01. Introduction: Farewell to the domestic Delta Airlines 767-300
02. Delta Airlines 767-300 first class San Diego to Atlanta
03. Delta Airlines 737-900/ER first class Atlanta to Orlando
04. Delta Airlines A321 first class Orlando to Atlanta
05. Delta Airlines 767-300 first class Atlanta to San Diego
It’s been a long time since I have been fortunate enough to get a ride on a brand new aircraft type within an airline, so this was a flight I was looking forward to quite a bit. Delta’s A321’s have just started being delivered (the first one came back in April), and they are new and unique enough to their fleet that they’ve been using them exclusively between ATL and MCO in order gain familiarity and work out all the bugs that are inevitable with a new type. Where Delta will operate these things next is anyone’s guess, but for now the only way to get a ride on one is to fly between Atlanta and Orlando.
My travel plans never seem to work out when it comes to having an opportunity to be one of the first to fly something new, but this time the stars aligned and I found myself needing to travel between these two city pairs as part of this overall itinerary. I even took some video along the way, and here’s what I managed to put together:
The written portion of this trip report (with tons of pics, as always) continues below:
Having experienced the process of flying into MCO a week earlier (and being so surprised at how chaotic of an airport it is), I did my best to get in “crazy and chaotic” mode as I made the walk from the rental car garage into the terminal. Travel always seems to go much smoother if you go into it expecting the worst, so I was doing what I could to set my expectations properly so that there wouldn’t be any surprises.
Luckily, once inside, I found the terminal to be much less crowded and chaotic today.
I managed to pass through security in about 5 minutes, and from there I did my best to find some decently healthy food for lunch. The amount of kids (and their parents) wearing Mickey Mouse ears was a constant reminder that I was deeply inside Disney country here.
Orlando, FL (MCO) – Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Friday, July 8, 2016
Seat: 5D (first class)
About an hour before the scheduled departure time, I was starting to wonder if this flight was going to be delayed. The aircraft hadn’t even arrived yet, and the pessimistic side of me was thinking that there was no possible way that they could turn around a fully-loaded A321 in less than an hour. Once again expecting the worst, I put it out of my mind as the aircraft eventually rolled up to the gate from ATL with 40 minutes to spare. Could they possibly turn this thing around that fast? I was definitely looking forward to finding out!
While waiting at the gate to board the flight, I was poking around on the Delta mobile app and I noticed that they were marketing first class as “business class” for this flight. That’s the first time I’ve seen an airline label it business class for a domestic flight, and I wondered if it is unique to the A321’s or if it’s something they are going to roll out systemwide. The other possibility is that it was because this flight number (only the flight number, not the aircraft) was scheulded to continue on to Europe later that afternoon, and we all know that Delta doesn’t have an international first class product. Their international business class is pretty good though…
Much to my surprise, they managed to start the boarding process nearly right on time. Props to Delta for turning a large(ish) aircraft around so quickly!
Once onboard, I found pretty much what I expected: a first class experience pretty much identical to what was on the 737-900/ER that I flew on last week, right down to the seats.
The only major difference between the 737-900/ER first class cabin and this A321 that I took notice of was Delta Studio (the in flight entertainment system). Touch screen performance was phenomenal, and the entire UI seemed richer and more polished – especially the moving map. I quite liked it, though I found it odd that each aircraft I had been on for this itinerary (three so far) had a different version of Delta Studio. Hopefully Delta is working hard to unify the fleet in this regard, because these differences are significant enough to make for an inconsistent in-flight experience IMHO.
The only other thing worth noting from the boarding process is that I was so excited to be on this brand new A321 that I accidentally sat down in 5D instead of 5A (my reserved seat). The guy who had 5D had no problem with taking 5A instead, so it all worked out in the end. What is it with me sitting in the wrong seats? You may recall that I did the same thing in April when boarding the UA 747-400 in SFO.
Push back from the gate was just a few minutes late, but we were put into a hold once out on the taxiway due to flow control into ATL. It ended up being a 15 minute wait before we could take off, but at least the pilots kept us informed and in the loop. On a side note, this aircraft was so new that the wifi system had not been installed yet, and the flight attendants apologized multiple times for that – especially since we were stuck on the ground with nothing to do.
Flying time up to ATL was about an hour, and the inflight service was about as good as could be expected for such a short flight. They brought around the snack basket several times, and kept drink glasses filled as best they could. In my opinion, labeling this service as “business class” is the right thing to do. First class service it was not, so my hope is that Delta and the other domestic US airlines would consider making a permanent switch to the more appropriate name. Though I could see this being a problem if some airlines don’t follow suit.
It was a fine approach into ATL today, as those of us on the right side of the aircraft had a pretty good view of a DL 767-300 flying parallel to us as it made a simultaneous approach to the northern side of the airport. Having my DSLR with a 400mm lens would have been great to get some nice pics, but – I never travel with camera gear like that (too heavy!) so I tried my best taking pics with my iPhone and failed miserably. Oh well.
At least it was a beautiful day in Atlanta and my connecting flight home to SAN was showing as on time. Only one more flight to go for this trip report!