I recently had my first opportunity to sample Delta’s 2 cabin Regional Jet services aboard a Delta Connection (operated by Compass Airlines) EMB-175.  I wasn’t at all apprehensive about the experience, but I’ll always book a mainline aircraft as opposed to an RJ if I have a choice.  In this case, Delta’s 2 nonstop flights from DCA to MIA are operated exclusively by EMB-175’s so I didn’t have a better choice to work with.  This will be the last time I refer to the EMB-170 through 195 series as a Regional Jet, because my experience is that these smaller airliners meet or exceed the quality and comfort of a typical domestic narrowbody flight, especially if that flight is operated by an MD-80 series aircraft.

Our flight down to Miami was a 7am departure and operated right on time.  Mrs MJ on Travel was flying with me, so I requested a companion upgrade.  In keeping with Delta policies, if you and a companion are in the same PNR, your upgrades will not clear until all other Medallion upgrades clear, and not sooner than 24 hours before departure.  In fact, they cleared the Friday evening before our Sunday morning departure, and right up until just before departure, we were the only 2 customers in the cabin.  We were joined by 4 others right before departing, and I’m all but certain they were all non-revs.  Not a problem, just an observation.

I found the First Class seats to be quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom.  I don’t have the stats, but I’m fairly certain they were a bit wider than the First Class seats on Delta’s MD-80s.  Our carry on luggage fit in the overhead bins wheels first, much to my surprise!  We were offered pre departure beverages soon after being seated, which is something I’ve found Delta to be better at than any domestic airline.  And with that, the door was shut, and we pushed right on time.  Within minutes, we were airborne and turning south for Miami.

Not long after passing 10,000 feet, the friendly flight attendant was in the aisle offering a first round of beverages and breakfast.  I understand that Delta’s policy for flights under 1500 miles is a cold breakfast, and raisin bran was the only offering.  (I did not look, but I’m assuming the aircraft is not equipped with an oven to warm up anything.)  It was accompanied by a bagel and mixed fruit, and I have no complaints about the quality.  It was served on what appeared to be the same china I would’ve received on a Delta mainline flight with real silverware and coffee served in the standard Delta mug.  If I could’ve had one wish, it would have been for the flight to have been equipped with wi-fi.  Delta promises all large 2-cabin Connection aircraft will have it by then, and some already do.  (Has anyone actually flown on a wi-fi equipped Connection flight yet?)  Nonetheless, I had my iPhone, my MacBook Air, and plenty of reading material.  I was entertained enough, and frankly, I was on vacation!  Service was gracious throughout the flight, and in what seemed like a short time, we were descending for Miami for an early arrival.

Our return this past Friday was on the same type of aircraft.  We checked in with Delta at the ticket counter a full 3 hours before flight time.  On the return, we elected to check luggage since we were bringing back some items purchased during our cruise, and frankly, were just too beat to fool with lugging around our bags.  There was no wait to check in, and the friendly First Class agent tagged our bags with Delta’s bright yellow priority tags and sent us on our way after thanking me for my business as a Gold Medallion.  She also reminded me that there is a Sky Priority security lane.  It didn’t matter because the lines at TSA were pretty much empty on early Friday morning, and by carrying our luggage off the ship, we’d beat most of the cruise crowds to the airport.  After a lengthy stay in Delta’s very nice Miami Sky Club, we proceeded to the gate for boarding.

For this trip, we were assigned bulkhead seats 1C and 1D.  Not a problem since we only had our backpacks which easily fit into the overhead bins.  Within moments after sitting down, we were offered a pre departure beverage, and then just sat back and watch the rest of the airplane fill up in contrast to the mostly empty flight down on the prior Sunday morning.  We pushed back just a few minutes late due to a late arriving aircraft inbound, but our taxi was short and within minutes we were airborne.  Quickly enough, we were climbing out of 10,000 feet and a first round of beverages and lunch were offered.  In contrast to the breakfast flight, there 2 lunch options.  A chicken sandwich, or a salad.  Mrs MJ on Travel went with the salad while I opted for the sandwich.  It was accompanied by drinks, I went with a Cabernet, while Mrs MJ on Travel had Chardonnay.  The wine was like all airline wines, OK.  Heck, I was impressed that they were carrying full size bottles and served in a glass!  Try that on US Airways although I understand they are finally adding glassware back to some flights.  All in all, lunch wasn’t bad.  I snapped a photo that didn’t turn out well at all.  I promise to work on getting better about photographing more of my inflight experiences!


Sorry about the quality - Lunch on DL 5764 - May 13, 2011

In summary, I was pretty pleased with what Delta is trying to accomplish with its 2-class Connection fleet.  The EMB-175 was very comfortable in First Class, the service on my 2 flights was as good as I’ve had on mainline Delta, and the overall experience exceeded my expectations.  I will add that Mrs MJ on Travel commented that American serves better food, including warm mixed nuts, and ending with a baked on board cookie, but that is on mainline aircraft.  This was her first meal on Delta in First Class if I’m not mistaken, and I do agree with her that AA has better food, but that shouldn’t be read as a complaint about what was served.  It appeared to me to be pretty standard Delta fare.  In fact, my sandwich was pretty tasty.  Also, that was the first positive comment she’s had about American since this summer, so I thought it was worth sharing.  🙂  In any event, I liked the 2 flights, and I won’t hesitate to book the service again if my travel needs match up with Delta’s schedule to Miami.