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TPG Contributor Matt Zuzolo recently flew from Las Vegas (LAS) to New York (JFK) in economy on Delta’s 737-800 aircraft. Here’s his review of the experience. (All photos are by the author).
Las Vegas flights are among the most competitive routes in the skies, with every major carrier offering some degree of service to Sin City — in New York City, for instance, there are flights going back and forth nearly all hours of the day. Here’s what it’s like to fly in economy on Delta’s 737 from LAS to JFK.
After planning a last-minute trip with some friends, I was all set to book my flight. I had used a Southwest award ticket to fly from New York to Las Vegas, but for the return trip I opted to pay for my ticket on Delta, which I found easily on Google Flights.
A one-way award ticket would have cost me at least 12,500 Delta SkyMiles plus the standard $5.60 in taxes and fees. Because this was such a last-minute trip — I booked just a week or so beforehand — I didn’t have many options for award or revenue tickets and ultimately settled on a late-morning flight that cost me $208.10 total — one of the cheapest options for a weekend return trip that wasn’t an early-morning flight. That said, you can usually find cheaper rates by booking in advance, even on round-trip tickets.
I paid for the flight with my Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card directly with Delta and earned 3x Membership Rewards points for the purchase. I also earned 2,248 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) for this flight. On Delta, the number of MQMs earned is based on distance flown and fare class — I was booked into “U” class so I earned at a rate of 100%.
Airport and Check-In
Because I was in town for just a few days, I opted to avoid the airport check-in process altogether. I checked in for my flight via Delta’s mobile app and traveled with a carry-on rather than a checked bag. If you lack Delta elite status or a Delta-branded credit card, such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, you’ll have to pay $25 to check a bag in coach — a second bag will run you $35 more.
I walked past the check-in area on my way to security and noticed the line was quite short, although this was around 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. Nonetheless, make sure you allow some extra time in case the check-in line is crowded when you get there.
Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS) is a bit different than many other airports. Some gate areas, including my own departure gate, are actually located outside the main terminal building from which you enter — you can catch a post-security tram to these areas every few minutes. I took advantage of TSA PreCheck, so I was through security very quickly, but again, make sure to allow for extra time if you’ll be going through the standard TSA security line as it can be quite lengthy during peak periods.
Las Vegas never ceases to entertain, even at the airport. If you aren’t sick of gambling and feel you haven’t won (or lost) enough money on your trip, there are slot machines littered throughout the terminals. If you’re lucky enough to win, be sure to cash out at the airport as you won’t be able to do so later.
In addition to more gambling opportunities, there are plenty of bars and restaurants around if you happen to be early for your flight or are killing time during a connection — at least that was the case in the “D” gate area where I was. Las Vegas is also home to a fantastic Centurion Lounge, which you can access for free with the The Platinum Card from American Express.
The boarding process itself was quite hectic, mostly because of the passengers, as there was plenty of pushing and shoving so we’d board the plane as quickly as possible. After a fairly long boarding process, I finally got on the plane and took my seat.
Cabin and Seat
Delta’s 737-800 is pretty standard with six seats abreast in a 3-3 configuration in economy. There’s also a premium cabin with four rows of first-class seats in a 2-2 layout and three rows of Delta Comfort+ seats, also in a 3-3 layout.
An upgrade to a Delta Comfort+ seat would’ve cost about $90 for my one-way flight, so I opted to stay where I was. I chose seat 25D, the last aisle seat available when I booked. The seat itself was surprisingly spacious, especially compared to the last long economy flight I had on United Airlines, which felt quite cramped.
SeatGuru lists these Delta seats at 31-32 inches of pitch, and at 6’0″ I had no issues for the duration of the flight. Each guest had a personal in-flight entertainment screen located in the seat-back in front of you — this plane was a little on the older side, and it showed in the screens. Mine didn’t work very well (it was a touch screen that barely worked), but I seldom use the provided entertainment anyway, so I didn’t mind too much.
My flight also featured Gogo In-flight Wi-Fi, available for purchase from $2 for an hour single-use pass to $16 for a 24-hour pass. T-Mobile customers can also take advantage of free in-flight texting. As expected, the service was unreliable, with it going and in and out throughout the flight. Generally though, I was able to be productive during this time.
Most of the movies and TV shows required payment of $6 and $1 respectively, although there was a complimentary in-flight movie offered as well. You can also access Delta Studios, the in-flight entertainment program, from your personal devices.
Food and Beverage
The food and beverage service was definitely one of the low points of this flight. Despite a smooth ride, it took about an hour to finally get a drink and I was so hungry by then, I also ordered extra food. There were no menus available so I’m not sure what the food options really were. By the time the flight attendant reached me, I had only a couple choices — a sandwich bag consisting of roast beef sliders with Sun Chips and a cookie, or a box with fruit and cheese.
The food was as you’d expect, just typical airplane food. Unless you’re super hungry, I’d say you’re better off skipping it altogether or just bringing your own food with you on the plane. The entire meal, which was quite small, cost me $10.
Toward the end of the journey, the flight attendants came back through the cabin with a second beverage service, although they’d already run out of some snacks earlier in the flight.
I have to say this was a decent flight. The other options for a one-way return trip were much more expensive, so I was happy to fly Delta since it was a good deal for a last-minute ticket. I had plenty of room in my aisle seat and was ready to relax for this lengthy trip home.
I think most passengers would be fine in economy on this aircraft unless you really struggle to fit in standard coach-sized seats. I honestly didn’t expect much from this flight, so overall I’m satisfied with the experience, although better food service would definitely have been appreciated.
Have you ever flown from Las Vegas to New York (or vice versa) on Delta? Tell us about it, below.
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