Seat 1A: My First Class Experience

In late July, I found myself planning a mini-vacation to New York. Having just received a job offer for a new position, I decided that I would take a week off between my last day at the business where I used to work and my first day at my current employer.

I poked around on the Internet, looking at train fares. Of course, my favorite mode of transportation will always be in the air, but I do enjoy the ride between Boston and New York. However, when the fares were incredibly high, I began to consider flying.

I found that flying BOS-JFK was somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 round trip. Despite having been to EWR and LGA, I’d never flown into JFK before,  so I figured this could be a fun opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. However, what really caught my eye was when I saw that first class upgrades were going for around $80. And while I had no interest in flying both ways with unmatched comfort and unbeatable service, I was eager to give it a try — and thus booked a ticket for DL1562, which was to be operated by a Boeing 717-200. I feel like I flew on a similar fuselage-mounted mainline aircraft at some point during my youth, but I have virtually 0 recollection of specific flights or aircraft before age 12, so I can’t confirm that. Nevertheless, I was excited to experience the 717 for the first time, and even more excited to be flying first class.

Seat 1A.

While I recognize that first class is very much tied to status, I’ve never really been caught up in the hype of flying first class — coach has usually been just fine for me. However, on this particular occasion, I was inclined to indulge, as I knew that an upgrade wouldn’t come much cheaper than the one that I had paid for. Then again, many people who fly first class aren’t paying for it out-of-pocket — they’re able to do so through their employers, air miles, or other methods. Regardless, I didn’t think that I was missing out on too much.

I arrived at Logan about two hours before boarding. Usually, I give myself around 90 minutes, depending on the time of day and day of the week, but this time I wanted to be sure I was there and through security with time to spare. As expected, I got through security pretty smoothly, and went one further step to dispelling my preconceived notion from growing up in Maine that Logan is a congested behemoth of an airport.

When the time came to board the plane, I got up as one of the passengers in the first boarding group (!) and walked down the jetway and took my seat in 1A. Almost immediately, I was offered a drink in a glass, which certainly felt fancy for 9 a.m. on a Sunday, although perhaps that’s just a representation of my lifestyle. I was joined by another passenger in 2A, and we quickly made conversation.

Waiting on the runway.

After the rest of the plane was boarded, we began our brief taxi to Runway 9. There was a long wait before engines spooled up to TOGA due to another arrival on Runway 4R I believe, but once we starting rolling we seemed to pick up speed quickly. Rotation was quick and uneventful — before I knew it, we were on our way to JFK.

Winthrop shortly after rotation.

The climbout was relatively uneventful — there was a layer of clouds around 9,000 feet, but once we were above those it was as sunny as could be. While I was mostly trying to take in the experience, I remarked to the passenger next to me that I was quite content with the service that was being provided, especially for a short flight, an assessment with which he agreed as we began to fly over Montauk at the very tip of Long Island.

We flew along the south shore of Long Island, descending over the Hamptons, before turning onto our final approach to Runway 22L. However, just as we crossed the threshold, the 717’s engines fired up to TOGA mode — I was officially experiencing my first go-around.

The captain apologized for the anomaly, saying that it had something to do with “spacing,” which I can totally understand at an airport like JFK. No worries, though, as we made a right turn, flew northwest for a bit, and then made a turn to the northeast to begin the infamous Canarsie approach to Runway 13L, where pilots are in a consistent right-hand bank until shortly before touchdown, as is standard protocol. While we were in such a consistent right turn for what seemed like a long time, the landing itself was uneventful, and we taxied to the gate without incident.

N921AT parked at JFK.

All in all, Delta’s first class was very good, certainly better than anything that I personally had experienced on a plane in terms of service and comfort . However — and I fully recognized that this would be the case going into it — I wasn’t on the flight for multiple hours, so it wasn’t like I actually realized the comparative benefit of being in first class versus coach in the same way I would have if I was traveling to, say, Amsterdam. Nevertheless, such an upgrade would have been significantly more pricey than this one was, and for that reason I will be content with flying economy (or maybe premium economy if I’m feeling fancy) for the foreseeable future. Regardless, it was a fun experience, and I’m glad I did it.