Way Down South: Delta Business Elite ECP-ATL-SCL

Delta Business Elite ECP-ATL-SCL
Four Points by Sheraton Santiago
W Santiago
Exploring Santiago
KLM World Business Class SCL-EZE
Hilton Buenos Aires
Exploring Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-USH
Alto Andino Hotel Ushuaia
Exploring Ushuaia
Aerolíneas Argentinas Economy USH-AEP
Sheraton Libertador Hotel Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-GRU + Delta Business Elite GRU-ATL-ECP

I had purposefully booked a Friday evening flight having decided that I wanted to minimize my time off from work, while attempting to maximize time on my vacation. That meant booking the 6:00PM flight from Panama City, which gave me an over 2.5 hour layover in Atlanta. That is usually more than enough to make a connection and I figured I could go and grab a shower while winding down from the day before I got on my flight to Santiago. As I left work and made my way towards the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, it looked like everything was going to be on-time; even traffic was not being too much of a challenge. Little did I know that soon things were not going to be so well.

Delta Air Lines #2566
Panama City, FL (ECP) to Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Friday, May 2, 2014
Depart: 6:00PM 8:52PM Arrive: 8:09PM 10:31PM
Aircraft: Boeing 717 Seat: 2B (First)

Yep. Flight delays. Sometimes they are just unavoidable; I do live in the Southeastern US and during the summer it isn’t unexpected for there to be inclement weather in the afternoons. Today, however, there was no inclement weather. When I arrived at the airport to check in and drop my bag off, I noticed immediately that it looked like there would be a delay on my flight. Knowing that I had a pretty decent layover though, I didn’t sweat it too much. The agents said that there was a mechanical issue being reported and my track record even with mechanical delays on average was pretty good. Perhaps an hour or two behind, but nothing to sweat too much. So, in order to pass the time, I wound up grabbing a small snack from the restaurant past security and then actually wound up meeting a former co-worker who happened to be flying on Southwest that night up to Nashville.

Unfortunately, the delay kept growing and growing and I watched as my more than ample 2.5 hour layover eroded. By the time it reached 8PM, I was very worried and called Delta, where the agent on the Platinum Medallion line while sympathetic, said there was nothing that could be done. There is one flight a day to Santiago from Atlanta and that my best chance for tonight was to hope that somehow a miniscule amount of time would be made up and that I run, run, run to my connecting flight once in Atlanta.

There Wasn’t Much Hope…

As for the flight, it was your standard short-haul First Class service.

Eventually we would get under way almost three hours late at 8:52PM. There was a slim chance that I would make my connection as the flight to Santiago departed at 10:41 and my arrival was slated to be about 10 minutes earlier at 10:31PM. As soon as we parked at the gate in Atlanta I knew that I would have to run like I’ve never run before. I ran down Concourse C as fast as I possibly could all while gripping my messenger bag furiously. I made it to Concourse E ridiculously quick and as I reached the gate, I learned my fate: my connecting flight was gone.

I’m not going to lie, expletives flew from my mouth at first. I’ve never had a misconnect this bad and this was going to be a major set back to my trip. Immediately, I went to the service counter at the center of Concourse E to speak to an agent after I had calmed down. Unfortunately, the agent at the counter who called me over was not exactly the most helpful or understanding. She rebooked me on the flight the next day, but more or less refused to even look for any other potential routings on any other airlines. Honestly, it was poor customer service and she barely apologized, but gave me a boarding pass for tomorrow and a hotel voucher for a Courtyard Hotel near the airport. Seeing as it was a futile effort with that agent I made my way to the Concourse F Sky Club. There I found a fantastically helpful agent.

She worked tirelessly to try to find me an alternate routing that would get me there sooner the same day. Unfortunately, the one option that would, which would go MIA-CUN-SCL on LAN Chile, but she couldn’t get me to Miami in time to make that flight. She kept looking and found space into Lima, Peru and connecting on LAN Chile, leaving ATL the next day at ~5:30PM and getting to Santiago at ~4:00AM. That would still result in me having to spend most of the day in Atlanta and only get me to Santiago a few hours earlier than my originally rebooked flight. With those prospects, I resigned to the fact that I would be staying in Atlanta for the day.

Unfortunately this delay meant more than just missing my flight to Santiago. As I briefly discussed in my previous post, I had plans to visit Valdivia, Chile having booked a flight on Sky Airline for departure on Saturday morning and a hotel booked for the single night in Valdivia. I had not yet booked a car rental, thankfully, as I had to start working on cancelling those arrangements and start working on my Plan B. Unfortunately, I lost the value of my Santiago-Valdivia ticket and the hotel I had booked. Since I was now going to have one fewer night, I looked for alternate scenarios and although I could have tried to just go somewhere closer into Santiago, I opted instead for booking a hotel in Santiago for that first night and deciding to just spend some extra time in the Chilean capital.

A Day In Atlanta
With defeat guaranteed, I decided that I would have to make the most of my time in Atlanta. Instead of spending the entire day at an Airport Courtyard hotel, I turned down Delta’s hotel offer and headed into Midtown Atlanta. Instead I would stay at the W Atlanta – Midtown. Unfortunately that was at a rate of $175 for that night, but in an effort to reclaim my vacation I was willing to pay that. I won’t go into reviewing the hotel, as my stay wasn’t any different then when I last visited over the 4th of July weekend in 2013. Basically I chose this hotel due to familiarity and I’ve know the Midtown area of Atlanta the best. Not a bad Experience.

The next morning after I woke up (admittedly late, since I didn’t get to the hotel until after midnight), I went for a stroll through the neighborhood in search of Breakfast. Although I am told that I should have gone somewhere else, I sat down at the Flying Biscuit Café, and had what I thought was a decent meal. After that it was time for a stroll through Piedmont Park, including the weekend farmers market. Not that I was going to buy anything, but it was a beautiful day out. I continued my stroll around town and eventually settled down for a late lunch and a pint at Cypress Street Pint & Plate.

Piedmont Park Farmers Market

The only downside to this whole day in Atlanta? Because I had checked my bag to Santiago, I did not have a clean change of clothes. Luckily I had at least a change of socks and underwear in my bag, otherwise that would have been miserable.

As I had a 4PM late check out due to my SPG Gold status, I figured that would make for a good time to start making my way back to the airport. With MARTA taking about an hour and a half to get me there, it meant I would find myself having to kill about 4.5 hours at the Sky Club. Since I had that amount of time, I figured I would take the shuttle from the airport station over to the International Terminal (Concourse F), so I could finally check out the landside portion.

Despite the fact that my flight was from Concourse E tonight, I definitely prefer the Concourse F Sky Club over all the others in Atlanta (although Concourse E’s is probably my second favorite as it never seems to be busy whenever I use it – I recognize that some might balk at this), which I think is what most would say from an amenities standpoint. I couldn’t think of anything better than relaxing on the Sky Deck with an adult beverage in my hand as I watched the sun set. And when I had enough of that I started to focus my time on my last minute re-planning of my time in Santiago. As it got closer to my flight I made my way over to Concourse E, but made sure to leave to get to the gate just in time for boarding and skip the Concourse E Sky Club. Luckily tonight, I would make the flight!

Spending My Afternoon Outside On The “Sky Deck”

The Best Part? It’s Watching The Planes Of Course! Oh, And The Sunset Too…

Figured That I Would Walk Between Concourses And Stretch My Legs

Delta Air Lines #147
Atlanta, GA (ATL) to Santiago, Chile (SCL)
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Depart: 10:41PM Arrive: 8:15AM
Aircraft: Boeing 767 Seat: 5A (Business Elite)

It had been a while since I had last flown on an actual Business Elite segment, having opted to fly paid coach to Hong Kong in November; that meant my last time internationally was my trip to Europe at the end of 2012. At that time not all of Delta’s international fleet had lie-flay beds in Business, but by now, they had all been upgraded. That meant my flight on the 767 tonight would be in one of my favorite seats: an odd-numbered ‘A’ seat. Given the configuration of the seats on Delta’s 767s it really gives an element of privacy thanks to the staggered setup. The only downside to the 767 is that the passenger loading door is 1L, therefore every passenger in Economy winds up walking past.

I quickly reached seat 5A, my home for the next 9 hours and started to settle in. It wasn’t long before one of the Flight Attendants came around and offered me a pre-departure beverage. With this being in Business Class, that meant a standard offering of champagne (technically Sparkling Wine) from the tray or of course anything else if you so fancy. However, if there is one time I drink champagne it’s when I am flying in Business Class, and I wasn’t going to stop now.

Don’t Mind If I Do…

As all the Economy passengers started to make their way past, I went ahead and started to get settled in for the long haul. Usually that means going ahead and getting my various devices and chargers out and enjoying my last few moments of connectivity before they close the boarding door. Luckily, thanks to the recent change in rules for personal electronic devices at least I could listen to music from the moment we pushed back to the moment at which they enabled the inflight entertainment. With an on time departure, we were up in the air in no time.

The Flight Attendants wasted no time and getting the service started once we were at our cruise altitude. Which on these overnight flights is always appreciated, so that one can eat and get to sleep as quick as possible. Service was overall was pretty good and met the expectations one has for service in Business Elite. Not long after getting the place mat placed on to my tray table and my drink order filled, it was time for the first course. On tonight’s flight, I admit it was one I wasn’t overly fond of: A cold cauliflower and meat plate with a cream sauce…well perhaps just the cauliflower part of it. I know it’s childish, but I’ll be damned if I can’t do that or whole Broccoli. They’re like miniature trees!

First Course

I got as far as I could with the cauliflower, and signaled my defeat to the Flight Attendant. Luckily, they brought me the second course pretty quickly afterwards. I have to say, of my small handful of Business Elite flights and many domestic First Class flights, most meals seem to have had very little thought in presentation. But, I have to say for the salad on tonight’s flight it seemed like presentation was paramount. I mean, it wasn’t just a collection of shreds of lettuce; you can see what I mean in the photo below. Topped with a little ranch dressing and along with the soup and my pretzel roll, it made for a good start.

Pretty Basic, But Definitely Got Points For Presentation!

For the main course, I had opted to go with the beef. I’ve had decent luck ordering the beef/steak options before in Business Elite and tonight’s seemed to continue the trend with the beef not being overcooked and the sauce not overpowering. On the side it was served with potatoes and spinach with cream, both of which were decent.

Main Course

It took a while after being cleared of my main course for the dessert cart to make the rounds, and ultimately I went with the choice of an ice cream sundae. There was also the other standard offering of the fruit and cheese plate, but I can’t bring myself to not have a ice cream on a plane. Especially when they make the sundae to order right at your seat! Unfortunately for whatever reason they didn’t have any whipped cream, but I did manage to top it with nuts and caramel with a pirouline cookie on the side. The only downside with going the ice cream route is that often the Flight Attendants don’t let the ice cream thaw out a bit before serving. That meant I pretty much had a rock for a bit as I slowly scooped off a bit here and there. Either way, I still enjoy this novelty of sorts…it just does not get old.

A Proper Meal Always Includes Dessert

As soon as I was done with desert, it was time to try to get some shut eye. Although Delta had rolled out the “improved” Westin Heavenly Inflight Bedding in Business Elite almost a year prior (or maybe a little more), since I had not flown in Business since 2012 internationally I had not yet the opportunity to try it out. I was psyched because as an SPG Gold member I know that Westin has some pretty comfortable bedding and really was interested in how that would translate into the sky. Included in the bedding kit was a comforter/duvet and a large pillow – pretty much what was offered in Business Elite in the past. In fact, unless they made some slight material adjustments, it was pretty much what I remember the previous bedding materials being like. In short, it didn’t stand out. However, I did get my seat into the fully reclined mode after changing into a t-shirt and shorts and cozied up under the blanket hoping to get a few hours of sleep.

I got at least a solid three hours of sleep with a few hours here and there where I couldn’t quite stay asleep. I definitely do better in my attempts to sleep in Business Class, but since I don’t generally fall asleep quickly in the first place, it can sometimes be even more difficult to do it on a plane.

When I woke up I cracked open my window shade and saw the sun starting to rise. Breakfast was about to be served, of which, I apparently took no photos of nor can I remember what it was. Just that there was the usual choice between a hot and cold option. I went with the hot option, which if I were to guess was probably an omelet.

Our arrival into Santiago was on time, if not slightly early. The sun had appeared to only risen a short time before, covering the land in that warm morning light. With no delays getting to our gate and opening the aircraft door, I made my way into the terminal and stepped foot on my fifth continent to date and 18th country. Clearing Immigration was relatively painless although there was a slight language barrier between me and the officer however. At the very least, since I was in Business Class I was at the front of the line.

Another Page Filled!

Even better was that at baggage claim, was my suitcase I had checked back in Panama City two days earlier! Considering that both Delta’s app and the agent at the Sky Club in Atlanta could not tell me with certainty that my bag had been rerouted and loaded onboard the aircraft, I was slightly skeptical after it having spent the past 24 hours in Atlanta. Curiously though, when it had been re-tagged for this flight, they had actually tagged it all the way to Buenos Aires on my connecting KLM flight three four days later. I guess I should be partially lucky it didn’t wind up in some sort of luggage purgatory.

I Was Extremely Happy To Get My Bag And Clean Clothes

With bag in hand and having made it through the quarantine checkpoint with no issues, it was out into the arrivals hall which was just crowded with people! Pretty much all were there it seemed to try to sell you a ride, but in the interest of not being “taken for a ride”, I approached one of the car service counters and secured a car into Santiago for my first hotel of the trip, the Four Points by Sheraton Santiago.

So what did I think about my flights on my way down to Chile? Well, I would be lying if I said I was little disappointed with the 24 hour delay. With it being a mechanical failure, that placed the delay squarely in Delta’s court. And then there was the agent in Atlanta in Concourse E who was less than helpful; but the agent in the Sky Club made up for that by proving to be helpful, even if the desired result of getting me to Santiago with a lesser delay turned out not to be possible. In terms of the delay and unexpected day in Atlanta? Well, I made the best of that and did what I could to reclaim the lost part of my vacation. It wasn’t ideal, but you know I could have been in a terrible mood the entire time, but that’s not how I approached it. As for the flight to Santiago, the service was what I have come to expect when flying in Business Elite. While the Flight Attendants didn’t go above and beyond, they delivered a consistent service that didn’t disappoint. I’m not trying to say that this is a terrible thing, as it’s great getting consistent service, especially in the premium cabin, instead of service that widely fluctuates from flight to flight. Luckily Delta is pretty good at that!

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