I decided to park in the short term parking directly accross from Terminal 5 at LAX. It's a little more expensive than other parking options for the airport but you cannot beat the convenience. Once you have parked just take the short pedestrian bridge from the parking structure to the terminal and you enter directly to the TSA security area bypassing the lower level check-in area.
I wasn't planning to check any luggage and decided to check in with my phone before leaving my car.
Everything appeared to be in order so I went to the check-in screen:
Ooops! Guess online check-in not possible for this trip:
Oh well. I guess that would have been too easy so after crossing the pedestrian bridge I took the escalator down to check-in.
At first glance it looked pretty hectic. I pushed my way through general check-in down to the Sky Priority check-in and was pleasantly surprised to find this:
A nearly empty check-in area! I waited in line for less than one minute and then was checked in and given a boarding pass less than a minute later. All in all a very fast & efficient check-in for the busiest travel day of the year.
I headed back up the escalators to security. The Sky Priority lane only had five customers ahead of me in line. The regular security lines didn't look too bad, either. The security process got bogged down by among other things a large United crew that cut in front of us. I wanted to ask them why they didn't go to their own terminal but bit my tongue. Total security time was about 10 minutes.
At this point I still had an hour and fortyfive minutes before flight time and decided to head to the lounge to do some work on my laptop first. The lounge was packed! Now it felt like the busieest travel day of the year. Luckily I found an empty work station near the window. The station was messy with empty drink glasses and food packaging from the person there before me but conisdering how crowded it was I wasn't complaining.
As I was waiting for my computer to boot up I ran and got a glass of wine and some cheese:
Nothing too glamorous about this although the wine was good. Compared to other international airlines the Delta Sky Club is not glamorous. Especially when it's this crowded. They do offer and decent selection of free alcoholic and non-alcholic beverages from a self-serve bar as well as snacks (Olives, packaged cheese, carrot stick, nuts, e.t.c...).
PROS: Nice view of Terminal 6 and gates below from work station. Good wine. Free internet access.
CONS: Lounge was crowded and noisy. Internet connection was slow due to the amount of people competing for bandwidth.
9:45 PM - I finished up and headed down to the gate (This was the scheduled boarding time). Just as I arrived they announced that boarding would be delayed 10-15 minutes although they did not provide an explanation. The boarding area was crowded as a flight heading to Guatemala City was getting ready to board at the next gate and shared the waiting area.
9:58 PM - Boarding started with Business Elite called first. There were no preboards on this flight.
Seat 12a in the second cabin of Business Elite, my home for the next 15 hours:
For those of you not familiar with Delta's 777 fleet the BusinessElite seats are in a so-called herringbone design with all seats facing the aisle and having direct aisle access so that you do not have to climb over other passengers (or have them climbing over you) when getting out of the seat. I personally love this seat because it is very private when in sleep mode (extends to a 76 inch flat bed).
More pics here:
10:02 PM - I was in my seat and being offered my choice of the standard champagne, orange juice or water by a very friendly flight attendant named Eva. Although she has been with Delta for many years this was her very first time flying to Sydney. Menus were also offered.
Delta serves it's pre-departure beverages in glass - not plastic like other U.S. airlines - a nice touch (although the champagne/sparkling wine was nothing to brag about itself).
10:29 PM - Doors closed and it looked like we might depart as scheduled at 10:40. Soon a tug pushess us back and then tows us to the taxiway. Once this process is complete the pilots begin spooling up the massive GE engines starting with the left and then the right. This process takes longer on this plane than any other - or maybe because it's so noisy I just notice it more. The sound is almost deafening but exciting at the same time. After about fifteen minutes in this spot we finally began taxiing to the runway.
11:03 PM - Wheels up 23 minutes late. IMHO take off in the 777-200LR is a unique experience in moden aviation. I cannot think of any other commerical aircraft in service today that pushes you back in your seat like that at take off. The sound of the engines are also quite unique (and loud as mentioned earlier - although it's not noticeably louder than other engines once at cruise altitude).
Within the next ten minutes or so I could see the flight crew getting up and starting to prepare the dinner service.
11:20 PM - Decided to watch the movie Bad Teacher. Delta has a large selection of theatrical movies, HBO programs and T.V. programs to choose from with their IFE. I had never seen this movie but had laughed at the previews so decided to give it a try.
11:25 - System crashed. It only took about three minutes to reboot but I had to start movie all over again.
11:44 - Warm nuts and served along with Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique.
This was fine except that I had asked for Chenin Blanc (Zalze 'Bush Vine' South Africa). Eva was very understanding and brought me the correct wine. But it was horrible so I asked for the Pouilly-Fuisse instead - which was excellent. Again she was very understanding and prompt.
11:49 PM - IFE crashes for a second time. Ugh. It only took a minute or so to boot up and I fast-forwarded to where I left of when...
11:53 PM - IFE crashes for third time. This is getting old. Luckily this would be the last crash of the IFE system on this flight.
12:00 AM - Appetizers served:
Seared five spice tuna and asian noodle salad
TOMATO AND BASIL SOUP
The tuna was perfectly seasoned and delicious. I wanted more. The noodles were also very good. The soup was under-seasoned and salt & pepper didn't help. It wasn't awful but it was a little bland.
MIXED GREEN SALAD
with dried cranberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and pine nuts
The salad was exactly what a salad should be: fresh & crisp. Two dressing choices were offered (I had the oil & balsamic vinegar). The abundant dried fruit and pinenuts offered a nice contrast and I enjoyed the salad.
BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS
with red wine sauce, parsnip puree and five spice baby carrots
PAN-SEARED DUCK BREAST
with calvados sauce, glazed apples, baby bok choy and wild rice medley
with citrus butter, farro risotto and sauteed haricorts verts
with eggplant and cherry tomato sauce and ricotta salata cheese
It was nice to see that they were offering a braised beef choice instead of trying to do filet mignon, which is what most U.S. airlines offer on international flights. I love filet mignon but it rarely lends itself to being cooked properly on an airplane. Braising meat and then reheating in an over should theoretically poduce better results.
It tasted better than it looks in this picture. The meat was served on top of the sauce and was tender but a little over-salted. The carrots were crisp tender and the parsnip puree was very good.
SELECTION OF FINE CHEESES
offered with fresh fruit
VANILLA ICE CREAM SUNDAE
with your choice of sauces, whipped cream, and chopped nuts
Dessert is served from a cart with sundaes prepared to order, cheese & fruit, and a chocolate pastry (that looked like a big bon bon) along with a choice of dessert wines. At this point I was stuufed but decided to have a small fruit & cheese platter (which I couldn't finish) and a glass of Ferreira Dona Antonia Reserve Porto from Portugal.
By this time my movie had ended and I watched a couple episodes of a U.S. sitcom that I have never heard of called Mike & Molly. I was so full from all the food I couldn't help but think that if I traveled like this everyday I would soon become as big as the lead characters in the show.
Soon after I placed the seat in flat-bed mode and got comfortable. Delta offers a full-sized pillow as well as duvet in Business elite. As I always do on long international flights I set my TV to the moving map display.
This is about where we were when I fell asleep:
And this is where we were when I woke some seven or eight hours later:
1 hour 45 minutes before landing orange juice served.
Flight attendant Eva was once again serving my section. She was so friendly and proactive. The entire crew seemed energetic.
1 hour 30 minutes before landing breakfast was served.
Served with assorted breakfast breads and condiments
SEASONAL FRESH FRUIT
Choose from one of the below options:
VANILLA FRENCH TOAST
with syrup, scrambled eggs, and chicken apple sausage
with maple syrup
I chose the french toast. The eggs were cooked perfect for my taste (but maybe under cooked for some people). Everything else on the plate was good, as well. The catering on this flight was in general better than other flights I have taken on Delta this year to Europe and South America. Maybe because of the longer flight time the crews are less rushed?
Before landing flight attendants handed out express customs passes. The entire customs/immigration process took less than ten minutes!
All-in-all not a bad trip:
Check in = A+ (Delta was ready for the holiday crowds and had enough crew to handle the situation)
Lounge = C- (Too many people have access and experience was cheapened by loudness + slow internet connection)
Flight Crew = A+ (The crew was on their game and provided excellent service)
Food quality = B- (Some aspects were very good but others only average).