Hello and welcome to my 24th trip report. This report covers my travels from New York City to Bozeman, Montana during the summer of 2011. This was one part of my larger trip from my current home in Brussels, Belgium to see my family in my native state of Montana. My last report (titled Farewell CO - A Transatlantic First And Last (by BZNPilot Apr 23 2012 in Trip Reports)
), covers the transatlantic portion of the trip, from Brussels to London and onward to Newark. The following report details the next stage of my journey on Delta from New York JFK
to Salt Lake City and onward to Montana. I hope you enjoy travelling along with me, and as always, comments, questions and feedback are greatly appreciated!
After my girl and I flew in from Belgium on a Friday and spent a great weekend in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City, it was time for me to head west to Montana—otherwise known as the “Big Sky Country.” As I mentioned in my previous report detailing the transatlantic flight, part of the reason for my travels from Belgium to the US was to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday in Montana. Just for fun, I had decided to surprise her with this visit. In fact, she had no idea whatsoever that I was even travelling to the US. I will reveal how the surprise unfolded towards the end of this report.
Unfortunately, my girl was not able to accompany me to Montana, as she was using the rest of her time in the US to visit her own family in California. However, we had arranged our onward travel such that we both would fly out of JFK
airport early Monday morning. While I jetted off to Montana, she boarded a United 757 for a nonstop flight to San Francisco.
TIME TO FLY
The alarm clock rang especially early on that Monday morning in Manhattan, at about 03:25. After a quick shower and some final, groggy packing, the pre-ordered taxi stood waiting in front of our friends’ apartment, where we were staying, at 03:45, a full 15 minutes earlier than we had requested. We hurried our final preparations and made it down to the waiting car at 03:55 to find an angry and rude driver who was not happy to have been kept waiting—never mind he was the one who showed up early. Not the best start to the morning. At any rate, traffic was light in Manhattan at that hour and we were soon out of the city center speeding toward JFK
The taxi dropped us off at 04:25 in front of Terminal 7, where the United Airlines facilities are located. Because of the driver’s rudeness over a ten-minute wait that was not our fault, I did not give any tip whatsoever, which made him even more unpleasant. That was fine by me, as there was certainly no service worthy of a tip on that ride. We paid the base fare, left the guy behind and headed into the terminal. My girlfriend’s flight on United to San Francisco was scheduled to depart at 06:00; as she was travelling in first class, her check-in was quick and she soon headed through security to take advantage of the lounge. Meanwhile, I made my way to the AirTrain, the rail line connecting the complicated terminal system at JFK
, for the ride to Terminal 3 for my Delta flight to Salt Lake City. The AirTrain was empty at this early hour.
After a few stops, I arrived at the antiquated terminal at 04:55—plenty of time for my 07:00 flight. I made my way to the check-in kiosks and, as I was not checking a bag, I only had to print my boarding passes from the kiosk, which allowed me to avoid the relatively short but slow-moving queue forming at the check-in counter.
There was no wait at the security checkpoint, but the young TSA
guy checking my boarding pass and identification was without a doubt the rudest TSA
employee I have ever encountered. I do not want get into details, but this was the first and only time I have ever considered lodging an official complaint against an individual. In the end, I decided not to because I did not want to waste my time on something that would make no difference. Needless to say, it was another bad start to my morning, but I was soon through security all the same.
Unfortunately, once airside, the facilities were not very impressive. I was craving a cup of coffee, but the Starbucks remained shuttered a full 30 minutes past its posted opening time. Instead of sipping a coffee, I watched as two airport janitors got into a major, prolonged argument in plain view of everyone. This incident, combined with the taxi driver and the rude TSA
agent, did not give the best impression. As someone who worked early hours for several years while in college, I know it is not pleasant to be at work long before sunrise. But literally everyone I had encountered that morning had been in a vile mood. I know there are “bad apples” in every batch. And there are many things I do appreciate about New York City. But in my experiences, the Big Apple has a lot of bad apples, and this only reinforced my view. I was eager to get away from the city and head out west.
Instead of watching the negativity unfold between the janitors, I decided to pass the time by enjoying the aviation action on the tarmac. It was still fairly dark, but I was able to grab a shot of this Delta 747-400 parked across the ramp. This was the first time I had seen one of these jumbos in Delta colors in person.
After a couple of laps through the terminal to walk off my no-coffee grogginess, I headed to Gate 5 for my departure to SLC
Date: 15 August 2011
Route: New York (JFK
) – Salt Lake City (SLC
Flight #: DL
Aircraft Type: Boeing 757-232
Aircraft Registration: N686DA (manufactured in 1995)
Scheduled Departure: 07:00 EDT
Actual Takeoff: 07:28 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 10:20 MDT
Actual Landing: 09:58 MDT
Flight Time: 4:30
Distance: 1,987 miles / 3,198 kilometers
Altitude: FL360 / FL380
Seat: 36F (economy)
Load: Business = 100% / Economy = 100%
Personal Stats: 285th airline flight / 66th flight on Delta (mainline) / 25th flight on the 757-200
The gate area was completely packed with passengers, and the Delta agents made several calls asking for volunteers willing to take a later flight in exchange for a voucher for future travel. As my schedule was flexible, I approached the agent and said I would be willing to do so. However, after typing in my final destination of Bozeman (BZN
), the agent said all other possible connections were fully booked, including through Minneapolis. As such, she suggested I hang onto my seat, which I gladly did.
Boarding began with first class and premium passengers at 06:20; my row was called a few minutes later and I was onboard the aircraft by 06:30. I made my way down the long, narrow aisle and found my seat at 36F, a window seat on the right side. This was my view out the window while parked at the gate.
There was no individual screen in my seatback, and the legroom on this Delta bird was tight for a near-transcontinental flight. But it was acceptable and I cannot complain. As the comedian Louis C.K. has commented, it is absurd how much people complain about flying when in fact every passenger should be amazed by every flight. After all, think about it—“you’re sitting in a chair in the sky!”
Here is the Delta 757-200 safety card.
As the boarding process was finishing, one of the flight attendants made a welcome announcement and notified us of an expected flight time of 4:17 to Salt Lake City.
At 06:58, a couple of minutes ahead of schedule, we pushed back from the gate. The engines spooled into action and the flaps extended to their takeoff setting. With that, we began our taxi to the runway.
Despite the early hour and the relative lack of traffic at JFK
, the taxi out to RWY 04L was long, with many pauses along the way. Finally, exactly thirty minutes after leaving the gate, we took to the runway at 07:28 and the engines roared to takeoff thrust.
The big wing smoothly flexed upward from the pressure of its own lift, the sharp winglet knifing through the airflow. And with that, the powerful 757 leapt into the grey skies over Long Island.
Meanwhile, the runways and taxiways of JFK
slipped beneath the wing.
Not long after takeoff, we made a right turn toward the east over the neighborhoods just northeast of the airport.
As the aircraft leveled its wings I caught a nice view of the layout of the eastern portion of the airport.
After briefly flying an easterly heading, the aircraft then made a 180-degree turn on a westerly course and climbed into the grey and turbulent cloud layers. The wing flexed noticeably as we rose through the bumpy air. This was my second flight on the JFK
route; the first was on a Delta 767-300 in the summer of 2001, and that flight also involved a turbulent climb out of the New York area.
Eventually, the clouds grew lighter until finally we emerged from the murky vapor into the blue above.
We leveled off at FL360 and the thick overcast gave way to less dense cloud formations.
As we continued west, the clouds continued to break, revealing sights along the way. A little more than an hour after takeoff, we passed overhead Oakland Country International Airport, just west of Pontiac, Michigan. According to Wikipedia, this is the sixth-busiest airport in the United States that is not served by a scheduled airline.
As this was a longer domestic flight, the flight attendants took their time initiating the beverage service. It took them even longer to reach me given my position at the end of the aircraft. Finally, an hour and fifteen minutes after departure, I got my cup of airline coffee in a Styrofoam cup. Although airline coffee could never pass muster in a coffee house, I always enjoy it when I am in the air. And, as this was my first cup of the morning, it was even better. I was also given the usual Biscoff cookies offered by Delta and, as I was in the mood for more of a breakfast, decided to get the yoghurt parfait for $3.50. It was satisfactory enough—nothing special, but okay for the price. Combined with the coffee and the cookies, it was a decent morning snack.
Although there was no inflight map to monitor our progress, we soon passed over a body of water which I knew was Lake Michigan due to its long, relatively straight shoreline extending perpendicular to our heading, far off our right wing to the north. As we passed over the western shoreline just north of Chicago, the city of Waukegon, Illinois came into view, which appears toward the bottom of the next photo.
After leaving the last of the Great Lakes behind, the flat, open expanses of the Midwest stretched into the distance. I always find it interesting when flying across the country to watch as the landscape changes in color and texture. When flying west, the greenery of the eastern heartland turns to a landscape with tan swaths dotted by clusters of circular fields. By and by, the circles grow fewer and farther between and the land becomes more arid.
Eventually, the flatlands rise into a higher, almost desert-like landscape crossed by beautiful folds and wrinkles in the earth’s crust.
As we entered the final hour of the flight, the attendants passed through the aisle offering a full beverage service. I had a coffee and another one of those tasty Delta Biscoff cookies.
We passed over southern Wyoming and a large body of water, the Seminoe Reservoir, came into view off the right wing.
Over southwestern Wyoming, we began our descent into Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, larger mountains began to appear as we neared the Wasatch Range.
As we descended, I spied Bear Lake, which straddles the Utah-Idaho state line north of Salt Lake City.
We then made a ninety-degree left turn to the south for the final glide toward the Salt Lake airport. The waters of the Great Salt Lake came into view off the right side of the aircraft.
Soon the flaps began their descent as well as we glided lower and lower over the marshland just north of the airport.
The shadow of the aircraft chased just behind the wing—what an impressive shadow with those winglets!
We swooped over the threshold of RWY16L and flared smoothly just before the wheels hit the ground at 09:58 local time, exactly four and a half hours after lifting off from JFK
We exited the runway to the right and taxied toward the C concourse.
The aircraft came to a halt at gate C13 a few minutes after 10:00 am local time, about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Good job, Delta!
Once inside the terminal, I grabbed a shot of this sleek, wingleted bird.
With just about three hours until my departure to Bozeman, I decided to grab a burger. It was still morning in Salt Lake, but I had been up for hours already and was in the mood for lunch. After eating, I made a few laps through the terminal and explored each of the concourses. Although I have been to this airport many times over the years, and although the ramp action is not the most exciting, it is always nice to walk around and look at airplanes. Here are some photos of the local metal.
Eventually I made my way downstairs toward the E gates, where many of the Skywest gates are located. Here is a photo of one of Skywest’s shiny, silver Embraer 120s. Skywest used to fly these on the Salt Lake-Bozeman route, but that was many years ago. Most passengers would disagree, but I think these little turboprops are neat, and I would have much preferred to take a slower, louder flight up to BZN
on one of these as opposed to the standard CRJ. Alas, those days are over.
As I waited for boarding to begin for my flight to Bozeman, I grew more and more excited and eager to get on with this final leg of my itinerary. It had been almost a year since I was last home, since I had seen my father and stepmother and sister—and Kelty, my beloved dog. And of course, I was excited to surprise my mother, who still had no idea I had even left Belgium.
Finally, the lone agent at gate E71 grabbed the microphone and announced the Bozeman flight would begin boarding in a few minutes. I always love hearing that announcement. The world is huge and wonderful and full of exciting places, but there is no place like home.
Date: 15 August 2011
Route: Salt Lake City (SLC
) – Bozeman (BZN
Flight #: DL
4449 (operated by SkyWest Airlines)
Aircraft Type: CRJ-200LR
Aircraft Registration: N445SW (manufactured in 2002)
Scheduled Departure: 13:15 MDT
Actual Takeoff: 13:30 MDT
Scheduled Arrival: 14:30 MDT
Actual Landing: 14:18 MDT
Flight Time: 0:48
Distance: 347 miles / 558 kilometers
Seat: 11D (economy)
Load: Business = N/A / Economy = 60%
Personal Stats: 286th airline flight / 19th flight on Delta Connection / 26th flight on CRJ-100/200
Boarding started later than scheduled, at 13:00, just fifteen minutes before the flight’s departure time. I was first in line at the gate and, although I had a printed boarding pass, I decided to test the trend of paperless boarding and brought up my electronic boarding pass on my Blackberry. The agent scanned the screen of my phone and I was quickly on my way—awesome! The E concourse at Salt Lake City is somewhat unusual in that, after going through the door of the boarding gate, one must proceed down a corridor to a different door, which then leads outside across the tarmac to the aircraft. The long corridor also forks at one point, which requires one to pay attention to the signage in order to reach the correct door. In my case, I took the fork to the left and found my waiting aircraft at door E34. I snapped a photo of this workhorse of a regional jet basking in the summer sun.
I was onboard at 13:05 and the rest of the passengers followed immediately thereafter. There was nothing special about this little regional jet—just a cramped, tight cabin with low windows. Still, I have always had a soft spot for the good old CRJ.
Out my window across the ramp, a pair of those shiny Embraer turboprops stood ready for their next missions.
At 13:10, the captain made a welcome announcement and introduced himself, the first officer and the flight attendant by name—a nice touch that always adds a bit of personality to the experience. He mentioned that there was just one checklist left to perform in the cockpit before getting underway and that the flight time to Bozeman would be a quick 49 minutes with a cruising altitude of 28,000 feet. The weather in Bozeman was sunny, winds light and variable and a temperature of 83 degrees F (28 degrees C). Not a bad homecoming!
Despite the late boarding, we pushed back from the gate at 13:18, just three minutes behind schedule. The twin turbofans whined into action and we began our taxi out to the runway.
We taxied around the eastern side of the terminal complex before heading south on taxiway H past the cargo apron. This large FedEx trijet sat waiting for its next jaunt to Memphis.
At 13:30, we lined up on RWY34R and began a rolling takeoff.
We lifted smoothly into the afternoon sky and climbed out to the north, already pointed almost directly toward Bozeman some 347 miles (558 kilometers) to the north.
As we climbed out of Salt Lake, I again spied Bear Lake straddling the Utah-Idaho state line, the same body of water I had seen from the inbound flight earlier in the morning.
Given the short flight, the lone flight attendant sprang quickly into action with the beverage service. A full range of water, juices, soft drinks, tea and coffee were available, plus alcohol for a charge. I took a Coke, as well as a Delta Biscoff cookie. For a short hop such as this, I found the service good and the offerings more than sufficient.
Soon after leveling off at 28,000 feet, we encountered some rough air. The captain made an announcement reminding everyone that the seatbelt sign was still on and that we would climb up to 32,000 feet in search of smoother air. He also noted that we were 190 miles (306 kilometers) from Bozeman and that we could expect to be on the ground in 27 minutes. As we continued north over Idaho, it was clear from the clouds that there were some budding thunderstorms in the area.
After a six-minute cruise at 32,000 feet, the captain made another announcement that we were beginning our descent. I heard the engines spool back and felt the nose pitch forward as we dropped toward the cloud deck.
Once inside the grey world of the clouds, the ride grew very bumpy. It felt as though a giant, invisible hand was swatting the little jet back and forth.
We emerged from the clouds over the Spanish Peaks, the mountain range just southwest of Bozeman. I began to recognize the contours of the mountains—almost home!
While still quite high—probably at 13,000 feet or so, based on our position relative to the mountain peaks—the flaps dropped in their first increment, the aircraft slowed noticeably, and the nose pitched forward.
Before I knew it, we crossed over the last of the mountains and entered the Gallatin Valley, the wide basin that is home to Bozeman.
A short time later, the town itself came into view. My mother’s house is almost in the center of the next photo.
Seconds later, we swooped over the downtown area, the distinctive buildings of Montana State University slipping into our five o’clock position.
We then made a smooth left turn back to the northwest to line up for a visual approach to RWY30. The Bridger Mountains just north of Bozeman popped into view—it was so good to see these peaks!
The wings leveled and we glided over the farm fields the last distance toward the airport. It was a beautiful afternoon.
We passed over the threshold of the runway and gently flared before a smooth meeting of rubber and asphalt. It was 14:18 and I was in Montana for the first time in nearly a year.
After exiting the runway to the left, we held short of the ramp to allow a Minneapolis-bound Delta A319 push back from the gate. There was also another Delta Connection CRJ parked at the terminal. Including mine, there were three Delta flights on the ground at once in BZN
, and I could not help but think that my little, hometown airport was turning into some sort of a Delta hub.
After a few minutes, the A319 taxied past us on its way toward the departure end of the runway.
We continued the final distance and docked at gate 5 at 14:25, about five minutes early. Of my two flights that day, both arrived ahead of schedule. Nicely done, Delta and Skywest!
I deplaned quickly and my wheeled carry-on was already waiting in the jetway. With my bag in tow, I entered the terminal—and was shocked! This was my first trip home since the recent renovation of the airport, and the improvement was incredible. I will write more about this, and include photos of the new facilities, in the next trip report covering my departure from Bozeman.
Since the idea was to surprise my mother, I had arranged with friends to pick me up instead of the usual pickup by my mom. They soon arrived and drove me home. My mother was still at work, so I relaxed and waited until she arrived home around 5:00 pm. When she walked in the door and saw me sitting nonchalantly on the couch, her jaw dropped and she was speechless for several minutes. But she was absolutely thrilled, and so happy to have me home. The surprise continued a few days later, when my sister flew in from Seattle unannounced (to everyone but my mother). A few days after that, we hosted a giant surprise party for my mom’s 60th birthday, which included all of her friends. It was a wonderful series of surprises and a lot of fun. I also had the chance to enjoy the favorite things my hometown has to offer. Here are some photos.
Here is a view of the city looking to the southwest.
I also had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful mountains.
As you can see, my dog Kelty also joined the fun.
Based on this experience, I have generally positive things to say about Delta’s domestic product. Below I have rated my experiences in six different categories on a scale of 1 to 10.
Reservation & online services:
After thoroughly investigating airfares and itineraries on all airlines over a period of several days, I opted for Delta due to the price and schedule. Once I decided to book my ticket, the process was quick and easy. I was also able to select my seats and modify these seat selections in the weeks and days prior to the flight. There were other useful online features such as the electronic boarding pass sent to my smart phone, which was quickly scanned at the gate when boarding. SCORE: 9/10
Seats and cabin condition:
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the seats or condition of the cabins on either flight. The cabins were clean and I was more or less satisfied. SCORE: 6/10
The cabin crew on the mainline Delta flight were average. None of them were unpleasant, but they were not overtly friendly, either. They had a job to do and did it; they seemed well-rehearsed, if a little robotic. The lone flight attendant on the Skywest flight was noticeably more engaging and seemed more personable when interacting with the passengers. SCORE: 6/10
Food and drink:
The food and beverage offerings on the mainline Delta flight were adequate. The coffee was fine. The yoghurt parfait tasted decent, but the size was quite small, especially considering it was a purchased item. However, as usual, the Biscoff cookies were good (that would be a difficult one to mess up). And the full drink service on the flight from Salt Lake City to Bozeman on Skywest was certainly appreciated on a flight of that length. SCORE: 6/10
At a time when Delta has installed personal screens across much of its 757 fleet, I was disappointed not to have this feature. The small overhead screens were difficult to see from my seat, so I did not watch any of the programming. The window was my entertainment, which is fine for me as an aviation enthusiast, but it is not for everyone. Of course, there was no inflight entertainment on the Skywest regional jet, but that is to be expected and I am not considering that particular flight in this category. SCORE: 3/10
I did not check a bag, as I did not wish to pay the $25 fee. So there is nothing to evaluate in this category. SCORE: 0/0
Both Delta and Skywest were on-time and even a few minutes early. Nice job! SCORE 10/10
RESERVATION & ONLINE SERVICES: 9/10
SEATS & CABIN CONDITION: 6/10
CABIN CREW: 6/10
FOOD & DRINK: 6/10
INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: 3/10
AVERAGE SCORE: 40/60 = 67%
All in all, Delta offers an acceptable product in economy class on domestic flights—not spectacular by any means, but good enough to win my business. The airline provides frequent and easy service into my hometown of Bozeman, from Salt Lake and Minneapolis, as well as seasonal service from Atlanta and Detroit, and their fares are competitive. As such, I will gladly keep flying Delta on my US domestic travels.
Thank you for reading this report. I hope you enjoyed it. Feedback, comments and questions are welcome and appreciated!
My previous reports on Airliners.net can be seen at:
Farewell CO - A Transatlantic First And Last (by BZNPilot Apr 23 2012 in Trip Reports)
Short & Long On LH: BRU-MUC-IAD, DCA-BOS-FRA-BRU (by BZNPilot Oct 30 2011 in Trip Reports)
Day Tripping: 3 Flights, 3 Countries, Many Pics (by BZNPilot Jun 13 2011 in Trip Reports)
Trans-Atlantic Part 2: BZN-DEN-OKC-IAD-GVA-BRU (by BZNPilot Dec 3 2010 in Trip Reports)
Trans-Atlantic Part 1: BRU-ATL-SLC-BZN On DL (by BZNPilot Nov 15 2010 in Trip Reports)
A Bee-Line To Madrid: SN’s A319 & B733 (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Sep 13 2010 in Trip Reports)
YVR-PDX-BFI: Horizon + SeaPort's PC-12 (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Jul 6 2010 in Trip Reports)
Day Tripping: DCA-DTW-MKE-DCA On NW/YX (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Jul 25 2009 in Trip Reports)
BZN-IAD On Skywest/Delta (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Jan 24 2009 in Trip Reports)
DCA-SEA + Boeing Field + Holiday Travel Odyssey (by BZNPilot Jan 3 2009 in Trip Reports)
CDG-FRA-IAD On AF/UA (Part 2, Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Nov 18 2008 in Trip Reports)
DCA-ORD-FRA-CDG On UA/LH/AF (Part 1, Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Nov 9 2008 in Trip Reports)
Planes & Trains To Montreal (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Sep 18 2008 in Trip Reports)
IAD-DEN-BZN-ORD-DCA On UA Biz/Y (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Sep 12 2008 in Trip Reports)
DC-9+A320+738s On NW/DL To MT (pics) (by BZNPilot Aug 3 2008 in Trip Reports)
DC To Montana On NW (many Pics) (by BZNPilot Jun 15 2008 in Trip Reports)
HKG-ORD-DCA On UA In Coach (pics) (by BZNPilot Jun 14 2008 in Trip Reports)
HKG-MNL-HKG On CX (Business) W Pics (by BZNPilot Feb 25 2008 in Trip Reports)
Manila-Caticlan-Manila For New Years (Pics) (by BZNPilot Jan 24 2008 in Trip Reports)
MRY-SFO-HKG On UA (with Pics) (by BZNPilot Feb 2 2008 in Trip Reports)
DCA-PHL-SFO (with Pics) (by BZNPilot Jan 29 2008 in Trip Reports)
Northwest Tri-Jets To Germany In 1999 (Many Pics) (by BZNPilot Feb 5 2010 in Trip Reports)
Lama Chopper In The Montana Mountains (w Pics) (by BZNPilot Jul 21 2008 in Trip Reports)