- Part 1 747-400 upper deck to MNL
- Part 2 Manila
- Part 3 Boat to Boracay
- Part 4 Boracay hotel & dancing
- Part 5 Boracay-Manila-Tokyo-Seattle-Salt Lake City-Charlotte
Part 1 747-400 Upper Deck to MNL
I used 125,000 delta miles to book my flights from Charlotte (CLT) to Manila (MNL) and back. Originally I had booked business class seats for the full trip which would have been 140,00o miles. I changed my return trip to an earlier date to accommodate a golf trip to Bandon Dunes in Oregon. As it turned out, that trip fell through and we ended up playing part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama in early November.
The golf trip as fantastic, but by changing the return I had to book in coach instead of business and at a higher than the lowest level in miles for coach. At least Diamond Medallion status allowed me to avoid any change fees or penalties for rebooking.
The outbound route was CLT-DTW-NRT-MNL. It required 70,000 delta (DL) skymiles for business class. My flight to DTW was on a 717-200. I had seat 1B, an aisle bulkhead seat.
On a short flight like this, a bulkhead seat is not a problem. Plus being served first for the pre-departure beverage (PDB) means I have time to sip the drink before the plane leaves the gate. rather than gulp it down as is sometimes required when sitting in the last row of first class. Notice that there is not much room for the drinks. That is typical for DL jets. American (AA) offers much more personal space for these things in first class and bigger seats with more legroom.
DTW, Skyclub and flight to NRT
The flight to DTW takes a little over one hour from CLT. I think DTW is the best hub airport in DLs system. It is clean, modern and efficient.
International and mainline domestic DL flights operate from Terminal A. Smaller jets use Terminals B & C. Terminal A is extremely easy to navigate as it is constructed in a straight line. To make it easy to get from one end to the other, there are moving walkways and an elevated train that covers the entire length of the terminal with stops at each end and in the middle. A skyclub serves each stop. The skytrain takes only three minutes to cover the length of the terminal.
Before boarding the flight to NRT I visited the main DTW skyclub in the center of Terminal A. It is located above the concourse.
After entering and checking in, I took the escalator up to the lounge.
Like all skyclubs, this lounge provides newspapers, tv, wifi, bathrooms, a comfortable place to relax, and drinks and light snacks. It also has two showers. The best feature, though, can be the agents who can assist with just about any issue you might have with your DL travel. They are especially valuable when travel plans change due to delays, cancellations or other reasons.
Snacks and self-serve bar area
There is plenty of seating. A fireplace is a nice touch.
On the NRT flight I had been assigned to a business-class seat on the lower level. Before leaving home on the day of flight, I checked the delta app on my phone and saw 78K was available on the upper deck. I used the app to select that seat. Sweet! Now the full 17 hours or so of flying would be on the upper deck.
The upper deck on DL 747s is unquestionably the best business-class seat in the DL fleet. It is the best business-class seat I’ve experienced period. The Korean Air (KE) A380 has a lounge with a walk-up bar in business class, but with 94 business-class seats on the A380 upper deck, it has almost a cattle-car feeling when I’m not in the lounge.
KE A380 business-class lounge
The key to the experience on the upper deck of the 747 is the privacy. There are only 14 seats in a 1 x 1 configuration so all seats are window seats and aisle seats. Being removed from the vicinity of the engines enhances the peace and quiet.
When I’m seated up here, I forget that there are almost 300 other passengers below. The feeling is like being on an intercontinental private jet! Te only drawbacks of being on the upper deck are lugging any carry ons up the stairs and the luggage bins are slightly smaller than on the lower level. My carry on was too large so the FA stored it in one of the large closets at the back of the cabin.
The flight deck is on this level. The pilots sometimes chat with the passengers before the flight. Once I even had a captain let me sit in his left seat while we were parked at the gate in NRT.
As previously noted my seat was 78K on the right side of the plane. It is always fun to get to the seat and begin unpacking all the stuff they give passengers in business class.
My feet can only reach the ottoman at the far end of the seat when I’m almost fully reclined. There is plenty of work space. Being right handed, I always select seats on the right side of the plane since that means the work area is on my right.
The PDB was sparkling wine served with a bag o’ nuts.
The amenity kit and slippers that are usually on the seat were missing. The FA brought them after I asked.
Tumi amenity kit and contents
The amenity kit came with toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, socks, ear plugs, tissues, comb, lip balm and hand lotion. Slippers are also provided in a separate sack.
It wasn’t long after getting suituated and finishing the PDB that we were taxing to runway 22L for departure. Flight time was predicted to be a little over 12 hours and 30 minutes to cover the approximately 6,400 miles to NRT.
In position and holding for runway 22L departure.
Drinks and dinner service began after we leveled off at cruise altitude. I started with a Woodford Reserve bourbon, which is the best liquor DL serves.
The appetizer was shrimp with grilled pineapple. It was followed by iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese, coconut Thai soup and warm bread.
The dinner choices were, mahi-mahi, szechuan pork, stuffed chicken, or braised short ribs. I had the beef.
The meal seemed to go well with the Santa Julia Magna Corte Red Blend 2012. For desert I had the ice cream sundae, assorted cheeses, and grapes. The whole meal was delicious.
After dinner I reclined my seat, broke out the quilt and watched some movies. I must say that DL has one of the nicest blankets, actually a quilt, of any airline in business class.
About halfway through the flight I asked the FAs to serve my mid-flight snack, an antipasto plate, fresh fruit and sake.
About seven hours into the flight, we crossed the 180 degree longitude line where east longitude changes to west longitude.
The pre-arrival meal was served 90 minutes before landing. I opted for the cream cheese and chives scrambled eggs rather than the granola.
After breakfast it was time to prepare for landing. Even though the flight was over 12 hours, I felt very rested and fresh in spite of the fact that I had slept for less than four hours. Having plenty of room to stretch out and space to store things like glasses, headphones, phone and charger, newspapers, etc. really makes a difference for me in how I feel after a long flight.
And the 747-400 upper deck affords one of the most relaxing environments around regardless of class. Of course DL is phasing out its 747s which it acquired in the merger with Northwest Airlines. They have already reduced the fleet by a third and plan to eliminate these elegant aircraft totally sometime in 2017. The DL 747s are now used for some flights to and within Asia only.
Fortunately I fly a lot in that part of the world and should be able to get a few more rides upstairs before the 747s disappear.
Arriving at NRT Terminal 1 I deplaned and went through the security station before heading for the connecting gate for the flight to MNL. Security at NRT can sometimes take 15-20 minutes when several fights arrive at once. On this occasion it was relatively quick so I had plenty of time to visit the skyclub. There is one skyclub at each of the two circular boarding areas in Terminal 1.
The agents here check in each passenger and also provide services like making seat assignments, switching flights, etc. The NRT lounges can get very crowded at times and electrical outlets are not plentiful, but seating is comfortable. There is a good assortment of quality beverages and food that surpasses what is provided in domestic skyclubs.
The NRT skyclubs also have several showers. Sometimes I use a shower room just to have a private place to use the bathroom and to get away from the crowd.
Toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors will be provided on request.
I wouldn’t expect that a 747 would be the ideal plane for DL on the NRT-MN route. Nevertheless and gratefully, that is what DL does. So I had my second straight 747 upper deck flight.
My seat on this flight was 77K. This my favorite seat because it and 77A are the only seats that have a flat, wide shelf in front that adds even more space for putting newspapers and things.
The trip to MNL was scheduled for almost five hours but only takes about three and one half. There is only one meal service and DL does not provide an amenity kit.
As usual, the meal service started just after reaching cruise altitude. From the four choices offered, I selected the roasted chicken breast with tomato sauce, grilled polenta and mixed veggies. The salad and desert were served at the same time as the entrée.
After dinner, I used the audio-video on demand (AVOD) system to learn a little Tagalog, the most prevalent language used in the Philippines. DL is the only airline I’ve come across that has the Berlitz World Traveler system in the games section of AVOD. I always try to learn numbers, days of the week, months, and some basic vocabulary and sentences/questions. I write it down so I will remember later. It impresses people I come into contact with if an American can speak a few words in the native tongue.
Then it was time for some shut eye before landing.