the evening, the LH A380 would come to STR for pilot training. Block-off at position 109, which is the one Delta almost exclusively uses.
I had nothing in the overhead bins but took my time to disembark anyway. Both the Captain and one First Officer were saying goodbye to the passengers, but I was the only one to receive a handshake as well. The other F/O asked me –since I had mentioned my preference for landing on runway 07– whether I had been able to see where I live, to which I could finally reply „yes, indeed“. Very attentive, isn't it? They were truly a fantastic crew in my opinion.
Rushing through the jetway
Entering the European Union was so refreshingly easy. No custom forms or further security checks required, I only needed to show my passport before being re-admitted and able to proceed to baggage reclaim. Once more, my bag was already on the belt when I came which came in handy, though the best part of it all was still that I would have no symptoms of jetlag whatsoever in the next days. I wondered if not changing the time on my watch actually contributed to that.
As many have previously noted, what Delta offered looked pretty good, and honestly, I was highly satisfied. Economic hardship has forced the carrier to reduce its amenities in Economy Class –from now on, only basic items such as blankets, pillows and earphones are distributed– as well as to cut-down ample food offering. The cups have become smaller, the breakfast on shorter flights is rather sparse and distinguished brands (like Häagen Dazs) are no longer to be found. On the other hand, one thing hasn't changed, and has become even better : The quality of the catering for an Economy Class was excellent on both transatlantic segments. Undeniably, the hard product of a grand part of Delta's 767-300/ER is not up to date anymore, but it should be mentioned the airline has signed multimillion dollar deals to refurbish and upgrade their aircraft cabins, so this is bound to change in the future. Right now, their forte consists in the soft product. Especially the crew members stood out on both flights across the pond. Considering all this, I don't see why I would seriously consider booking transatlantic flights on another airline for future travels, since Delta's presence here in Germany is considerable and their deals excellent. I would, however, preferably choose one of their other hubs or focus cities for a change. In the course of the merger, there are certainly plenty to choose from.
Thank you for reading. As always, I'd be happy to receive feedback of all kind on this TR.
Marius aka Luftfahrer
Delta Air Lines Transatlantic & Regional (1)
germanwings to London-STN
Delta to TUL, ATL and ABQ