How a broken A220 made my day: LGA-BOS-LGA on Delta!Background
Back in May, my mother and I needed to travel to Boston to attend to family matters. We settled on a quick weekend getaway up from New York, choosing to make the trip by air instead of rail to maximize our time in Boston (and let's face it--I'll fly whenever I get the chance).
Delta and jetBlue both offered convenient schedules for a Saturday morning departure and a Sunday afternoon return. Their prices were virtually identical (and expensive!) and I typically would have gone with jetBlue; I find their E190 to be among the most comfortable ways to travel around the East Coast in Economy.
And yet, Delta ended up being our carrier of choice on this particular trip, as both legs would be operated by one of their brand spankin' new Airbus A220-100's, which had only started flying three months prior. It was a no-brainer, really. I'd already flown on the Swiss A220 (under its former name) twice in March 2018), and the found the experience to be pleasant and comfortable, if rather unremarkable. I'd only heard positives about Delta's product, and was keen to try it out, especially since I wasn't sure how long it would be until I would get the chance to do so again. In fact, as of the writing of this report, Delta's LGA-BOS A220 service has been dramatically reduced to one daily round-trip, as the airframes are moved westward onto longer, thinner routes where they can really shine! A word of warning:
I decided to write this report a few days ago, mainly because my return flight to New York was among the most unique air experiences I've had in my nine years of documented flying (stay tuned!). Therefore, photo resolution wasn't one of my highest priorities. I'm sorry for the poorer quality of some of the pictures!Flight 1: May 11th
We arrived at LaGuardia in an Uber around 7:30AM, well in time for our 9AM departure... or so we thought. Upon our arrival, Terminal C was particularly busy, and TSA took nearly 30 minutes. After grabbing tasty & filling but incredibly
overpriced frittatas at Cotto's, we headed to gate C37 where N106DU, a 2-month old A220-100, was being prepped for departure. Boarding began on time at 8:20. Delta 1328
Scheduled Departure (Actual) : New York LGA - 09:00 (09:03)
Scheduled Arrival (Actual) : Boston - 10:25 (10:06)
Seat : 27A
Flight Time : 35 minutes
Cruising Altitude : 21,000 feet
Aircraft : Airbus A220-100
Registration : N106DU - 0.2 years
In general, I enjoyed Delta's A220 economy product. At 18.6 inches, the seats at the back of the bus are among the widest in the industry, and I could certainly feel the difference. The legroom was good too, and even standing at 6'7'' tall, I had adequate room and did not feel cramped--although that was likely helped by having the two-seater row to myself (there was a light load, so my mother took the three seats across the aisle).
We pushed back a few minutes behind schedule, then taxied out to Runway 31 for a northwesterly departure. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for flying.
LGA's brand new Terminal B. I've used it a lot for my commute to and from college, and have fallen more in love with it every time. IMO, it's the best terminal in NYC. If you get the chance to fly through it, do so!
Following a company A220 onto the runway. She was bound for DTW this morning.
For those interested, check out the takeoff video here
Climbing over the Bronx
Cruising at 21,000 feet over Connecticut
Despite the short 35-minute flight time, the flight attendants gave out water bottles and biscuits to every passenger. In addition to personal IFE at every seat, the A220 comes equipped with wifi, which I purchased for $6. I found it to be of a decent speed and generally good value, but it cut out intermittently and it was difficult for me to tune radio frequencies on the LiveATC app, which I do compulsively whenever I fly. Anyone else?
Already setting up for a left base to Runway 33L at Logan. Light chop all the way down.
Cabin view on approach. Personally, I'm a fan of the subdued mood lighting.
On final. I love the views on this particular approach.
It was a smooth landing on 33L, and we zigzagged around Logan's taxiways towards Terminal A, docking at gate A7 some 19 minutes ahead of schedule (go Delta!), and marking the end of a pleasant and uneventful flight--one that, quite honestly, I had absolutely no intention of writing about.
You can watch the landing video here
Thanks for the ride, buddy!
We caught the Silver Line bus to South Station, then transferred to the subway to Porter Square in Cambridge, where we arrived at around 11:20 and met my aunt, ready to begin our day.
Here's a cute dog, friendly and dignified as ever in old her age (no she's not mine)Flight 2: May 12th
Now, onto the real reason why I'm writing this up. The flight that trumped all other flights. The pinnacle of my aviation experiences. The most incredible day of my entire life. The day everything changed forever... or something along those lines. It was pretty cool, though.
After a nice family get-together in Cambridge, my mother and I made our way towards the Porter Square subway station around 11:30AM on Sunday morning. We were booked on DL1717, the 2pm service to LaGuardia. I was in good spirits, as flightradar24 was predicting that our flight would be operated by N112DU, one of the newer A220's in Delta's fleet, who would be taking us down to New York on her 38th commercial flight. Needless to say, the avgeek within me was well and truly satisfied. We arrived back at Logan's Terminal A around 12:30. Since we had our boarding passes on our phones and were only bringing carry-on's, we were spared a trip to the check-in desk and headed straight for TSA.
Thanks to the wonders of pre-check, we managed to avoid a considerable queue and were through in less than five minutes!
N112DU had spent the night in Boston, and was towed in from the hangar earlier in the morning. Terrible photo, I know.
With an hour to kill before boarding, my mother and I wandered around the terminal for a bit, and decided it couldn't hurt to ask the gate agent for an earlier flight to LGA if there were any remaining seats. Unsurprisingly, she said no... not that she would have given a free flight change to two Basic Economy ticket-holders at the last minute anyway, but hey--can't blame a guy for trying.
And so, we lounged around the gate area. I browsed social media on my phone, glancing up every now and then to see how full the flight was likely to be. Then, at 1:20pm, instead of the boarding announcement I was expecting, I received this text message.
Fantastic... a two-and-a-half hour delay. Thankfully, I had nowhere important to be that night, except for a haircut appointment in Brooklyn that I could easily reschedule. So, all things considered, I wasn't all that dismayed. Meanwhile, other passengers had received the same text message and began to line up at the gate, presumably to query about missed connections. Then again, if you knowingly connect through LaGuardia, you deserve anything that comes your way (I kid).
It's worth mentioning that a weather system was moving up the East Coast that day, and LaGuardia was calling for mist, low visibility, and gusty winds (a.k.a delay central) later in the afternoon, so I got comfortable in my gateside chair and prepared myself for endless weather-induced delays. However, within minutes, our originally scheduled captain came to the gate and explained that our A220 had a serious technical glitch with the anti-ice system that would require considerable time to fix, so a "rescue aircraft" was being sent up from Atlanta.
At that point, I came to understand that my chances of logging another A220 that day were very slim indeed, since ATL is months away from seeing any A220 service. A quick check of my mobile boarding pass indicated that my new seat was 39B. My heart sank. I happen to know that row 39 is the last row on Delta's A321, and LGA, ATL, and BOS are all hubs which regularly see the type.
So, I put two and two together, and assumed the worst. Now, the A321 is a fantastic and efficient aircraft from an airline perspective, but I had already experienced Delta's economy product on the type and found it to be quite cramped, especially for someone of my height. It was not an experience I was looking to repeat, especially in a middle seat. Moreover, from the perspective of an Atlanta-based avgeek such as myself, a Delta A321 is just about as ubiquitous as you can get, and a far cry from the novelty and comfort of the A220. So, yeah, I wasn't too pleased.
I decided to see which reg they were sending up from Atlanta to "rescue" us, so I opened the flightradar24 app on my phone
My heart skipped a beat, and I could barely believe my eyes. "Please don't be a glitch, please don't be a glitch," I muttered frantically as I opened the Delta app to confirm the news. It was true. They were sending a 757.
I immediately regretted having groveled in entitlement and self-pity for the previous few minutes, and effortlessly switched our seats to 41A and C (correctly assuming the middle would stay empty) on the Delta app.
Now, if any of you are confused as to why I was so overcome by infantile giddiness, perhaps I should explain. Well, LaGuardia hasn't seen a scheduled 757 service for around five years, as AA, DL, and UA have increased frequencies on feeder services to their respective hubs, electing to replace larger 757's and 767's with considerably more efficient B737's and A320's. Therefore, seeing a scheduled 757 at LaGuardia nowadays is a very rare sight indeed. Moreover, Delta's 757's are on their way out, with many approaching 30 years of age. The particular frame being sent up from Atlanta, N669DN, is no exception, at 28 years old. Finally, the B757-200 is without a doubt my favorite aircraft in the skies, and I was absolutely elated to be able to ride her on such a novel route. I couldn't believe my luck.
Anyway, I spent the next few hours impatiently monitoring the progress of ship 669
N112DU taxiing off to a remote stand for some TLC. She would return to service the following day. À la prochaine, old friend.
Before long, our B757 arrived in Boston, where the rain was starting to pick up. I noticed that the gate area had emptied considerably, and a waiting FA told me the flight was wide open. I assume that a number of connecting passengers had been rebooked to their final destination. The Delta app confirmed that there were 143(!) open seats on the flight. My excitement could barely be contained, and I tried in vain to convince my mother of just how cool
this flight was going to be... I readily admit I was acting like an 8-year old at Disneyland, but what else is a 757-lover to do?
God, what a good-looking jet
Boarding began at 4:07pm, and I was onboard some 10 minutes later. Delta 1717
Scheduled Departure (Actual) : Boston - 2:00pm (4:45pm)
Scheduled Arrival (Actual) : New York LGA - 3:24pm (5:57pm)
Seat : 41A
Flight Time : 48 minutes
Cruising Altitude : 16,000 feet
Aircraft : Boeing 757-232(WL)
Registration : N669DN - 27.9 years
My first impressions of the cabin were very positive. Despite the aircraft's age, the interior was spotlessly clean, and the cabin had clearly been refurbished recently. Even though this aircraft mainly flies high-frequency short-haul routes out of Atlanta, every seat was equipped with a modern and responsive IFE system. The seat comfort might well be objectively identical to the A321, or perhaps even inferior to it, but I personally found the 757 seats to be more spacious, even in one of the last rows of economy. Was it my imagination? Who knows. Anyway, I had more than enough room for this short flight, and, as expected, I had the whole row to myself. I doubt that there were more than 60 of us onboard.
Boarding finished promptly.
Around 4:30, the lead flight attendant announced that the captain had just boarded, and we would be underway shortly. True to her word, we left the gate at 4:45pm, some 2 hours and 45 minutes behind schedule. After a smoky engine start, we commenced our quick taxi to Logan's runway 9, where we joined a short departure queue. Again, I indulged in the $6 wifi (working quite well this time) and tuned to the Boston ground frequency on LiveATC to follow our progress."Delta 1717, runway 9, taxi via Kilo, Bravo, Mike, cross the runway 4L approach"
Unfortunately, I don't have any good pics of our taxi as the window was quite wet and my iPhone camera just refused
5:03pm. The moment I'd been thinking about for the past three hours. Our overpowered beast of an airplane--blessed with a uniquely light load of passengers and fuel--began to accelerate down the runway. I hadn't intended to film the takeoff because the window was so wet, but as soon as I felt myself thrust backwards into my seat, I knew this was an experience I wanted to document. Although we almost certainly took off with a derated thrust setting, the acceleration was staggering nonetheless. We used about half of the 7000 foot runway to become airborne, then began our climb on an easterly heading. Our initial climb was quite shallow, but within a few seconds, I felt the nose rise steeply and in true 757 fashion, we rocketed skyward, soon entering the murky overcast above Boston. Our climb rate, according to flightradar24, peaked at nearly 6,000 feet per minute.
Check out a video of the takeoff (or at least part of it) here
Five minutes after lifting off, we reached our cruising altitude of 16,000 feet. Except for some light bumps as we approached New York, this was a remarkably smooth flight given the weather in the area.
Following our progress as we soar above the 4R approach conga line.
The captain gave a brief announcement once were leveled, predicting some rough weather in the NYC area and warning us that the fasten seatbelt sign would be left on. Nevertheless, the flight attendants soon sprung into action and gave us each a bottle of water and some delicious biscoff cookies--more than adequate for such a short flight.
There weren't many outside views to admire during the cruise as we were deep within the cloud layer. I kept myself busy by exploring the excellent moving map, tuning the various Boston center frequencies on LiveATC like the massive nerd that I am, and enjoying the sheer novelty of the flight, as I sat at the back of a near-empty 757 on a route the type probably hadn't flown in many years (if ever).
A quick look at the LGA METAR confirmed the weather still wasn't looking too hot: winds gusting up to 21 knots, 2.5 mile vis, light rain, and mist. Hardly catastrophic, but LaGuardia has been known to start delaying inbounds after only a few drops... Before long, we were commencing our descent "into the New York area.""Delta 1717, cross BASYE at and maintain 8,000. Bradley altimeter 29.90"
Our gradual descent through some choppy air left us cruising southbound along the Hudson river, and breaks in the clouds allowed for some intermittent views of the Yonkers area.
We were vectored onto a left downwind for LaGuardia's northeasterly runway 4, and continued down the Hudson for quite some distance. Unfortunately, the best views of Manhattan were obstructed by cloud cover.
You can just barely make out the Verrazzano Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with Staten Island.
By the time we were well over Staten Island, the approach controller finally turned us northbound towards LaGuardia, expertly sequencing us into the heavy traffic flow. "Delta 1717, cross GRENE at or above 2700, cleared ILS runway 4 approach. Maintain 180 knots until 5 DME."
Luckily, the weather at LaGuardia had improved dramatically during our approach, and the visibility was now practically unlimited. This meant for some fantastic views of Manhattan and Brooklyn during our final approach, which I managed to capture on video as we broke out of the clouds!
You can watch the landing video here
With a bit of a float and some fun braking, we performed a smooth crosswind landing on runway 4 at 5:51, after 48 minutes of flight. Does anyone know of a shorter 757 service in the world--now that DL have discontinued their JFK-PHL route?
Cabin view after landing
After a brisk taxi, we pulled into gate C18 at 5:57 next to a company B737-800 which had just arrived from DEN.
Deboarding was very quick given the light load, and we were off N669DN within a few minutes.
One last look at row 41!
Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to take a picture of my sharp-looking 757 after we disembarked, as the airside views from that part of Terminal C are far from ideal. Moreover, I desperately needed to get into an Uber and across Brooklyn as quickly as humanly possible to my 6:30 haircut, which I stupidly hadn't yet postponed (I ended up making it.. barely). N669DN, meanwhile, would get a few hours rest at LaGuardia before carrying a bunch of lucky passengers back up to Boston, after which she would resume normal service to Atlanta the following day, her surprise guest appearance at LGA well and truly over. Conclusion
I'm very happy to have experienced Delta's A220 so soon after its entry into service. I was generally impressed with the Y product, particularly with the airy cabin feel and the significantly widened seats. The flight was a bit too short to explore the IFE, though. As the A220's venture farther afield to make use of their remarkable fuel efficiency, I suspect that the E170's and B717's Delta currently runs on the LGA-BOS shuttle will do just fine--especially now that the latter are allegedly due for a cabin retrofit!
The highlight of this trip was clearly the second of my two flights: my surprise trip on Delta's 757 to LaGuardia. I'm thrilled to have been part of such an unusual experience out of sheer dumb luck. I can only hope Delta's LGA-serving fleet keeps on breaking down, so we can see the 757 on more frequent technical swaps (dare I ask for a 767?)! In the meantime, I have two more 757 flights booked for the upcoming months, and (as you can probably imagine by now), I can't wait!
Finally, the onboard service on both my flights was consistent, friendly, and sufficient, and cements my view that Delta ranks among the top of the three legacy carriers from a customer experience perspective.
Thanks for reading!