Just finishing up a few trips for the spring break season, most of them around the US but was able to get in a quick Transoceanic trip luckily. I had meant to go the week before I actually did but the nonrev Gods conspired against me and I wasn't able to make it happen. Between local weather, flight cancelations, and weight restrictions, it just wasn't in the cards. So the following week I was able to finally get down to MEM to do the MEM-AMS route which I've been dying to do since the beginning of time... at least since I've been nonrev'ing.
Only did a quickturn in AMS - one of my shortest international turns ever, actually. But, had a great time and can't wait to go back, next time hopefully on SEA-AMS or PDX-AMS!! Final itinerary for this trip:
DEN-MEM: DL CR9
MEM-AMS: DL 763 (WL)
AMS-MSP: DL 333
MSP-DEN: DL 752
29 March 2011
Block Time: 09 hours, 05 minutes
767-332ER (WL), N185DN, Ship# 185
Seat: 4C, BusinessElite
Photo © Kazuchika Naya
I was going to start out the trip flying DEN-AMA on WN and then AMA-MEM on DL, just to get on the AMA route before it was suspended. The morning of the trip though, I checked the MEM TAF and was alarmed to see the codes 'TSRA' and 'CB' in the forecast at almost the exact time the AMA-MEM would be arriving. I panicked and ran to the airport early to get on the nonstop DEN-MEM which arrived many, many hours before the DEN-AMA-MEM flights arrived. In retrospect... I should have done AMA-MEM as the storms ended up being a complete non-issue.
N607LR, my CR9 for DEN-MEM, operated by ASA
Ordinarily I don't include my domestic sectors in my TR but another a.net buddy really wanted me to, as there aren't many TR's in RJ first class. Unfortunately, it was nothing too spectacular. The First Class offering on the old Northwest Airlink flights was far and away superior to what DL now offers. I'm not complaining at all though, the FA's were very nice and offered excellent service with what they were provided. Good food from the snack basket and lots of drink refills.
Being the class-act that I am, I did indeed have a beer at 1000a
MEM only has 3 distinct hub times, where there is a huge arrivals bank followed soon by a huge departure bank. We arrived right in the middle of the mass arrivals time and all the gates were full, as is typical scene on the MEM ramp at hub time.
My plane at the gate after arriving in MEM, continuing onward to MSY
Connections screen for all the passengers off our flight from DEN. I had a chuckle seeing the departure time of my AMS, versus the departure time for most everyone else on my flight.
Once the hub bank is completed, most of MEM is a ghost town. The only flights in the interim at the non-standard MEM hub times are to MSP, DTW, and ATL. Seeing the FedEx heavies arrive and depart in the meantime is always great though, especially seeing all the 727's!!
A bit under 3 hours to go until departure and about 30 minutes before the inbound aircraft arrived from AMS.
I was incredibly excited for the flight because it was initially slated to be N195DN, one of the winglet 763ER's in the DL fleet. About 24 hours prior to the flight, they switched the ship assignment to N185DN which, luckily, also turned out to be a winglet 763ER. My first time on the type - my previous three flights on DL 763's were all non-winglet birds.
N185DN arriving from AMS. The AMS flight always uses gate B-43 in MEM which is, undoubtedly, the worst gate on the entire airport for getting pictures of the aircraft sitting at the gate.
I only got a few pictures of my plane in MEM, again due to the vantage point of B-43. The aircraft is totally hidden from the general gate area, and can only be seen from a few points around the entire airport. Even then, the views offered are from a huge distance and from poor angles.
This is about the best view there is of the AMS gate, B-43. N185DN was just parking inbound from AMS.
The flight was relatively full in J-class and not many window seats were available. I was really hoping to get a window as it was my first time aboard a winglet 763ER, but I was also dead tired and knew I'd sleep almost the whole flight. Besides, the MEM-AMS departs relatively late at night and this time of year it is usually dark before the plane even takes off.
The agents cleared myself and the other nonrev quite a bit before boarding, which was a nice touch. When they called me up they gave me 4C and said that no one would be in the seat next to me, 4E, which was also a really nice touch. Too bad it wasn't a window, but like I said it wasn't a huge let-down at least, since most the flight would be in the dark.
View out the window at 4A. I made sure to be one of the first to board so I could snap a few quick pictures before everyone started arriving to their seats and I had to lean over them to get my requisite TR pics
The FA's for the flight were all MEM-based and were a delight. I was very surprised to see that the purser greeted about half of the J-class passengers by first name when they got on the plane and they, too, greeted her by first name. As she went through the aisles to share chit-chat with them, I realized that they were all very frequent fliers to the route, both MEM-AMS and AMS-MEM, as was most of the crew. As such, many of the FA's and passengers are on a first name basis. Pretty cool, IMO!!
View out the 5G window. God I loved seeing those winglets!! At first sight, several years back, I thought the blended winglets on the 767 were incredibly ugly. That since changed very fast and the 767 is now my favorite winglet aircraft. Can't beat those 11 foot tall monsters!!
Once boarding had settled down and there was a bit of a low-period before departure, I went up to the cockpit to share a quick word with the crew. All of them were incredibly nice and welcoming. The entire cockpit crew was MSP 767ER base. The Captain was PMDL while both FO's were PMNW. All three seemed to get along great with no tension whatsoever, which I'm glad to see that integration is progressing on both sides as well as one could hope.
Cockpit of N185DN about 15 minutes prior to pushback.
Back in my seat, looking forward toward the cockpit and door 1L, just prior doors-close and pushback.
Again, the MEM-based crew was top-notch, one of the best I've had on international. The purser had the most charming & sophisticated southern accent. She personally came around to take everyone's meal orders and asking if they wanted to be woken up for the second service before arrival into AMS.
My pre-departure beer and water bottles, just before pushback.
There was a bit of a delay departing out of MEM - not sure why, actually. No serious weather, late passengers, or bag removal issues. Just a bad day, I guess. By the time we pushed back, it was already pitch dark outside so I wasn't all-too-bummed about not having a window. Soon after takeoff, the FA's began the meal drink and meal service. As usual, I always love the Delta meal services. Not as high caliber as AA's, but definitely ahead of UA's.
All following captions are taken directly from the menu:
Shrimp with lemon grass and marinated hearts of palm and roasted beets with bleu cheese with tomato and basil soup.
Mixed green salad with jicama, yellow peppers, almonds, and roma tomatoes served with peppercorn ranch or balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Lasagne pasta bites with spinach and radicchio in gorgonzola sauce, topped with pine nuts
I usually get the chicken option on my flights but this particular flight didn't offer one. The choices were the beef, fish, pasta, or chilled deli plate. The deli plate actually sounded really good but they were quickly taken. The pasta ended up being really good though, I loved the gorgonzola sauce.
For dessert I usually end up getting the ice cream as it's a favorite of mine and many others but for the sake of the TR and not being too repetitive, I got the chocolate cake they were offering instead.
Belgian chocolate cheesecake served with fresh fruit
Once dessert was over and all the place settings were picked up, I reclined and was out like a light for most of the flight. I woke up only once during about a 15 minute period of pretty sporty turbulence. Continuous light turbulence with intermittent moderate chop. I ended up having to put my mini water bottles in the seat pockets as they were beginning to fly into the aisles off the armrests. Quite a few were rolling around by the time we found smooth air again.
Feet-dry over the Irish coast.
4045 miles down, about 500 miles to go.
I woke up about an hour and 45 minutes outside of AMS, as the FA's were starting to prepare the arrival service in the galleys. To make sure I was able to sleep for my quickturn back home, I forced myself to stay up for the rest of the flight which was no easy feat. Mostly just listened to some of the audio on demand.
Swiss cheese and mushroom omelet with grilled tomato, potato cake, and chicken apple sausages.
I love the cranberry bread that DL serves with the breakfast services - get that every time both across the Atlantic and the Pacific!!
Some of the songs on my audio on demand playlist. Both the new-age stuff like Lady Gaga and the classics like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi
Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of our landing or taxi-in at AMS. Oh well... maybe next time!! Again though, great crew and just an overall fantastic flight. Great to finally fly MEM-AMS and great to finally get on a winglet 763ER!!
30 March 2011
Block Time: 09 hours, 05 minutes
A330-323X, N801NW, Ship# 3301
Seat: 5J, BusinessElite
Load Factor -
Photo © Jerome Mervelet
Flying into AMS, I knew that the ship slated to do my AMS-MSP return was ship# 3301 (N801NW). As we were pulling into our gate, I was looking out the port side of the aircraft and noticed N801NW was sitting in the gate immediately on our left. Talk about your all-time easiest connections in AMS, haha!!
Given our departure delay out of MEM, my already tight connection in AMS was even further reduced so I wasn't able to go through customs to get a new passport stamp. I went to one of the (very convenient) connection & service center where, to my *extreme* surprise, I was able to check in as a DL nonrev on a DL flight from a KLM kiosk. Very convenient!!
N185DN just after arriving from MEM. Beautiful winglets and PW motors.
My plane for the flight back to MSP, N801NW.
Once they opened the security checkpoint for our fight, DL247 to MSP, I went through as soon as I could, having previous experience in AMS and seeing how the security lines can get relatively long due to all the security questions they have to ask all passengers. Before I went through the xray and metal detector, they sent me to the gate desk to get my actual seat assignment. The agent cleared me right away and gave me seat 1J in J-class. I asked if he had any windows further back - I prefer the better view of the wing & engine - to which he gave me 5J in the last row on the right-hand side. Awesome!!
View toward the front of the J-cabin during boarding, taken before taking my seat - 5J
Once most people had got settled I again asked to go back up to the cockpit to get a couple pictures before departure. Crew was MSP A330 base and were a really nice bunch of guys. The Captain even knew a family friend who's a SEA-based A330 Captain. Small world, haha.
View out the window of the plane I just arrived on, N185DN, before its departure out to DTW.
Love the look of the PW4168A. KLM 772 in the background.
Back in the NWA-only days, MSP was always a very senior base, especially for transoceanic flights. The FA's were not nearly as welcoming or friendly as the MEM crew, some of them bordering on short and snippy. Oh well... you can't win em all.
My inbound plane from MEM, N185DN, pushing out for DTW. The 767 tail in the background was N172DZ, inbound from MSP turning outbound to MEM.
The ground staff in AMS was very efficient and got everyone boarded very quickly for an early departure, almost 12 minutes early I seem to recall. Once the door was closed we were on our way almost immediately.
Engines running, just before entering the active taxiway.
Taxi to the runway was very quick, a nice change from my last flight out of AMS where the taxi to the runway seemed to last forever. Takeoff was pretty sporty and we were on our way out to MSP. Pretty sporty turbulence on the climb out of AMS, the Captain asked that the FA's remain seated until he turned off the seatbelt sign given the impressive bumps.
Climbing above the cloud layer out of AMS.
Feet wet. Not quite to ETOPS yet though, we still had to pass over England until the much larger water-crossing.
Once the Captain turned off the seatbelt sign, the FA's were able to begin the cabin service. On the flight out to AMS I had a few beers but on the way home I decided to go with my eternal vice - cranapple juice.
Cranapple juice and warm nuts prior to the meal service.
All following captions are taken directly from the menu:
Smoked salmon with caper onion relish and fresh mozzarella with tomato served with cream of onion soup.
Fresh mesclun salad with sweet peppers, radishes, and walnuts, served with caesar or balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Parmesan-crusted chicken breast with marinara sauce, gnocchi, and broccoli.
Chicken was excellent, loved the sauce!! I had to check Wikipedia to find out what gnocchi was - but those, too, were also very good!!
Again, I usually get the ice cream for dessert but to avoid repetition through my TR's, I decided to branch out and try the various other desserts they were offering. The return flight had an excellent lemon tart.
Lemon tart with selection of fine cheeses.
After the dinner service I took a quick picture of the moving map before I was lights-out for the next several hours. Even though it's slanted-flat, I always loved the NWA World Business Class seats - they were always very comfortable on the long flights.
Moving map globe view of our route of flight.
I was able to sleep really well on the return flight, waking up about 2 hours prior to arrival in MSP. Soon after, the FA's began the second service prior to approach and arrival into MSP.
At cruise, somewhere over Canada.
Just about to fly over Lake Michigan, a bit over 1 hour remaining in the flight.
The FA's came around taking arrival snack orders. The choices were a hot turkey and cheese sandwich or a shrimp nicoise salad. The orders seemed to be split about 50/50 right down the middle - I ended up getting the turkey and cheese sandwich.
Hot turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich with caramelized onions, peppers, and a carrot and raison salad.
Before arriving I started to watch the new Ben Affleck movie "The Town". It seemed really good but I soon realized I wouldn't have near enough time to finish the movie before arrival, so I shut down the movie and just listened to some music until descent.
Audio on demand. Love the "hot hits" playlist!!
Before long, I heard the instantly recognizable de-spooling of the engines at top of descent. The FA's collected all the cabin headphones and I was left with nothing but the window for IFE - not that I'm complaining at all!!
Descending down into the Minneapolis St Paul area.
Slats down on final for runway 30L into MSP.
All international flights into MSP use the G-concourse for arrival for the customs hall. We landed on runway 30L so we had a very quick taxi to our gate. Customs in MSP was a breeze, despite having been out of the country for less than 24 hours!!
Lineup on the G-concourse. A320 in the foreground followed by DC9-50, MD90, and finally 757-200.
Final impressions... I always love the Delta product on international. It is time for a cabin upgrade though, which DL already has underway. Cannot wait to try some of these NextGen products on the 763, A330, and of course my personal favorite, the 744.