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Best of Airways — Delta Air Lines Business Class: Atlanta (ATL) to St. Maarten (SXM)

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Best of Airways — Delta Air Lines Business Class: Atlanta (ATL) to St. Maarten (SXM)

TREVOR OGLE

Best of Airways — Delta Air Lines Business Class: Atlanta (ATL) to St. Maarten (SXM)
July 31
14:00 2017

By William Evans • Airways Magazine, June 2014


A nice sunny day welcomed me to the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, still ranked by ICAO as the World’s Busiest Airport in terms of passengers. As I would be flying an International routing, I would normally utilize the new International Airport Departure Terminal. However, since I have the TSA PreCheck ability and only a carry-on bag with me, I decided to depart from the Domestic Terminal and use the fast-track security.

My flight was scheduled to depart from Concourse F, which really is a showcase for the airport and looks like something one would find in many other international locales, with various local and international food, beverage and retail shops.

As a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion member and a cardholder of the Delta Reserve American Express, I am able to use the Delta SkyClub at any location. The year-old club located on Concourse F is a fantastic space capable of rivaling any other club within the United States. It’s recently opened outdoor patio is available for passengers, giving the opportunity to look out at the Tarmac and take a nice [engine thrust] breath.

Delta now offers an “expanded” menu on a trial basis at several clubs around the US. For breakfast, they serve fresh fruit, cinnamon buns, hot pancakes, oatmeal, and a few other snack items. Menu selection for other times of the day includes soups, salads, and sandwiches, which add up to a far superior offering than I’ve ever witnessed.

In the back of this particular SkyClub, Delta has private shower facilities – a bonus for travelers after long flights or connections. All Delta lounges provide its guests with complimentary wireless Internet access.

After about 30 minutes of completing some work on my personal computer, I quickly walked down to gate F1. Even though the flight appeared to be rather full, the friendly gate agents began the boarding process 45 minutes prior to departure.

Upon boarding, I was assigned seat 2A. Delta’s Boeing 737-732 are equipped with only 12 First Class (sold as Business Class) seats. The three Senior Atlanta-based Flight Attendants (FA) were very welcoming during all stages of the flight. Their evident passion for flying could be felt as they wore the Delta uniform with pride and style. On offer, while boarding were water, orange juice or Mimosas. In spite of the early morning hour, I could not turn down the latter.

Departure time was scheduled at 10:30, though we pushed back from the gate 11 minutes behind schedule. Thanks to our proximity to the assigned departing runway, we were airborne only seven minutes after we left the gate.

PHOTO: AUTHOR.

PHOTO: AUTHOR.

According to the announcement made by the Captain, flying time to St. Maarten would be 3 hours 9 minutes, arriving almost 30 minutes early. The entire flight would be flown in mostly sunny skies with little or no turbulence.

All of Delta’s Boeing 737-732 is equipped with AVOD and GoGo’s in-flight WiFi system. As I have a monthly subscription, I decided to get more work completed before losing the Internet signal that is constrained to US airspace. In fact, I made it almost to the Bahamas before losing connection.

Delta’s Boeing 737-732(WL) N301DQ departing out of Atlanta-Hartsfield. PHOTO: CHRIS WEYER

The in-flight service started with the usual drink offerings followed by lunch. The choice was composed of two main courses (entrées): a Grilled Chicken served over Rice and Steamed Vegetables, or Cheese Ravioli Pasta with a Tomato Sauce. As I normally go vegetarian I decided on the latter. The dish actually was a quite savory offering cooked to perfection. While I did not have the Grilled Chicken, the passenger sitting next confirmed it was a great choice, tender with moist vegetables bursting with taste. Both dishes were served with a Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, a Fresh Bread Roll, Butter and a Dancing Deer Maple Oatmeal Cookie for dessert.

In-flight meal: Cheese Ravioli Pasta with Tomato Sauce. PHOTO: AUTHOR

In-flight meal: Cheese Ravioli Pasta with Tomato Sauce. PHOTO: AUTHOR

The flight passed quickly with the cabin crew constantly offering beverage refills and snacks, such as their famous Biscoff cookies, peanuts, pretzels and candy bars.

It is always an exciting experience to approach St. Maarten, hovering above the crystal clear water and passing over world-famous Maho Beach. Thankfully, I had the perfect seat to spot all the excited sunbathers, barely a few feet below, seconds before touching down on the airport’s only runway on an ahead-of-schedule arrival to this beautiful island.

Thanks to the strong tailwind, we arrived 35 minutes early and were fortunate to dock at Gate A4 – one of the four gates equipped with jet bridges.

After our 737 set its parking brakes, I thanked the crew for the fantastic service and breezed through Immigration. With no luggage to claim, I was into a taxi in only five minutes after docking at the gate. Fantastic timing.

As this was a business trip, I booked my stay at the Westin Dawn Beach Hotel, located on the Dutch side of the island – a relaxed 30-minute car ride away adorned with spectacular Caribbean scenery on all sides.

As a Starwood/Delta Crossover Rewards Member, I was immediately checked in and upgraded to an Oceanfront Room on the ground floor. The Westin is very secluded and its beaches are pristine; it is a quiet oasis.

One of the best things about this hotel is the fact that, as a guest, you do not have to wake up early in the morning to secure a lounge chair at the pool or the beach.

Everyone I encountered at the hotel was very upbeat and friendly, something not always found on other islands. I was constantly greeted by name by staff and management and always asked if I was comfortable.

The rooms are all very large. The King Oceanfront was a sizeable en suite with a nice balcony. Internet access was also complimentary.

As far as dining is concerned, the Ocean Restaurant offers an ocean-view setting with fresh seafood and international cuisine. For a more upscale dining experience, the Aura Restaurant offers a true Steakhouse open only in the evenings. Lastly, the Infinity pool has a convenient swim-up bar, which serves lunch and drinks.

A small non-smoking Casino is also part of the hotel’s repertoire, although I did not see anyone present during my brief two-day stay.

A final recommendation in terms of ground transportation is the TwinLink Taxi Service. The two identical twin sisters, Jody and Josine were absolutely brilliant and offered a superior and affordable service. A one-way ride from the airport to the hotel was $30 USD without gratuity. Depending on the day of the week, as well as the time of the day, ride times may vary. For example on Wednesdays there are currently 6 cruise ships that dock for the entire day, adding thousands of visitors to the island thus making traffic very heavy. This particular taxi service company offers tours of the island, something I’ll have to do on my next trip to St. Maarten.

The world famous Maho Beach offers sunbathers and aviation enthusiasts a unique and thrilling experience. PHOTO: MICHAIL GORICHEV

The world famous Maho Beach offers sunbathers and aviation enthusiasts a unique and thrilling experience. PHOTO: MICHAIL GORICHEV

Both Delta and Westin offered superior service. I was very content with the service provided.

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William Evans

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