Ever boarded a plane and wondered where it has just come from, or thought about where it’s headed after you’ve arrived at your destination?
The answer: anywhere within the range of that aircraft.
“We don’t dedicate one specific aircraft to any particular city,” explains Mark Zelinski, systems operations manager in Delta’s Operational Control Centre.
“Our planes are rotated, offering a consistent experience on board for our passengers wherever they fly.”
Delta’s fleet of 58 Boeing 767-300ERs fly on 31 of the airline’s international routes across the Atlantic, Pacific and some domestic destinations.
Ship 1609 is one such aircraft that in just six days will typically fly thousands of miles to cities across several continents.
Here’s a snapshot of Ship 1609’s recent schedule:
Lagos, Nigeria, 22:30: Flight 55 takes off bound for Delta’s hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The airline has served Lagos since 2007 and is the only one to operate year-round daily non-stop service between Nigeria and the United States.
Ship 1609 is one of seven 208-seat, B767-300ER aircraft to include Lagos in its rotation.
Like all other aircraft in Delta’s wide-body fleet, it offers fully flat-bed seats in the Delta One cabin.
These are arranged in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, meaning each passenger has direct aisle access.
There are also home comforts such as Westin Heavenly Bedding, feather duvets and pillows designed for Delta by Westin Hotels & Resorts, and TUMI amenity kits.
Meanwhile, seats in Comfort+ offer additional recline and up to four inches more legroom than those in the Main Cabin.
Atlanta, 05:30: The flight lands and passengers disembark.
Ship 1609 is cleaned and the plane is refuelled, reloaded and ready for its next journey as Flight 81 to Los Angeles.
This trans-continental hop puts the aircraft in the right place to serve another, longer route from LA.
As one of the trans-Oceanic 767-300ER fleet, Ship 1609 will soon be equipped with international Wi-Fi, meaning customers will be able to get connected at 30,000 feet.
Delta already operates the world’s largest Wi-Fi equipped fleet and all its aircraft will offer the service by 2016.
Los Angeles, 21:10: Fresh bedding and amenity kits have been laid out in Delta One and there are also amenity kits for passengers in Comfort+ and sleep kits in the Main Cabin.
Now the aircraft is ready to fly trans-Atlantic to the UK’s capital city as Flight 34.
London, 15:50: Ship 1609 arrives at Heathrow Airport, which Delta has served since 2008.
The airline now offers up to 27 peak-day departures from Heathrow to the US in conjunction with Delta’s joint venture partner, Virgin Atlantic Airways.
London, 17:35: Ready to push back, this time headed for the Big Apple and Delta’s New York-JFK hub as Flight 3.
The Heathrow-JFK route is the world’s most important business travel market, which means it is vital that Delta offers a high-quality product for customers flying this route.
“The Boeing 767-300ER is a popular aircraft type with the majority of Delta customers here because of its window/aisle configuration,” says Nadia Clinton, Delta sales manager for the UK & Ireland.
“As well as offering fully flat-bed seats, more than 85 per cent of seats on the aircraft are either a window or an aisle seat – something that’s appreciated by long-haul passengers, particularly those in the Main Cabin.”
New York, 22:30: Time to taxi and Ship 1609 returns across the pond to Heathrow as Flight 403, arriving the next morning at 10:40.
London, 13:00: The 35 is off to Los Angeles again.
It’s a flight time of 11 hours and 45 minutes but there is plenty to keep passengers occupied.
Delta is the only US carrier to offer personal, on-demand entertainment at every seat on all long-haul international flights.
Customers have up to 250 movies, plus hundreds of TV shows, 2,300 songs and a selection of games to enjoy during their flight.
Los Angeles, 18:40: Now Ship 1609 is headed west, crossing the Pacific to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
All flights to and from Japan have Japanese-speaking flight attendants on board, as well as Japanese movies, subtitled television and film content and a dedicated Japanese version of Sky Magazine.
Tokyo, 22:30: Flight 637 arrives into Haneda after an 11 hour and 50 minute flight.
Delta serves Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo, with Haneda being the preferred choice of business customers.
Tokyo, 00.30: Two hours later, Ship 1609 is on its way back to Los Angeles as Flight 636.
It will cross the International Date Line and arrive into LA before it left Tokyo - at 19:15 the previous day!
Los Angeles, 22:54: Flight 1354 takes off for Atlanta.
Compared to the aircraft’s recent journeys, this is a short trip lasting a mere four hours and 19 minutes.
Atlanta, 05:30: Ship 1609 arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson, where it will undergo a scheduled 17-hour maintenance stop.
Delta’s top priority is safety and each plane is thoroughly checked by maintenance crews upon every arrival and before each departure.
A regular scheduled stop at Delta’s state-of-the-art maintenance facility is carried out for every aircraft in the fleet to ensure the highest standards of safety.
Delta’s Tech Ops team carries out inspections on Ship 1609’s engines, components and other important parts before the aircraft leaves the hangar to be readied for its next flight.
23:14: Passengers have boarded Flight 54 and Ship 1609 is ready to head back to Lagos again.
Over six days, this single aircraft flew thousands of miles on some of Delta’s most important business routes, touched down in six different cities on four continents and welcomed as many as 2,000 passengers on board.
During the time the plane was staffed by 40 pilots and 96 flight attendants, and served a range of regional cuisines, with menus specially adapted to suit the preferences of passengers flying to and from Lagos and Tokyo.