DC 4th of July Part 1: Flying Delta During the Travel Chaos

ATL early morning

It’s been a rough summer for airline travelers (and drivers dealing with high gas prices too). There have been staffing shortages at airports and airlines, causing long lines, flight cancellations and just general poor experiences for travelers.

We weren’t going to travel between May 31st when we returned from Portugal and September 1st when we drop off our younger daughter at college and head to Montreal to meet our older daughter for Labor Day weekend. That changed when our younger daughter accepted an internship on Capitol Hill for the summer. As we otherwise wouldn’t see her for three months, we decided to head to Washington, DC for the July 4th weekend.

In order to limit our chances of having a delayed or canceled flight experience, we booked early flights for July 1st (7:20am) and July 5th (9:10am). Summer thunderstorms often cause cascading delays as the day wears on, especially in southern states. When I priced out the flights, the economy tickets were over $500 and First Class was around $700. I decided to use my companion ticket from my Delta Reserve Business credit card as this allows me to book First Class when certain ticket classes are available which worked for this trip. I figured if we were booked in paid First Class, we would have a more enjoyable trip anyway and the price difference was less than the usual buy-up cost.

We left our house around 5am on July 1st and parked at Park and Ride at Atlanta airport around 5:45am. From there, it was 18 minutes to get to the Sky Club in Concourse T thanks to a quick shuttle bus, Clear and TSA Precheck. We had a light breakfast and coffee at the SkyClub, which was very crowded considering it was just past 6am. A lot of people were clearly heeding the well-worn advice to book early flights for the holiday weekend.

Busy before 6am

We boarded on time and pushed back about five minutes early. It was a smooth and uneventful flight, with a pre-departure beverage, drinks served in real glassware and a choice of snacks from the snack basket. There are no meals on these flights as they are under 900 miles, Delta’s threshold for First Class meal service.

Pre departure beverages
Mimosa in a real glass

We arrived at Reagan National early and quickly exited the airport where we grabbed an Uber to our hotel. It was an easy travel experience that differed from so many others struggling with lost luggage, canceled flights and delays this weekend.

Would our return be as easy? Yes and no. On July 4th, as we were preparing to watch fireworks from the Capitol steps, I checked on our flight for the next morning. It looked like storms in Atlanta would delay the incoming plane (that was scheduled to overnight at DCA for our flight back the next morning). Ultimately, the flight was delayed all the way until the next morning, which caused our flight back to Atlanta to be delayed over two hours. The good news for us was that we were informed about this the night before, so we did not rush to the airport at 7am as previously planned.

On the morning of the 5th, we took our time and went to DCA around 9:30am. We had some time in the nice, fairly uncrowded SkyClub before boarding our flight home around 11:30am.

DCA SkyClub with empty seats!

I was a bit concerned about some weather headed toward the DC area, but we took off around noon, just ahead of the approaching storms. We had a relatively smooth flight and landed in Atlanta about 1:30pm. We grabbed the shuttle back to the Park and Ride lot and we were home by 3pm, just ahead of the afternoon rush hour.

Despite the delay on the return, our flights went pretty well for a holiday weekend. I hope others that were traveling had similar luck.

Next up: A review of the Park Hyatt DC.

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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