by Ron Bernthal
Flying into New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) from Europe often means travelling from one congested airport space into another, but occasionally you can fly to/from Europe on non-stop flights from a “second-tier” city, where airports are close to the city center, flight delays are rare, and security line hold-ups are almost non-existent. Such was the case during a recent non-stop flight from Valencia (VLC), on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.
Fortunately, Delta Airlines has realized how popular this Spanish city has become, especially after Valencia hosted two consecutive America’s Cup sailing races, in 2007 and 2010, an annual European Formula One Grand Prix auto race, and is the site of the spectacularly futuristic-looking, Santiago Calatrava-designed City of Arts & Sciences complex. For the past few years, from April to September, Delta runs seasonal service between JFK and Valencia, using a 757-200 with 16 Business Elite seats in a 2×2 configuration. Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, after Madrid and Barcelona, and has far fewer business travelers, thus providing a good opportunity for frequent fliers to obtain a mileage upgrade, or at least have an empty adjacent seat, in the 16-seat Business Elite cabin on the New York/Valencia seasonal flights.
Aeropuerto Valencia is located about six miles west of the city, and I arrived by taxi about 90 minutes before my 10:00 am departure. The modern and inexpensive Valencia Metro train also goes right to the airport terminal from several downtown stations. Using Delta’s designated check-in lanes for Business Elite travelers, I quickly obtained my boarding pass and directions to the VIP lounge, a small, but fully equipped room with free Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages, and two computer terminals for passengers without personal laptops. The lounge was just a few steps from the departure gate, and I understand that a newer and larger VIP lounge has recently opened in another location nearby.
Boarding was called at 9:30 am, the aircraft was loaded efficiently, and left the gate at 10:05. We taxied to the end of the runway, passing so close to a beautiful golf course on the other side of the airport fence that I could see a golfer’s white ball rolling along the putting green. Wheels were up at exactly 10:15 and, as the plane followed its departure route by banking above the city and the Mediterranean Sea before flying northward over central Spain, I settled into my comfortable blue seat, reclined to a semi-flat position, and flipped up the personal video screen to peruse the film choices.
Delta seems to do a nice job with meals on its international flights, and some of the menu items on this flight were created by Delta’s current celebrity chef, Michelle Bernstein, a prominent chef in Miami who received the 2007 James Beard “Best Chef in the South” Award. Chef Bernstein’s signature dish on my menu was the Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breast with marinara sauce, with gnocchi and broccoli, which was excellent. It was preceded by two appetizers and cream of mushroom soup. The three desert choices included a cheese plate, vanilla ice cream sundae, and a lemon tart. At some point during the flight the cabin crew came around with warm, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, and a pre-arrival “snack” of a hot turkey sandwich or shrimp Niçoise salad was offered before landing in New York.
Delta’s Business Elite wine list is presently created by the airline’s Master Sommelier, Andrea Robinson. Robinson happens to be one of only 16 women Master Sommeliers in the world, and has been working with Delta’s in-flight beverage menu since 2007. For this flight I chose her selection of the 2006 Heritage Road Grenache from Australia, which went really well with the entrée above.
It was easy to relax during the flight with a quilted duvet comforter, and the eye shades that were included in the Business Elite amenity kit. The audio headphones were large, padded devices with great sound quality. When I felt like working a little on my laptop, the AC power port under the seat was easy to reach. We landed at 12:55 pm, 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
© Ron Bernthal – No editorial content, portions of articles, or photographs from this site may be used in any print, broadcast, or Web-based format without written permission from the author or Web site developer.