Review: Delta Air Lines CRJ-900 First Class

Filed Under: Delta

After flying from Miami to Toronto on American Airlines, we spent one night in Toronto. We just stayed at the Sheraton Gateway Toronto Airport, which I’ve reviewed before, so won’t be writing about again this time.

We met my dad in Toronto, and then the following morning flew from Toronto to New York. Why? Because I had booked us Air France first class fares (like I said, this trip is really special), and originating in Toronto meant that the tickets were several thousand dollars cheaper than originating in New York. I’ll talk more about the details of what we booked in the installment about our Air France flight.

Since this was all a surprise trip for my dad, suffice to say that he was mighty confused when he found out we were flying to New York. He figured we would be taking a long haul segment from Toronto, rather than returning to the US. I’ll have more on my dad’s take on all of this in a future installment.

Anyway, our flight from Toronto to New York was departing just before 10AM, so we ended up leaving the hotel at around 7:45AM. It was just a short walk to check-in.

Toronto Pearson Airport Terminal 3

Since this whole thing was a surprise trip for my dad, I had him stand back a bit during check-in, and explained to the agent that this was a surprise trip for him. So she gave me all his boarding passes. Then I handed him his boarding pass to New York, and not any connecting boarding passes beyond that.

Toronto has a US Pre-Clearance facility. Ford and I both have Global Entry, and were through immigration within about 15 minutes (note that when departing Canada you need to have your Global Entry card as well, or else they won’t let you use that line). My dad doesn’t have Global Entry, and it took him over an hour to get through security and immigration.

Ford and I waited in the American Admirals Club for our flight, which is my preferred lounge in this part of the terminal, given that it’s usually quiet. While we weren’t flying American, we accessed this on account of my Admirals Club membership, which comes with the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card. We used the time in the lounge to get some work done before the flight, so that we could spend more time with my dad later in the day when things got really fun.

Our boarding passes indicated boarding would start at 9:03AM, a full 55 minutes before departure. That seemed crazy for a regional jet, so I suspect that’s just the standard boarding time they post for any international flight.

We headed to gate A6E around that time. Boarding started at 9:20AM, starting with first class.

Delta departure gate Toronto

Delta 5322
Toronto (YYZ) – New York (JFK)
Wednesday, August 28
Depart: 9:58AM
Arrive: 11:43AM
Duration: 1hr45min
Aircraft: CRJ-900
Seat: 3D (First Class)

Our CRJ-900 was parked out on the apron, so it was a short walk to get there.

Delta CRJ-900

Delta CRJ-900

While I far prefer the Embraer 170/175 to the CRJ-700/900, these planes are still pretty nice for short hops. They have a great ratio of first class seats to economy. There were a total of 12 first class seats, spread across four rows in a 1-2 configuration.

Delta CRJ-900 first class cabin

If you’re traveling with someone then grabbing a pair of seats on the right side is ideal.

Delta first class seats CRJ-900

Delta CRJ-900 first class seats

Meanwhile if you’re traveling alone, it sure is nice to be able to get a solo seat.

Delta first class seats CRJ-900

Delta CRJ-900 first class seats

Delta has Comfort+ on these planes, so even in economy it’s not too uncomfortable.

Delta CRJ-900 cabin

There’s no bulkhead between first class and economy, so the aisle seat on the left side in economy has almost unlimited legroom (though also expect to get hit by everyone’s luggage as they walk back to their seats).

Delta first class seats

I assigned us the three seats in row three — we put Ford in the single seat on the left, while my dad and I sat to the right.

Delta first class seats

By the way, maybe my memory is just off, but I was expecting I would have to gate check my bag. Instead all of our carry-ons actually fit into the overhead bins on the right side. Are CRJ-900s just getting bigger overhead bins, or is my memory off?

Delta first class cabin

Anyway, legroom in seat 3D was quite good, and much like on Delta’s mainline planes, there were four separate pouches in the seatback.

Delta first class legroom

The tray table extended from the right armrest, and could be folded over in half.

Delta first class tray table

I love that Delta’s CRJ-900s have power ports. While American also has comfortable first class on most of their larger regional jets, few of them have power ports, so that’s appreciated.

Delta first class power outlets

Delta’s regional jet service is largely similar to their mainline service. There was bottled water at every seat, along with a pillow and blanket.

Delta first class bottled water

Delta first class pillow & blanket

Usually there’s not much you can say about service on a short regional jet flight, but the first class flight attendant, Holly, was incredible. She memorized everyone’s name in the cabin, and addressed people by name with every interaction.

Like, it’s nice enough when they try to address you by name while looking at a sheet, but memorizing names is on a whole different level.

She offered us pre-departure drinks of choice — I had a coffee.

Delta first class pre-departure drink

At 9:50AM the door closed, at which point Holly made her welcome onboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of one hour. I know most of the announcements they read are scripted, but I really do like Delta’s announcements more than those of just about any other US airline.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to provide you exceptional service on our flight to New York.” And provide us exceptional service on our one hour flight she did…

A minute later the crew performed the safety demonstration. The flight was more or less full — there were a handful of empty seats in economy.

We started our pushback at around 9:55AM, and five minutes later started our taxi. While our taxi as such was quick, there was quite a queue for takeoff. We ended up taking off at around 10:20AM on runway 24R.

Taking off from Toronto

Taking off from Toronto

It was much nicer outside than the prior day, and there were great views on the climb out.

View after takeoff from Toronto

View after takeoff from Toronto

As we passed through 10,000 feet I powered up my computer and connected to the Gogo Wi-Fi. The CRJ-900 has Gogo’s slower wifi, but for a short regional jet flight it’s still sufficient. There are also some streaming entertainment options.

Delta Wi-Fi pricing

About 10 minutes after takeoff Holly came through the cabin to serve everyone drinks. I just had a glass of water, while my dad had a black coffee. Again, she addressed everyone by name.

Delta first class drinks

She then came around with a snack basket, which had a variety of options available.

Delta first class snacks

About halfway through the flight I visited the lavatory. There was a lavatory at the front of the cabin, though it was really tight.

Delta first class lavatory CRJ-900

At 11AM the captain announced that we’d be landing in about 25 minutes. Shortly thereafter the seatbelt sign was turned on. The weather wasn’t exactly great in New York, and sure enough we touched down at 11:25AM.

View approaching JFK

View approaching JFK

View approaching JFK

From there we had a five minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 4, which was B47.

As we deplaned, Holly thanked each passenger, by name, for flying with Delta.

Delta CRJ-900 first class bottom line

In general first class on regional jets is fairly comfortable nowadays, as I quite like the 1-2 configuration. I find there’s usually not too much variation in terms of the hard product, though Delta is ahead of the curve with installing power ports on these planes. I also like that they have bottled water, along with pillows and blankets, at every seat.

What really stood out about this flight was our exceptional flight attendant, who provided the best service I’ve ever had on a regional jet.

  1. We usually fly on the CRJ 900 from Rochester New York to JFK, and occasionally Detroit, but sometimes that’s a 717, or an A319. Most of the time or upgraded to first class, and it’s always been a pretty pleasant experience.

  2. 1. CR7/9s on AA require gate checking of roll-aboards, although I’ve convinced FAs to allow mine under the last row of first when seated in the bulkhead.

    2. You’re better than Cheez-It’s.

  3. Hey Lucky, do you edit your plane landing/take-off photos? They all look great but I doubt every window you sit next to is spotless and without scratches.

  4. Oh, and I definitely agree flying out of Toronto for international flights is really cheap, if you can make it work. Next year, the wife and I are planning on going to South Africa on KLM in J, and its significantly cheaper flying from Toronto than our home airport in Upstate New York ( flying from the US is more than double the price, even in J). It makes the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive totally worthwhile

  5. Went to college in upstate New York so flying on Delta’s regional jets (mix of CRJ-900/E175s) from SYR to JFK/LGA was always a good experience. First, since it’s far from a premium route, my upgrades were always cleared, the flight attendants were always friendly and courteous and it’s the little touches like you mentioned (plugs, nice selection of snacks from the basket, water bottles, pillows and blankets) which is far beyond what you need on a short hop but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

  6. Lucky, the CRJ 900 have always been able to fit the smaller “IATA” carry on bags. For Rimowa/Away fans, the “smaller” carry on size fit these planes, but the “bigger” carry ons do not. My IATA Rimowa Carry on fits just so on these planes.

  7. It depends on the Delta regional partner as I find Sky West has the worst and most inconsistent flights, but Endeavor Air’s flight attendants in first-class are consistently as good or better than Delta mainline flight attendants. Go Jet is the worst since their flight attendants won’t even let first-class passengers put their big bags in the closet. Sky West and Endeavor could care less.

  8. About the time it took your dad to clear customs/immigration didn’t they have a priority lane in T3. They had one in T1 which went quickly.

  9. “Ford and I both have Global Entry, and were through immigration within about 15 minutes. My dad doesn’t have Global Entry, and it took him over an hour to get through security and immigration.”

    You left your Dad in the standard line alone? While you went through GE with Ford?

    Why didn’t you just go with your father?

  10. @Neil
    IDK about T3, but in T1 with priority security you get past security quick enough. The problem lies in immigration: I’m willing to bet my left nut that the majority of that hour was spent waiting in the customs line.

    Unless of course they don’t recognize Delta priority in T3, which I very much doubt.

  11. @Lucky, isn’t it a bit risky to have your father enter Canada without him knowing where he’s going?
    Immigration Officer: “How long are you here for?”
    Dad: “One day.”
    IO: “Why so short?”
    Dad: “I’m going on a trip with my son and son in law.”
    IO: “Where are you staying?”
    Dad: “I don’t know. It’s a surprise.”
    IO: *Red flag* “Where are you going?”
    Dad: “I don’t know. It’s a surprise.”
    IO: *Red flag*
    😮 XD
    In any case, you should just sign him up for GE. Maybe do the interview on arrival when he’s on a trip with you.

    @Kevin, IME, you need to show your GE/Nexus card in order to access the trusted traveller lanes in Canada.

  12. Perhaps this is small fry compared to the environmental impact of getting in a plane but I really don’t see the need of two separate plastic water bottles on a one hour flight. I completely accept that no one wants to drink from the tank but water should be provided from a big bottle to those who request it which does away with bottles being thrown out after someone has taken 3 sips from it or even worse the label has been scratched and therefore can’t be served to the next person. BA seems to have started giving out personal bottles of water for European flights of a similar length which is frustrating. I know it’s about ‘service’ but frankly nothing bad is going to happen if I go 2 hours without drinking in order to stop one more plastic bottle in the world

  13. I remember flying as a little kid from Memphis to Laguardia on AA in 1969. We were sitting in F and were amazed that the Stewardess had memorized everyone’s name. Good service never goes out of style.

    Of course those were also the days that they put a little 4 pack of cigarettes on each meal tray. Probably for the best some things do change.

  14. @ned : I would ordinarily agree; however, Delta and it’s regional carriers have one of the most extensive recycling programs around. Even the plastic cups are recycled (in addition to plastic bottles, cans, etc.).

  15. Hopefully you get a chance to fly the CRJ-900 with the Atmosphere’s interior! While the general CRJ-900 is good the Atmosphere interior is Awesome! I like better than the A220 at Delta (other than the IFE!
    And the bathroom is bigger, Delta didn’t pick the larger option, but it is noticeably bigger, and the luggage bins are bigger as well!

  16. It was a great plus that you didn’t gave to gate check your carry-on.

    On most regular Delta flights I always have to gate check my carry-on. They insist on using mostly Boeing 717s. No overhead bin space.

    Glad to see this CRJ-900 had plenty of space.

  17. I´ve never ever been asked to gate or otherwise check my carry on in a DL CRJ900. If you´re in first that is. If you´re in comfort plus it´s rare. In main cabin that can happen though.

  18. Hello Ben

    I am glad that you received excellent service from the crew on this flight.
    You should consider writing a short note to the CEO of Delta.
    I think it is important to hear this from customers especially someone like you
    who is an opinion shaper.


  19. You “put” your husband in the solo seat…wow, and left your father on his own as the two of you glided through GE. I mean is this for real or just to create traffic on here?

  20. Glad i’m not the only one gobsmacked by the fact that Lucky & Ford used GE and left his Dad in the ‘regular’ line.
    Surely you’d all just go together, no?
    What the actual f*ck?

  21. I live in Cape Town and travel to Windhoek in Namibia regularly, always on CRJ’s operated by South African Airlink. They operate an Economy Class only configuration and I always book seat 1A, it has almost unlimited legroom which makes for a very comfortable experience. Most luggage is Sky Checked as the overhead bins are tiny, it is difficult to fit a laptop bag in there. No charging points on their planes but for the rest the CRJ is great, even on this 2 hour flight. I like the ease of boarding and disembarking, quick on and off both ends. They only have two bathrooms at the back of the plane but they are spacious, square and the ceiling is high. Much more comfortable and nice to use than a bathroom on a 737 or A320. Sitting upfront means it is very quiet during take off because the engines are so far back. The CRJ seems quite powerful and climbs like a champion. It is a bit noisier in the cruise than an A320 but no noisier than a 737. SA Airlink’s onboard product is solid and because the CRJ is a very reliable plane delays are almost unheard of. I really like the baby Bombie!

  22. You claim this trip is about doing something special with/for your dad yet you let him wait in line on his own for an hour just so you can spend some time in the lounge?! Is this a joke?

  23. Let me clarify something for those commenting about using Global Entry while having my dad use the regular line. This is a 2.5 week trip, and I still need to work somewhat while traveling. My goal is to spend as much quality time with my dad as possible, and that requires a balance.

    Those extra 45 minutes that I spent in the lounge weren’t so that I could indulge in the finest stale cereal, but rather so that I could get some work done. I spent that time working (and in those 45 minutes I wrote and published two posts, about the Park Hyatt Auckland and Marriott’s toiletries policy change).

    My dad is very capable of going through immigration and security on his own, and had no issues.

    So when it comes to prioritizing my time, I figure I’m better off spending 45 minutes working where I’d otherwise be standing in line, rather than 45 minutes where we could otherwise do something fun together.

    Hopefully that clarifies things, and to those who still have an issue with that, a gold star to you for being a super human…

  24. @ Jordan — Addressed the second point in the above comment, but what’s wrong with the first point? I assigned seats, because, you know, I’m the flight planner around here. That’s what I mean by “putting” someone in a particular seat. Is there something wrong with that, or are you just enjoying picking apart one of the nearly 10,000 words I publish on this blog daily on average?

  25. Loved the article and think the idea of doing the trip report as a surprise for us; but it must be said it did really bother me that you left your dad alone for an hour in the regular line, would it have been so bad to wait with him?

  26. I’ve left my partner to queue and gone through priority in the past because why have two people suffer in a line over one. People are overreacting big time!

  27. Can’t wait to read the trip reports! What a great son always surprising your parents with trips,

    I think a great gift for your father would be his own Global Entry card. Of course he’d have to do the actual interview himself, but you could pay for it with one of your several cards that has it as a perk. I mean we only need the credit once every five years. I did it for my mother a couple years ago.

  28. While I think most people are going too far about leaving his dad, I do agree with @Tennen. My biggest concern in doing so is @Lucky shouldn’t let your dad go through immigration alone when he has no details of the trip.
    I also second @Tennen, you have so many cards that covers GE, why not get him one?

    Now for the gate check thing. I think it’s because you are flying F on a not full flight. The bins are not larger as you still have to store your bags sideways, but definitely big enough space.

  29. That’s a long way from my expectations of “First Class.” Given the fare differential between that and economy on such a short flight I would opt for economy every time.

  30. @Lucky – Like others, love the “live” trip reports but know from doing them first hand how much it can take away from the actual enjoyment of the trip. So be careful you don’t burn out!

    Also, curious what your thoughts are with Row 3 windows on the CRJ-900. I find the misaligned windows to be an annoyance and usually opt for Row 4 instead for this reason.

    @Lakesider – the premium for Delta first class, especially booked close-in, is quite small. On a 1.5 hour route I frequently fly serviced by CRJ-900s, I have seen regular economy for $202 and first class for $272; that’s an easy differential to justify for many.

  31. I am with Ben on this one. I think Ben knows his dad better than any of us do, and if Ben’s dad was fine going through immigration on his own, why should we care? Would those commenting here decline an upgrade when they are traveling with someone but only one upgrade is available?

    As for @Tennen’s concerns, I imagine that Ben’s dad would merely say he was connecting in Canada, which would be an accurate statement regardless of whether it was a long haul flight or turning around and heading back to the states. I book tickets starting in Canada all the time (easy for me, being east coast based). Sometimes I have a long haul flight directly from YYZ/YUL and other times turn around and fly back to NYC, etc. I always say I’m connecting and have never had any problems.

  32. Gosh people, Ben seems like a caring son. If his dad wanted him to go through immigration with him, surely Ben would. It’s not his dad’s first trip. My mom would be insulted if I thought I needed to be at her side every step of the trip.

  33. @Ned i disagree, I drink water all the time and the personal waterbottle is a MUST. You would rather have a million little plastic cups for people to drink out of multiple times during the flight? Now that’s a waste. Plus Delta recycles the waterbottles anyway. Sometimes people go too far wanting to save the environment. What’s next, no food because we can’t use plastic containers??? geez *eyeroll*

  34. Schar-this is one of the most entitled things I’ve ever read. Individual bottled water a must?!?! It is one hour!!! This is first class, use glasses and serve out of one big bottle. Recycling is only half the answer and using one big bottle of water is so much better than god knows how many quarter used small bottles. I only hope you set alarms each hour during the night to make sure you don’t die of thirst while you’re sleeping

  35. I find it helpful to know the operating carrier for regional jets. Was this flight operated by Endeavor for Delta?

  36. @Eskimo, yes, that was why I raised it in my comment. I wasn’t as concerned about @Lucky’s dad coming back into the US (presumably he’s a citizen or permanent resident). But entering into Canada (or any other country for that matter) is a different thing entirely.

    @Andrew, I’ve been asked to produce itinerary/ticket and lodging information before, even when I’m connecting. In Canada, it’s happened a few times, and once, I was stuck at the booth while my parents had already cleared ahead of me. So, while you may not have had that happen to you, it’s definitely possible. Regardless, in most, if not all, countries, you’re supposed to be able to show immigration officers your travel details.

    Sooner or later, @Lucky’s dad will get stopped and questioned for not having or not knowing his travel details. And, @Lucky won’t be able to help if he’s not around (whether flying on a separate flight to the trip origin or clearing passport control through an expedited channel). Maybe it would be useful to have an “emergency” folder with all the travel information. Dad’s not allowed to open it unless he needs to present it to immigration and/or customs officers. Even attach a letter to the front, addressing dad, “Dad, as you know, this trip is a surprise! I’ll be traveling with you from XYZ, but the rest is a mystery. If you need to tell officials about the trip, the information is attached to this letter. Do not read it unless you absolutely have to. Love, Ben” 🙂

  37. @Louis-Jérôme – this was part of a single ticket from Toronto to France. AC is not partners with AF, so there is no way they can be on the ticket. Secondly, AC does not fly to JFK, so it would require an extra transfer.

    @Ned – I guess this would come down to a matter of preference. I personally prefer to drink from a small bottle, than being poured from a larger one into a plastic cup. Same waste too.

    @PF – yes this is operated by Endeavor (9E).

    To all those commenting on Ben going ahead of his dad, I really see no issue there. No reason for everyone to have to suffer, because one person does not have GE.

  38. I’ll try once more! It’s a shame that the concepts of waste reduction are completely lost on some people…

    The point is to use actual glasses that get washed and reused (this is “first” class) with the water served out of big bottles. I would expect the total number of individual bottles used by the airline to come down by 80%+ albeit the bottles used would be bigger but the energy involved is pretty similar

  39. @Ned – Pre-departure drinks are never served in glass on US airlines. So given the choice of plastic bottle or plastic cup, I will take the bottle please.

  40. I fly on Delta CRJ’s a few times a year from North Dakota-MSP-YYZ.
    In my experience, they frequently ask for volunteers to gate check bags on top of telling some people they have no choice. I don’t put anything that I want during the flight in my roller (I can fit everything you need for a 2hr flight in my purse) & gladly offer to gate check. Why pay to check it?
    Also, I think it makes sense in this case when purchased together with a longer segment where you’ll really benefit from first class, but it’s not worth the extra price for first class if you’re only on short flights on CRJs. Basically the extra money gets you that controversial water bottle, a better snack basket, and a pillow/ blanket – on a flight that’s too short for sleeping.

  41. “(note that when departing Canada you need to have your Global Entry card as well, or else they won’t let you use that line)”

    I’ve departed YYZ several times without the physical card. Officially, the physical card is only needed at land-crossings.

  42. My only issue with CRJs is the potential for gate checks (and the potential for luggage left on a tarmac….) I havent ever had an issue entering or departing YYZ, apart from the odd flight Air Canada canceled late one evening….

    I look forward to reading about this trip, and hoping to see at least a little bit of commentary from you dad.

  43. I personally think that Lucky should have stayed with his Dad in the immigration queue, but he explained his reasons and I’m not judging him. What is sad is splitting up families in the first place. Why is it that my wife can accompany me in the “Citizens” line (forget about that paid “Global Entry” BS) in both the EU and Australia (I’m citizen of both) even though she is not a citizen? But in the friggin’ US, we have to be separated and she has to wait ~1-2 hours for me as I have to go through the “Alien” line?
    That is the real kicker here.

  44. My wife is a flight attendant and when we travel I go through normal security with the kids and she goes through known crew member. Nothing wrong with that, she gets to the gate a little earlier and gets the lay of the land. Why make her suffer?

  45. In YVR staff allowed non-GE pax to use GE/NEXUS security line when traveling with a GE member, though obviously only the GE pax can use the actual Global Entry immigration line.

  46. @Lucky I connected in Toronto to the US and used the Global Entry kiosks and didn’t have to show my GE card. The only difference is that I stayed airside since my connection was only 5 hours went from off an international flight directly into the US Pre-Clearance. I never carry my GE card but I may from now on if that is the norm.

  47. I have flown the CRJ900 many times from LGA to RSW. Over 2hour flight. The service, the solo seats in first and heated meals have been great! 2 downfalls: 1. lack of overhead bin space for luggage and the bathroom must be the smallest in the industry. No way ADA compliant. They have enlarged some bathrooms with the new Atmosphere version of the CRJ900 with less seats and more room for the galley. 70 seats vs 76.
    Fortunately, this route was upgraded with the E175. Felt a bit more roomy, more like mainline aircraft, more overhead bin space, slightly wide seats on both closes, larger windows, A little better experience for a 2.5 hour flight in either class.

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