After arriving from Edmonton on Alaska Airlines first flight of the day into Seattle Tacoma International Airport, Sea-Tac for short, facing a lengthy layover before an onward flight to Hong Kong I opted to spend it in the relative luxury of the Delta Airlines Sky Club so purchased a $50 one day pass while checking in online. Once the domain of business class passengers and frequent flyer elites many airlines monetized their lounge access in recent years and for longer layovers like mine at 6 hours they can be an option worth considering as it offers a quiet oasis in busy airport terminals with a place to relax and spend some quiet hours reading, watching aircraft taxi in or out or catching a few winks in a comfy armchair.
With its free domestic beer, small snacks and some light bites I felt the price of admission was reasonable and left hours later to head to my gate to board my Airbus A330-200 for the expected 14 hour flight nonstop to Hong Kong.
Having purchased seat upgrades into Delta’s Economy Comfort seats I piled into 10A, a bulkhead seat directly behind the business class cabin offering a little more legroom which would come in handy on a 14 hour flight.
Based on other review I was curious to see how the inflight meal service was compared to other airlines offerings and have to say I thought DL outperformed other N.A. airlines I’ve flown TATL in recent years.
The menu, which are rarely if ever handed out in economy class, offered a good variety of entrée options and went with the penne pasta but apologies for the slightly out of focus smartphone picture as it seemed easier to wield seated with dinner service than my DSLR.
The pasta was uniformly cooked and not the simultaneous over and undercooked variety I’ve come to expect from economy meals with a nice tomato sauce that has some spice to it. A garden salad, bun, cracker and cheese with desert brownie all added up to a nice meal and for the first time in ages actually ate everything on the tray. Here’s the full flight menu as was handed out:
After the meal service was over the trays were collected fairly quickly and I settled in to watch a few Academy Award nominated films playing on the excellent in-flight entertainment units including Boyhood, Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel having no inkling how much more drama would take place shortly on our flight beyond the silver screen.
Somewhere around 4.5 hours into the flight a female pilot came on and made an announcement that roused everyone from their relaxation as the flight crew had opted for safety reasons to divert to Anchorage due to a faulty cabin oxygen pressurization valve. As we were already past the Aleutians as shown on the trip map the sudden change of flight plan meant back-tracking an hour to ANC to land and hopefully find a quick fix to the mechanical fault as many were anxious to meet friends & family or begin their Hong Kong holiday in time for Chinese New Year, myself included.
As we winged our way back to ANC the flight crew kept us updated about our status and we landed at dusk.
After about an hour onboard I was standing stretching in the empty business class cabin directly in front of my Economy Comfort seat talking with a few other passengers about the situation when Captain Suzanne came over and said our hopes for a quick repair and resuming the journey that night didn’t look good as the required parts weren’t available in Anchorage but would be flown up immediately from SEA. She was saying it was a safety issue as they couldn’t risk continuing the flight with this critical valve not working and I appreciated both her candor and the whole crew’s efforts to handle the unexpected detour. It was announced a few minutes later that overnight hotel and transfers had been arranged and that we would be taking off the next morning at 9:15 AM so everyone disembarked and trudged to the waiting transportation noting the warm welcome to what can be a cold climate although luckily for us a warm spell had arrived as unexpectedly as we had making the transition to the hotel much easier for those without winter wear like myself.
The Hilton Anchorage had rooms and a late evening buffet dinner waiting for us upon our arrival and despite being a little hungry opted to forgo the meal for some sleep and headed to the room just after 9 PM. The room was a fairly typical hotel chain accommodation with a decent view over the city center.
With buffet breakfast starting early at around 5 AM and busses back to the airport departing not long after the day was in full swing and was happy I’d gotten as caught up on my sleep as possible as it would prove a long day. The staff at the Hilton really helped make the forced overnight more bearable with a friendly attitude that I’d experienced before when visiting Alaska.
While the Anchorage stop wasn’t long enough to really do anything I did spot some local wildlife in the form of a moose albeit a stuffed & mounted one in the airport concourse.
There are some majestic mountains that surround the city and are visible from the airport so snapped a few pictures before re-boarding the aircraft for what would be a 10.5 hour flight landing us in Hong Kong at 2 PM local time instead of 9:30 PM the night before.
Most of the passengers I talked to including quite a few fellow Canadians were accepting of the situation though there were the odd one who felt Delta should come up with far more compensation that the $100 voucher mentioned in one announcement and vowed to make their feeling quite clear in calls or emails to the airline. I planned to focus instead on resuming my trip and worry about compensation later which I did upon my return home and was pleasantly surprised by the fast reply and offer of frequent flyer miles for the Anchorage diversion. The one prepaid Hong Kong hotel night lost when I couldn’t check-in was also refunded after returning home once the circumstances were explained.
In many years of flying this was my first such unexpected detour for which I count myself lucky. The Delta Airlines flight and cabin crew and customer service staff all impressed me with their handling of the situation from beginning to end and would certainly opt to fly again with the airline on another overseas adventure.
In the end while the 16 hours lost put a dent into my Hong Kong sightseeing plans it was not a trip beyond salvage and very much enjoyed my Chinese New Year visit to the territory, more of which I’ll cover in future posts.