Hong Kong and Macau: Delta Economy Comfort ECP-ATL-SEA-NRT-HKG

Delta Economy Comfort ECP-ATL-SEA-NRT-HKG
W Hong Kong
Exploring Hong Kong
Conrad Macao
Exploring Macau
Conrad Hong Kong
Delta Economy Comfort HKG-NRT-SEA-ATL-ECP

Well, when I was originally planning this trip I kept going back and forth between booking a paid flight in Economy or using miles to book an award ticket in Business Class on Delta or perhaps one of their SkyTeam partners (since they now have quite a few Asian partners other than Korean Air Lines). It was a pretty tough decision; If I decided to fly in comfort in Business Class then I would only earn enough Medallion Qualification Miles to get Gold Medallion, but if I paid for this flight I would just barely re-qualify for another year of Platinum Medallion status. While both would be decent to have and net me Sky Priority on all my flights, I’ve noticed the uptick in frequent flyers and having Platinum has been a saver for getting upgrades as well as giving me Systemwide Upgrades (Now Regional Upgrades starting in 2014) that have made the difference to me flying in comfort on domestic long hauls. The other factor in play is that starting in 2014 Delta is additionally requiring a spending requirement for hitting each of the Medallion levels. Since I don’t know how next year will play out in that regards, although I do assume I’ll hit $25k of spending on my Amex which will exempt me, I figured I would go ahead and at least get another year at the higher tier of status and aim to at least make Gold Medallion in 2014 for the 2015 status year. Hopefully, I’ll have some work travel to help out with that.

As you can tell my the title of this post, I went with the paid Economy Class option. I booked myself into Economy Comfort for most of my flights, which thankfully is free for Platinum Medallion members. I wasn’t really expecting any upgrades, especially on the SEA-NRT-HKG segments nor on ATL-SEA. The flight to Seattle is notoriously difficult to be upgraded on; my only success in the past 4 years of being a Medallion member was this summer when traveling on a full Y fare on a very last minute business trip. That alone is part of the reason I miss the Memphis hub; I got upgraded three times in 2011 as a Silver Medallion flying SEA-MEM.

Delta Air Lines #371
Panama City, FL (ECP) to Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Depart: 6:00AM Arrive: 8:08AM
Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 Seat: 1B (First Class)

This would mark my first flight on a Boeing 717-200 operated by Delta.  I’ve flown on what will soon become Delta’s 717 fleet when these were operated by AirTran (who is currently in the process of transitioning the leases over to Delta as they integrate more into Southwest as a result of the merger).  Although I had seen some interior shots online of the refurbished aircraft prior to the entry into service, I was still curious how they were going to be outfitted.  The new First Class seats are actually pretty nice; compared with some of the other aircraft in Delta’s fleet the seats featured an adjustable head rest as well as both 110V AC and USB power for each passenger.  The seats I believe are of a “slim-line” construction, but they are still comfortable, even if they appeared to be a bit narrower.

“Brand New” Delta 717-200 At Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport

This was the only flight on my outbound journey that I managed to get upgraded on and it was only at the gate that it occurred.  Not like it really matters on this short of a flight, but it is nice to be able to have a couple cups of coffee on an early morning flight like this.  Everything about this flight went smoothly and once in Atlanta I made my way to the A17 Sky Club to grab some oatmeal before heading off to catch my next flight to Seattle.

A Sky Club Breakfast

Delta Air Lines #1929
Atlanta, GA (ATL) to Seattle, WA (SEA)
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Depart: 9:40AM Arrive: 12:10PM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-900ER Seat: 12D (Economy Comfort)

Delta only very recently started getting brand new Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, which ultimately will be used in place of some of the older 757s that are in the fleet due to their comparable size.  Just the fact that they are already being flown on traditional 757/767 routes like ATL-SEA is exactly a sign of that.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900ER in Atlanta

The seats in Economy Comfort are a vast improvement over the seats on the majority of Delta’s aircraft, especially taking into account the Inflight Entertainment.  For starters, like the 717s have the new slim line style seats, that even in Economy/Economy Comfort aren’t actually that bad.  Legroom is sufficient for long domestic flights, adjustable headrests and in theory there should have been sufficient space for me to use my laptop, but I never got to test that out.  Why?  Well, combined with the fact the 737-900ER is very new to Delta’s fleet and the Government shutdown earlier this year, a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) had not been granted by the FAA before my flight.  Hopefully, by the time this is being read, Delta will have received all of the paperwork in order to activate the service.

With the WiFi service non-operational, it gave me plenty of time to explore the inflight entertainment system.  The layout of the system was identical to other aircraft, such as the 767-300ER, but what was impressive, especially for the Economy Class cabin, was the fact that there was a 9″ screen.  Much larger and of a higher quality than anything I’ve encountered in a Economy Class seat which meant being able to actually watch a movie and tell what is actually happening on the screen.  Not to mention that the headphone jack was moved to just under the screen and there is a USB port as well in order to charge devices such as phones.  Back to the entertainment options, the selection onboard was rather extensive or at least more extensive than what I’ve encountered on other domestic aircraft.  Essentially, I was able to keep myself entertained for the 5 hours I was in the air.

As the aircraft neared the Seattle area, I rather wished I had a window seat.  It was a clear day and there were some amazing views of the mountains.  At one point while looking across the other side of the aircraft it almost seemed as if we were lower than the mountains!  Luckily on my last flight to Seattle in July I had been treated to those amazing views while seated in First Class.

Oh Look…A Mountain!

Delta Air Lines #155
Seattle, WA (SEA) to Tokyo-Narita, JP (NRT)
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Depart: 12:55PM Arrive: 5:00PM +1
Aircraft: Airbus A330 Seat: 12C (Economy Comfort)

Upon arrival, I had the unfortunate pleasure of landing in Concourse B instead of the South Satellite.  This made me a little nervous, as I had only a 45 minute layover and we were more or less on time.  Luckily it didn’t take long on the tram to the get over the S Gates, but by the time I got to the gate they were already well into boarding Zone 2.  Luckily, the Sky Priority lane was clear so I was able to quickly get onboard the aircraft and get to my seat to settle in.

The last time I was on one of the A330s was back in December 2012 when I took BusinessElite between Minneappolis and Amsterdam as part of my almost Christmas vacation to Europe.  Those aircraft were still in the Northwest Airlines configuration which meant the “pod” seats in BusinessElite (former NWA World Business Class) and a pretty average Economy Class seat.  As I entered the aircraft, I noticed that Delta obviously had done some refurbishment.  In BusinessElite it looks like a herringbone seat similar to what is on the 777 fleet had replaced the former terrible NWA seats – but those weren’t the seats that I was going to get enjoy my 11 hour flight across the Pacific Ocean.  I would be getting to enjoy Economy Comfort for another segment.  On the plus side, it was a fairly light load to Tokyo, and I lucked out with the seat next to me being empty.  Not only did I have a little extra leg room, but a little extra space to the side as well.  Plus, I will say it is always nice to be able to use the tray table on adjacent seat as a place to put drinks or snacks.

As part of this refurbishment, the Economy/Economy Comfort seats are the same as what is onboard the 737-900ERs – if this is where Delta is going in terms of upgrading seating and the onboard experience, then this is a great sign.  The seat had the exact same new and large IFE screen and an even larger selection of onboard entertainment options.  Not wanting to sleep, I definitely took advantage of this and found myself watching many movies and TV shows and not finding myself in the usual position of getting bored with a limited selection.

Not long after take off, the flight attendants sprung into action and started with the first beverage service and snacks as the meals were prepared. It was a pretty standard economy class meal – chicken with rice, a small side salad, a cold shrimp appetizer, roll, and desert. Nothing really stood out about it, and I really wish my layover in Seattle had been longer so that I could have grabbed a good filling meal before getting on the plane. After dinner, I spent the next 5 or six hours watching movies and attempting to sleep; the watching movies part I was successful at, the sleeping part not so much.

Getting Close To Japan – This Is The New IFE System Delta Has On The A330s and 737-900s, An Improvement Over The Older Systems!

The arrival to Tokyo-Narita was more or less on time, but it took longer than I expected to clear the transit security – even going through the Sky Priority lane (which was difficult to get to in the first place due to the number of other passengers coming off of other arriving Delta flights. Since I only had layover a little less than 2 hours, I made my way to the Sky Club in Satellite 1 since it was the closest to my gate.

Landed In Japan

Delta Sky Club – Satellite 1
By the time I got to the lounge I think there was only about 20 or 30 minutes until boarding was slated to begin, which pretty much killed my desire to try to get a shower. After flying for almost 20 hours by that point, I really could have used one – even if just to help me stay awake on the final 5 hour flight to Hong Kong. But since that wasn’t going to happen, I decided to grab myself a snack (the Tokyo Sky Clubs actually have a limited food selection – sandwiches, sushi, fried rice, and other little options) and a beer. And of course when you are talking about beer from an airline lounge in Japan, that means beer machine. Why bother screwing up pouring the perfect glass, when you can press a button and have a dispenser give you a perfect no foam glass of Japanese Beer? Especially, since despite the fact that I drink a fair amount of beer, I definitely suck at pouring it. After a quick chat with one of the agents about swapping out of my Economy Comfort seat to a seat with an empty next to it a few rows back, it was time to head downstairs to the gate.

A Perfect Pour Everytime

A Few Snacks In The Sky Club

Delta Air Lines #155
Tokyo-Narita, JP (NRT) to Hong Kong, HK (HKG)
Monday, November 25, 2013
Depart: 6:55PM Arrive: 11:25PM
Aircraft: Airbus A330 Seat: 18H (Economy Comfort)

This wasn’t the exact same aircraft as the inbound from Seattle, however it also was a recently refurbished A330. As I first started to settle into my seat for this last 5 hour leg, I was immediately happy with no one around me. It meant that perhaps I would have a relatively quiet flight and space to stretch out. However, as I started to stretch out, I realized that the recline button for my seat was jammed and therefore my seat couldn’t lock into any position. Althoguh I figured that the flight was going to be relatively empty, I flagged one of the flight attendants down who promptly called over to the Delta Maintenance. A valiant effort was put forth by the three technicians that came on board, but after 10 minutes of trying they could not fix the issue. Not that it was a very big deal and despite them being very apologetic I just moved up one row and resettled.

Settling In – It Wasn’t Exactly A Full Flight

The remainder of the flight was quiet. Dinner was served not long after take off and consisted of a chicken and noodle dish, dinner roll, side salad, roll, and a piece of cake. The meat and noodles were not really that great, but that is more or less expected. For the remainder of the flight I continued to watch a movie and a couple of TV shows and trying not to fall asleep. At this point, I was going to be getting into Hong Kong late, so I wanted to be ready to pretty much pass out the minute I got to my room.

Economy Class Dining At It’s Finest

In The Middle Of The South China Sea, There Was Light (Oil Rigs Or Cargo Ships?)

Hong Kong Arrival
It didn’t take very long to get off the plane once parked at the gate in Hong Kong and I made my way quickly to Immigration and Customs. I’m guessing that the peak arrival time is earlier in the day for long haul flights, so there really wasn’t many people to go through the checkpoint. In fact I have to say it was one of the quickest and least hassle Immigration/Customs experiences that I’ve experienced in a while; no wait, no questions, and straightforward. Compare that to some other places, like Canada where I always have to play 20 questions with the Immigration officer…

After changing the $60US in my pocket to HKD I made my way to the Airport Express station where I unfortunately had just missed a train into Kowloon. They do however run at regular enough intervals and I was whisked away 20 minutes later. Much like Heathrow Express (London) or Narita Express (Tokyo) this serves as a limited stop service linking the center of Hong Kong with the airport. The Journey maybe takes 20-25 minutes to Kowloon, which was super convenient given that my hotel, the W Hong Kong, is situated in the Elements Mall complex which sits on top of Kowloon Station. After spending 26+ hours traveling to get here, you can’t argue with that kind of convenience.

W Hong Kong….

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