First of all, please allow me to introduce myself. I've been an avid reader of Airliners.net for many years and finally decided to cough up the money to join. For my very first post, I decided to give you a treat... a trip report involving a DC-9 (which I actually originally posted at another aviation site, but this should be new material for most of you!)
This trip was to my most common destination, Phoenix, AZ, to visit my family in June. It also gave me the chance to experience the "new Delta" for the first time since operations had been completely merged. After a lot of searching online, I was able to find an itinerary that was not only convenient, but cheap too! (I'm finding more and more that Delta is very competitive on price - must be the effects of the NW merger!)
I set my alarm for 4 a.m., which was a bit rough for a guy that works nights and is used to getting up at 10 a.m., but anything for a good flight I guess! I arrived at the airport with a lot of extra time to spare, so I drove over to the nearby McDonald's to grab a bite to eat and watch the morning arrivals at GRB. Once I was done, I parked in the Long Term Lot and walked straight to security (I had checked-in at delta.com the night before).
I checked the Departures monitor, found my gate, and grabbed a seat near the window so I could stare at the beautiful DC-9-51 that would take me to Minneapolis. I also did a bit of walking and spotted several other Delta DC-9s and E-175s at the B Concourse. (Since the merger, Delta is the only airline in B. The others, American Eagle, Continental Express, Frontier, Midwest, and United Express, are crammed together in Concourse A).
Then I heard the boarding call...
June 11, 2010
Delta Air Lines
Green Bay, WI (GRB) to Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51
I was in group 3, so it took a while to board. Once I took my window seat, I looked out and noticed storms rolling in. I knew that we'd be in for an interesting day!
For those of you who haven't been on a NW/DL DC-9, it doesn't have the '60s era cabin that many -9s and older MD-80s have. Northwest spent millions of dollars to upgrade these birds in the early 2000s with 717 style interiors and some newer avionics. The aircraft looked marvelous inside, but being near the back, there was no mistaking the signature sound and smell of those awesome JT-8D engines.
With everybody seated and the boarding door closed, the captain announced that we'd be delayed, waiting out the storms. The flight attendants then told us that we could turn our electronic devices back on, including our cell phones. I called my mom and told her I might miss my connection to Phoenix, but she said she'd be ready to pick me up at the airport whenever I arrived.
About 15 minutes later, the captain came back on the PA and said we could depart, but we'll be taking a "special" route to get to MSP to avoid the storms. This meant flying all the way up near Duluth and descending into MSP via eastern Minnesota (adding an extra 40 minutes to our flight). On some flights, that may not seem extreme, but GRB-MSP is usually only a 45 minute flight!
We pushed back and, after a long taxi, the DC-9 bolted down Runway 36. We passed through some rough air, but I wasn't too bothered. After we reached 10,000 ft., I pulled out my MacBook and listened to some songs on iTunes. This DC-9 was equipped with GoGo inflight WiFi, but I decided to pass on the $9 day pass.
As we made our descent, the captain told us we'd only be 20 minutes late, due to the storms moving out of the area and being able to take a more direct route. This was good news, but I knew with only 35 minutes between flights, this was going to be tight.
We touched down in Minneapolis/St. Paul and it was quite evident that this place was different than my last visit in 2009. What used to be a sea of red, was now a sea of mostly blue, sans a few regional jets still in the NWA Airlink colors.
I found my gate on the departures screen and raced all the way over from Concourse C to Concourse G to catch my connection. This was made difficult by the fact that I was wearing sandals and carrying two bags. I arrived at the gate and to my relief, found out that this flight would be delayed as well.
June 11, 2010
Delta Air Lines
Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
My seat assignment would put me in the back of the (Air)bus again, so I decided to purchase a newspaper (Wall Street Journal) while waiting for group 3 to be called. We boarded and I had to climb over two other individuals to get into my window seat. I wish these people would just get up instead! I don't feel comfortable getting that "intimate" with someone who's not my girlfriend!
Flight attendants told us we'd be late pushing back, since we were waiting for a few late bags from connecting flights. It was OK by me, since there was plenty to stare at outside of our A320.
About 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to take off, we finally pushed back. In a city that used to be A319/A320 heaven, there were relatively few. But now, MD-80s and MD-90s were much more common. Delta is also using a few 737-800s on routes to/from MSP (I rode on one on the way back and I'll tell you all about it in the next report!). Embraer 170s and CRJ-900s have also become increasingly prominent in recent years, but that, of course, started before the merger.
Take off and cruise was relatively uneventful, except for the fact that one of the FAs accidentally flung an ice cube across the cabin when she was doing her drink service. It landed on a passenger, but they weren't upset. The FA was quite embarrassed, however!
We made our descent into "the valley of the sun" and passed by some downtown Phoenix landmarks, including Chase Field (the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks; I'll always call this place by it's former name, "Bank One Ballpark"), the U.S. Airways Center (the home of the Phoenix Suns; I'll always call this place by it's former name too, "America West Arena"!!).
Touchdown was nice and smooth, but some more waiting was in store for us (quite fitting today!). This time, we had to wait for a DL Connection CRJ-900 to push back from our gate. Passengers around me started to bitch, and when I tried to explain what was going on, they didn't want to hear any of it.
As we were sitting in the "penalty box", I saw all of the usual suspects at PHX: US A319s & A320s, WN 737s, and a couple of AA MD-80s. At the Delta gates: A320s, 738s, 752s and the CR9.
When it was all said and done, we were about an hour late. Still, I found Delta's service to be satisfying. On a day when severe weather was affecting the whole system, DL employees did their best to make sure passengers would *safely* get to their destinations in a reasonable amount of time. They also worked to avoid passengers arriving without their bags or missing connections, and who can argue with that?
The return, PHX-MSP-GRB, on a DL 737-800 and DC-9-50 is coming up. In the meantime, feel free to critique me or ask any questions you may have!