Hey all! I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2017, filled with many flights
So this trip report will feature two domestic trips I’ve had early last year. The first one, albeit a very short part, would be Iron Maiden’s concert in Tulsa, OK, and the second, which has more aviation in it: a spring break trip to Florida!
Since this report covers MSP-FLL on a B757, find the video trip report HERE!INTRODUCTION
So, to begin. College. A chance to meet so many people of different kinds! Add to that, an International Organization where students from all over the world meet every week! One late evening in November 2015, a couple of decided to go to Acres of Terror, a bit outside of Fargo, ND. It was that evening that a few of us found out that Iron Maiden (one of the world’s greatest heavy metal bands) were embarking on a world tour! For us, it was a toss up between catching the tour at either Tulsa, OK or Chicago, IL. Tulsa it was, considering it was over a weekend. TULSA - IRON MAIDEN!
We decided to rent a lovely new Nissan Altima for the 14 hour drive each way. There were four of us, three of us being Iron Maiden fans. The fourth one, my girlfriend, just showed up for the trip anyway. The car drive was quite long, of course. But it wasn’t uncomfortable in anyway! Drove through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, with a pit stop in Sioux Falls, SD for an Indian dinner. It was lovely! Reached the hotel by dawn, checked in and slept for a while, before heading to one of the things in this part of the trip that would make it aviation related, the Tulsa Air and Space Musuem, and Ed Force One, Iron Maiden’s very own jet piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson!
The concert itself was lovely. From long 10 year olds to people with walking sticks, girls and guys, ladies and gentlemen, the BOK Center was packed and it was absolutely epic! Iron Maiden played a lot of their new songs which sounded like just any of their old albums! The next day, we headed off to the zoo, followed by seeing Ed Force One take off to its third destination on its tour, Las Vegas NV. Tulsa was their second destination, and Fort Lauderdale being their first.
The drive back was pretty fun too, just a different route which meant a lot of dead skunks sadly. Nothing too dramatic, except that the last half an hour between Fargo and Grand Forks was extended to just over an hour because of a snow blizzard. Many semis had skidded over due to the weather... PLANNING SPRING BREAK
That same week, our organization met up to discuss a trip over Spring Break, to go somewhere. We decided Florida. But where? Since they had been to Orlando, FL for the past 2 spring breaks, it was written off. Panama City, FL would warm, but not warm enough. Miami, FL would be expensive, but thirty minutes up north is Fort Lauderdale, FL. Iron Maiden's first stop in the Book of Souls tour! THE FLIGHTS
With tickets been in the vicinity of $350 just two weeks away, during the peak season, this wasn’t too bad a deal. We decided to leave out of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (otherwise known as the Twin Cities or just ‘The Cities’). It was a toss up between Spirit Airlines and Delta Air Lines. I was pushing for Delta all the way for the simple reason being that they had B757s operating both ways to cater to the huge demand at the time. A plane I was last onboard back in early 1997 between Kathmandu and Mumbai with Royal Nepal Airlines. Flights were as follows:
DL1608 MSP FLL 0730 1227 B753
DL2027 FLL MSP 0725 1021 B752 (G75, according to DL's site).
Delta has 131 Boeing 757s in their fleet. 16 of them are the ex-Northwest Boeing 757-300. The REAL flying pencil. Going by the configuration of the 'G75', a friend of mine (AV) and I came to the conclusion this would be one of six ex-Shanghai Airlines birds, inducted into the fleet in mid 2015. Websites didn't give a very clear indication as to whether or not these planes had winglets fitted on to them before being inducted, but that was for me to find out
I found out that my ticket was actually a Basic Economy class ticket. It really is a very restrictive fare that does not allow change of dates/booking at all, no selection of seats as they’d be assigned at the gate itself, zero refundable cancellation, half the miles for SkyMiles members, etc.. With that bombshell dropped, I had to wait. Searches on the internet suggested that the likeliness of a window seat was quite low. You pay for what you get, I guess. DEPARTURE DAY
With daylight savings time starting on the 13th of March 2016, we left Grand Forks at around 2215 hours on the 12th, a 5 hour drive to the Twin Cities. Being Chewbacca at the time of the night was not easy because it really was ideal sleeping time! However, thanks to some caffeination at a gas station, this was not an issue. We reached the Twin Cities at around 0320 hours, and found our public parking spot. Being very close to the Metro Transit blue line Station (Bank of America Stadium), this would take us to the Airport. We entered the parking what seemingly looked like for free, however, we had to pay prior to parking the car, which was a headache for about a good half an hour! Not the most auspicious starts to the trip….
Anyway, heading up, it was quite cold. Leaving the winter coat back in Grand Forks was perhaps not the best decision. Thankfully the station had a warmer which kept me warm for about twenty minutes till the train arrived.CHECK IN & SECURITY
A good half an hour on board the warmth of this lovely tram, we reached Terminal 1 of MSP. From there on, it was quite an ascent towards the inter-terminal tram taking us towards the main terminal itself. It was about 0440 in the morning. Reaching the smaller check in area, lower than all the main activity, there was just the one light on. Check in area was closed. It would open at 5am.
We waited in line. Right on time, 5am, one Delta Air Lines agent came in and opened counters/switched on self check in computers for the passengers waiting in line. One after the other, more agents came in to assist the large crowd that had formed. Getting real crowded!
It was my turn to check in pretty early on. I got my boarding pass. Our flight DL1608 would depart from Gate G17. At the kiosk, we all were asked whether or not we'd volunteer to get on a later flight (operated by an MD90). Already being deprived of most of the privileges because of the Basic Economy fare, and from a more avgeek point of view, having not been on a B757-300, this was an instant rejection from me. ...okay Nope nope nope
I joined a line of people waiting to get their checked luggage tagged to wherever it is they were going. When it was my time to check my bag in, the lady asked me to print my boarding pass out first, which I already did. I answered that this procedure was already complete, and that my baggage tag needed to be printed out. She asked for my name, told her, and then she says - 'I called your name out many times!'
I replied - I was long behind in the queue, I couldn’t hear you.
To which she said - next time, you should pay more attention!!!
I apologized, but how on earth did she expect me to hear her in a packed terminal, and with people in front of me! Some people….
Anyway, headed to security next, which was yet another nightmare. Delta’s morning hub operations being in full swing, the north and south ends of security were filled to the brim! Took me about 35 odd minutes to get through, and of course there were some frustrated TSA employees venting out their anger at the people. Okay then… Surprise of surprises, I saw a girl from my English 110 class in college! She too was heading out towards the more popular warm weather destinations - Mexico for her.
Having completed security, I headed for gate G17. It was about 0550 hours CDT - 50 minutes just to complete check in and security. Luckily, there still was about 1hr40min to departure. Concourse G had some of the more serious domestic planes waiting - Boeing 757s, Boeing 737-900ERs, and one McDonnel Douglas MD90. Approaching gate G17, I noticed this:
Gate G16: flight to Orlando, FL (Boeing 757-200)
Gate G17: flight to Fort Lauderdale, FL (Boeing 757-300, my flight)
Gate G18: flight to Fort Myers, FL (Boeing 757-200)
how about that! Three Boeing 757s parked in a row, all heading down south to Florida! This was kinda cool.
With departure still a while away, and with seating assignments still a while away as well, few of us headed to get some food. We were quite hungry after being up the entire night. The grab n go foods were very expensive! McDonalds was the cheapest (and most unhealthy) choice. Nearly pulling 21 hours without sleep, I was certainly starting to feel the fatigue. Thanks to the McDonalds app, I managed to snag two McMuffins. Minor mercies. Waiting in concourse D, I saw some of the planes around: most of them were T-tailed birds: MD90s, CRJ700s/900s. One destination that got my attention - Bismarck, ND! GFK, FAR and BIS are the three airports in ND with scheduled operations! Concourse D was very empty, a large contrast to concourse G! Miracles of miracles - we found two people who were joining us on the trip, very sleepy on the benches. They were very much in CST - they forgot we had moved into CDT, and as a consequence, we lost an hour.WHICH SEAT...THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Made the long journey back to concourse G. It was the moment of truth. Window seat good luck? Acceptable but not quite aisle seat? Or just thrown in to a middle seat? I was prepared for the worst, but hoping for at least an aisle seat. Two of us walked up to gate agent. This flight was overbooked, no denying that. Passengers tried all they could to get on the flight. However, of the two of us, we had our boarding passes printed. He warned us that we won’t be able to sit together. That was fine by us, and hence, two boarding passes were printed. One with 49A, and the other was 49F. There I was overjoyed because I had at least gotten a window seat for the flight! I checked the seat map - I would be seated at the very rear of the long bird! Packed flight!N587NW is the B757-300W that took me down south! Things you see when you lack sleep - the area of ground that has not been wet by rain as it was covered by the plane Cleared!BOARDING
Boarding started right on time. The usual zone-wise boarding ensued. I waited right till the very end. 0727 hours, about 3 minutes before departure, I decide it is a good time to board the plane since the lines were almost done. This lead to some more arrogance on behalf of Delta’s lovely staff at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. ‘You should’ve been here earlier! We were about to deny you boarding!’.
I didn’t bother arguing, because a) I was sitting right there and b) I basically showed up in front of the desk merely 20 seconds after the entire crowd boarded. Oh well.
On board, no one to greet any passengers at the door (why was I even expecting anyone…?), I walk back all the way to the end of the long 757-300 fuselage. The New York based based crew welcome us onboard, a flight time of 3hr16min is announced - some good time for me to sleep! The crew played a new-for-2016 safety video, which included famous characters of the internet, such as the screaming goat and Doge. Such safety, much important. Wow wow. At the very back of the plane..DEPARTURE
Pushed back at 0733 hours, three minutes behind schedule. Both PW2043 engines were brought into life. A snazzy blue mood lighting feature was turned on, and remained on for the rest of the flight.Fire training aircraft
We started our taxi towards runway 12R before blasting down what felt like the entire length of the runway and setting a south-east course for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Take off videoWinglet shot!CRUISE...
I drifted in and out of sleep on this flight. I remember seeing the crappy headphones (that I received on my CDG-ORD flight a few months ago) being sold for $2.50. It was about 0811. Movies on the IFE were about $5 to $10 each. Sleep it was for me. We were cruising at an altitude of 35000 feet for most of the flight. A lovely couple were seated beside me. Them, their children and grandchildren were heading for a cruise out of FLL. Reminded me a lot of my Alaska cruise! Smells of coffee intoxicated the cabin. The lady beside me got up and asked for some advance coffee…although the crew member was absolutely honest about it - she said ‘Its not very good at all!’.
Service began at 0832 hours. This started off with the buy-on-board sandwiches. These looked like some pretty depressing sandwiches. Being seated at the very end of the aircraft, I waited a long while to be served. Some more micro-naps happened before the crew members showed up in row 49. ‘Sir, you don’t look very well, are you alright?’
the lovely flight attendant asked me. ‘I’m just very sleepy, that’s all!’
I said. She took my order request, before handing me an entire bottle of water and two non-alcoholic beverages, alongside the signature Delta Biscoff cookies and pretzels (she handed out the cookies, I requested for the pretzels, that’s all…). So, on my tray table I had a lot of content. Of course, not the usual tray full of food, but hey I appreciated the flight attendant’s care.
More micro-naps happened before I decided to head for the washroom. Was alright, not very well stocked though. I took this opportunity to keep standing for a little bit. Spoke to old couple a lot. Found some more ex-UND folk, how about that! The crew member also came about and talked to me. Not much really, she just asked where in India I was from…and that her ex-boyfriend is from the state of Punjab - nice! Somewhere along the flight, time zones changed to Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
1109 hours EDT, the engines roared quite a bit…and surprisingly, we climbed to an altitude of 37000 feet, being there only for about 20 minutes…
Somewhere, my IFE system decided to crash and reboot…oh well! Lovely sun waiting for me and my friends DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
1131 hours we began our descent along the tropical coasts of Florida into Fort Lauderdale. We lined up with runway 10L. Final approach was very very very bumpy! In fact, so bumpy, that some passengers actually screamed ‘Oh my God!’
I did hold on to my seat, I will admit. Landing video
Touchdown, however, was quite smooth relative to the approach. Heavy braking followed. Some pretty interesting traffic was around: Air Transat A310, Air Canada Rouge B767-300ER, Bahamas Air B737, another Delta B757-300W….pretty cool stuff! Of course, I had to wait a long time to disembark, of course.
That then, was an end to a very less than satisfactory experience with Delta Air Lines. The lovely caring crew member and the window seat were the only saving grace. Baggage took quite a while to arrive with many others. Instantly felt the tropical climate of Fort Lauderdale as soon as we stepped out! This then began my first Spring Break Experience in the Untied States of America!
Stay tuned for spotting from Miami, pictures from Fort Lauderdale and the return flight
Once again, happy new year all!