This is the fourth and final part in a series about my February 2018 trip to Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. You can read my overview of the trip here.
Delta Flt. 538 Cancun to Atlanta (CUN-ATL)
B737, Economy Comfort
Sch. Dep. 4:25PM Sch. Arr. 7:04PM
Act. Dep. 4:16PM Act. Arr. 6:54PM
Delta Flt. 1169 Atlanta to Washington (ATL-DCA)
A320, Economy Comfort
Sch. Dep. 8:55PM Sch. Arr. 10:37PM
Act. Dep. 8:53PM Act. Dep. 10:24PM
Since I was leaving Cancun on a Monday, there weren’t any nonstops on Delta back to the DC area. (Though there’s a nonstop on United to Dulles and multiple on Southwest to BWI.) Originally, I was scheduled to route home via Detroit, but there was a schedule change that made that connection impossible. Technically, 50 minutes is an illegal international to domestic connection time on Delta, but Delta did not automatically rebook me. Unlike AA, they at least sent me an email notifying me of the schedule change. I could have just booked on a later MSP-DCA flight but decided the extra MQM (and potentially better chance at an upgrade) wasn’t worth it, and just took an option through Atlanta, which would have both a shorter travel time and allow for a later departure from Playa del Carmen.
As I headed to the airport, as a Gold Medallion member, I was #2 of 6 on the upgrade list for the CUN-ATL flight, with 2 seats available — which was better than expected, as the flight had been showing zeroed out before. I knew not to get my hopes up, though. On the ATL-DCA leg, on the other hand, I was #14 of 27, with 1 seat left, so definitely no upgrade there. There was even a long upgrade list for Economy Comfort though mine had cleared at the upgrade window.
I was at the airport by 1:30 – a full two hours before boarding. There was a decent line at the Delta bag drop, but with just a carry-on, I verified my passport at the kiosk and was on my way. Security was a breeze, and I was dumped into duty-free, followed by a chaotic hall of Bubba Gump, Margaritaville, and various last gasps at vacation via alcohol. Delta still flies out of Terminal 3 at Cancun, although Aeromexico, its joint venture partner, flies out of the brand-new Terminal 4. Though Terminal 4 is newer, there’s no lounge there yet, while there is a small, Priority Pass-participating lounge at Terminal 3: the Mera Business Lounge.
I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. The lounge certainly was very crowded and not a pinnacle of relaxation – one long room tucked in a corner, with no natural light. But it had clearly been recently renovated, with a variety of different wood elements and some fake plants in the wall. I was able to find a table with an outlet and parked myself. The food spread was solid, with a hot dish of Asian-style dishes (fried rice, noodles, “sweet and sour” chicken, and teriyaki chicken – only the last is good), some finger sandwiches, salad, chips and guac, and cookies. More than adequate for lunch! There was a full bar with an attendant making drinks, and staff was very proactive in cleaning, and offering drinks and other assistance.
As I sat at the lounge, I dropped from #2 to #3 on the upgrade list, and, sure enough, by the time I was heading to the gate, the two names in front of me cleared and I was left atop the upgrade list with a full business cabin. Oh, well. It’s a barely two-hour flight. I picked up a salad using remaining pesos at Wolfgang Puck, though I’d nosh more at the Sky Club on my layover.
We boarded by zone, totally by the book, at 2:40ish. Unlike my inbound flight, this was on a 737, fitted with Delta’s newest interior- personal in-flight entertainment screen, new blue and red seats, and in-seat power. Economy Comfort was more than comfortable enough for the short flight – especially since the middle seat stayed empty.
The flight took off on time, and the pre-loaded entertainment options were pretty thorough. Wi-fi and satellite TV didn’t kick in until the short overland portion of the trip. I was a bit surprised how slow the crew was to start service, though – with the cart rolling out about 30 minutes after take-off. As an Economy Comfort passenger, I had complimentary alcohol, so did a Woodford Reserve on the rocks, and appreciated my choice of snacks – almonds, snack mix, cookies, or Kind bars. The Atlanta-based crew was friendly and visible during the flight.
Things were a little weird once we were on the ground. There was a long taxi despite a very early arrival, and a cryptic announcement from pilot. Once we got to the gate, the captain said there was a fire at customs and immigration that had caused evacuation. I couldn’t find anything about it online, during the delay or afterwards. <shrug> Five minutes later, they let us out into the terminal, though there were still some flashing lights and alarms going on. Global Entry had no wait, but the security from international arrivals into the terminal had a looong wait, and no TSA Pre-Check. There was Sky Priority, though, which sped things up. People were just moving very slowly for some reason. Thankfully, I had plenty of time, and about twenty minutes after getting off the plane, I was on the train to the T-concourse, on the opposite end of the airport.
I headed into the Skyclub on the T-concourse, and man, are Skyclubs good- and boy do they put American’s pathetic Admirals Clubs to shame. What a relaxing, spacious place, with a range of seating—spotless and comfortable. And the food- though hardly insane – is substantial. In addition to the green salad, curried chicken salad, and orzo I had remembered from my last Skyclub visit, there was soup and mac and cheese with toppings, a fresh peanut butter station, hummus, cheese, fruit, popcorn, cookies, and brownies. Basically, the sad things American serves, with nicer, more substantial things on top.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in the lounge, since the flight was oversold and I wanted to be at the gate for a potential bump. It didn’t look likely, and twenty minutes before scheduled boarding, people at already started lining up at the electronic gates- my first time using them on Delta.
Boarding went smoothly and on time. The A320 had a brand spanking new interior, with power at every seat and an overhead panel that looked like a Wi-Fi router to me. Of course, a woman behind me started complaining about the lack of personal TVs immediately after boarding and that she’d need a Xanax. But it’s a pretty short flight and honestly, this is an example of a flight where the equipment perfectly matched the route – short flight that needs to ferry a large number of passengers.
In the air, it was uneventful, and I was back at my condo by 11pm- not bad given the hours I’d spent poolside earlier that day! Basically, as pleasant a trip as one could expect with a connection.
In less than 2 weeks, I’ll be heading off on my next journey, after three months in the US, and you should expect a lot of trip reports this summer, as I’m currently planned to fly 17 legs covering about 23,000 miles, with six transatlantic flights on five different carriers!