Today is the day we take all the knowledge and preparation I have gathered for you in the first two parts of this series and put it to use. All that extra planning and research into airports and airplanes, seats and entertainment, apps and meals, will come into play as Zach and I travel to Los Angeles.
We get ready around 3am and leave the apartment early. Even though it is a morning flight, we have no clue how busy TSA security will be. Plus, we can’t just flash our crew ID to speed pass through security. We have to go through normal passenger security lines.
Miami Airport Delta Skylounge
Of course, lines at TSA are short because no one is at the airport that early. So we arrive with plenty of time to spare; enough time to head to the Miami airport Delta Skylounge. We are actually the first ones into the lounge. After handing over my boarding pass and confirming that I am an American Express Platinum Card member, Zach and I find the breakfast table then brew ourselves some lattes with Delta’s Starbuck coffee All-In-One coffee machine. We take our loot to the gate.
Boarding starts at 520am. Even though the Basic Economy boarding zone hasn’t been called at all, nor have the gate agents even started boarding, Basic Economy passengers sure do act as if they’re going to board with first class. They’re blocking the boarding lanes. Flight attendants call them “Gate fleas,” because they’re annoying and surround the gate like fleas. It looks like across all airlines gate agents have to deal with these Gate Fleas.
First Class Priority
“We would like to welcome our Delta One and First Class passengers.” Zach and I are first class passengers and get to board before anyone else. We see a few wheelchairs inching to get on and preboard. “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be doing preboards after we board first class.” We get on the plane, stow our bags, and seat. To tell you the truth boarding first is pretty damn nice. I didn’t realize how a boarding priority comes with a certain sense of prestige. As I’m passing everyone else, I see some passengers even glaring at us, which only makes me feel even more giddy. The flight attendant at the door welcomes us with a gracious smile. “Welcome aboard,” she says.
Zach and I look around the aircraft as if we are kids in a toy store. I push every button I can push; I open every compartment I can open. I play with the seat recline and the pull out the tray table. I open and close the window shade. I turn the air vent on and off. I try to play with the video screen, but Delta has advertisements on a loop during the boarding process. The lead flight attendant comes around. “Hello, welcome aboard, can I start you off with a beverage before we depart?” We even get to order a Pre-departure drink before takeoff! Zach orders Starbucks brewed coffee, while I opt for a mirmosa!
Some similarities and differences
Our first flight from Miami to Atlanta is on an Airbus 321. When I had entered the plane I immediately starting searching for similarities and differences. Delta’s galley, overhead lighting, overhead bins are basically the same compared to my airline. Probably the only significant difference is the amount of seats in first class, whereas my airline has 16, this Delta flight has 20. Even with 20 first class seats, the space and leg room is quite roomy.
Miami to Atlanta
It is about an hour and a half flight. During the flight we are served snacks and a drink. Here I catch a few Zzz’s and read my book. I’m the only passenger with his window open as morning sunlight blasts through the window, which I’m sure annoys everyone else in first class. Yep, looks like I’m that passenger.
In Atlanta with plenty of time to spare
Zach and I have about 2hours to kill in Atlanta airport before we boarding for the next flight to Los Angeles. Zach and I had given ourselves plenty of time to spare when we were planning this trip. I’m glad we did because it gave us ample time to walk around and explore. When I think about my passengers on my plane crying to me how they only have 30minutes to connect to their next flight “are we going to make it,” I don’t understand why they would book something so close together? There is so much that can go wrong. Zach and I aren’t rushing, we aren’t worried about missing our flight. We casually walk around without stressing. Now this is the way to travel.
We head towards the Delta Skylounge at A17. We board an elevator that takes us a few stories above the runway. The elevator doors open up to this large lounge. A Lounge Representative smiles at us, “Welcome to the Skylounge, may I see your boarding passes?” We each show her our boarding passes and American Express Platinum card. A great perk of this beautiful credit card is complimentary access to the Delta Skylounge. You can enter this lounge if you have a confirmed ticket purchase and a Platinum Card. “You’re boarding gate is A25 and you begin boarding 35minutes before your flight. Enjoy your stay.”
Zach and I walk around the lounge. We settle into wonderfully overstuffed chairs at one corner of the lounge overlooking the “Alleyway,” which is the part of taxiway where planes pull into the gate area. Behind us is a self-serve breakfast bar with the standard oatmeal, breakfast breads, and cereals. This lounge also offers scrambled eggs. At the bar Zach orders a mimosa. I get a bloody mary. We have a lite bite and drink before we leave.
United By Wings, we take care of each other
We leave the lounge early so we can shop for some goodies for the flight attendants. As I’ve said before, if you treat your flight attendants well by bringing them snacks or gift cards, they are going to return the kindness, not because they are obligated to, but because they truly appreciate your recognition. After Zach and I stop at an airport convenient store and purchase some candy, then at a cafe for some pastries, we place everything in a paper bag and I write a short thank you message on the bag—“Thank you for all that you do. You are more than just stewardesses in the sky. United by Wings, Johnny and Zach.”
It’s a mutual feeling of camaraderie because we are, in fact, united by the wings we wear. We may work for different airlines, wear different uniforms, report to different bases, but we put up with the same shit: the same rude passengers, the same pressures of the job, the same loneliness away from home, and that same constant fear of the plane crashing. We train for months on end to learn how to evacuate a plane in less than 90seconds. So when we see planes crash—like the two 737max aircraft on the other side of the world, or when we are reminded of the American and United airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, we automatically think, “That could have been me. How would I have reacted in that situation?” It brings us super close together, even though I have never met these flight attendants ever, but knowing that they are thinking the same exact thing. No one else can share that with us.
Boarding Flight to Los Angeles
We, again, board the plane first because we are Sky Priority. Flying First Class! Living that life! This aircraft is the Boeing 757-300. The boarding door is the 2L, or 2-Left-Side-Door, which is the dividing point between Main cabin and Delta priority classes. We turn left when we enter the plane and make our way down the aisle to our seats. Entering the plane at the 2L door gives this experience that extra exclusive feeling. Priority classes don’t have to deal with the chaos that is Main Cabin. That is half a plane away. And, to tell you the truth, as we stow our bags and all the first class passengers take their seats, we hearing nothing of what’s going on behind us. We are peacefully relaxing in our seats as the lead flight attendant moves through first class offering pre-departure drinks. Zach and I both request a mimosa. We cheers to our good fortune.
As the flight attendants places our drinks on the center console, we hand him our goodie bag. “Is this trash?” He asks us. Zach and I laugh, “No! That’s for the crew.” He stares blankly at us for a second. It sure does seem like he’s never been recognized before. Then he looks at the bag, sees the message, and his face lights up. There is a noticeable difference in demeanor after receiving this gift. He smiles more when he chats with us. He’s quicker to refill our drinks. He’s more attentive. Which, of course, makes Zach and I feel even more privileged than those around us who didn’t think to bring their flight attendants anything. I feel I’m a higher priority than those Diamond Deluxe Super Million Mile Passengers.
Heartfelt Thank Yous
The crew thanks us individually throughout the flight for the muffins and candy. We all exchange stories, “where you based? How long have you been flying? What does this sequence look like for you? What are you doing in Los Angeles?”
We learn that this crew is a mixture of Orlando and Atlanta based flight attendants. A few of them are on mixed sequences, coming together for this one flight and layover before going their separate ways tomorrow. It’s an interesting work schedule, Zach and I conclude. For our airline, our crew’s aren’t mixed (unless it is irregular operations), and the entire crew stays together for the whole trip sequence (unless it is irregular operations).
We take off. The first chime goes off signaling to the flight attendants that we are above 10,000feet and it is safe to get up. The two flight attendants working first class begin their service. Zach and I are settled in our lounge chair. I am wearing an old woman shawl, while Zach is using Delta’s comfortable blanket and leaning against a pillow.
The Importance of some good traveling devices
There is a crying baby in first class.
I am using Bose Noise Canceling headphones, which are a godsend because that baby has some powerful lungs. Zach and I glare at each other. It is here that I understand why some first class passengers say, “why do they allow babies in first class?” Now I totally get it. I am in first class to be away from the economy crowd. If you’ve experienced a crying baby in main cabin before, you know what I’m talking about. You know it isn’t the baby’s fault, but you glare at the mother anyway, hoping she finds some quick fix to stop the yelling. Up here in first class, I paid the big bucks to ensure I get that level of relaxation and peace. I turn the volume up on the screen to drown out any more sound.
Zach is using Apple AirPods. If you have these pods you know that they are connected to an Apple device via Bluetooth connection. So how is it that is Zach able to connected his pods to the airline’s in-seat entertainment, which DON’T have bluetooth connectivity? Well, there is a special connectivity device he bought from Amazon allowing him to create a bluetooth connection between the seat entertainment system and his Airpods. It is a neat device. Definitely check it out by clicking here.
The Delta Transcontinental Service
The lead flight attendant begins taking orders. When she reaches our row, she confirms that she has the preorders we had made a few days ago. “Again, thank you so much for the treats!” As the she continues to take orders throughout first class, the flight attendant who is assisting her begins the hot towel service. Zach and I wash our hands. The assisting flight attendant then makes another round of the cabin to pick up the dirty hot towels.
After the hot towel service, the flight attendants begin their beverage service with accompanying snack. First he brings out a basket of various assortments of snacks. As he is doing this, she is in the galley preparing the beverages. The assisting flight attendant then delivers drinks row by row.
Next they prepare for the meal service. The assistant moves through first class placing a white linen cloth on each tray table. Then he goes row by row delivering meal trays. Zach and I both ordered the bacon, egg and cheese omelette, fruit and bagel. The silver ware, glassware, and tray setup (salt and pepper shakers, napkin holder, plates) are classy and sophistcated. My meal tray is taken away when I am finished. The service is seamless; it takes less than an hour from start to finish.
Periodically throughout the 5-hour flight the assisting and the lead flight attendant refill my drink. An hour before we land the lead flight attendant strolls through first class cabin with a basket of snacks.
We land in LA a few minutes early. Smooth smooth smooth. Everything from departing in Miami to arriving into LA occurred without any delays or irregular operations. Not a hiccup anywhere. That is how most flights operate across all carriers, across all world airports. When disruptions do occur that’s when the tempers flare, the frustrations reach a boiling point. Even though Zach and I had prepared for today’s travel expecting a long delay at some point, we are pleasantly surprised nothing went wrong.
Flying Home though…
We spend a few days in Los Angeles on edge. There is a hurricane approaching Florida.
We are constantly on the national hurricane website checking the status of this hurricane. Every few hours we check the site’s updated forecast. Hurricanes are highly volatile. It is almost impossible to track its true trajectory accurately until maybe a few days before it hits land. For doomsday preparers like Zach and I, we are having a super hard time trying to figure out if we need to stay in California or fly back home to Florida. It’s as if we are in limbo, stuck in this between-world of whether to stay or go.
Our final decision, though, becomes based off Delta’s travel waiver. You see, in anticipation of serious threats to an airport—such as a Hurricane hitting land or airport—airlines go into preparation mode. First they warn passengers of potential hazards. Then as the days get closer to the predicted landfall date, airlines start giving out Travel Waivers.
A Travel Waiver is an airline’s way of getting you to rebook your flight for another day without having to pay a Flight Change fee. This helps the passenger make an informed decision to travel on another day instead of waiting around at the airport during a hurricane wondering if their flight is going to delay or cancel. As much as we would liked to have stayed in California Delta’s travel waiver didn’t include our date of travel. So we had to go home or lose the money we spent on the plane tickets.
How do you prepare yourself knowing that you’re going to a destination about to be hit by a Hurricane??
It’s hard. There are so many variables and ways for things to go wrong that formulating a secure plan is impossible. All I do know is what I have as back up and how to prepare for the absolute worse. I have to imagine that if the hurricane makes a direct hit in Miami and Delta has to divert our plane to some random airport, I need to be ready to deal with rebooking another flight, booking a hotel room, and figuring out how to get to and from the hotel. Not to mention food, letting my job know I’m stuck, and reassuring my family that I’m safe. It’s a heavy ordeal to have to deal with a diverted flight, and I have seen this happening to passengers often in Miami because of summer storms. These passengers get absolutely furious because they didn’t have the wherewithal to prepare for something like this. I know I just spent thousands of dollars on a first class ticket, so why wouldn’t I take into consideration forces outside my control that would hamper my day of travel?
The kind of plan is one that is fluid
As the days get closer to finally having to travel back to Miami, I begin realizing that a rigid plan won’t work. I am imagining simulated worse-case scenarios in my head. If this were to happen, I would do this. If that were to happen, I would do that. So I have to go with what I know. I know that I have the credit card that comes with a few forms of Trip-Delay insurance. I know that I have racked up enough hotel points to get a few nights for free at some hotels. I also know that I have an emergency credit card tucked away in my travel bag for a just-in-case situation just like this.
Additional perks of one AMAZING credit card
As you know I love love love my American Express Platinum Credit Card. When we had purchased these airline tickets through the American Express Travel site (which is a Third-Party site) we discovered one absolutely amazing bonus. We receive complimentary service for FreeBird.
FreeBird is a website that monitors your flight itinerary. They actively watch for any delays. They anticipate the potential for delays. They notify you of delays that may occur.
And they fix it.
A few days before we are scheduled to fly home to Florida, Freebird emails Zach notifying him that the Hurricane is approaching and might cause significant delays. The email also states that Freebird is actively monitoring the situation, when the time comes for rebooking or rerouting, FreeBird will send another email with options for new flights and new seats on any airline for free.
Rebooking and Rerouting on ANY airline FOR FREE!?
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, if you don’t believe me, go to getfreebird.com to do your own research into FreeBird’s contract.
Dude, can you imagine the relief we felt knowing that not only were we prepared to stay in some random city, but our airline ticket rebooking will be taken care of at no extra cost.That’s a huge weight off my shoulders.
The return trip home goes off without a hitch, even though we are prepared for any kind of disruption. We have extra snacks in our bags, vigilantly on all our weather apps, and rebooking and insurance numbers ready for when we need them.
Delta Skylounge at LAX
We arrive at LAX around 1040am, giving us time to get through security. We head to the LAX Delta Sky club. They are currently serving breakfast, but the carts are out and the staff is switching to lunch. My options for breakfast include scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, a variety of toasts and spreads, and a machine to choose your own style of coffee.
When the switchover to lunch is complete, Zach and I make another round of the food bar. We get to choose between a build your own salad, build your own taco, or build your own ramen noodle bar. These options look pretty darn delicious. I decide to create my own ramen noodle bowl. I add what look to be freshly made noodles to the bowl, shrimp, grilled chicken, some cabbage, a spoonful of sweet chili pasta, and pour a coconut-thai-broth from what looks like a coffee urn. It is absolutely delicious.
Another Treat for the Flight Attendants
We leave the lounge with enough time to go to Starbucks to get our flight attendants gift cards. Naturally, we assumed there are four flight attendants working this Boeing 757 aircraft. It’s the amount of flight attendants we have on our 757planes. So we bought 4 Starbucks gift cards. We write the same note on the envelope, “Thank you for all that you do, United by Wings, Zach and Johnny.”
The Delta terminal at LAX seems chaotic. There is people everywhere. It takes some time to maneuver around the crowds and we have to push through people, the Gate Fleas, to get to our boarding lane, First Class Delta One Priority. This is a parade of wheelchairs waiting in front of us.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we are going to allow preboards to board after First Class. So, please, make room for our first class passengers.”
Step aside peasant and infirm!
A mistake in the amount of treats for our flight attendants
We take our seats in the last row of first class. As we get settled in, the male lead flight attendant is taking drink preferences. “Hi, my name is Jacob, what can I get you guys to drink?” After we give him our order, Zach says, “And these are for you and your crew.”
He smiles, thanks us, and walks away.
When he returns, the smile on his face is jubilant. “Oh my god! You guys didn’t have to do that!” He places our drinks down. “There are five of us on the plane though. The ladies in the back are going to appreciate this so much!”
Zach and I look at each other. “Oh no!! We’re so sorry! We work for the airline too, we thought there were only four of you on this plane, like we do.”
“Oh what airline?!”
We tell him.
“My cousin just hired on with them!”
“Wow, you have five flight attendants on this plane? That makes this flight so much easier! We are literally suffering when we work the Transcon to LA.”
We share a few laughs.
We learn that he has a husband. We also learn that he is actually continuing on with us working our flight to Miami. “Yeah, our flight attendants in Miami are able to have the option to take a few days off to get prepared for the hurricane. Other bases, like Atlanta, cover Miami’s flying. I’m covering one of those trips.”
“Thats so awesome that Delta does that. Since the “predicted cone of influence” isn’t hitting Miami, our airline requires us to work. Bastards.”
He laughs, “You should come work for us! We’re hiring.”
The TransCon service to Atlanta
We had preordered lunch a few days before the flight. We ordered one of each item: a hamburger with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes, and a tandoori chicken salad. Both we alright. I think the main star on that meal tray is the chocolate Cake Pop for dessert. Yums!
Throughout the flight to Atlanta the flight attendants in the main cabin thank Zach and I for their gifts.
“Thank you so much, you didn’t have to do that!”
Delta is a great airline. The flight attendants are smiling and nice. Their service is great. The food is good. The aircraft seats are soft and comfy. The entertainment is awesome. In reality there isn’t much difference between Delta and the airline I fly for; they are two sides of the same coin.
I hope you get to try out a First Class service with one of the big airlines, like Delta, United, or American sometime. It is a totally different experience compared to flying main cabin peasant class.
It is here that I leave you, dear reader.