01. Delta Air Lines 717-200 economy class San Diego to Los Angeles
02. Air Canada 787-9 economy class Los Angeles to Toronto
03. Air Transat A330-300 economy class Toronto to Montreal
04. Air Canada A330-300 economy class Montreal to Vancouver
05. Alaska Airlines 737-800 first class Vancouver to Seattle
06. Alaska Airlines A319 first class Seattle to San Diego
Remember 10 to 15 years ago when the only way to fly between SAN and LAX was on tiny (and usually really smelly) turboprop aircraft that would rattle the fillings right out of your teeth? The first one or two times was kind of fun, but it got old once I realized that it was causing more frequent trips to the dentist. And I hate going to the dentist.
Thankfully it’s 2018 now, and the current selection of flights between San Diego and Los Angeles doesn’t have me holding my jaw in fear. United has been running 737’s between SAN and LAX for several years now (both 737-800’s and -900/ER’s), while American has been offering the ERJ-175 with a proper first class cabin. That’s a huge upgrade from the old United Express EMB-120’s and Saab 340’s that used to buzz-bomb this route on a daily basis.
Even more interesting is the fact that Delta has jumped into the mix, as they’ve been running their own metal between these two city pairs for several years now (mostly with the ERJ-175). It used to be that they’d codeshare with American, so you’d always get stuck on an American Eagle Saab 340 against your will if you were flying up to make a Delta connection up at LAX. And that was never fun.
But now, every once in a while, they throw one of those quirky 717-200’s on this route and I couldn’t help but to give it a proper SANspotter try.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Duration: 49 minutes
Seat: 26E (economy class)
The 5 things you need to know about Delta 717-200 economy class service between San Diego and Los Angeles
1. It’s not a regular thing so grab it when you see it
I first noticed that Delta was running 717’s between SAN and LAX earlier last year, and I was super excited to try it. Unfortunately, this particular trip was the only time I have seen it pop up in my flight search when I needed a quick hop up to LA. It’s basically as rare as affordable heath care in the US, and I haven’t studied the schedules deeply enough to be able to figure out if there’s a pattern of when it goes away and comes back.
Long story short, if you have any amount of AvGeek in you (or you are the kind of person who hates small planes), this is the option you need to choose. It’s the best one on the SAN-LAX route right now, by far.
2. Bigger plane = better opportunity for upgrades and empty seats next to you
One of the obvious reasons for this being the best flight option from SAN to LAX is that it’s a larger plane than the majority of regional jets that are flying this route at all hours of the day. With more seats available, the odds are better that you’ll score that upgrade or have an open seat next to you in economy class.
This particular flight was on a Thursday morning (6:20am departure time), and I’d say it was 50% full. If that. I had an entire row to myself and there was only one person behind me, so it ended up being a really comfortable ride up to LA.
3. Bigger plane = takes longer to get on and off
The only real downside to being on anything larger than a regional jet on a route as short as SAN to LAX is the fact that it just takes longer to get everyone on and off. There’s no getting around that unfortunately (no matter how clever they get with boarding zone shenanigans). It’s just a matter of physics. Even a dumb art school graduate like me knows that.
Thankfully it was a really light load this particular morning and I had a 3.5 hour layover before my Air Canada flight to YYZ, so I wasn’t feeling any pressure at all. Throw in a full load, a delay, and a tight connection into the mix, and…well…don’t forget to pack your Peptol Bismol.
4. Row 26 has the best views of the engine
If you’re reading this blog (and you’ve made it this deep into this post), there’s a pretty good chance that you’re at least somewhat of an airplane nerd. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Be proud of who you are! There’s absolutely no shame in admitting that you want to look out the window to see the engine spinning a mere meter from your AvGeek face.
So yes – the best engine view row on the Delta 717 is row 26. Row 25 is too far forward (though acceptable if it’s the only option left), and row 27 is too far back since the engine will block much of your view to the outside – and you won’t even be able to see inside the engine, which is the whole point. Oh – and no, it’s not too loud in this row. Sure it’s more noisy than it would be at the front of the plane, but it won’t give you a migraine.
5. If you have the choice between a United 737 and a Delta 717, take the 717
I’ve had the opportunity to ride the United 737-800 in economy between SAN and LAX a handful of times (both directions) and my only complaint about it is how long it takes to get everyone on and off the plane. The seat pitch on those UA birds isn’t the best either, but it doesn’t matter much since it’s a short flight anyway.
Personally, I consider the Delta 717 to be the more comfortable aircraft for two reasons: first, economy class is a 2-3 layout, which feels more spacious than the 3-3 layout on the United 737’s. Second, the first 1/3 of the 717 cabin is whisper quiet due to the engines being all the way in the back. The Delta 717 clearly wins.
So there you have it
The Delta 717 definitely feels special (and a bit of an oddball) on this high-traffic San Diego to Los Angeles route, and it certainly more comfortable than any competitive regional jet option. In my opinion, it’s the right-size aircraft for SAN-LAX, and the one you’ll want to choose if it’s available. Yes, there is enough demand to fill a 757 every two hours or so, but there comes a point where it takes longer to board the plane than it does to fly the route, and that’s never a good passenger experience.
Like the new format!
Thanks! I was getting nervous since *nobody* said anything about it after I posted this and I thought for sure I had killed my blog for sure. Haha!
Camden Food & Co
Yo for real though I need to make sure our sandwiches are up to standard, and your blog has helped out a lot with quality control.
Jokes aside, maybe just maybe, we’ll see the A220 replacing the 717 on that route, now that would be interesting.
OMG! A response from Camden Food Co!! Haha…I thought it was for real at first and I’m all like “finally!” – but then I see it’s only iTripReport masquerading as the greatest sandwich makers ever. Haha!
Anyway, yes – I too hope to see the A220 on this route eventually. There’s a good chance of that happening considering how many of those things they ordered – and if they do it soon after the launch, well, you and I need to book a flight and do a DL A220 collaboration video!
I agree, the new format is great. I’m probably part of the 2% who prefers reading the full trip reports online vs. Youtube. I do miss the full hotel reviews, strangely enough I like reading about your experiences at places such as the Courtyard Calgary Airport.
Thanks David! To be honest I’m bummed as well about switching up on the style of trip reporting I’ve been doing for so long but it’s the right thing to do considering that it wasn’t doing anything to build my brand anymore. I may bring back the hotel reviews if I can grow to a point where I can hire others to help out with editing and repetitive/time consuming stuff like that.
Sorry for asking so many times, but I’m not even joking man. I can work for free for you. I can write, edit, anything you want. I’m available!
I admire your offer to help Josh – thanks! To be honest I’m not even sure how to move this blog forward yet since I’m still trying to figure out how it fits into the SANspotter brand into 2019 and beyond. Until I figure that out, I’m a bit reluctant to bring anyone on. Thanks again for the offer (and your support over the years)! We’ll see what 2019 brings…
You werent clear whether you like the 717 (aka DC-9) … just kiddng:)
Haha! I was kind of worried that I was saying TOO many good things about it as I was writing the post. I need more 717s in my life. 🙂
Oh. airTran 717.
This “highlights” format that you tried out is nice, but I prefer the start-to-finish format. I think that the current one, going through the flight while showing the different aspects, is a good blending of the highlights and start-to-finish formats.
Also, pretty cool that you got to fly on a 717! I haven’t flown on any of them, though I have flown on numerous Maddogs, which I’m a huge fan of.
I totally agree with you! I was just going over some of my older trip reports (including this one), and I really wish that I would have formatted them as traditional reviews. The “highlight” format was just an idea to see if I could create a useful / skimmable review without all the fluff. Turns out that I much prefer telling a story (in a linear time progression). Anyway, hopefully you’ll get a chance to try the 717. There’s still time!