Advice on flying Delta (LAX-ATL)

Next week I’m flying from LAX to ATL, so I’m on Delta (hard to fool the corporate travel app into my preferred airline on this particular route)

I have status on another major carrier, but nothing on Delta.

In this case, all this means is that I don’t need a tutorial on how to find my way around an airport, or how to avoid long security lines (I’m Trusted Traveler), or what to pack, how to pack, and where to relax (my amex gets me into the Delta lounge).
That said:

[li]I’m wondering about boarding practices?[/li]
[li]Whether the Comfort seats are worth the $127 cost?[/li]
[li]What to expect onboard that is different from other airlines (good or bad). [/li]
[li]Where are the best seats (outbound=A321, inbound=767)? [/li]
[li]Any idiosyncrasies at the Atlanta airport? Best security lines? How much time to allow from arriving at the airport to arriving at the gate?[/li][/ul]

Anything else that the seasoned Delta flyers on the board think is worthwhile to impart?

Use SeatGuru to find the best seats. For a cross-country flight, I would definitely recommend the Delta Comfort upgrade if you can swing it. Boarding procedure is typical for legacy carriers; first class and status passengers will go first.

ATL is very efficient for transfers. Six terminals all in a line; take the tram on the lower level to change terminals. All terminals are behind a single checkpoint and Pre-Check is available
(make sure to look for the Pre-Check lines.) Commuter flights are usually out of the “T” terminal where you check in. Otherwise you’ll take the tram to terminals A-E after you check in.

If you are flying out of ATL on your return, you will need to be at the airport at least 2 hours and maybe more before your departure time. This is the busiest airport in the US. Even the TSA pre check line is horrendously long. If you have Clear definitely look for that line at ATL. If you don’t have it, you may want to consider getting it. I know they have it at LAX. It costs about $15 / month. Essentially if you use Clear identification, and you have TSA pre check, you will cut to the front of the TSA pre check line.

friedo nailed it, for the most part. The Delta Comfort seats offer a tad more legroom, but are no wider than cattle class. You get a better selection of snacks, for sure. Here is what The Points Guyhad to say:

If you read the article, note that the entertainment options he extolls are available in all seats, at least on the larger planes I’ve been on recently. Also, I don’t think the free alcohol is offered on domestic flights in Comfort seating.

ETA - Just found where alcohol is a Comfort+ feature on flights of 350 miles or more, so yours would qualify.

You’ll have more problems when you leave the Atlanta airport and try to get anywhere in the area than you will within the Atlanta airport. I would consider your arrival time into ATL based upon rush hour and your final destination in the city. What Waze tells you is a 45 minute drive, is 2-3 hours at the wrong time of day.

As for the airport itself, I travel to/from it and through it regularly and for its size it is a marvel in how (relatively) easy it is to get around. The tram moves a lot of people very quickly between terminals. I have TSA-Pre and although the lines are certainly longer than at my home airport (CMH), the ATL airport TSA knows how to handle large volumes of people and I have never had a long wait in the Pre line. Again though, I do actively manage my arrival and departure times in ATL to avoid peak rush hour and peak airline times as much as possible.

My home airport is not a hub for any major airline so it is hard for me to be consistent with one single airline to accrue status/points. I do have a lower status (Silver) on Delta as this year I have tried to actively fly them whenever I can. I honestly have found them to be better than my other options; American (worst), United (rarely fly unless doing a trip to Chicago), and Southwest (I used to hate them but now begrudgingly admit they are pretty good). For a longer flight, if you can do the Comfort+ I do suggest it just simply for earlier boarding and more legroom. Coach on Delta is pretty much coach on any airline now - very little leg room and God help you if you have to put something under your seat taking up precious little space for your feet. I did Comfort + on an international flight this year and it was as close to First Class as you can get without going full Business Class. On those flights, it was worth every penny. On a LAX to ATL (4-5 hours?) I would think it would be worth a most price increase.


Delta will give you matching status for 3 months, with the chance to extend. Here’s their page with details.

I live in Atlanta and this overstatings things greatly. I tend to be a 2 hour beforehand person (because I get easily nervous about being on time) and I tend to wait around at the gate for an hour because I flew through security. There are a LOT of security lines. It flows quickly.

I do LAX-ATL weekly and have for about two years.

At the Delta boarding gates at both LAX and ATL you line up behind pillars based on your boarding group (Premium, Sky Priority, 1, 2, 3, 4).

Onboard, if you go Comfort+ you get free booze, and a snack tray passed around twice on this flight. Outside of First Class there is food for purchase, nothing hot. I recall on United they have a hot option, and it’s free in coach if you have top status. That is not the case on Delta, even if you have top status, outside of First Class you still have to pay for food (the same old Turkey sandwich, a wrap sandwich, or a choice of snack boxes).

I find ATL to be really smooth. But depending on the time of day, even the TSA Pre-check line will be lengthy. If you are both Clear and TSA Pre you waltz right in to the front of the line. Getting to the underground train and to your terminal is fairly quick. You will likely be going in and out of “A”.

You say your AMEX gets you into the Sky Clubs. At LAX Delta is in 2 and 3. Each has their own Sky Club. The one at 2 is large and well appointed. The food options are decent. The club at 3 is small and not as well appointed. At ATL the club upstairs in the center of A is large and well appointed, with decent food options.

Now I’m nervous. Arrival isn’t a problem, my meeting is the next day. But we are scheduled to end at 5 and my flight back is at 8. Online, it didn’t look like a problem. For the record, I am an early arriver when I can. With lounge privileges just means I have a chance to decompress and snag some fresh fruit for onboard noshing.

Thanks for this! I’m going to see if I can claim this match before my flight. I need to come up with “proof of status” in two documents and I think I may have it in email, but can’t be sure. It looks like that doesn’t automatically open Comfort+ seats for me, but the priority boarding is a great perk.

I may have just become too seasoned, but I consider any flight under 4 hours as “short” and anything over 5 hours as “long”. My official flight times are about 4.5 hours, so it is in a gray area (chronological and psychological time on an airplane can differ greatly, and 4-5 hours can either feel like 2 hours or 12 hours)

I swear by SeatGuru! The first thing I do after my administrative assistant makes the reservation is pop open the airline site and SeatGuru and change my seats (our travel system won’t put a traveler in an exit aisle!)

Thanks- this entire post is helpful.

I don’t really drink on flights. I’m not a nervous traveler but can’t sleep an a plane (not even in lie flat seats) and I try to stay hydrated as much as possible. On my last flight, I “saved” a flight attendant from a falling drink cart and got two free bottles of rum slipped to me. I only drank one. Still have the other one in my liquor cabinet.

You probably should be nervous. Where in Atlanta are your meetings, what kind of transportation will you have back to the airport (public transport, rental, Uber, etc) and what day of the week will you be leaving? The airport is 11ish miles from the center of downtown, but that trip can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. Count on the longer side during afternoon rush hours (roughly 3:30 - 7:30) and even more on a Friday. Rental car return will add time to the schedule, as rental car lots are offsite and require a shuttle ride back to the terminals (AIUI, ATL is my home airport, so I don’t rent cars there).

People unfamiliar with the area don’t understand how massive Metro Atlanta is. You could be anywhere from on the airport property to 30+ miles away. My corporate “Atlanta” office is actually in Marietta, GA, 18 miles north of downtown and 29 miles from the airport - a considerable difference in travel times.

Also, depending on the time of day, getting from the main terminal (South Terminal for Delta, though South vs North means little in this case) to my gate has taken anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours - with no checked baggage and early check in via the Delta app. Both of these extremes were on a Sunday morning, the shorter was at about 6AM, the longer at about 8:30AM.

On the face of it you have a VERY tight, but not necessarily undoable departure schedule.

There’s always a fly in the buttermilk, isn’t there? From the submission page for the status matching:

"Please allow up to 3 weeks for your request to be reviewed. "

So, it almost seems not worth it, given that the last time I flew Delta was in 2014, and I’m unlikely to fly to Atlanta again in the next few months.

From the submission page it looks like they want me to scan two documents showing my status (which means digging through my old mail and hoping I saved the annual letter). If it was a day or two to get the status, it would be worth it, Now…

I’ll be at Georgia Tech and I’m flying back at the worst possible time- Friday evening. I will have a rental car, unless I decide to Uber it.

The good news is I checked out the route on Google for different departure times and the longest time I saw was 50 minutes (light traffic times were 20-30 minutes). So maybe I’ll book out of the meeting a little early (4:30) and not worry.

I can’t help but take a little potshot at this. If you note my airport of origin, you’ll understand I’m coming from the very definition of “massive metro area”. Wikipedia gives the area of the greater Atlanta metro area (the Census Statistical Area) as about 10,500 square miles, smaller only than the Greater Washington and Greater Miami metro areas. Pretty impressive.

Then there is LA. The greater LA metro area (CSA) is 33,900 square miles. It runs from Ventura south to Camp Pendleton (the only thing stopping LA from engulfing San Diego) and east to San Bernardino and Riverside counties. 2-3 hour commutes for people working and living within this area do occur. There are no light traffic days or times. People unprepared for the area do arrive at LAX and get a big shock at the remaining time to their destination.

Yay! We’re number one?

I think you can log into your other airline program and get what you need. You can just go to your status page and print something out.

When is your trip? If you’ve still got several days, I would call into Delta and see if there’s a way to get this reviewed quicker. Otherwise, you’re right. Save it for next time.

Depends on the metric used, I was thinking more MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). The MSA for the Atlanta area is 8376 sq. miles, while LA is 4850. Suffice to say it can take quite a while to get to the airport in either place! :wink:

The good news is that GT is pretty much in the middle of downtown, so you are right at 11 miles from the airport and very close to the expressway. Still best to wrap up at 4:30 if you can, for sure. With no traffic the drive is about 20 minutes, but Friday rush doubles it at least. Add an accident (or several) on I75/85 south and you can easily be talking an hour. Between walking to you car, the commute, returning the rental, shuttling back to the airport and getting through security there is still plenty to be concerned about.

As a counterpoint, when I am in Rapid City, SD on business I leave my office about 1 hour before my flight boards, max. The drive takes 20 minutes, security usually less than 5 and the walk to the gate another 5.

I’ve been flying EWR (a United hub) to ATL lately. So by New York City airport standards, ATL and not flying United feels very luxurious to me. ATL is busy, but it’s also a huge airport and feels like it was designed to handle that sort of traffic. Compared to say, LGA or JFK which just feels like a Third World airport during a military coup.

You should be fine. What should be more of a concern for you is the drive to the airport, depending on where you will be coming from, as Atlanta is known for horrible traffic. I usually leave my client around 3:30 to catch a 6:30 flight. So far that has provided me about an hour of drive time in typical traffic and gets me through security with enough time to grab a sit down dinner before boarding.

ATL is th very nexus and center of all things Delta. It is hard to fool any travel app into using any other airline between LAX and ATL.