Delta’s renovation efforts shine on the 31-year-old 757

Caricature of passengers, flight attendants and pilots on board an airplaneAfter a few days of beautiful beaches and plane spotting in St. Maarten, it was time to head back to very cold New York. During my flight to St. Maarten SXM Airport with JetBlue was listless With entertainment and Wi-Fi systems not working, I was excited to compare JetBlue’s seven-year-old Airbus A321ceo aircraft to Delta’s nearly 31-year-old Boeing 757-200.

I was paying close attention to the status of my inbound flight as the New York JFK and SXM flights had been plagued with operational issues all week. While the 757 departed JFK an hour and a half late, schedule padding reduced the delay to about 45 minutes, and Delta’s iOS app reflected this after the twinjet departed JFK.

The delay wasn’t the end of the world, but SXM is still building after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017, so I didn’t want to spend any more time in the terminal than I had to. Also, this was the first day of ramping up the SXM winter flight schedule for several airlines, so the terminal was packed.

Lots of passengers in SXM terminal

Boarding was delayed 15 minutes due to a mechanical problem. You don’t want to hear that when your plane is 31 years old. I was able to chat with the Delta pilots flying JFK’s 757 and they were unsure if the new crew would be able to delay the issue or if the delay would prove to be serious. Armed with this new information, I researched alternative flights and subsequently made a very bad decision.

After paying $6 for three hours of airport WiFi, I could see that the Delta app was already alerting me to another option — hop on the already onboard Atlanta flight directly to my left and keep going to fly to JFK. Or so I thought.


It was only after confirming the change that I realized the Atlanta connection option was for the next day! After some panic and a frantic Wi-Fi call to Delta, I was able to find an agent who was willing to put me back on my original flight after understandably a bit of abuse.

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It would have been nice if Delta had warned that the new flight departed on a different day, or just used larger text for the date. But I take responsibility for missing the crucial date change detail.

The delay turned out to be insignificant and the chaotic boarding process began just as I was rebooked onto my original flight.

After a short walk to a hard stand, my day immediately improved as I climbed the airstairs into the stately 757.

Passengers board the Delta 757 via airstairs.

Although this 757 is almost 31 years old, I was probably the only passenger who could estimate its age to within 15 years of error. That’s because the LED-lit cabin is bright; the overhead compartments are large enough to swallow all bags; and cool air poured out of the individual vents of the overhead passenger service unit. To the untrained eye, even in economy class, this was a brand new aircraft.

A triple seat in Economy Class on board the Delta Boeing 757.

Operations at SXM were slow all week and for reasons we couldn’t understand we ended up starting almost two hours late. The delay was beyond Delta’s control, but it obviously wasn’t great for the passengers who missed their connection.

Despite its age, this particular 757 came fully equipped with Delta’s premier domestic configuration. The Panasonic Avionics inflight entertainment system was loaded with 336 films by my count, which certainly exceeded the zero films on offer my JetBlue flight down to St. Maarten.

Panasonic Seatback IFE on the Delta Boeing 757.

It might sound crazy, but despite the wealth of content on offer, I didn’t see much that I wanted to see. However, I wanted to be connected.

Shortly after launch, the newly installed Viasat Ka-Band Wi-Fi launched with an offer of free internet for Delta SkyMiles members or a flat fee of $5 for those who chose not to sign up for a SkyMiles account.

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Delta's advertisement for free Wi-Fi on a mobile device.

Unlike my previous JetBlue flight, this aircraft’s hardware was able to communicate with the ViaSat-2 satellite (as opposed to simply ViaSat-1) and consequently there was adequate coverage en route. Connectivity was maintained throughout the flight.

My speed tests showed about 35 Mbps down and 0.72 Mbps up soon after launch, but speeds picked up soon after and I was able to stream YouTube at 1080p with no issues and even managed 1440p with minor buffering. Access to Netflix appeared to be throttled to just over 2 Mbps. This was a fantastic experience and mirrored what JetBlue had offered on its St. Maarten earlier this year ViaSat 2 capable A320.

Screenshot of a speed test with a download speed of 34.8 Mbps

Unlike JetBlue, Delta doesn’t offer fresh groceries for sale on Caribbean routes, so it’s a good thing I bought some airport pizza as this flight turned into an all-day ordeal.

The bags of Sun Chips and Almonds provided additional nourishment, as did the various Woodford Reserves, which I enjoyed after redeeming some drink vouchers.

Snacks, soda, and a few bottles of Woodford Reserves are displayed on the tray table

I believe some snack boxes were put up for sale. But Delta didn’t offer a printed menu card, nor a digital menu on the IFE screen, nor did anyone make an announcement about the different options.

The IFE screen is clearly visible and shows an advertisement for an onboard drink Overall, however, pre-flight communication from Delta was mostly good and the inflight product was excellent.

A clear IFE screen in front of the author using the system's USB power port.Aside from the entertainment and WiFi, the aircraft cabin was generally in fantastic condition. Even the toilets looked brand new.

A clean airplane lavatory photographed by the author (who can be seen in the lavatory mirror).

I will be very disappointed when the 757s retire from the Delta fleet in the years to come. The US Major has put a lot of effort into restoring his 757 and it really shines.

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A photo of sunset and clouds outside the author's airplane window.  Blue, orange and red can be seen in the sky.On the subject of matching items:

All images are credited to the author, Jason Rabinowitz