Around the World in 11 Days, Leg 1

December 9, 2015

Route: Raleigh-Durham to Seattle
Flights: 2
Stop: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Airline: Delta
Air Miles: 2376
Time Zones (inclusive): 4

I fly so often that it’s easy to lose track of specific flights. I often get surveys from Delta, asking me to give my opinion on how well the flight attendants or gate agents performed their jobs. It’s not easy for me to recall particular flights, not only because I fly so often, but also because Delta (and its partner regional airlines) hire really good flight attendants. Over the last few years, I can only think of one flight attendant whose attitude bothered me. He was resentful that I was using “his” space in the rear galley to wait to use the lavatory. All this flying makes it easy to let the my experiences blend into a dull, forgettable “I fly often for my job” blob. When I realized that my last trip of 2015 would take me completely around the world, I decided to take note of my experiences. So off we go.

My tour began easily enough. I’ve been a Delta flyer for nearly a decade. I’ve made Diamond Medallion status (flying at least 125,000 miles/year) every year since they introduced it in 2010. This steady attendance means I frequently get upgraded to first class, and that happened on my RDU-MSP flight this morning. This means I didn’t have to buy a big breakfast at the airport. I did buy a protein bar, because I knew it would be a while before they served us breakfast in the air. We pushed back on time, at 6:25am. But the pushback was all of about ten feet. The plane didn’t move; instead, the jet bridge retracted far enough to qualify the flight as departing “on time,” which helps Delta’s statistics relative to other airlines. See, according to FAA rules, if it’s not “at the gate,” then it has departed. This means we left without moving, as if we were using the Enterprise’s transporters. Due to a lack of manpower on the ground, however, we didn’t head for the runway for nearly an hour. I dozed for almost all of this time. Because I usually fly westward across the country early in the morning, and eastward on red-eyes, I fall asleep on the ground all the time. This only presents a problem on red-eyes when I wake up on takeoff, and can’t get back to sleep.

When I began getting first-class upgrades, I would almost always take advantage of the free alcohol (never before lunch!) and the big complementary meals. But today I asked for decaf coffee (Delta now uses Starbucks Via instant decaf) and chose the lighter cereal rather than the bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. Over the last year or so I’ve almost completely stopped eating pork.

The extended wait at RDU meant that I had a quick layover. In fact, when we landed at MSP my flight to Seattle had already begun boarding. But I made it easily–one perk Delta provides frequent fliers is a separate boarding lane, which remains open as other passengers use the general boarding lane. I didn’t get upgraded–Delta’s calculus for who receives these golden tickets is based on many factors, including miles flown that year, previous miles flown, and cost of ticket. My one-way fare was $151–possible only in these post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas days–so I had to “settle” for a window seat on an exit row. This flight left just a few minutes late, and we made up the time in the air, arriving almost ten minutes early. The only bump was a bunch of bumps, turbulence that was more constant than severe. The plane had an on-board entertainment system, but they update it so rarely that I have watched every John Oliver, Big Bang Theory, and New Girl they’ve got. We did have some satellite TV, and I watched His&Hers, a great ESPN show with a noon ET airtime, which means I only watch it when I’m flying. More than watching TV, though, I use some easy-on-the-ears iTunes albums, listened to with my Bose noise-cancelling earbuds, to let me focus on work. Today I prepped for the coaching gig and half-day workshop I will teach during my two days in Seattle, along with monitoring email.

The length of my trip meant I had to check a bag, so rather than head straight to the rental car center I detoured to the baggage claim. And because I am teaching on the Eastside, rather than in Seattle proper, I had to rent a car rather than use the light rail. I come to Seattle so often that I have an ORCA card, which lets me use the light rail, streetcar, ferries and buses. Much less stressful than having to buy paper tickets every time I come to town. Reducing stress is a crucial part of my life in the air.

One comment

  1. […] mentioned back in Leg 1 that I am an elite flyer on Delta. One of the many perks that comes with my diamond status is […]

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