Delta First Class New York JFK to Phoenix Flight 1481 Review

By Jonathan Spira on 11 December 2011
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Pan Am’s Worldport, which opened in 1960 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport (then Idlewild) in New York, was a harbinger of the jet age.  Terminal 3, as it is known today, is used by Delta Air Lines for many of its international flights.

Since I hadn’t flown out of Terminal 3 since Pan Am’s days, I checked with the experts at the Delta forum on FlyerTalk, where several recommended using the SkyPriority drop-off area at Terminal 2 (which opened in 1962 as the home of Northeast Airlines, Braniff, and Northwest Airlines).  The wait on the SkyPriority line for the security checkpoint was five minutes at most and soon my colleague Christian Stampfer, our European Editor, and I were airside.

We headed for the SkyClub, which was nicely furnished and provided a quiet haven from the busy goings on at JFK.  Light refreshments such as salty snacks, vegetables, and drinks were available and SkyClub staff members were very welcoming.


Approximately 45 minutes prior to departure, we left the SkyClub and arrived at the gate, where boarding had already begun.

First class passengers were invited to board first and also via the SkyPriority queue at any time during the boarding process. Once on board, we found individual bottles of water awaiting at each seat and flight attendants were offering pre-departure beverages and offering to hang up coats and jackets.


Our aircraft, a single-aisle Boeing 757-200, featured domestic first-class seats in a 2-2 configuration.  Pitch was 37” and the seat reclined to a comfortable position.  Seat width was 21”.

The seats are so close together that it is not possible to put your tray table back into the seatback in front of you if the passenger in that seat has reclined.  Other airlines operating the 757-200, such as American Airlines, have a pitch of 39” and the two-inch difference does, indeed, make a difference.


When our plane was number two for takeoff, we suddenly started to return to the gate. It turned out that a passenger had become ill and needed to disembark.   It took about 15 minutes to return to the gate and the captain announced that the plane would be met by paramedics.  Unfortunately for the ill passenger, none were there and confusion seemed to reign.

It took close to 30 minutes after arriving at the gate before the paramedics arrived.  One gate agent who boarded the plane commented that she had been told that no paramedics were needed; in total, at least five Delta employees and two Port Authority police officers boarded the plane before the paramedics and, all in all, starting from the time we started our return to the gate, the ill passenger had to wait almost 45 minutes for the paramedics.

We finally started our second attempt at departure at 8:30, one hour and 38 minutes behind schedule.

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