Over the last few years I’ve been staying predominantly at Starwood and Marriott properties, so my feelings with their merger was in line with that of many business travelers: a great deal of concern. Though many of my concerns were addressed with various PR releases both before and after the merger, I was a bit perplexed when the rewards program changed from “Marriott Rewards” to “Marriott Bonvoy”. At any rate – this post isn’t about the rewards program (which really hasn’t changed other than in name), but a fun package that I received over the weekend!
Thanks, Marriott! That was a really nice surprise to receive, and the pens are really nice!
The Bombardier CSeries 100 (now known as the Airbus A220) is a truly impressive piece of engineering from both an AvGeek perspective as well as from that of passenger comfort. With roughly a 3,400 statute mile range (depending on load, model, and speed), the A220 has the ability to cover the CONUS easily, and even flights to Canada, Latin America, and northern South America.
With a pair of geared turbofan engines, a lighter body, and integrated wingtips, there are considerable projected savings from both fuel and maintenance perspectives.
Lucky, at One Mile at a Time, managed to score some interior shots of Delta’s first A220, and the cabin looks roomy. How often do you get to say that about a narrow-body aircraft?
Per Delta’s news release, the main cabin will feature the widest seats of Delta’s fleet, measuring at 18.6 inches. Furthermore, each seat will have seat-back entertainment (while American is removing theirs) and USB charging, and GoGo’s 2Ku WiFi. Add to all this full-sized overhead bins and a lavatory you can fit in, and it should make for an amazing passenger experience.
Though Delta hasn’t updated their fleet page to include a seat-map for the A220, SeatGuru has released a preview.
Taking a look at the routes, it’s clear that Delta is taking the fight directly to competitors by offering flights between their hubs (SLC, DTW, MSP) and IAH and DFW.
Compared to the trulydepressingimpression that American’s 737-MAX has left on the masses, having a markedly more comfortable ride available should turn some heads. I can’t wait to see this plane replace regional jets in the future. Delta made a brilliant decision in being the first US carrier to fly this beauty!
Earlier this year I used one of my 2017 Upgrade Certificates to experience Delta One when flying from LAX to ATL, more recently, I was able to secure a similar upgrade from ATL to LAX. Unlike the Boeing 767 I experienced before, I had a chance to fly one of Delta’s longer-range Boeing 777s. In fact, with a little poking around, I was able to find out that the Boeing 777-200LR that took me from Atlanta to Los Angeles (DL546) was continuing on from Los Angeles to Sydney (DL41).
The Boeing 777-200LR (noted as “77B” on Delta’s website) has two Delta One cabins. The main Delta One cabin consists of 7 rows arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with the second cabin consisting of 3 rows in the same configuration.
As with the B764 I flew earlier this year from LAX to ATL, the B772 also had individual air-vents over the seats. Though they are not easily accessible due to the height of the cabin (such a first world problem!), they have impressive air flow and do a good job of maintaining comfort for the passengers.
The seats on this flight were among the more comfortable that I have experienced of Delta’s lie-flat offerings. Not only was the massage function present and functional, there was much more privacy than what I had on the B764.
I can’t speak highly enough of the Delta One experience on the triple-7. It offers a considerably more comfortable ride than the 767. As I was flying alone, the privacy of the herringbone configuration of the cabin was greatly appreciated. If you are flying with someone, I would suggest you fly the Airbus A330, instead, as the reverse-herringbone allows you to maintain a conversation if you sit in the middle section of the cabin.
Thanks to work, I have had the opportunity to bounce between cities fairly regularly, and I was able to stay at two quite nice Sheraton properties: one in the Toronto area, and another in the Los Angeles area.
Sheraton Parkway Toronto North
Located directly off of Highway 7, the Sheraton Parkway offers excellent dining options in a short ( < 1km ) walk. This includes local treats, like Cacao 70, as well as more well known chains such as The Keg and Jack Astor’s. To accommodate the convention center attached to the hotel, there is ample complimentary parking.
As I had the opportunity to visit this hotel a few times, I was able to experience a few different rooms. Overall these rooms are exactly what you would expect from a Sheraton. The suites on the 10th floor are extremely spacious, much as what you would expect from a hotel of this calibre.
As a full Sheraton property, this location offers a Club Lounge. In addition to a fitness center, there is also a spa in the lower level of the hotel. On the ground floor is a Starbucks and the restaurant and bar.
The fitness center is fairly compact, compared to other locations, but offers free weights and cardio options. I haven’t visited the spa, however, as most hotel spas are horribly overpriced for what they offer. No thanks!
The Club Lounge is on the 9th floor and offers breakfast to qualifying guests, as well as hors d’oeuvres in the evening. It remains open around the clock for guests that might want to grab a soda or coffee on their own schedule.
Sheraton San Gabriel
Though it shows up in a search for Los Angeles area hotels, the Sheraton San Gabriel is about a 35 minute drive from the rental car lots. As with the Sheraton Parkway in Toronto, there is a spa at this location as well. The parking available is underground and not complimentary, so be prepared to pay a little bit extra.
A very nice touch with this hotel is that the lights are motion sensitive. As you enter the bathroom, for example, the lights will turn on for you. Though it might be disorienting the first time, you quickly get accustomed to this and begin to expect it wherever you go.
All the outlets near both the bed and desk offer both standard plugs as well as USB outlets! I haven’t tried charging a tablet on these USB plugs, but they handled my S8 without issue.
The TVs here are also smart TVs, offering options to directly access your Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming service accounts without having to travel with your own streaming device. It is also tied into room service and allows you to check your bill, order food, and even check out of your room.
On the ground floor, you can find the hotel’s two restaurants: Opal and EST. Opal offers traditional Cantonese cuisine, while EST is a very high quality steakhouse.
There is also a very good chance that you will see one of the luggage robots – something I haven’t seen at any other hotel. Upon check-in, you have the option of requesting use of one of these. The front desk will put your bags in the robot and program it to your room. It, in turn, will follow a per-programmed path (utilizing the elevators, no less) to your room. Once it arrives, you receive a phone call with a code which you can use to unlock the secure compartment with your luggage, and then the robot returns to the front desk. Handy!
Located on the top floor of the hotel is open for breakfast and hoeur d’oeuvres, as with the Parkway location. Unlike the Canadian counterpart, the breakfast offerings remained constant across the days: congee, various pastries, breakfast potatoes, pork sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Though adequate (and a filling breakfast), some variety would be nice.
The fitness center on the second floor was truly impressive. In addition to a variety of cardio equipment (plenty of treadmills, bikes, and elliptical machines), there are two benches, multiple yoga mats and balance balls, and a cable cross machine.
These cardio machines are newer and offer dynamic programs allowing you to do things like run through the Irish countryside. Much more entertaining than staring at numbers change!
I was recently contacted by Amber from CreditDonkey regarding my post a few years ago regarding the mobile app OnTheFly and the ITA Matrix which it interfaces with. Amber reminded me that with both Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, it might be helpful to remind folks about these handy tools to navigate the complex task of finding cheap flights.
CreditDonkey recently posted a very friendly refresher article on using the ITA Matrix website to find the flight you want. The article goes on to explain how to use flags to designate a carrier, allow or disallow long layovers, even the airport changes (for cities like New York where there are multiple airports in relatively close proximity).
To give you an idea of just how powerful this application is, Google went out of their way to purchase it and use it as the underlying engine for their Google Flights website. Though Google Flights is much faster, and in many cases allows for direct booking of flights, there are certain features that are only available in the original application. The good news is that you can still access the ITA Matrix to get exactly what you want out of your travel.
Amber also pointed out that while you can’t book the flight you find from the ITA Matrix website, you can leverage tools like OTAs (Priceline, Kayak, Flight Network, and so on), or use BookWithMatrix. BookWithMatrix offers not only a website, but a handy browser add-on (I have used it with both Firefox and Chrome).
What’s your preferred search option to find the flights you want at the prices you want?