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MileageAddict Dec 31, 99 5:35 pm

Delta Hub and Salad Tour '99
About two weeks ago, I impulsively decided to join my wife and son in Allentown, PA for Christmas. Since airfares were astronomical, I opted to use mileage. Having earned a ton of miles on Delta through various online promotions, I decided to use some of these miles. Since I do not fly DL for business or personal travel, I thought this would be a refreshing change from my usual carriers of the past four years (Northwest, Alaska and increasingly more, United). Even though I would have been content to burn up only 25k miles, the only seating available was first class at a rate of 40k miles. Oh well, at least I would get a chance to compare it to NW and UA.

The only available routing at time of ticketing was SEA-DFW-ATL-ABE with an arrival of 802pm on Xmas eve. I'd miss dinner but still be there in time to see my son before bedtime and be there for the unwrapping festival under the tree the next morning. When I arrived at SEA for my 620am departure, I inquired about an easier connection through Cincinnati (CVG) that would get me into Allentown (ABE) 3.5 hours earlier. He cheerfully said "no problem" and rebooked me into seat 2C. The 757 left on time, beautiful sunrise, no seatmate, steamy hot towels and a better-than-average very thick french toast breakfast. I subjected myself to the movie Inspector Gadget but lost interest in it after 40 minutes and started reading my new Clive Cussler novel instead. The cheese and crackers with fruit before landing was a nice touch. Flight landed a few minutes early in CVG.

I always enjoy strolling around an airport I have never visited before and treated myself to an energetic walk since I had 90 minutes until the flight to ABE. I think CVG is the last major hub airport in the USA for me to visit. I strolled into the Comair terminal for my next flight only to see....


Arggh! Okay, I'll get to see how DL takes care of situations like this. I'm offered the option of flying to Atlanta (!) and connecting to a flight to ABE getting me in around midnight or a flight to Scranton (AVP) and a complimentary taxi ride to ABE. I opt for the flight to AVP. The Canadair RJ leaves an hour late but I figure that I will still get to AVP, get a taxi and get to ABE around dinnertime. No first class offered on this aircraft but I have seat 1B and nobody seated next to me again. After landing, I foolishly think about how I packed my warm jacket in the carryon which now is being unloaded from the rear of the plane as I wait in the 13 degree chill while a snow squall makes me feel like a participant in a snow globe. It turns out that 9 of us need to get down to ABE and nobody in Cincinnati informed the lone young lady in AVP of our ground transportation needs. She quickly figures out that she is not going to find nine taxicabs on Xmas eve and begins searching for a shuttle van service to accomodate all of us. So we wait, and wait....and wait and I observe the stress level of my fellow stranded passengers increases. Nothing to do in this circa 1946 shoebox of an airport but sit and take advantage of the fine airport amenities such as the water fountain, pay telephone and vending machine (oops, there were actually two machines!) A rusted out Chevy van that was at least 15 years old finally pulls up and squeezes all of us and luggage into this derelict transport. I am wedged in the far back with somebody elses vanity case resting on my lap. The drive was only 70 minuted but felt like a month. We arrived at the baggage claim entrace of ABE at.....

801pm. Ha! I was a minute earlier than my original itenerary!

My return was on 12/29 (PHL-ATL-DFW-SEA) No return freebie/mileage flights were available out of ABE but I didn't mind since my brother in-law commutes down to Philly. The MD-88 to Atlanta was uneventful except for the fact that I was served a wine glass and silverware with the Continental Airlines logo. The flight attendant and I had a chuckle over this. "Looks like the caterer goofed!". Snack flight with a chef's salad. I was seated in 1D with no seatmate once again. Connected quickly to my 757 flight to DFW. Seat 3A, fully packed flight including first. My seatmate was a woman who promptly fell asleep on takeoff and awoke on landing. In other words, the perfect seatmate! Another salad flight; this time it was caesar salad. I had a 5.5 hour layover in DFW so I arranged to have a friend I have not seen in 11 years pick me up. Had dinner at his home in Grapevine and a wonderful and relaxing visit with his wife and kids. The last flight was an antiquated 767-200 with surprisingly narrow seats for first. Not only did I have no seatmate but there were only 4 others in the whole cabin. Coach looked pretty full but not packed. Departure was delayed for an odd reason. Seems like there was a short in the flight attendant call button system that caused it to constantly chime throughout the plane. Both the FA and Captain asked eveyone to refrain from using the button and to slap the hands of your little kids. When that didn't stop the chiming torture, it was figured to be a system problem. Waiting at the end of the runway for 45 minutes until it was resolved. Another salad, this time it was a Greek salad but I was still full from my dinner in Texas so I declined. Enjoyed a Bailey's on ice with my book and even napped for an hour which is rare for me on planes. Skipped the movie again.

Synopsis: Delta has a long way to go in equaling the service I receive the first class on United. Except for the first 757, the seating was not clean and showed obvious wear. I feel they are about the same as Northwest but with a few more smiles and a little more attention.

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richard Jan 1, 00 1:11 am

MA, what a great trip report.

I have recently flown DL and observed that their customer service is improving quite fast. They are trying to regain their reputation of several years ago. Although their equipment may be a bit old they are doing a great job IMHO (no double entendre intended here :-)

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