Big network expansion out of LAX for American, with eight new destinations all starting June 2
On June 2, American commenced a major expansion of its route network, with 21 new nonstop routes this month. This includes 10 new destinations just from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), marking the largest expansion ever at LAX.
Thursday saw the largest number of inaugural flights, with eight ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Los Angeles that day, something the carrier had never done before in its history. I was invited to be part of the festivities and join the entourage, which included Jim Moses, the Managing Director (MD) for American at LAX. What does a day full of ribbon cutting ceremonies look like, you ask…?
Delta flight 2014, the final scheduled DC-9 (reg N773NC) flight, pushed back from the gate at MSP – Photo: Chris Spradlin
It was a cold day in Minneapolis, the coldest in decades. Despite the bitter temperatures, spirits were high at Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) as Delta Air Lines was preparing to operate their final scheduled McDonnell Douglas DC-9 flight. As the aircraft touched down after the first flight of a two-leg ceremonial routing, the sendoff began and the DC-9 would soon be history.
A small gathering of Delta pilots, flight attendants, and tech ops were on hand to say goodbye to an old friend. A banner commemorating the DC-9 was hung on the wall for all to sign as passengers and employees indulged in the decorative DC-9 cakes. Before boarding, a ground operations employee shared some final thoughts about the DC-9, slipping up and saying “on behalf of Northwest Airlines,” which really sums up the history of the DC-9 at Delta.
Born 48 years ago, the DC-9 has outlived many other fleet types since its introduction with Delta in 1965. The DC-9 was once before retired from the Delta fleet in 1993, but was introduced again in 2008 after the merger with Northwest Airlines. Northwest also inherited their DC-9s via a merger, this time with Republic Airlines in 1986. The airframe which operated the final flight, N773NC, started its life with North Central Airlines in 1978.
Temo Madrigal is a good friend and is a correspondent for my blog. He also is not loyal to any one airline and normally tries to find the best deal possible, especially when flying with his wife and three kids. Recently he had a flight by himself from Seattle (SEA) to Indianapolis (IND) with a layover in Minneapolis (MSP) on Delta Air Lines. I asked if he could check out the SkyClub during his four hour layover in MSP and give his honest impressions since he had never been in an airline lounge before. He agreed.
The SkyClub located at the entrance of the F and G concourses at MSP (there is another located on the C concourse) is Delta’s busiest club after Atlanta and takes up about 12,500 square feet. The club was re-done in January 2011 as part of Delta’s more than $2 billion investment in airport facilities and global products, services and technology upgrades. Here is Temo’s experience in his own words:
Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 at MSP. Photo by Daniel Betts.
Some of my fellow travelers like to book their flights direct with no stops. I, on the other hand am all about saving money, even if it’s a measly twenty dollars. As a stay-at-home-dad, I like to enjoy the few hours I spend alone in the sometimes-busy airport terminals. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but getting to read more than one chapter of a book in one sitting is a rare treat.
Recently, I was traveling to the Midwest and had a four-hour layover in Minneapolis and the Airline Reporter (aka David) asked me to check out the Delta Sky Club and provide readers with an inside look at the amenities of the club and if a one day pass (normally $50) would be worth it.
The Delta Sky Club in Minneapolis was formally the Northwest Airlines Worldclubs and is one of the oldest lounges in the Midwest. One wouldn’t be able to tell since it was first updated during the merger of Delta and Northwest in 2008 and then again January of this year.
Honestly, before seeing the Delta Sky Club, I had never actually been in an airport lounge. In my mind I had imagined dark painted walls, black ceilings, old style leather couches, and maybe even a stuffed moose head on a wall over the bar. I usually travel with a child or two in-tow, so running up and down the terminal is something that we do to tire-out our kids and help them be less of a hassle on the plane (mostly to respect our fellow travelers), and due to my vivid imagination and ideas of what an airport lounge includes, I never looked into them. This trip had definitely helped me change my mind.
A good club takes more than just a comfy place to sit -- it takes good staff and Delta delivers.
The foyer of the Delta Sky Club looked inviting and the young ladies at the reception desk welcomed me with genuine smiles and some humor. Something you might not see at every airport establishment at 6:10 AM. I was quickly asked if I had ever been to the Minneapolis club and if I needed any assistance with the services. I let them know that I had not and one representative provided me with a brief tour of the club and the amenities that are offered. I quickly realized that there was no moose head and my ideas of what I would find were completely the opposite.
The entire lounge was actually had a retro-yet-new-feel with florescent lights dimmed by blue stained glass, both the furniture and artwork were a cross between modern and art deco that gave the entire lounge a chic and upscale look and feeling. Being in the club actually made me feel as if I had entered an exclusive nightclub, but yet somehow I belonged.
Delta's SkyClub in MSP has lots of different seating options.
After the brief tour I decided to use the amenities of the lounge. First, was the men’s room and I was a little disappointed. Being that I was on a red-eye and had a full day ahead of me, I was hoping that there would be showers at this location, but there were not. I felt awkward having to brush my teeth in sinks that were directly located in front of bathroom stalls for some reason. At least the restroom was very clean, so it that wasn’t a big deal.
The good part is most people won’t spend most of their time in the bathroom. The seating areas were outstanding, with the two level lounge being open and ample. There were a variety of seat options ranging from nest style seats that provided some privacy, full reclining chairs, living room style seating arrangements with coffee tables at the center, and bar table and stool seats as well. It also featured a “quiet area” that was in a sunken nook style space in the far corner of the club with full reclining chairs.
One can sit and relax or get down to business in the SkyClub.
The business office area offered both desks with internet hook-up and telephones, as well as desks with ready-to-use desktop computers, printers and a fax machine. I was able to use the free Wi-Fi with my tablet after being helped by the reception desk. There is also satellite TV available, but if you are looking for non-electronic entertainment, you can find plenty of daily newspapers (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, etc.) and magazines.
The Delta Sky Club offers what Delta calls “Snacks Served All Day”. I perused the continental breakfast selections; oatmeal with the trimmings, bagels, trailmix, fresh fruits, cereal, yogurt, and a multi-selection beverage dispenser that offered coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. I’m a Seattle coffee drinker and give kudos for the strong coffee that came out of the dispenser.
There might not be a ton of food an drink options, but you can have as much as you want.
The bar was stocked with complimentary premium wines, beer and liquor. Again, there was no moose head over the bar, but there were three large plasma televisions offering both news and sports options for patrons to watch, and now that I think about it, it’s definitely better than having to stare at a dead moose head for four hours. The bar was clean, attractive, and the bartenders, Taslfalem and Sebele, were polite and very attentive. Both were able to multi-task by holding a great conversation and do their work with precision and a smile.
When heading back to Seattle and stopping at Detroit, I was offered a one-day pass to the Delta Sky Club for only $39.00. I had a four-hour layover once again and sitting with the “normal” people just didn’t seem appealing. I wanted to see the difference of how much money I would spend normally on food, drinks, etc. at the airport. I spent a total of $29.17 for an appetizer and two drinks in a bad Mexican restaurant with uncomfortable chairs. For ten dollars more (even for $20 more at the standard $50 price) I could have had the same positive experience I had in Minneapolis at the Delta Sky Club.
The bar was my favorite place. Good drinks and great conversation.
So is the cost of a day pass or even a yearly membership worth it? Well, I met a gentleman at the Sky Club Bar that mentioned he had become a member of The Delta Sky Club (formally Delta Crown Room Clubs) almost fifteen years ago because he wanted to find a better place for his kids to have a soda and relax during 2-4 hour layovers. He is a loyal member and feels that it only keeps getting better. I have to agree. It will be pretty hard for me not to have lounge access, but I do not travel enough for a yearly membership. Delta better believe they might see me a time or two using a day pass in the future, which is a big statement coming from a conservative spending guy like me.
B757 image by Daniel Betts
All others by Temo Madrigal