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As the quarantine order here in Mexico City dragged on, I was desperate to see my family in Atlanta. I didn’t know what to expect flying Delta first class during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Frankly, I was also ready to taste freedom and enjoy simple things. I wanted to dine with friends, get my hair cut (get my dog’s hair cut), and work out at a real gym.
Since the Coronavirus hit, I have not seen any family so I decided in early June that the situation was stable enough to fly to Atlanta for my Dad’s 70th birthday.
Is non-essential travel between Mexico and the USA allowed? (July 2020)
This article only covers my trip from Mexico City to Atlanta. American ex-pats flying from Mexico to the U.S. shouldn’t have immigration issues getting back to Mexico due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The USA and Mexico land border currently ban all non-essential travel per the time of this writing. However, the wording regarding entering the border via air from both governments is a bit nebulous. It appears that as long as you’re flying, not driving, the border is still open.
However, the US government discourages, but not prohibits, Americans planning to fly to Mexico for tourism purposes. Either way, as a US citizen with Mexican residency I wasn’t particularly concerned about having trouble getting back into Mexico.
I have friends who do not have residency but have already flown back and forth since the pandemic hit. They said they had no problem at immigration getting back into Mexico (other than extra security measures).
Mexico was one of the few countries that never truly closed its borders in any meaningful way. It’s unlikely you’d have trouble getting back in if you left.
What about Mexican nationals? My best guess is if you’re a Mexican national flying into the USA without a green card, you’d be denied entry despite having a legitimate tourist visa. I haven’t had a Mexican friend who could confirm this or not. Feel free to let me know in the comments.
Is the Covid-19 Pandemic a good time to burn Skymiles?
Since this was a one-way flight, I knew Delta would charge a penalty for not flying roundtrip or multi-leg. I figured out that I’d take a quick look at Skymiles options.
I checked booking with Delta Skymiles as I had about 35k points in my account. You could get first-class ATL-MEX for 30k Skymiles in first back in the not-so-distant past. However, the cheapest ones that I can see these days is around 40k Skymiles for this flight.
I didn’t see anything cheaper than 50k Skymiles + $75 for the dates I was looking at. Since the cash price was $630.63, this would have come out to about 1.1c value per point, a somewhat poor redemption. However, if I had a huge surplus of Skymiles I would have considered it.
I figured it was best to leave those 35k in my Skymiles in my account for now. Those SkyMiles will surely come in handy in the future like booking a 60/65k saver award Europe flight with Air France or Virgin Atlantic. That way, I can get a 3-4 cents per point value instead of 1.1c.
I didn’t check AirFrance, Aeromexico, or other Skyteam airline award programs. I could have transferred points in from Chase, American Express, or Capital One.
There’s usually no partner award space on this crucial ATL-MEX route connecting these 2 major SkyTeam hubs, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. I doubt I would have found a redemption under 40k even if I found space. It would have been a bad use of Chase/Amex points anyways.
Time is money and for a $650 flight, it wasn’t worth it for me to spend hours and hours on this, the way I would if I was trying to score a lay-flat seat across the Atlantic or Pacific on points.
However, the main reason I booked in cash was that I had a $451.53 Delta eCredit that I needed to use for a canceled flight. It was a flight to Austin from a conference that was canceled because of the pandemic. I booked using Delta’s website but the canceled flight was actually with Aeromexico when the flight was canceled so I ended up with a Delta eCredit.
My flight was $630.63 in total but with the $451.53 voucher it came out to $179.40. Basic economy was $550 and first class at $630, so first with the pups in tow was a no brainer.
The reason why the flight was so expensive is Delta penalizes you pretty badly for flying one way. Not to mention, it was an international flight and it was flying to and from their Atlanta home base. However, the return options didn’t make sense so I decided to book the return on United leaving Orlando instead. I just drove down from Atlanta with my family.
Flying international with a dog on Delta costs $200. You can’t use SkyMiles for this and Delta’s policy is that you need to pay for it at the airport with cash or card.
Nightmare calling Delta Covid-19 during the Coronavirus pandemic
Unfortunately, I had to reach Delta over the phone for 2 reasons. The first was to add my Dog to the reservation. Delta does not allow you to add a pet to a reservation online and you have to call customer service. Unlike United and some other airlines, they allow you to book a pet online.
The second reason I needed to call Delta was to use the eCredit I had mentioned. It was not working properly on the website and says that the eCredit was worth “$0”.
I spent hours and hours on the phone trying to reach an agent to no avail. In fact, Delta wouldn’t even put me on hold and they would just hang up on me. It gave me the option to “call me back” but I never got a callback.
Getting in touch with Delta Airlines via Twitter for help
A friend suggested I try Twitter. So I let out an enraged immature Karen-esque tweetstorm at @Delta showing them screenshots of me on hold for 5-6, even 7 hours! In mid to late March when shit hit the fan, it’s quite understandable, but dealing with this lack of service in late May was unacceptable in my eyes.
In the end someone at Delta responded on Twitter and we began a conversation via Twitter’s DM system. The agent said he would call me within 1 hour to apply the eCredit, and add the dog. Sure enough he did and they took my credit card information over the phone.
Delta eCredits / Vouchers from cancelled flights due to the Pandemic won’t work without calling in, live chat or Twitter.
The Delta agent explained that even though all tickets (even basic economy) are eligible for refunds due to Covid-19, the “system is dumb” and doesn’t know this when issuing the voucher. Therefore, the eCredit has to be processed by someone on the phone at Delta in all cases.
I’m sure it would take Delta’s tech team 2 minutes to fix that bug, but let’s be honest, it’s probably that way by design to discourage people from using their vouchers and eCredits.
Delta stayed unreachable for two months and in my opinion, they did it on purpose. It’s suspicious to say the least, given that they’ve had tons of time to up their customer support capacity.
Check-in & Security at Mexico City Airport during Covid-19
It usually takes about 30-40 minutes to get from Condesa, Mexico City to the CDMX airport. However, it only took about 10 minutes to get to the airport since the traffic was so light due to the pandemic.
Once I arrived, as expected the airport had about only 20% the normal amount of people. 75% of shops and restaurants remained closed.
Is Delta SkyPriority worth it during Covid-19?
I had Delta SkyPriority check-in access with my ticket but either way, there was almost nobody there. I’d say until the pandemic is over priority check-in is pretty much worthless. There were no lines anywhere even if you have a bag to check or need to speak to an agent.
A kind Delta agent proceeded to check me and my dog in which proceeded with only a slight problem.
The slight problem: Delta usually flies 737-700, and 737-800 to Atlanta, but during the pandemic, they are using 757’s for a lot of these flights. The Delta 757 has both a “Delta One” configuration in business class where dogs are not allowed and a “First Class Recliner” configuration where dogs are allowed.
I already looked up beforehand that this was the recliner seat where they allowed dogs. But again, the pesky “system” was thinking it was a Delta One seat so they had to get a manager to override the system to add the dog.
Flying with a Dog on Delta from Mexico to the US during Coronavirus
Flying with a pet from Mexico to the US is pretty straightforward. You just need to have the vaccination card to show they’re up to date on their rabies vaccine. You also need to have a vet sign a letter of good health for your dog before you go. Sometimes they ask for it, sometimes they don’t.
The Mexican authorities will accept the same certificate of good health when you fly back to Mexico with your pet as long as you come back to Mexico within 14 days.
The same rules remain in place as of the time of this writing. No additional measures were taken regarding pet travel on either side of the border due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Side-note: This site is not about pet travel, please do more in depth research before flying international with your pet. Rules are constantly changing but generally speaking, traveling back and forth with a pet between the US and Mexico is pretty easy.
Extra Security Measure in Mexico City (MEX) airport for Covid-19
I was informed that the Aeromexico lounge was closed after I got my ticket. As I was heading towards security, they used a thermometer to check if I had a fever.
They also had me scan a QR code that pulled up a health screening form that essentially asked if I’ve had any Coronavirus virus symptoms or been around anyone who is a confirmed Covid-19 case in the last 14 days, amongst some other questions. .
Airport security procedure with a dog
Since I had a dog, they had to take my passport during security to jot down the information. It’s a policy when flying with a dog in Mexico.
The first time I flew with my dog in Mexico an agent disappeared with my passport for 5 minutes. It made me really nervous but now I knew it was just standard procedure.
I’ll write up a future article about flying with my dog in Mexico during the pandemic.
It’s pretty straightforward though. You just go normally through security and then go through either the metal detector or full-body scanner while holding the dog. And no, the dog doesn’t go through the X-ray machine. 😂
Final step: Exit Immigration (Mexican residents only)
I had to do one final step once I got through security. Tourists and Mexican nationals do not need to do exit immigration but for whatever reason, Mexican residents need to. The line can be anywhere from 10-30 minutes during normal times. However, the airport was empty and there were only a handful of international flights that day. It took about 60 seconds to get my exit paper stamped.
CDMX Aeromexico Lounge Closed
I had heard from other friends and business travelers that Aeromexico’s lounge stayed open during the pandemic. However, I had found that they decided to temporarily close when I arrived at the airport.
I asked the check-in agent if the Mexico City airport closed all of its lounges. The agent said yes but I later find out that it wasn’t the case.
Aeromar (Star alliance) CDMX lounge was open to Priority Pass members! FTW
There was a lounge open after all! The Aeromar Star Alliance lounge was open, albeit with reduced offerings. Access to this lounge did not come with my ticket but I could get in with my priority pass.Sorry for the low quality images, they were asking me not to take photos so I had to be sneaky.
Side-note: If you don’t live in Mexico you’ve probably never heard of Aeromar. They’re a very small Star Alliance airline that flies exclusively Mexican domestic routes. If you’ve booked a United flight to Mexico, there’s a good chance that Aeromar was your final domestic leg in Mexico.
With the priority pass network, you can get into this lounge, but I had never bothered as I could also get into many superior lounges with Priority Pass from my Chase Sapphire Reserve as well as my American Express Platinum Card in Mexico City airport Terminal 2 during normal times.
I can get into the Aeromexico lounge or the American Express Centurion lounge using my priority pass access from my Amex Business Platinum card. However, both were closed, so I got to check this lounge out.
The Aeromar airport lounge was small and had very limited service. There was limited food offering such as some pre-packaged cookies and snacks.
The wifi was super speedy which was nice for getting a little work done. By getting a little work done, I mean scrolling mindlessly on social media!
They had Heineken and that was the real treat because Mexico closed most of its breweries during the pandemic. In fact, many cities and districts weren’t allowed to sell alcohol. It was impossible to find in the grocery stores even if you wanted alcohol
The bathrooms of course were way cleaner than the public ones too.
Delta’s Boarding process during Covid-19
Delta’s boarding process during Covid-19 is as follows: they go by rows with the back of the plane boarding first. This means ironically in most cases that basic economy passengers get to board before Delta Comfort passengers.
I’m not sure if they were making exceptions for holders of Delta Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Medallion status. I don’t think they were.
I do however, remember them clearly saying that first class can board at anytime, so indeed I boarded first.
The boarding process was way faster than usual because of the pandemic boarding rules. It was only 5 minutes between when I sat down and them closing the door. That was probably the speediest boarding of my life.
They had agents asking a few security questions which is the norm when flying from Mexico to the USA. There were also random spot checks of people’s hand luggage as well.
Also, they required masks and reminded everyone before boarding to have them on. Some people were even wearing face-shields and one guy was even wearing a full PPE suit! While these sites are pretty unusual in the USA (as I had learned), such sightings are not uncommon in Mexico.
A Boeing 757-200, an unusual bird for MEX-ATL
The plane itself was a 757-200, which is very unusual for the Mexico City (MEX) to Atlanta (ATL) route, as during normal times Delta usually flies this route exclusively with a smaller 737-700 or 737-800.
The biggest difference I noticed was the plane had 5 rows in first/business class in a standard 2×2 configuration, 20 standard recliner seats in first class compared to the normal 12-16 seats on various 737-700 and 737-800 configurations..
The plane was in good shape and spotlessly clean as expected during Coronavirus. There were a/c outlets (I didn’t test) and USB outlets (tested) which worked fine but they were clearly 0.5amp outlets (slow charging).
Delta kept their IFE entertainment system running for short flights and that’s one thing that stood out for me. It was nice because for a commercial aviation geek like me, I love playing around with the airshow app.
Onboard wifi, free texting (woot!), legroom, and great social distancing policy
The plane had wifi as well, but I did not signup for it, as I believe it was around $13 for the full flight, a rip off for only a 3 hour flight. Delta Airlines also provides complimentary free text messaging, which was nice to stay connected on Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage during my flight to help pass the time.
The seat reclined less than expected but it was comfortable nonetheless.
Legroom was ample although I may not be the best person to measure this as I only stand at a miniscule 5 foot 5 (168cm) with short legs. However, I think someone 6 foot+ would still find ample leg room and a heavier overweight person would find the width suitable as well.
As of the time I flew June 5th, Delta was enforcing social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic by keeping the first class cabin at 50% capacity, essentially giving myself a full row (social distancing to the max!)
Flight Experience: Delta DL 366
Delta flight DL366 was supposed to depart the gate at 1:40 pm and arrive at 6:01 pm. However, they shut the doors around 1:25 pm and we were taking off about 5 minutes after.
It was a smooth take-off and we took off almost instantly as we completed the second boarding. If you’ve ever flown out of CDMX (Mexico City) you’d know in normal times this would be a miracle as taxing usually takes 30 minutes+ not 5 minutes.
Food & drink offerings onboard during Coronavirus: Extremely limited
Delta only offers bottled water as of the time of this writing, and they are not serving alcohol or even bottled soft drinks. From my understanding, Delta is the only major airline of the big 3 that isn’t offering bottled alcohol in first class, even by request.
Delta Airlines gives you a choice of 3 premium snack boxes in First Class
The food offering Delta provides in first class during the Covid-19 pandemic is a choice of one of 3 premium snack packs, that were relatively filling.
My choice included hummus, packaged olives, dried fruit, various types of packaged breadsticks, crackers, some Cheez Its, a piece of chocolate, and a few other goodies. From my understanding, this snack pack was a significant upgrade from the economy offering.
What Delta was offering during the pandemic was very similar to the type of an a la carte prepackaged “snack pack” you can order on airlines such as Spirit, but included in the price.
The Delta Flight Attendant made the flight!
From the second I got on the plane, the Delta Stewardess immediately fell in love with my dog. I got extra special treatment and she asked if I needed any extra bottled water for him.
I fly with my dog, a long-haired dachshund, about 3-4 times a year. I’d say it’s only once every 2 years or so that a flight attendant allows me to take the dog out of the bag during the flight to take photos.
She let the dog cuddle in my lap and let me leave the dog’s crate on top of the empty seat. This way, the dog could peek out and see what’s going on during the flight.
It was frikin awesome! I got so many cute pictures!
Despite facemasks being mandatory, discouraging conversation, I had chatted with a lot of people in the business class cabin. Everyone was in a very jovial mood, probably because everyone on that flight was escaping the Mexico City lockdown that as of the time of this writing (June 20th) has still not ended. I think my dog helped break the ice.
In the end between napping, chatting and taking tons of photos of me and my dog Murph, the 3-hour flight flew by.
Arrival – Immigration process at ATL airport during Covid-19
The arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was quick and uneventful. The plane arrived about 20 minutes early and quickly taxied to one of the bazillion open gates and thankfully deplaned at Terminal F and not Terminal E. The plane’s offboarding scheduled was at 6:01 PM though I was able to get off of the plane and on the tarmac at just a smidge over 5:30 PM.
Side-note: During busy normal times, international flights arriving to Atlanta would sometimes deplane at terminal E. It’s just AWFUL as you have to walk up and down a never-ending human rat maze. It takes about 20-30 minutes before even reaching immigration.
I noticed the international terminal was nearly empty as I got off the plane. The display board was only showing 4 international flights arriving that day to Terminal F (international). It was pretty much expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic and
Usually, prior to immigration, you fill out a screening form at a computer terminal (or on your phone using an app), and then take the paper the terminal spits out to the immigration agent. However, we skipped this part and they told us to go straight to any immigration counter where there was zero waiting time.
I don’t have Global Entry but it looked like those terminals were still functioning. However, I don’t think that having it would have saved anyone time.
The border patrol agent asked me questions on what I’m doing in Atlanta, what I was doing in CDMX, and etc.
They checked the dog’s vaccinations and then it was off to grab my bag. They told me that my dog looks healthy and I don’t need to go to the “something to declare” line. Sometimes they make you go to the customs office when you have a dog, sometimes they don’t.
It took about 10 minutes for my bag to come out, and then I was on my way! Thankfully, the shuttle from terminal F to the airport car rental center was still running. I was off in my rental car within about 45 minutes of landing.
Overall experience flying Delta International during the Pandemic
- Purchasing/ticketing process: 70/100 – Adding the dog and applying my voucher was nothing short of a nightmare. It took hours of my time although it was still politely resolved once I contacted someone on Twitter.
- Check-in: 93/100 – Pretty smooth, but the computer error Delta had to add my dog to the 757-200 held me up a few minutes.
- Boarding Process: 100/100 – Smooth as butter!
- Amenities: 90/100 – It’s understandable that amenities like using cutlery and hot food onboard would have to go temporarily. I knew that customer safety from Coronavirus is the top priority right now. On the other hand, closing the Aeromexico Skyteam lounge, not serving canned alcohol or even soft drinks on board was more of a cost-cutting measure rather than a COVID-19 precaution. The IFE was a nice touch, and the premium first-class snack pack was quite acceptable despite the current COVID-19 pandemic conditions.
- Lounge: 85/100 – Since I used the Aeromar Star Alliance lounge instead of the closed Skyteam/Aeromexico lounge, I won’t count it in the score, but I think it was sufficient. Having a free beer before boarding was a nice touch since Delta didn’t serve alcohol on board on as of this writing.
- Flight attendant friendliness: 100/100 – Out of the big 3 airlines Delta always has the most cheerful agents and this flight was no exception!
- Taking Covid seriously: 100/100 – Unlike some United flights which I took a week later that were packed to the brim, it was clear that Delta was still blocking middle seats in economy and 50% capacity in first/business. They also spotlessly cleaned the plane.
- Price: 80/100 – A 3-hour first-class flight that’s worth $650 is super expensive but it’s normal for me since Delta is the only airline that flies this route. According to wikipedia, ATL-MEX is the most trafficked monopolized international route at Hartsfield without at least 1 competitor.
Overall rating: 90/100 A-
The only place I really fault Delta here is for not having a live chat or way to do things online. I also fault Delta for 4+ hour hold times when we’re already in June 2020. They really need to improve on this.
Is it worth it to book Delta business class during Covid-19?
It’s probably not worth it to fly business or first class with Delta or other airlines in the pandemic for a variety of reasons. Priority boarding, security, and check-in are worth much less when nobody is flying due to Covid019. There are no lines!
They’re closing airport lounges and reducing the services. It makes business class essentially the same service as economy but with a large bag allowance and a bigger seat.
The airlines realized this and made basic economy, first-class, and everything in between almost the same price. In this case, basic economy was $550 while business class was $630, so at that price level, it was a no brainer to upgrade.
My dog and I traveled together so I wanted some extra space during the flight. As of the time I was flying, Delta’s first-class section was at 50% capacity which essentially guaranteed an entire row to myself.
Keep in mind that booking a business class flight is like getting insurance. First-class customers get priority assistance if they have any problems with their flights.
Most importantly: My bag was waaaay overweight and it was around 63lbs. Paying for that excess baggage fee would have been $125. It would have cost more than the difference between the basic economy and first-class alone.
Also, with Delta’s first-class food option, you get a more “premium” snack pack than what you get in economy (but it’s nothing special).
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