Note: This is a re-post of a TR I posted yesterday, I had to scrap the whole report to make a few changes. Apologies to those who commented yesterday...
This trip report is a quasi-continuation of my prior trip report ATL-PWM-DTW-ATL, DL Y + New PWM Terminal (by KPWMSpotter Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports) , although if you haven't read the prior trip report, this one contains all the really interesting stuff...
As I previously explained, last week I was scheduled at the last minute to attend an airline industry conference in Köln, Germany. The conference was the bi-annual meeting of the Commercial Aircraft Composite Repair Committee (CACRC), a division of the SAE which is devoted to standardizing composite procedures, materials, and repair techniques for airlines and manufacturers throughout the world. I have put in a substantial amount of work towards an up and coming CACRC metal-bond standards manual, so I was scheduled to attend two days of task group meetings focused on refining that document.
Sunday's flight from Atlanta to Dusseldorf (the closest Delta destination to Köln) was entirely sold out, so I settled for a seat on a wide-open flight into Amsterdam, returning on Wednesday out of Dusseldorf. This allowed me to experience European high speed rail (in the form of the German ICE) to Köln, a win-win for me. Additionally, as an airline industry employee, I had the option of standing by for Delta's international First class, Business Elite. I ended up getting very lucky...
In all, this quick trip would consist of an A330 flight ATL-AMS, a Dutch Intercity train from AMS to Utrecht Centraal, an ICE High Speed Train from Utrecht to Köln Hbf, two days in Köln, a German S-Bahn train from Köln to DUS, and finally a 767 flight from DUS-ATL. As luck would have it, both flights ended up in Business Elite!
KATL - EHAM
Flight # DAL 0174
Equipment:Airbus A330-200 (N861NW)
Scheduled Departure: 15:20 Actual Departure: 15:20
Scheduled Arrival: 05:55 (+1) Actual Arrival: 05:20 (+1)
After only about twelve hours to recover from my previous round of traveling I headed back to the Atlanta airport to catch my flight to Amsterdam. Delta operates two flights daily ATL-AMS, with an additional flight operated by KLM. I chose the earliest of the three, a 3:20 departure, to allow me to still have a full day in Köln on Monday upon my arrival.
Atlanta was a very busy place for a Sunday afternoon, the afternoon domestic departure bank had just begun so the terminal was packed. I was able to quickly check in at one of dozens of open kiosks, headed quickly through security (almost no lines as all lanes were open for the rush) and hopped aboard the underground train to the E concourse. Despite the massive crowds, Delta has managed to cut lines down to almost nothing through the extensive deployment of automated kiosks. I think there are a few other domestic hubs which could learn a thing or two Atlanta's efficiency, automated kiosks seem to be a great investment.
A very busy departures board, a bit more crowded than PWM's the previous day.
The E concourse, Atlanta's international terminal, was pretty quiet compared to the bustling domestic terminals. The majority of the arrivals and departures at this point in the afternoon were to various South and Central American destinations, the majority of the European departures from Atlanta depart between 4:30 and 9:00 at night to allow for more convenient arrival times across the Atlantic. Since most people choose the later flights across the pond, my scheduled flight would be operated by the smaller A330-200, and even then the load was scheduled to be light.
My ride to Amsterdam, waiting patiently at the gate.
A relatively quiet E-concourse, mostly South American arrivals at this time of day.
About 45 minutes prior to departure, while admiring the GE90s on an Air France 777 pulling into the terminal, I vaguely heard my name mumbled over the PA. Checking in at the desk I was given a choice of window or aisle (window, of course) and handed a boarding pass for seat 2J. Sweet!
An odd design feature of the E-concourse, flying machines made of junk hanging from the ceiling.
Boarding began shortly after I was given my new seat assignment and I happily made my way aboard. Atlanta's E-terminal gates are set up with facilities to conduct additional at-gate security screening, but I have never seen the x-rays or metal detectors in use, does anyone know if they are ever utilized?
My seat today was in the front Business Elite cabin. Delta's A330-200s are set up with rows 1-3 forward of the main boarding door, while rows 4 and 5 of Business Elite are rear of the door. This arrangement makes sense in a three-class setup, but is a little odd when both cabins receive the same class of service. The two cabins add privacy during flight, but the presence of Flight Attendants is reduced in-flight as they're split between the two cabins. Despite the divide, the FA's did an excellent job on this flight (at least in the forward cabin, I can't comment for those behind me..)
Stepping on board, the Business Elite seats typically have a full sized pillow and duvet waiting in the seat and a small water bottle, amenity kit, and Delta branded noise canceling headphones available on the center console between the seats. All the standard amenities were in place, and I went to work trying to organize everything away for flight. The amenity kit, headphones, and water easily fit in the seatback pocket, but I am always conflicted whether to leave the pillow and blanket on the floor in front of me, or to stow them in the overhead bin. The cabin was clean, so I settled for keeping the large volume of bedding easily accessible for later at my feet. Apparently this is not a violation of the carry-on stowage regulations.
Certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing First Class seat out there, but it's plenty comfortable...
Delta's A330s are equipped with Northwest's original World Business seats, I call them the "egshell" or "pod" seats, as the seatbacks are sculpted to allow a full recline of the seat without intruding on the space behind. The seats recline to a fully flat position, but they won't recline past about 30 Degrees to the horizontal. A small fold-out footrest is provided to keep you from sliding off, and I find the seats quite comfortable once in their reclined position. Unfortunately, when sitting fully upright the seats are not ideal, I always have the sensation that I'm sliding right out of the seat, held back only by my seat belt. In my experience the A330s are great when reclined, while the 767s are more comfortable sitting up. I guess you can't win them all...
Now you understand why I call them the eggshell pod seats...
Pre-departure drinks were served and jackets were taken and stowed by the flight attendants promptly as each passenger made their way on board. Typical pre-departure drink options in Business Elite are Sparkling Wine, Orange Juice, or Mimosas. Other drinks are available on request, but the flight attendants always have those three options on trays at the ready. For the truly picky traveler, the "Champagne" offered prior to departure is usually sparkling wine, saving the good stuff (authentic French Champagne) for in-flight. This makes sense, as it would be rather wasteful to let a whole bottle of Champagne go flat after serving a few PDBs, but it is apparently a big issue for some over at FlyerTalk...
It may not be real Champagne, but it still adds a nice touch to be sipping bubbly while boarding.
Business Elite amenity kit and noise-cancelling headphones.
Delta recently updated its amenity kits, replacing the smaller cylindrical red packages with the above pictured kits. I much prefer the new kits, they contain more useful items and the bag itself can be re-used as a toiletry kit. Contents of the kit include:
- Eye Shade and Earplugs
- A Delta branded Pen
- Shoe Polish
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
- Lip Balm and Lotion
- A Shoe Horn
- A few other things I'm forgetting about...
While sitting at the gate I had a good view of Atlanta's new F Concourse, under construction and slated to open in the Spring, right next to Delta TechOps. It will be much more convenient for me to use the F concourse when it opens, it's rather annoying to drive around the entire airport when arriving from the East, only to take the underground tram wayyy back over to the E concourse within spitting distance of I-75 and TechOps.
Fly Delta Jets? Why yes, I think I will.
Seat Controls. The seat does recline to fully flat, but remains at about a 30 Degree angle to the floor.
Menus were distributed while the Economy cabin boarded, the main course entrees on this flight were a selection between Pan Seared Cod, Seared Beef Tenderloin, Fettuccine Alfredo, or a Cold Deli Plate. I pondered my selection while the passengers seated in row one pondered their seat assignment.
It seems that my eventual seat mate, assigned seat 2H, settled into 1H as one of the first passengers aboard the aircraft. Meanwhile, 1H's proper owner boarded and slid over to 1J without saying a word to the seat poacher. At some point after that, 1J arrived and swapped into 1A. When 1A arrived, he tried to move into the open 1C just as 1C's rightful owner showed up as well. Only then did someone mention their incorrect seat assignment and a great shuffle began to re-seat everyone and properly label their coats and jackets to the correct seats. This shuffle took quite a while, and was rather humorous to watch, unfortunately it meant that I wouldn't have an empty seat next to me... Oh well.
Business Elite Menu, including options for the post-takeoff dinner service and the pre-landing breakfast.
Options for the main course and breakfast.
Pushback was approximately on-time, and we made a very quick taxi down Dixie (taxiway "Delta" at any other airport, but "Dixie" in Atlanta to cut back on confusion) and Lima to 27R. We fell into line at approximately #5 for departure. As we finally turned onto the runway I noticed quite a line of aircraft waiting behind us. Either we cut into line, or had very lucky timing...
Lining up for takeoff. Glad I'm not in that line...
After pulling onto the runway and lining up in position the two PW4168As roared to life and we made a slow but graceful takeoff into the sunny Altanta skies. The Pratt and Whitney's powering Delta's A330s have a very satisfying deep growl at takeoff power (*grrrrr, I'm a big airplane engine*), much nicer than the tinny buzzsaw of the CRJ or the high pitched roar of the DC/MD JT8Ds. The only more satisfying aircraft noise, in my opinion, is the similar growl of RB.211s fitted to a 757. PW2000s aren't bad either, just not quite the same.
We departed to the West, making a gradual turn down to the South before orienting ourselves in the right direction to the North-Northeast. The sky was nearly cloudless, providing clear views of rolling rural terrain to the Northeast of Atlanta. As the ground grew further away, I pulled out my in flight entertainment console, hidden under the center console armrest. The A330s have relatively large 8" screens in Business Elite, certainly no competition with the new systems being installed by the likes of Emirates, but plenty large enough for casual viewing. I decided on an Episode of The Simpsons (this year's Treehouse of Horror) to keep me entertained until dinner.
IFE System folded out. I settled on an episode of The Simpsons before dinner.
Just as my episode was drawing to a close, flight attendants came around with warm nuts and drinks, Delta's typical pre-meal snack. I'm normally not a big fan of nuts as a standalone snack, but I always find Delta's warm mix very satisfying. Perhaps its just because there's no other option, but they're tasty nonetheless.
Pre-dinner drink and snacks, warm mixed nuts and a glass of Coke.
I finished up my nuts and drink, noting on the moving map that we were just passing over the city of Charlotte. Looking over my shoulder out the window, lo and behold, the Charlotte airport right beneath us.
Passing over Charlotte as the starter course starts to come out.
Delta's Business Elite lunch and dinner meals are served as a four course event, starting with a predetermined soup and appetizer course, followed by a salad, the main course, and a choice of desserts. The appetizer course comes out on one of Delta's new "wooden" trays, and each consecutive course simply replaces the dishes of the previous. Delta's new dinnerware is really growing on me, at first it seemed too-small (compared to the old style plates), but I think the simple designs have a much more modern feel than the 1990's earthenware plates that were in use previously. It's almost as if Delta's in-flight stylings have gone from Jeremy Clarkson inspired to (continuing the Top Gear metaphor if I may), Richard Hammond.
Starter course, consisting of a cold Duck Salad with Couscous served with a warm Pumpkin Bisque. A selection of warm rolls came around just after this photo was taken.
The starter course was quite tasty, the duck was cooked well and the Pumpkin Bisque was excellent. Delta's rolls and baked goods are usually a slight disappointment though. After re-heating, the rolls become far too dry on the outside to be effectively cut with the knives provided. I usually end up with a half-sliced and mangled roll and a large pile of crumbs... The croissants seem to avoid this fate, but must of the hard-crusted goods end up very crumbly.
Salad Course, a mixed greens salad with bell pepper, walnuts, and feta cheese served with the option of Balsamic or Ranch dressings.
The salad wasn't bad, but I'm always confused by the heavy use of Walnuts. Perhaps Gate Gourmet has a large contract with a walnut supplier, every salad I've ever had on board has been loaded with them. I decided to try the Balsamic dressing on this flight, as in my past experiences the ranch has been nearly frozen by the time it is taken out of the cooler. The Balsamic came in a small pre-packaged bottle and was pretty tasty.
Main Course, seared beef tenderloin served with wasabi mashed potatos and snow peas.
The main course arrived promptly after I finished my salad, I settled on the Seared Beef Tenderloin with Wasabi Potatoes and Snow Peas. The beef was cooked to well-done, and looked excellent. It certainly wasn't "cut with a fork tender", but a good cut of beef regardless. The wasabi potatoes were fantastic, a combination of flavors I'd never thought to try before. I was a little surprised when the wasabi hit the back of my throat on the first bite, it's certainly a dish I'll have to try making at home. The peas were sauteed with onions, a little bit oily, but tasty still. The gravy tasted a little like the cheap canned sauces you pick up from Boston Market, but didn't detract any from the dish as a whole.
Dessert course, I chose a sundae with raspberry topping, whipped cream, and chopped nuts.
Even though I was planning to sleep, I couldn't pass up the sundae. Other options were available, cheeses and fruit, or chocolate cheesecake, but the dessert sundaes just looked too good to pass up. With a sweet raspberry topping, whipped cream, and chopped peanuts, I quickly finished off the ice cream.
My seatmate had ordered the Seared Cod main course and seemed quite dissatisfied with the dish. His first attempt came out of the oven falling apart and lacked any sort of presentation. When he complained, the flight attendants brought out a second attempt which he shot down, claiming that it "tasted frozen and as if it was cooked days ago." It certainly looked and smelled fine to me, but he eventually settled for a variety of fruits and cheeses instead. The man was acting quite big-headed in his demands for a new meal, but the Flight Attendants handled it professionally and made every attempt to satisfy him, I'm sure they're quite used to dealing with the impatient and entitled in Business Elite.
The sun slowly fading as we start our Atlantic crossing.
After dinner I took off my shoes, reclined my seat to its fully reclined and comfortable position, and wrapped myself up in the heavy duvet which was provided. There were still a few lights on in the cabin so I pulled out the eyeshade and earplugs from the amenity kit and isolated myself from the world for a little sleep. I don't quite remember when I fell asleep, but I didn't wake up until we were approaching Scotland.
Shortly after I awoke, the light pre-arrival breakfast was brought out. I had put away my camera in preparation for bed, so no photos from here on, unfortunately. The meal I chose was a basic cold plate, granola cereal with yogurt and assorted fresh fruits. The alternate option was an English Muffin sandwich, which I avoided due to past bad experiences with re-heated eggs on airplanes.
Even though there was only about an hour left of the flight, the meal was given the full first-class treatment; tablecloth, tray, silverware and cloth napkin. I quickly finished up, my body was quite confused about eating breakfast at 11:30pm, EST. As we crossed the English Channel I expected to soon see the sun poking about the horizon, but it stayed solidly dark out until much further into my journey.
The landing in Amsterdam was smooth, touching down on the Polderbaan and taking a long taxi into the gate. Despite the long taxi, we arrived at the gate and I deplaned almost 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I waited in line at passport control for no more than 30 seconds and was quickly through. Dutch passport control has always been hassle-free in my experience. The border control officer simply asked where my destination was, and if I was visiting for business or pleasure. Apparently satisfied with my answers, I quickly walked through Customs and to Schipol's in-airport railway station. The trip from jetway to rail platform took slightly under 20 minutes.
Amsterdam's in-airport rail station. Doesn't get much more convenient than this...
Utrecht Centraal - Köln Hauptbahnhof
Train # ICE 105
Equipment:ICE3 / Seimens Velaro
Scheduled Departure: 08:35 Actual Departure: 08:35
Scheduled Arrival: 10:35 Actual Arrival: 10:45
From Schipol, I had to catch a Dutch regional train to Utrecht Centraal, where I would pick up an ICE train which would take me right into Köln.
Between Schipol and Utrecht there are approximately four trains an hour, so I had more than enough time to make my connection. Getting to Amsterdam Centraal is even easier, with trains departing every 5-10 minutes.
I ended up on an Intercity rail EMU, the backbone of the NS rail fleet into and out of Amsterdam. These coaches are relatively comfortable and offer more than enough seating capacity for the early 6am run from Schipol out towards Utrecht. I've found that intercity rail within the Netherlands is far more automated and impersonal than any rapid transit in the US. The cabins are usually quite empty and devoid of conductors or railroad employees, it almost feels as if the trains are driving themselves at times. Regardless, the rail service is extremely efficient, and in my experience I've never run more than a minute or two behind schedule. This is how true rapid rail transit should function.
My NS Intercity train to Utrecht Centraal arriving. A VIRM Class Dubbeldeksinterregiomaterieel EMU.
Arriving in Utrecht I found myself with about an hour and a half to spare in the station. I could have easily made the 7:30am ICE which also calls in Köln, but I had purchased a discount fare online which was only valid for the 8:30 train. I wasn't complaining though, the time gave me plenty of opportunities to do some train-spotting, and the ticket only cost me $43 USD, a bargain compared to any comparable high speed rail fares in the US.
Utrecht's departure board. More trains are departing over the next hour than call on my home city in a week...
One of the strangest looking EMU sets I've ever seen. This is an ICM Koploper (literally "head walker") and derives its odd shape from a feature which originally allowed passengers to walk between the coupled sets.
A relatively new trainset, a Sprinter Lighttrain. Apparently these sets have had extensive teething problems over the last couple years.
As 8:30 approached I was very happy to see the sleek ICE3 trainset pulling into the station. It was quite cold out on the platform and the sun had only begun to rise. I made my way into the first available 2nd class coach and sat in the first available seat I found. ICE trains are arranged with a small electronic display above each seat. The display will show a destination city if the seat has been reserved, or will show "last minute" on those seats available for the taking. I was happy with any window seat that I could find and ended up in a rear-facing seat on the East side of the train.
Finally, my ICE train to Köln arriving.
Pulling out of Utrecht we picked up speed to what I estimated to be about 60mph. I was surprised to see a handful of grade crossings on the route, likely one of the limiting factors for the speed of the train. The route was primarily through the Dutch countryside, passing through occasional villages or smaller stations, but maintaining a decent speed the whole time. Even though we were near the top speed of Amtrak's regional routes, the train wasn't traveling at nearly the maximum speed for the ICE3 trainset.
Cruising through the Dutch countryside at about 70mph.
In-car information display.
Windmills, somewhere near the Dutch/German border.
Some time after crossing the German border (which in itself was odd, it's not very often that I've crossed a national border without any notification), the train slowed down significantly. For about 20 minutes we were only making 40-50mph, which felt very slow at the time. Once the train picked up speed again an announcement was made that we had been running slow "due to track conditions" and that our arrival into the next station of Dusseldorf would be delayed by about 12 minutes. Frequent follow-up notifications were made in regards to connecting regional trains, all of which would be met. In the case of one regional connection in Köln it was announced that the train was ready to leave, and was being held until the arrival of the ICE.
Finally making decent speed, showing about 160km/h.
After Dusseldorf the train became much more crowded, but the trip between Dusseldorf and Köln only took about 20 minutes.
The Köln train station was quite impressive, a massive glass and steel arch structure in the classic European style.
Hopping off the train at Köln Hbf
Off the train I made my way straight to the CACRC conference, already in progress at EASA's headquarters in the Köln Triangle Building, just across the river from the train station. I hadn't realized that the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine also had pedestrian walkways installed, so after a little wandering around along the riverfront I found my way across the bridge and to the conference.
Over the next two days I spent the majority of my time working on revising a Metal Bonding standards document, but I managed to sneak in some time for sightseeing during the evenings. I'll let my photos do the talking...
Why it seems we're in Germany now...
Crossing the Hohenzollern bridge, thousands of "Love Padlocks" are fastened to the fence separating the pedestrian walkway from the railroad tracks.
View from the 21st floor of the Köln Triangle Building, EASA's headquarters.
View of the city, including the absolutely massive Köln Cathedral.
Excellent views of the many trains departing Köln Hbf.
Inside the Cathedral.
Busy public square just a block or two from the Cathedral.
The 5-Star Dom Hotel, the inspiration for every German-looking building featured in a WWII Video Game.
Another quite German looking set of buildings, including the Fruh Brewhouse, a labyrinthine restaurant which sprawls through almost every building you can see here.
The Cathedral, lit up at night and too big to fit in a single camera frame.
The rest of the Cathedral...
The Hohenzollern Bridge and the Triangle Building in the background.
My best attempt at a tripod free streak-shot.
Wednesday morning came and I woke up thinking "hey, I've finally adjusted to the time difference, this actually feels like morning", unfortunately that was just in time to fly back home. There are about a half dozen trains which run from Köln to the Dusseldorf airport every hour, more at peak hours. When I arrived at the station I had the option of taking an ICE to the Dusseldorf Flughafen (long distance) station, or the S-Bahn S11 train directly into the airport terminal. The ICE cost about 15 Euros and took a half hour, while the S11 cost about half of that and took three times as long. I had time to kill and not much cash left in my wallet, so I decided on the painfully slow S11 train. After a half hour train ride and an hour of being stopped in stations, I arrived at the Dusseldorf airport for my flight home.
EDDL - KATL
Flight # DAL 0025
Equipment:Boeing 767-300ER/G (N154DL)
Scheduled Departure: 09:35 Actual Departure: 09:35
Scheduled Arrival: 13:35 Actual Arrival: 13:15
The S11 train arrives just outside of Dusseldorf's Terminal C. Walking into the terminal, I happened to arrive just in front of the Delta check-in counters. There were just as many check-in agents available as there were passengers waiting (Delta only operates one flight daily from DUS, and this Wednesday morning flight was scheduled to go out very empty) so it took no time at all to check in.
Dusseldorf's Terminal C security checkpoint has the most sensitive metal detector I've ever seen. More than 50% of passengers were setting off the alarm. Normally I leave my belt on and make it through detectors just fine, but seeing the results of passengers in front of me I took it off. Even though my glasses were the only metallic object on my person, I still set it off and had to be wanded down.
Exit passport control was again a breeze, the officer asked me where I had visited, stamped the passport, and let me through.
The terminal was very empty past security. Even though there had been a line of people in front of me at check-in Delta's departure gate was absolutely deserted. I grabbed a Croissant and some juice for breakfast and sat down to begin writing this trip report...
A very empty waiting area at the Dusseldorf Airport.
A lone A319 waiting for dawn.
An hour and a half before the scheduled 9:20 departure our aircraft back to Atlanta pulled into the gate. In the pre-dawn darkness I couldn't make out the registration, I could only tell that it was one of Delta's ex-Gulfair 767-300s, without winglets. Delta acquired six 767-300ERs used from Gulfair in 1996, these aircraft are configured with two main boarding doors and have slightly different interiors than the rest of Delta's 767 fleet. The biggest difference with these aircraft (apart from the CF6-80C2 engines) is the lack of overhead gasper air vents in the passenger cabin.
Delta is in the process of overhauling its 767-300ER fleet with lie-flat seats in Business Elite, similar to the seats already installed on the 767-400s and the 777s. As far as I know, no 767-300ER/Gs have been overhauled to-date, so I was out of luck for the really good seats on my way home.
My ride to Atlanta, pulling in for a relatively quick turnaround.
The first aircraft movement of the day, a Turkish 737-800 departing as the sun begins to rise.
Soon after the gate agents arrived behind the counter my name was called and I was assigned seat 5A. Shortly thereafter I was called again and re-assigned seat 4G. Since the Business Elite cabin was so empty, the gate agent was spreading out passengers so that almost everyone would have a row to themselves.
Boarding began 40 minutes prior to departure. Dusseldorf was set up with an additional security screening area prior to boarding the aircraft, but it seemed that staff were selectively checking passengers. I was sent straight down the jetway, while the passenger behind me was pulled aside for the metal detector and X-ray.
The not-so-spectacular Business Elite cabin on this Ex-Gulfair 767-300ER.
The vast majority of Delta's 767-300ERs are outfitted with standard recliner seats, rather than lie-flats or pod-seats like the A330s. The Business Elite recliners are far, far more comfortable than the standard domestic first seats, as they recline similar to a La-Z-Boy chair to a near-flat position. The seats aren't much wider than a standard coach seat, but much better padded and equipped.
The much simpler seat controls on this BE recliner. No fully flat bed for this seat...
As the rest of the passengers boarded (overall a very light load on this Wednesday morning flight) the sun rose over the Dusseldorf ramp. Activity was starting to pick up, including an airberlin A330 at the next gate over. I ended up with an empty seat next to me, so I was able to spread out my camera and things into the empty seat. It's always much easier to write a trip report without a neighbor in the seat next to me, normal travelers tend to be confused (or at worst concerned) by my rapid-fire photography of the aircraft. Pre-departure drinks were served, just a choice between Champagne and Orange Juice this time, I believe they handed out all of the Mimosas they had mixed before arriving at my row.
Last time I saw this A330 I was in the much sunnier and much warmer Miami airport...
Pre-departure Orange Juice.
Wing walker getting ready for push back.
The typical amenity kits and headphones had not been distributed at the seats prior to boarding, so flight attendants came around handing out the items as they took coats and welcomed passengers on board.
An older German couple sat in seats 3F and G mid-way through the boarding process. I overheard parts of their conversation while they settled in and took their seats and they seemed very impressed with the space and comfort of their seats. They sounded as if it was their first time flying in Business Elite, but the manner at which they selected and sat down in their seats seemed to suggest that they knew themselves to be in the right place. Shortly before the boarding door was closed, the apparent rightful owner of seat 3F arrived and asked to see their boarding passes. He took one look and simply shook his head while pointing to the far back of the plane, as if to indicate "you're wayyyyy back there." The couple collected their things and got up, only to sit back down behind me in row 5. At this point a flight attendant noticed them and escorted them back to their assigned seats in coach.
Had 3F not shown up I would have seen no indication that this couple were seat-poachers. Either they were very seasoned at snagging first class seats, or they were just convinced that the aircraft was free-seating and that they were welcome to sit wherever they pleased.
With the light load onboard the Flight Attendants were being very proactive in their service duties, offering refills or assistance to passengers. I believe there were three FAs attending to the 20 or so passengers in Business Elite, but they were constantly rotating throughout the aircraft so I'm not entirely sure.
Amenity kit, headphones, water bottle, safety card, and much more all shoved into the seatback pocket.
As we taxied out to the runway, Delta's standard safety video was played. There was no indication that Business Elite passengers should open their video monitors to view the video, but I unfolded it anyway. What I found for my video monitor was...disappointing. The monitor was stored folded in the armrest center console, the same as the A330, but the monitor itself was a standard 5" domestic coach style monitor, the same as those found in the seatbacks of 757s and 737s in the domestic fleet. The monitor itself was haphazardly attached to a thin aluminum pipe which fastened into the seat. The whole assembly refused to lock in the upright position and would only fall into a crooked, almost-straight orientation. I believe these Business Elite seats are the original PMDL seats installed when the aircraft were purchased (re-skinned with blue leather recently), so the IFE screens were likely an after-market add-on in the space available.
Very kludge-ish video monitor.
Taxing out past an Air France mini-Bus.
Busy airberlin hangar and ramp.
Taxiing onto the runway we crossed over the long distance rail station (buried under the taxiway and runway) and past one of Dusseldorf's two aircraft spotting areas. The sun came out just prior to departure, so I'm sure someone took an excellent photo of the aircraft taxiing by. I will need to return to Dusseldorf at some point to do some spotting, there are very few places in the US which offer the same great vantage points to watch aircraft.
The takeoff roll was slow and ponderous. The CF6-80C2s of the ex-Gulfair 767-300ER lacked any of the buzzsaw noise of the A330, only emitting a low droning whine. The drone gave way to a muffled buzzsaw after rotation, but still lacked any sense of real power.
Climbing over the German countryside.
Crossing the Rhine one last time for this trip.
Shortly after takeoff we climbed through the clouds and onto the top of a high overcast layer. Having nothing to see out the window, I sat back and browsed my available selection of movies on the tiny monitor. I have yet to determine Delta's process for the selection of in-flight movies, it seems that some flights have tons of available options while similar length flights have very few. In this case, there were enough decent choices to get-by with and I started into "Bad Teacher." I don't recommend it...
Meal service began as we left the European continent. This time there were no warm nuts to start, just a cold "trail mix" of peanuts and raisins.
No warm nuts this time, just a generic trail mix.
Business Elite breakfast courses are less substantial than the lunch/dinner meals. The salad course is dropped and I've found the main courses to be a little smaller. Still, they're typically good meals. The choices on today's flight included Almond crusted French Toast, a Beef Tenderloin, an Omlette, or a Cereal cold plate. The starter course was mixed fruit, yogurt, and smoked salmon, while the dessert options were the same as my flight over to Amsterdam.
I reject your reality and substitute my own...