Predeparture: We arrived at Tulsa International Airport (TUL) at around 10:30AM for our 12:25PM flight. That is more than enough time to navigate through Tulsa’s terminal and to allow for any potential delays or rerouting. Once we were out of the car and had said our goodbyes, it was inside to the Delta Ticket Counter to retrieve boarding passes. As of around 2005-2006, Delta’s TUL station is contracted to their regional affiliate ASA, but some of the employees who were previously employed with Delta stayed in Tulsa and transitioned to ASA. As we approached the kiosks, we were met by one of these employees who greeted us and asked our destination. When I replied, “Manaus,” she looked puzzled and asked, “where?” so I said, “Manaus, Brazil.” She informed us that because Brazil requires a visa, the kiosk would not work and she performed our check-in the “old-fashioned” way. After she had our passport and visa information recorded, she printed boarding passes and we were on our way. As is typical, Tulsa’s TSA checkpoint is a breeze and we were through in 3 minutes. It only took that long because we went through the lanes that utilize the new full body scanning machines that have received some criticism from privacy groups. After we went through, I was asked to remove my wallet (never do in metal detectors) and an eye mask & contact lens case that I didn’t even know I had! On our way to the gate, I checked the departure screens and saw the coveted words “on time” so I knew we would begin our journey on a good note.

Segment 1:
Date: April 23rd, 2009
Flight Number: DL5252
Origin: Tulsa International Airport (TUL)
Destination: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
Departure Time: 12:25PM
Arrival Time: 3:15PM
Carrier: Atlantic Southeast Airlines (EV) operating as Delta Connection
Aircraft: CRJ-200
Tail Number: N833AS
Seats: 8A/B

Boarding: The flight was called to board at around 12:05PM which is pretty typical for Delta’s flights at TUL, but everyone was on-board with valet bags checked quickly. Once the paperwork was complete, the door was closed at 12:25PM and we were on our way. Takeoffs were to the south and we lined up on 18L for an on-time departure.

In Flight: The flight was very uneventful. We received the typical biscoff/cracker/peanut basket and our choice of beverages. Once in flight the captain informed us that our flying time would be 1 hour, 34 minutes. Because of our approach path, it was clear we would be landing to the west. When we touched down, I could see we had arrived on Atlanta’s newest runway, 28, which unfortunately yielded a significant taxi time into our arrival gate.

Arrival: When we finally reached the gate, we were brought in and the seatbelt signed was turned off, however, we did not begin to deplane. This is sometimes typical in Delta’s C Concourse, but this took an unusually long time. Finally, the captain announced that we would all need to be seated because the ramp agent had parked the aircraft too far away from the jetbridge and we would need to be towed in further. After this further delay, we were finally able to deplane and get into the terminal approximately 30 minutes late.

Layover: We had approximately 1.5 hours in Atlanta, so we headed directly to Delta’s E Concourse Sky Club to make a few last minute phone calls and check e-mail. The E Concourse is a very interesting place to visit in the airport because at any hour of the day, it is filled with people from all parts of the world. I always enjoy just walking through, watching and listening to the many different languages and cultures being displayed. Once we arrived at the lounge, we quickly enjoyed some fruit and took care of everything that we needed to do and headed out to the gate.

Segment 2:
Date: April 23rd, 2009
Flight Number: DL557
Origin: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
Destination: Eduardo Gomes International Airport, Manaus, AM, Brazil (MAO)
Departure Time: 5:10PM
Arrival Time: 11:30PM
Carrier: Delta Air Lines (DL)
Aircraft: 737-700
Tail Number: N303DQ
Seats: 3A/B

Boarding: The flight was called to board at around 4:25PM and there was essentially a single boarding announcement of “all aboard.” Once on board, it was very clear why they boarded this way: there were only around 30-40 people on the flight! This flight was made possible by recent negotiations with Brazil to allow for more flights to be operated into their country. Because these rights or “slots” are restricted, they are awarded to carriers based upon a competitive selection proceeding conducted by the DOT. In this proceeding, carriers submit bids that layout their plan to use these slots and the DOT selects the carrier(s) that they feel will use the slots to the greatest benefit to the public. In the 2008 proceeding, Delta won rights to serve the Atlanta-Manaus-Manaus route and the Atlanta-Recife-Fortaleza-Atlanta route. As a result, they only recently began serving these destinations and so it can be expected that the loads would be low, but I had not imaged them to be that low! Of particular interest: there were 4 people in the business class cabin, myself and my wife (on award tickets), an off duty flight attendant (nonrev), and a silver medallion who upgraded from a T-class ticket (Delta’s lowest/cheapest booking class). If this is a typical load for this flight, it does not bode well for the flight’s future. We were offered orange juice / champagne / mimosas during boarding and the door was closed quickly. We proceeded with all of the formalities and pushed back at 5:05PM for an on-time departure. We lined up for takeoff on runway 27R and were off to Brazil!

In Flight: This flight would include a meal service in all cabins and shortly after takeoff the flight attendant was in the cabin taking orders. There were no printed menus on this flight and the descriptions of dinner were “beef with shrimp” or “chicken.” I opted for the beef and my wife for the chicken and we were both happy enough with the food. We occupied the 6 Hour, 27 Minute flight primarily with the Delta-on-Demand personal TV Systems. I was pleased to discover that the system worked almost flawlessly which had not been my experience in the past. After taking in Valkerie and The Changeling, we were around 45 minutes from arrival, so we finished filling out the paperwork and discussed our plans. We landed to the east on Runway 10 and were to the gate within minutes.

Arrival: We were the first passengers off the plane and were the first in line at the immigration booth, however, the immigration officers had not arrived. Everyone on the plane stood in line until they finally arrived and began processing people through. By the time we were through, all of the luggage had been delivered to the carousel and we were on our way. When we were through the exit, we saw our driver holding a sign with our names. He greeted us and we went to an ATM to get some local currency. As I was trying to use the ATM, my wife realized her phone was missing and so we went back to the Delta counter and asked them to check for it. They called in our request, but after a few minutes of waiting they said that they could not find it. We knew if had to be on the plane, but it must have gotten shoved down into the seat or either someone wanted a new phone. In any event, the phone was gone and we were on our way to the hotel.