Savannah for $49.72 Roundtrip (Trip Report)

I’d like to start this trip report with a big, heartfelt thank you to the Delta pricing department. If not for you guys and your hilariously low accidental fare filing, I wouldn’t have been able to fly to Savannah for $49.72 roundtrip. Now to be fair, I actually needed to go to Charleston. That’s where the annual Conde Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist Summit was being held. But the fare wasn’t filed in Charleston, Savannah was only a 2 hour drive, and I got to hop on a 717. Huzzah!

Delta 717

I had to fly out of LAX if I wanted to get into Savannah at a decent hour, so I picked the 9am departure. This is on the 777 that comes in from Sydney. That’s nice in that you get good movies, but there is no wifi on this airplane. I figured on a Saturday, that wouldn’t be so bad.

I checked in on the app and had my Pre Check’d-boarding pass ready to go. I got to the airport an hour before departure and it was a madhouse. I really can’t wait for Delta to finish the new checkpoint work they’re doing there because the experience sucks now when the lines are long.

At the bottom of the escalator, someone greets you and lets you go up. At the top of the escalator, there’s another person helping people figure out where to go. Every few seconds, people coming to the top of the escalator would yell and shriek at people to get them to move out of the way. Once safely at the top, families were directed one way while everyone else was sent the other. After waiting in line for a few minutes there, we reached the third checker who sent Pre Check in one direction and everyone else in the other. Then I finally reached the fourth person who was the official ID checker. In the end, I made it to the other side about 15 minutes from when I started.

I leisurely walked toward the gate where boarding had just begun. I was in zone 2, so I waited until they called us before getting in line. They were already checking roller bags (on a 777?) and the process was going very slowly. So another gate agent pulled those of us who didn’t need to check bags out of the line so she could board us, saying something like “we have another international arrival coming 10 minutes after you leave, so we need to go on time.” I like that drive.

February 22, 2014
Delta 80 Lv Los Angeles 9a Arr Atlanta 403p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 57, Runway 25R, Depart 1m Late
Atlanta (ATL): Gate E28, Runway 9R, Arrive 10m Late
N709DN, Delta 777-232LR, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 47A, Coach
Flight Time 3h18m

Of course, I passed her only to find the jet bridge backed up to the top. Eventually I was on, and I shed a small tear as I passed the flat beds to go into coach.

View at LAX

My seat was on the left side with a nice view behind the wing. People boarded relatively quickly, and it looked like I was going to have an empty middle until a guy came on at the last minute. Apparently he was late because he was busy smoking 10 packs of cigarettes, because that’s exactly what he smelled like.

We pushed just a minute or so late. It was a strangely long taxi at LAX taking nearly 25 minutes. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if Delta had an entertainment system that started while on the ground. But alas, they don’t.

Once in the air, it took over an hour before we ever saw a flight attendant back in our section. In fact, we were approaching Albuquerque when I got some water and a turkey slider. The bread was great; the rest of it was ok. Though I did like the little chocolate goodie.

Turkey Slider

I sat and watched The Butler and then, with an hour left, turned on Bad Grandpa. (See the former, don’t bother with the latter. The best parts were in the preview.) The flight attendants came back later with another round of drinks and peanuts/pretzels/Biscoff. When we were over Huntsville, we started descending.

We landed and it looked like we’d be very early. But our gate was occupied so it wasn’t to be. We took quite a scenic tour of the Atlanta Airport that ended up having us park about 10 minutes late.

My Tour of Atlanta

I jumped off and decided to go over to the new International F gates since I hadn’t been there since they opened. Very nice gates, but I was surprised at how small it was. Here’s a nice shot of the main courtyard area.

Atlanta F Concourse

Then I got back on the train and went to B where I got a killer shoeshine and then boarded my flight.

February 22, 2014
Delta 1475 Lv Atlanta 529p Arr Savannah 633p
Atlanta (ATL): Gate B2, Runway 9L, Depart 2m Late
Savannah (SAV): Gate 13, Runway 10, Arrive 15m Early
N929AT, Delta 717-231, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 18A, Coach
Flight Time 34m

My 717 was born in Long Beach, of course, and began life as a TWA airplane. Then it made it through to American, over to AirTran, and joined Delta last month. The interior looked great, and there was power in each row along with a nifty wifi indicator next to the seatbelt and smoking signs, not that I needed it on such a short flight. The only issue was that someone was in my seat. (How you mistake 18A for 17B on your boarding pass, I have no idea. But I wanted my window seat and I got it.)

Delta Wifi Light

I forgot just how low the windows are; it has that CRJ feeling where you hunch over. But it felt much more spacious than a CRJ. We taxied out and shot off into the sky for our short flight. The 717 feels very sporty. It had good climb power, was quiet, and seemed to turn on a dime. Or maybe the pilots were just having fun.

We climbed to 23,000 feet in about 12 minutes. Then we sat there for a mere 6 minutes in a cloudy haze before beginning our descent. There was no service on this flight at all, making me wonder what the cutoff is. I know I’ve had a drink on Vegas-LA before, and that’s only 20 miles further.

We landed basically straight in at Savannah and I found a terminal that looked very similar to what they have in Wilmington. It’s a southern plantation-style place. I got in my rental car and headed north for a good couple of days.

Savannah Main Terminal Area

After an all-too-short visit to Charleston (my first) it was time to come back. But I realized I could try to catch an earlier flight and get home before the kids went to bed. Bonus. So the day before I tried to check in online and do same day confirmed. It didn’t work. Oh sure, there was one seat left in the right class of service, but it wouldn’t work. So I had to call reservations and ended up getting them to do it for me over the phone. It cost $50, or more than my entire original ticket. Weird that the website was so useless. Oh wait, it’s Delta.

The next day, I got to the airport an hour before the flight and went through security. The Pre Check line was long, and it took me 10+ minutes to get through in this tiny airport. Apparently the bag of rice (seriously) that the Charleston folks gave us as part of a goodie bag set off bells and whistles so they hand searched my bag. Then they let me through and I went to the gate.

Our airplane, another Long Beach-built bird, an MD-88 this time, arrived on time and we started boarding. It was slow-going.

February 25, 2014
Delta 1752 Lv Savannah 1p Arr Atlanta 207p
Savannah (SAV): Gate 11, Runway 28, Depart 14m Late
Atlanta (ATL): Gate A9, Runway 28, Arrive 31m Late
N938DL, Delta MD-88, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 17A, Coach
Flight Time 39m

I got onboard and a woman was in my seat. She looked at me and I smiled and said she was in my seat. She had a look of bewilderment, as if she had no idea that the “B” seat wasn’t in the window. But she eventually got up and then I took my spot. Then we waited.

A few minutes after scheduled departure time, the captain came on and told us there was an air traffic control delay and we couldn’t take off until 137p. I didn’t see anything on the FAA site and the weather was good, so I have no clue what that was all about. But we sat at the gate for about 15 minutes before pushing back and slowly winding our way to the departure runway.

The winds were kind and the runways both in Savannah and Atlanta were turned around so we operated to the west. We took off and got through some chop on the way up. It was 10 minutes up, 9 minutes at altitude, and 20 minutes down. We landed on the new far south runway at Atlanta but it was a quick taxi under partly cloudy skies.

Of course, our gate was occupied. The captain got on and told us that the airplane at our gate had the tug attached and was ready to go. But then we taxied by it and the jet bridge was still attached and there was no tug that I could see. We waited. And waited. And then we chocked in more than a half an hour late. It was a mad panic on the airplane as people raced to their connections.

Incredibly, my connection was just down the hall on the same A concourse. I went over and they were still boarding zone 1. Excellent. Now, just a note, Delta agents. If you’re going to board by zone, then do NOT call the next zone until the current one is done boarding. I was in zone 2 and went to the back of the line. Halfway up, they called zone 3 and those people simply cut in line in front of me. There was no control at all.

Also, when you ask people to volunteer to check their roller bags because you might have to start forcing bag-checking later, you will get nowhere. Nobody cares if there’s room in the overhead bin for the person behind them. If you want people to volunteer, you need to offer them something.

February 25, 2014
Delta 370 Lv Atlanta 315p Arr Los Angeles 521p
Atlanta (ATL): Gate A21, Runway 26L, Depart 2m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 68B, Runway 25L, Arrive 1m Late
N125DL, Delta 767-332, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 14G, Coach
Flight Time 4h38m

The end result was a lot of forced bag checking. Go figure. We still were ready to go nearly on time. As we pushed back, I took a look around and noticed just how old the airplane looked on the inside. Oh it was clean and the seats looked good (except for the nasty ethernet/USB port underneath), so maybe we should just call it retro. Those old bins up top with the old school signage onboard was definitely from another era.

Old School Bins

We were number 12 in line for departure, but soon enough we were heading west once again. The flight was uneventful. I watched TV and tried to do work (once I could get Gogo to function). I say “tried” because after departure, the person in front of me immediately went into full recline. The tray tables on the 767 don’t slide toward you so I couldn’t get much done at all. I did have a corned beef sandwich on a pretzel bun which was good. After a few hours, it was time to descend.

Descending into LAX

The later afternoon light and wispy clouds left me with an ethereal feeling. It was beautiful to watch as we glided in to the airport, parking at Terminal 6.

Overall, we were on time and there weren’t any big issues. But there were many small nagging issues including boarding chaos and lack of gates that made it more stressful than it should have been.

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