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Winter 2018: Detroit to Amsterdam with Delta (Part 1)

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Joined: 16 May 2017
Posts: 48
Location: Bangalore, Ann Arbor

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:29 pm    Post subject: Winter 2018: Detroit to Amsterdam with Delta (Part 1) Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

Welcome to part 1 of my trip from Detroit to Bangalore. As always, heading home for vacation was something that I was really looking forward to. I decided to combine the last week of shutdown in December at the office with my allowed vacation days for a 3 week trip to India. The major issue with traveling in the Winter is always the ticket fare. Compared to my summer trips, the fare for December was astronomically high, and I had to do with the best amongst the worst. Google flights and Skyscanner were my go-to websites again, along with some valuable inputs from the members on this forum. Google flights, specifically, was very disappointing. There would be a tempting fare, with extremely convenient connections to Bangalore; however, one would discover that these fares were unavailable after being redirected to the Airline's website for making the final booking. I had ruled out trusty old Lufthansa. They were prohibitively overpriced on the days I wanted to fly. The Gulf carriers had inconvenient connection times for my return leg. US Immigration is notorious for extremely lengthy waits. I would require a minimum of 5 hours to be safe. At long last, I settled on a ticket (booked through KLM) with the onward leg operated by Delta and Jet Airways through Amsterdam and Mumbai. The return leg would be through Paris, operated by Air France and Delta.

In the meanwhile, Jet Airways had been going through very turbulent times. The airline was reporting one loss after another and was adopting drastic measures to stay afloat. Most of the domestic flights that I've flown on in India have been on 9W, and I have thoroughly enjoyed their service. For this reason and obviously for the sake of my trip, I hoped the airline was able to stay afloat and navigate through this tricky phase.

As my travel dates approached, things on the Jet Airways front looked okay; the airline seemed to be operating their flights through Amsterdam and the major cities in India. However, another development contributed to some pre-departure tension. Amsterdam was reporting very high winds; the KLM and Schiphol Airport website had mentioned that flights on the 8th and 9th of December would be affected. Several flights flying in and out of Schiphol were canceled, but these were predominantly the smaller narrow-body aircraft serving European cities close to Amsterdam. Most of the wide-body flights, specifically the three daily flights from Detroit to Amsterdam, were all operating on schedule. While checking-in online one day before departure, I discovered there was an equipment change. The Detroit to Amsterdam flight with Delta was initially scheduled to be operated on the airline's more contemporary Airbus A350-900 aircraft. This was later changed to a Boeing 777-200ER, one day before departure. Slightly disappointing, given that I had never flown on the A350 before and was really looking forward to it. The B777 is one of my favorites, after the B747, so things were not too bad after all (I also managed to get a window seat Very Happy).

The much anticipated day finally came, and a very kind colleague offered to drop me off at the Airport. I reached the Edward McNamara terminal at 3:25 PM, exactly 3 hours before my scheduled departure. The immigration and baggage drop-off counters were moderately busy around this time. I was asked to use a kiosk to print out the boarding passes for my flight before heading to the baggage drop counter. The machine spat out 3 boarding passes, and my bag was tagged up to Bangalore. From here, I proceeded to the TSA security checkpoint, moderately crowded again. After a typical TSA experience, with their agents shouting at people, I was on my way to Gate A46 some 25 minutes after I had entered the airport.

International Check-in counters at the McNamara Terminal

Heading down to the departure gates after security

I walked around the international gates, mostly occupied by wide-body aircraft like the A350-900 and Airbus A330-300/200. At Gate A36 was N511DN, the A350-900 scheduled to operate my flight to Amsterdam before the equipment change. She would now fly a heavily delayed DL189 to Beijing, China. A Boeing 777-200ER, N864DA was waiting on the apron for the aircraft at Gate A46, a Boeing 757-200 to Los Angeles and Honolulu to depart. This 19-year-old B777 coming in from Atlanta, GA, would later fly me to Amsterdam.

Widebody gates at DTW

This A330-300 would be operating the 3rd DTW-AMS flight, DL 136

N511DN was operating a heavily delayed DL 189 to Beijing

Boeing 757-200 at Gate A46 was heading toLos Angeles and Honolulu

My ride to Amsterdam (DL 134) on N864DA, a 19 year old Boeing 777-200ER

At Gate A46

I bought a water bottle and some crisps from a nearby store before settling at the Gate to wait for boarding to start. Several passengers were flying to India through Amsterdam; the Delta-KLM-Jet Airways combination seems to be popular. At 5:00 PM EDT, the gate agents Mr. Michael and Mr. Suzuki, arrived at A46 to prepare for the boarding process. Owing to the equipment change, there were several seat re-assignments, and passengers were being asked to speak to the agents to have their seats confirmed, and their boarding passes reprinted. It was mildly amusing to see Mr. Suzuki struggling with some of the long surnames that we Indians are familiar with. I'm pretty sure neither Mr. Suzuki nor the passengers knew who was being called and who wasn't. But by the looks of it, everyone, including this wonderful gentleman from Japan, were enjoying themselves. At half-past 5, boarding for DL 134 to Amsterdam was announced. Passengers requiring assistance, the ones who held Delta/AF/KLM status boarded first, followed by those in the premium and economy cabins. I was on board DL134 at 6:05 PM EST.

Airline: Delta Airlines
Origin: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Romulus, Michigan, United States (DTW/KDTW)
Destination: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands (AMS/EHAM)
Flight Number: DL 134
Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-232ER
Registration: N864DA
Scheduled Departure Time: 18:24 EST, 8th December 2018
Actual Departure Time: 19:37 EST, 8th December 2018
Scheduled Arrival Time: 08:00 CET, 9th December 2018
Actual Time of Arrival: 08:28 CET, 9th December 2018
Actual Flying Time: 7 hours and 29 minutes

The whole boarding process was quite orderly, the only issue being that passengers who boarded the aircraft slightly late found it difficult to find room in the overhead bins to store their baggage. Delta has recently been retrofitting its Boeing 777 fleet with new seats and better in-flight entertainment systems. The economy cabin was laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration, with each seat having sufficient leg-room. The seat had a blanket and a pillow already placed on it. Great news: the middle seat was empty! At 18:20 EST, an announcement from the flight deck informed us, passengers, that boarding had been completed. The flight to Amsterdam would take around 7 hours and 30 minutes. Around this time, the flight attendants distributed a "Sleep Kit" with an eye mask and earplugs. Very nice from Delta; not often do you get this in economy class. At 18:24 EST, exactly on time, we pushed back from Gate A 46.

Leg room was good on the retro-fitted B772

View from Seat 48J

The sleep-kit that Delta handed out

What would happen over the next 60 minutes was something that I had never anticipated. Around 15 seconds into the pushback, we stopped and then started to head back towards the gate. Once we were back at our parking position, an announcement on the PA System asked the flight attendants to unlock all doors. In about 10 minutes, 6 uniformed and fully armed police officers/law enforcement agents boarded the aircraft. They walked past the row I was seated and spoke to a passenger seated 5 or 6 rows behind me, requested the concerned person to pick up their belongings, and escorted them out of the aircraft. It was anyone's guess as to why this passenger was pulled out. Passengers around felt this person was not on board for the right reasons and was possibly carrying something that was prohibited. The agents returned several times and inspected the passenger's seat, the overhead bins, and bags. The issue was finally settled around 30 minutes after the agents boarded the aircraft. The captain informed us that the passenger was involved in a physical altercation; such behavior was unacceptable. We would leave after all necessary statements were recorded. I don't whether this happened on-board or outside in the terminal, but everyone was glad that the issue was sorted before we were airborne. We finally left the gate at 19:21 EST, this time for good, and made our way to Runway 22L for departure.

We taxied past Terminals A and N towards the northern end of the airport. At 19:37 EST, aided by it's two Rolls Royce Trent 800 engines, N864DA took off into Michigan's crisp winter skies. Take off was in a south-westerly direction; we turned right after takeoff to set a northeasterly course that would take us over Canada before flying over the Atlantic towards Europe. The skies were pretty clear, and the Greater Detroit area's lights looked really pretty at night. We encountered patches of turbulence, mostly due to winds, during our brisk climb to a cruising altitude of 35,000ft.

Air France operates a Boeing 787-9 aircraft 3 days a week between DTW and CDG

Takeoff from Runway 22L

I explored the Android-based IFE System and started with the map. However, it seemed that this was the only thing that worked. While the system allowed you to browse through the collection of movies, the selected movie never played. A flight attendant offered to reset my screen, and things seemed better. I settled down for a Tom Hanks thriller: Mission Impossible 3. The only problem now was that it was impossible to open the map again. Around an hour or so after departure, the flight attendants started dinner service. I had requested an Asian Vegetarian Meal when I made the ticket booking but unfortunately didn't receive one. This meant that I had to make do with the standard vegetarian option that was served. The dinner tray had a coleslaw salad with Caesar salad dressing, bread with butter, pasta that was way too cheesy for my liking, a brownie, wedges of cheese with crackers (as though all that cheese in the pasta wasn't enough). The usual apple juice was served with all this.

Dinner was served around 1 hour after departure

Mr. Hanks on the IFE

It looked like my co-passenger in the aisle seat had the same issue with the entertainment system, so we both set-up the map in the middle seat. We flew over Canada and would soon continue our journey over the Atlantic with 200kmph tailwinds for company. After the movie, I decided to take a short nap. The entire ride across the Atlantic was turbulent, with the seatbelt signs on most of the time. When I woke up, we had completed most of the journey over the second largest ocean on planet Earth and were really close to Ireland. The cabin had a mood lighting feature, and the lights were set-up to mimic Sunrise's effect. As we passed over Ireland, we were served breakfast. There were 2 options: an egg sandwich or a breakfast box. I picked the breakfast box, which had a muffin, yogurt, more cheese, and orange juice. This was served along with tea or Starbucks coffee.

Mood-lit cabin

Breakfast box, very similar to what you get on Lufthansa

Getting closer

At around 07:55 CET, the first officer announced that we had left our cruising altitude and would be landing in around 30 minutes. There were clouds between 1500ft and 2500ft over Amsterdam, with some strong winds and rain. The cabin crew distributed some Ghiradelli Caramel chocolates just before the seatbelt signs were turned on. The sun had just come up on the 9th of December as we continued our descent into Amsterdam. We continued on our initial eastwardly heading before turning west for our landing on Runway 27. Owing to unfavorable weather, the entire descent, approach, and landing phases were very bumpy.

After touchdown on Runway 27 and some heavy braking action, we left the runway and headed out to Gate D49. Many of the passengers had tight connections, and the delay only made it worse for them. As for me, I had another 3 hours before I boarded 9W231 to Mumbai. There were quite a few flights operated by United and Delta, with Delta being the popular choice owing to their codeshare arrangements with KLM. The de-planing process was quite quick. I was out of N864DA fifteen minutes after we docked at the Gate. From here, I had to head to the G Gates from where I would board my Jet Airways flight to BOM.

Taxiing to Gate D49

In conclusion, ignoring the IFE system's issues and the meal on board, I really enjoyed the flight with Delta. The refurbished cabin was very comfortable. Kudos to the cabin crew on this flight, they dealt with Detroit's situation with absolute calmness and professionalism. If you ever want to fly between the US and India with very convenient connection times, I would highly recommend Delta. I hope you enjoyed Part 1. Part 2 will be out very soon. The comments section is yours to let me know what you think!
Best regards,

Last edited by AnanthMohanram on Sun Nov 15, 2020 4:56 am; edited 3 times in total
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4685
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely trip report, Ananth! Your detailed descriptions make the scenes vivid, and unfold before the eyes of the reader. Food-wise, Delta did deliver a `cheesy' experience Smile You are certainly not much of a cheese lover. Delta upgrading the older birds and keeping them ship-shape is heartening.
I am eagerly looking forward to Part 2!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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