If you have read my articles in the past, then you know I love out-of-the-way airports, airlines, and aircraft and…
Trip Report: Delta’s Final 777 Passenger Flight
As airlines begin to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta is continuing to finalize some of its fleet restructuring programs. On Oct. 31, it had its final passenger flight onboard the Boeing 777 aircraft. I was lucky enough to get a seat on this final farewell flight.
The day of the trip, I woke up and decided to arrive at the airport earlier side — three hours before takeoff — in the event the airline decided to do something special. Heading to the airport early did end up paying off as the inter-terminal AirTrain was down at John F. Kennedy International.
After figuring out where to go, I walked to Terminal 4 from where I was dropped off at the airport. I arrived at the terminal and went to the automated kiosk and received my boarding pass for this special flight.
On the boarding pass, it said “Terminal 2” with no gate number, so I went to the monitor next to the counter and didn’t find my flight on the board, which made me very worried that the flight had either happened already or that it was canceled.
I asked someone at the desk and got a surprising answer. They responded with, “That’s a codeshare flight. You’ll have to ask another airline.” I explained to them that it was indeed not a codeshare flight but the final flight of Delta’s 777, which was the reason for the odd flight number.
It took some legwork by multiple Delta agents and even a phone call to a superior, but they came to the conclusion that my flight was to depart out of Gate B38 in Terminal 4. So I was in the correct terminal after all. Rather entertainingly, as I began to walk away they asked me if I knew if there are any seats left on the flight, as they wanted to get on it. I told them that, unfortunately, I didn’t know.
All of the Delta agents didn’t even know about this flight — and it was the first time many of them heard that the Boeing 777 would be retired — which was indeed peculiar. I then headed to the security checkpoint adjacent to the check-in area and breezed through as I had TSA-PreCheck.
After security, I made the long walk to Gate B38. I stopped briefly to check the departure board and it looked as if my flight has been added since my interaction with the Delta agents at check-in.
Once I arrived I immediately noticed the lack of balloons, banners or anything showing that it was a special occasion. Thinking it might have been too early to set that stuff up, I took a seat at the gate.
Slowly, one-by-one, aviation enthusiasts began to show up at the gate with cameras and phones in hand ready to capture the momentous flight, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I became friends with along the journey.
I went up to the window to view the aircraft that would be taking us to Los Angeles.
My aircraft was a 12-year old Boeing 777-200LR with registration N701DN. The aircraft was delivered directly to Delta back in 2008 around the time of its merger with Northwest Airlines.
After a while, the gate agents showed up and everything began to look like any other Delta flight. The flight crew did, however, get together to take a group photo, and the pilots of the flight began taking pictures with many of the passengers.
As we got closer to the boarding time, the gate agent and one of the pilots of the flight did make an announcement that briefly explained that this was the aircraft’s last passenger flight. Other than those announcements, there was no other sign that this was the last flight of the aircraft type by looking at the boarding area.
Boarding began and aviation enthusiasts began to swarm the gate trying to be the first to get on to capture this moment of history. Some did manage to make it on during the pre-boarding process, but that was quickly stopped and everyone else had to wait for their respective row to board.
After making it through the gate door, you could see the aircraft out the windows while walking to the jetway. This area once again was crowded with aviation enthusiasts taking selfies and last minute shots of the nose of the aircraft.
After getting a last-minute look at the front of the plane, I once again faced another line entering the aircraft as people were asking the New York-based Delta employees to take pictures of each of them in front of the large door to the aircraft.
Everyone sat down after multiple announcements from the crew to ask people to stop walking around and taking pictures, as they need to depart on-time. Pushback went as normal and so did the safety demonstrations. It also struck me that this was the last time this safety video would include the Boeing 777 on it.
The taxi went as normal and we proceeded to runway 4L, and the Delta Boeing 777 departed JFK’s runways for the final time. Immediately after takeoff we turned almost 270-degrees to the right and pointed southwest.
This flight path — in addition to the slower than average climb rate — gave passengers on the right side of the aircraft a wonderful view of the airport and the skyscrapers in New York City.
After we made distance from the city we began a more average climb rate and made it to our cruising altitude of 38,000-feet just 16 minutes after departing from JFK Airport. After reaching our cruising altitude, the fasten seat belt sign was turned off, and immediately almost every aviation enthusiast on the flight stood up and began walking around the cabin taking pictures.
Not more than ten minutes later, an announcement was made for everyone to stop crowding in the galleys ad aisles as the snack service was about to begin. The snack looked like every Delta snack service in the COVID-19 era: a bottle of water, bag of cheese-its and Biscoff cookies.
However, they did include two things I haven’t seen yet on a Delta flight: headphones in a case that read “The Breast Cancer Research Foundation” — as the month of October was Breast Cancer Awareness month — and a trading card for the Boeing 777 that had information on the back about Delta’s fleet of the aircraft.
After the snack service, people once again stood up and began walking around. A little while later another announcement was made asking for everyone to sit down as they would be serving ice cream soon.
Everyone was given a quarter pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream.
Shortly after the ice cream service, we began climbing once again, this time to 40,000-feet, by which time we were flying over central Indiana.
The rest of the flight proceeded normally. No other special treats or items were given to the passengers. Every now and then an announcement was made about how this was the last Boeing 777 flight for the airline and it would be heading to retirement after landing.
At this point, most of the aviation enthusiasts had begun to do what we would do on any flight: watch television or movies on the aircraft inflight entertainment system or take a nap. I decided that I would probably not be around this many aviation geeks on a plane anytime soon, so I talked with some and had some pretty interesting and fun conversations with other about the different kind of flights they have been on.
The next three hours proceeded like that, talking with people around me and occasionally wandering back to the galley to see what was happening with the ten or so passengers that always seemed to hang out back there.
Then as we were approaching the middle of Arizona, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that passengers on the right would be able to view the Grand Canyon in a few minutes. I have never had a pilot point out a landmark mid-flight before, so that was a very interesting experience.
It’s amazing seeing the Grand Canyon from altitude and how it sprawls across the desert in so many different directions.
Shortly after this, flight attendants began to come around and collect anything we wanted to discard as we would be beginning our descent into the Los Angeles area soon. We were over the Mojave National Preserve in California when we started to descend.
As we got closer to the airport, the crew thanked us for being a part of the special journey and reminded us that we “need to leave all parts of the 777 on the 777”.
On final to the airport, the passengers on the right side of the aircraft could see downtown Los Angeles.
The landing was very smooth and we touched down on LAX’s northernmost runway, 24R, and proceeded to taxi to Terminal 2, more specifically gate 23A.
As we taxied to the gate, the flight crew once again thanked us for making it such a special flight for them.
After engine shutdown, most aviation enthusiasts, including myself, stayed on board to try and get some last-minute pictures of whatever we could. Some got pictures in the cockpit, others the crew rest area, and a few even had time for both.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the flight crew changed and we were forced to leave the aircraft. Unlike in New York, the gate we arrived into did have some items set up including a red carpet, balloons and a velvet rope.
The flight attendants from our flight wanted one last picture in front of the plane as it began to push back from the gate towards its retirement.
The plane pushed back, and even from inside the terminal, we could hear the start-up of the massive engines. The last eight or so aviation enthusiasts stayed to watch the aircraft depart for Victorville through the very dirty terminal windows, thereby marking the end of the Boeing 777 in the Delta family.
A video account of the day and the flight can be found below:
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