May 7, 2016
JFK to SEA Mileage Run
Delta Platinum Medallion Status
|Delta Reserve Card||454 SkyMiles|
In the beginning of the year, my elite status strategy involved a few mileage runs in order to achieve Platinum status with Delta. More on the actual strategy here LINK. There seemed to be a lot of mileage runs / sales at this time, and this particular one could be done in a day. It was JFK – SEA – BOI – SLC – JFK for $227 and 5,410 MQMs. $227 is a good deal for a round trip fare from New York to Seattle, but that would’ve given me 4,842 MQMs.
I purchased these flights on my Delta Reserve card DELTA RESERVE which gave me 2x points on Delta purchases (as well as many other benefits regardless of Elite status, like additional MQMs with certain spend levels, priority boarding, free checked bag, SkyClub entry, and a free first class companion ticket every year. Another great card to use to purchase flights is the AMEX PREMIER GOLD which would have given me 3x points on any purchase directly from the airline, however my Amex Premier Gold card hadn’t arrived yet.
Another great feature of this mileage run was that I knew I would most likely get a medallion upgrade to 1st class on the two short flights, having done a similar route a few months ago as a Gold Medallion. The JFK to SEA flight uses 757-200 aircraft (usually, not always) that are also featured on the Transcon JFK to LAX/SFO flights, so the 1st class cabins on those planes feature the new lie-flat seating. Unlike those two Transcon routes, however, the JFK to SEA route is upgradable.
Since I reached Platinum status right before this trip, and hoped I would get all the medallion upgrades. The two short flights (SEA – BOI & BOI – SLC) cleared right at the 5-day Platinum medallion upgrade window, while the JFK – SEA lie-flat upgrade cleared 2-days out (I’m assuming Delta is trying to sell as many of these as it can before offering medallion upgrades). On the SLC – JFK portion, however, I was on the upgrade list and that cleared only a few minutes before boarding.
Some complaints regarding Delta Tech : 1) I never received emails confirming my medallion upgrades as I usually do, but only found out about them by repeatedly checking the DeltaApp. The SLC – JFK route cleared at the gate and I was never notified via email and the app never changed the seat at all 2) The upgrade & standby list for SLC to JFK appeared on the App until about 8 hours prior to the flight, when it was suddenly no longer there. 3) The initial JFK to SEA flight changed from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4 a few hours before departure, and it was picked up on the App but I did not receive a text or email about the change.
Getting To The Airport
I took an Uber from the East Village to Penn Station at 435am for $12 (including 1.2x surge) to catch the 454am train, which got to Jamaica at 514am (Citi-ticket $4.50 one way off-peak TICKET ). In less than 5 minutes I was on an Airtrain ($5) (seriously the best thing to happen to NYC transit, can’t rave enough about the Jamaica Airtrain connection & the Airtrain itself, especially when compared to the shitshow that is the rest of NYC transit). The Airtrain sped to T4 and I was approaching security at 535am.
JFK T4 is so much better than T2 that I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the days until T2 is renovated or demolished or at least made into an art installation for hipsters. If you stay at the rear of the Airtrain you can hoof it out of the train at T4 and up the escalator which will deposit you directly in front of Delta/Virgin (getting off the front of the Airtrain places you closer to the international airlines in T4). I printed my boarding passes in SkyPriority (terrified of my phone dying while I’m at security so I always print), grabbed some free peanuts and pretzels (a SkyPriority ritual for me), and was on the TSA Precheck line with only one person ahead of me, the shortest I’ve ever seen it. Plowing through the line, I had almost a half hour before boarding began, so I went to the Delta SkyLounge by gate B32.
I’ll include a review of the Flagship Delta Sky Lounge, even though I try to check it out every time I fly. You can get access in a couple of ways : 1) Diamond Elites can choose the SkyClub membership as your “gift”; 2) open a Delta Reserve Credit Card, which costs $450/year and has many other benefits; 3) you are a Gold, Platinum, or Diamond medallion and you’re ticketed on an international flight.
This club is huge, generally full of people (welcome to NYC!), but is always clean, comfortable, and has many rooms and seating areas to choose from. Bathrooms and showers are new and clean (men’s room could be larger), wifi works great, etc. The breakfast is somewhat limited, having only bagels, hard boiled eggs, dry cereal, English muffins, and a fruit salad, but hey it’s complimentary. The ATL E & F clubs have much more extensive menus. Also, I can’t wait to review this club again when the roof deck opens this summer.
I stayed in the club until the flight began pre boarding (alerted by DeltaApp), and went downstairs to Gate B36, where they had just started lining up. Delta (and most airlines) really need to figure this process out; the small signs on the post pointing left and right for regular and SkyTeam boarding are ignored by nearly everyone. It’s great when an gate agent helps people line up, but I find it hard to believe that NO ONE can figure this out on their own, that most of the people don’t know what zone they are or can’t read tickets, and that everyone is in such a rush to get on. This part of boarding gives me anxiety, even when I’m in PREM or SKY boarding groups. Why does it have to be such a slopfest? Also, Delta needs to utilize the tv screens to show which group is NOW BOARDING, in addition to the gate agents’ announcements, since every minute or so someone approaches the desk agents to ask what zone is currently boarding. The flights where there isn’t a gate agent to help people line up makes me feel like I’m in a zoo. Although the animals can probably read what zone they’re in better than most of the people.
JFK – SEA
On-time departure for the 5 hour 18 minute trip on a 757-200; this is the new interior with mood lighting and 4 rows of 4 lie-flat seats in Delta’s domestic first class. I received the upgrade at the 2-day window, when there were about 8 seats already purchased. At the 3 day window another two seats were filled, either by a late sale or a Diamond. After I was upgraded there were about 5 seats left – all of these were filled by the time we departed.
These new 757-200s, denoted by Delta as 75S and 75Z, are nice planes, with new interiors/bathrooms, the new Comfort+ red trim branding, and the aforementioned mood lighting. While Delta has over 100 757s in the fleet, not all are this model – many are much older and not updated. These models are generally flown on the JFK to SFO and LAX TransCon flights, where no medallion upgrades are given.
The 757 narrow body forces the seats to be two on each side, making the window seat have to climb over the aisle seat, which is annoying if that person is asleep and the seat is in the lie-flat position. Otherwise, these are great seats – comfortable, very adjustable, lots of storage, and include handy outlets. I was in 4D, which is a window. The seat is a few inches wider than Comfort+ and reclines to a fully lie flat position. There is plenty of space for a 6ft male, however the footrest area is a bit tight / narrow. Compared to the TransCon 767 DeltaOne seat, this one was newer, had more storage cubbies, and felt cushier. However, the older DeltaOne life flats on the 767s have a massaging function, and you don’t have the climb-over issue due to the 1-2-1 layout on the 767. They also have both more legroom and foot room. However, they operated in a more clunky fashion, maybe due to being older. These new 757s also feature large, clear screens, the best I’ve had on any Delta flight. You get an outlet, USB port, map lights, and a remote for the screen. I was able to put the seat into the fully lie-flat position and sleep for about an hour – this was definitely a comfortable seat that I would hope to check out on an actual long distance flight.
We did get a drink service before takeoff, and they did not take the drinks away during taxi/takeoff. The meal was served about 20 mins into the flight, and you had a choice of two breakfasts, either a cereal or an omelet. I almost always choose the omelet on Delta, and it’s nearly always good. However, this omelet, which had cheese and what looked like roasted peppers, was crusty and dry. They did bring a warm bagel separately, and the meal included a fruit salad, potatoes, and sausage as well. The flight attendants came by frequently with drinks, bottled water, coffee, and to see if anyone needed anything. With about two hours left in the flight they offered the Comfort+ premium snacks. They kept the tray out for anyone to grab things in the front kitchenette, but never announced that this was available.
SEA to BOI to SLC
The SEA Delta terminals are 3 small terminals (S, A, and B) connected by an underground tram. We landed in B and it took just a few minutes to get over to the S gates. I stopped in the SEA SkyClub, which is a nice, clean, decent sized club but again features just the basic food and drink options. It does have a lot of seats, solid wifi, and large windows to watch the runways. I believe Delta is planning to open a second club in SEA this fall.
The Medallion upgrades for these two flights cleared at the Platinum 5-day mark, and I was seated in 2A for both segments. The first class cabin was two rows of 1-2 seating, but did not feature outlets. These CRJ700 aircraft are not updated, and I assume will be replaced with the Embraer jets or the Bombardier CS100 in the next couple of years. The overhead bins are tiny, the wifi is spotty, and the interior is basic. The short hop to BOI was an uneventful 50 minutes, and we deplaned and scanned back in to the same jet for the BOI – SLC leg. On this leg they had no beverage service since storms were spotted on the climb out from BOI.
SLC to JFK
I had about 30 mins before boarding, so I checked out the SLC SkyClub (located between C and D gates). This was a fairly new, very clean club that has its own look and feel. It was very cozy and homey, and offered more food and drinks than the JFK and SEA SkyClubs. Not sure what Delta calls this level of service, but it’s somewhere between the basic menu and the full menus (ATL E & F clubs).
The final segment on this mileage run was on a 737-800, which was not renovated (Delta’s fleet includes many iterations of this plane, as well as 737-900s, and I’ve found that overall they are on the old side). I was on the upgrade list since check-in the day before, and it never cleared on the app (which, in fact, hadn’t even shown the upgrade list for the last few hours). Leaving the SkyClub and arriving at the Gate, there was no information on the screens above either, so I asked the gate agent, who had printed my ticket with a seat upgrade to 2D.
The first class cabin is 4 rows of 2-2, with the updated first class seat (upgraded materials and trim, not a whole new seat, but not the recliners on the old 757s either). They have outlets but not USB ports. The IFE is the old, very small unit with poor graphics and adjustability. I honestly felt that this was barely an upgrade from Comfort+. The flight attendant was a very friendly guy who was one of the best, if not the most attentive, flight attendant I had ever had on a Delta flight. Drinks were plentiful and served quickly, conversation was just the right length of time, the menu was explained, etc. Overall it was amazing service. For dinner, we had a choice of steak or vegetarian lasagna. I selected the lasagna which was tasty but pretty similar to a Stouffers or other frozen brands. It came with a roll, salad, and gelato dessert, and everything was pretty average. List prices for first class were around $900 and I can’t imagine who pays this price, and if someone did, they would be disappointed (aside from the great service from the flight attendant).
It was announced when we left the gate that due to favorable winds, we would arrive 40 mins early, but we wound up landing only about 15 mins ahead of the scheduled time.
Total time from Bedroom to SkyClub Bar : 1 hour and 20 mins;
Total Time from T4 entrance (defined as exiting the Airtrain & entering the terminal, including security line and walking through terminal to SkyClub) to SkyClubBar: 12 mins