Trip Report: Delta First Class to the Caribbean
I've reviewed Delta's First Class product on various aircraft, so this article is more of an update on service consistency and a little bit on the aircraft. I'm fresh off of a trip to the Dominican Republic for a four night retreat with some of my staff. I flew Delta from Reagan National Airport, through Atlanta to Punta Cana. My return trip was the same in reverse.
DCA is my home airport and I'm through here frequently. What I like about Reagan is it's quick and efficient and I can make it from curbside to plane in about ten minutes. I decided to park at the airport in the Terminal B garage since I had a 7:00am flight on a Saturday. Delta has a check in counter on the lower level (below ticketing) where I normally check my bags. It's just off of the skybridge from the garage. Unfortunately it wasn't open when I arrived at DCA about 5:45am. I instead went upstairs where I quickly checked my bag at the SkyPriority lane. At DCA the airlines don't keep the bags if you check in upstairs. You have to walk it to a TSA screening checkpoint that's at the end of the airline counters.
After dropping my bag I headed to security. Only one security lane was open and no PreCheck. I find this to be a common issue at DCA for early morning flights, especially on weekends. Fortunately the line for security was short and within a few minutes I was heading to the SkyClub.
When it isn't busy the DCA SkyClub is one of my favorites. It isn't renovated like some of Delta's other lounges, but the front desk agents are some of the friendliest in the club system. You also have a good view of the odd numbered Delta gates and its easy to watch for your plane. This location still doesn't have the new Starbucks espresso machines that Delta is installing in the other SkyClubs, but at least they were serving Starbucks coffee.
About 6:20 I headed down to the gate for boarding. If you haven't flown out of DCA my best description of boarding is chaos. The gate areas are small, with limited seating. Since this is such an elite heavy destination, especially on flights to Atlanta, there are dozens of Medallions who stand and linger around the gate area waiting to board. Thankfully when they called Premium (First Class) I was able to quickly make it through the onlookers and board fairly quickly.
In Flight DCA-ATL
My flight from DC to Atlanta was fairly standard on a Delta MD-88. First class on this plane is a standard 2-2 with a domestic first class seat. This is a relatively short flight, so only drinks and a small snack are served. I fly this route frequently. There was nothing bad or remarkable to report here.
I like international flights out of Atlanta because there are decent SkyClubs and dining options in both Concourses E and F, Atlanta's international concourses. My flight was leaving out of E, so I made my way from A to E. Since I had an hour and a half I decided to walk instead of taking the train. When I got to E, I made my way to the SkyClub and had a light breakfast. In the past I've been in this SkyClub for breakfast and they had fresh biscuits and gravy. Unfortunately no biscuits today. Instead they had mini fritatas and some sort of meat dish. I had a bagel, coffee and some fruit.
The E concourse SkyClub was about 80% full, but I was still able to find a decent place to sit down. This is one of my favorite SkyClubs because it's fairly large, has an extremely long bar and large restrooms. There are also showers in this SkyClub if you need to freshen up.
I left the club about forty-five minutes before my flight so I could walk around. I like to get a little bit of walking exercise before sitting on a plane for three-plus hours. Parked at the end of E, a few gates away from my flight, was KoreanAir's A380. I've seen this flight a few times. It uses two gates for boarding, one for economy and one for business, first and SkyPriority.
I always like weekend morning flights to the Caribbean. They aren't elite heavy routes. The upgrade list for my flight had six people on it and four of them got upgraded. You gotta kinda feel sorry for the two who didn't make it. We boarded right on time and the process was fairly stress free.
I was in seat 3C on a Delta 737-900. (See my previous review of First Class on the 737-900.) The 737-900 has five rows of first class with a total of twenty seats in a 2-2 configuration. The seats are a little close together (pitch) between the rows, but they do feature large, HD resolution seat back screens. Delta has a great in-flight entertainment system, which was nice to have since Delta Studio wasn't going to be available for long on this flight. (Delta Studio requires GoGo internet to verify content and this doesn't work once you are over the ocean)
The flight crew was exceptional on this flight, even though they forgot to serve me lunch (more on that in a moment). Pre-flight we were offered champagne, mimosas or orange juice. Someone ordered coffee and they were happy to accommodate. I've been on some flights where they won't serve anything except for the beverages they are carrying around on the tray.
We were away from the gate and airborne right on time. This was a lunch flight and I find that Delta's first class meals to the Caribbean tend to be pretty good. (The flight home is a different story. Delta doesn't cater their flight once they land, they leave Atlanta with meals for the return and they are always disappointing.) This flight had the option of the hot sandwich with chicken and cheese or a salad with grilled chicken. Both options also came with tomato soup. I ordered the grilled chicken salad and it was one of the best salads I've ever had on an airplane. It was mixed greens and spinach with quinoa and sliced grilled chicken. I can't even tell you if there was dressing on the salad, but it was excellent. The soup was also good.
So here's my funny story for the flight, I noticed everyone had been served and then the lead flight attendant was starting to clear trays, but my companion and I had yet to be served. (He was in 3D) I flagged down the flight attendant and asked if we had been accidentally skipped. She was so embarrassed! She hadn't realized she forgot us. She quickly grabbed our food and refreshed my margarita. (Delta makes a pretty good margarita with Avion Tequila. I prefer Patron, but I won't complain.)
After lunch the flight attendant was still apologetic. She asked for my boarding pass. I gave it to her without thinking anything of it. When she came back she told me she gave me 2500 SkyMiles for the inconvenience. Totally unnecessary, but I appreciate the effort she and her crew put into this flight.
We landed in Punta Cana ahead of schedule. I'll wrap with a few quick tips for Punta Cana. Delta uses Terminal B, which is the newer terminal. We arrived about the same time as a couple of other flights. The line for immigration took about 45 minutes. Also, you will need to pay a $10 tourist entry fee in cash before you get into the customs line. Once through customs our bags were waiting for us and we exited the airport to meet our pre-arranged transpiration.