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Delta First Class on a CRJ-900 — LGA to STL

It’s easy to get excited about flying First Class in big, flashy jets, but sometimes it’s just as exciting to try out those products on little planes. That is exactly how we felt when we flew from New York City (LGA) to St. Louis (STL) in Delta First Class on a CRJ-900. If you’re wondering what Delta First Class is like on a smaller connecting flight, keep reading.

NOTE: This post details our experience flying Delta First Class on a small plane (CRJ-900) on a Delta Connection flight operated by Endeavor Air. For a more typical Delta First Class experience on a larger plane, be sure to check out our Delta First Class Review – A321 from Orlando (MCO) to New York (LGA). We also review our experience flying Delta First Class on an A220 from ORD to LGA.

Booking Delta First Class from LGA to STL

We were traveling home for Christmas, and my family lives near Springfield, IL. We almost always fly to Chicago, because there are so many more flights to choose from. This time we decided to change it up and fly to St. Louis, so we could have a shorter drive home.

When we book flights, we usually start on Google Flights to review our options and times. Then we pop over to the airline website to actually book our tickets. We decided to fly Delta (our preferred domestic airline lately), so we went to the Delta website to review our options.

Nearly all of the non-stop flights between LGA and STL are operated by Delta Connection on small planes, typically a CRJ-900 or Embraer E170. When you’re booking a flight on the Delta website, you can check which plane is scheduled by clicking details. (It’s a bit hidden, but it’s up there.)

Since all the planes on this route were pretty small, it didn’t really matter which exact plane we were on. However, knowing the plane is helpful in deciding weather or not we wanted to upgrade to a premium cabin. (I go more into that analysis in the “Closing Thoughts” section.)

We also had to factor in our return flight, because we were departing from Chicago instead of St. Louis. There were other options on that route, but we opted for another smaller plane which worked well in our schedule and kept the prices a bit lower.

Given the prices, times and nature of our trip, we decided to book First Class. The total trip cost for Delta First Class (LGA-STL and ORD-LGA) came to $608 per person. We paid in cash and did not use credit card points or status for this upgrade.

NOTE: If you’re considering an upgrade on Delta, be sure to review our detailed comparison of Delta First Class vs Delta Comfort Plus.

Security & Airport Experience at LGA

Our flight was scheduled for 9:55 AM and we arrived at LaGuardia Terminal C at 8:15 AM. This particular flight was on December 23, so we were not surprised to find all of the security queues longer than usual.

We have TSA PreCheck and CLEAR. We were also eligible for the Sky Priority lane, which is a perk available to all Delta First Class ticket holders. At a glance, all of the lines looked pretty bad, so we had to decide which was slightly better than the others.

CLEAR seemed like the best option, but we’ve been really frustrated with CLEAR lately. It seems like we’re always flagged to show our ID (the whole point of CLEAR is that your biometrics are supposed to replace your ID), there is constantly something we need to update, and we often end up spending more time dealing with CLEAR than we would have in the regular PreCheck line.

Sky Priority seemed like the worst option. The line was the shortest, but that queue did not include TSA PreCheck security screening. We’d move through the ID check quicker, but then we’d have to take off our shoes, take out our laptops and liquids, and done the full security check.

We decided to use the regular TSA PreCheck line. Unfortunately, we realized pretty quickly that we’d made the wrong decision. CLEAR was fully staffed and pumping people through their queue, while the regular TSA PreCheck was working at half capacity because one of our two agents was also operating the staff security check. Even the SkyPriority line would have been faster.

After 30 minutes in the queue, we finally made it to the other side of security. This is the longest we’ve ever waited for security at LGA, but we were at no risk of missing our flight. It was now 8:50 and we still had about 30 minutes before our flight was scheduled to board.

Domestic First Class on Delta does not include lounge access. We have Priority Pass, but there aren’t any Priority Pass lounges at LGA. No problem, because we had an even better hack: Starbucks Mobile Order. As soon as we got through security, we ordered coffees and breakfast to the Starbucks nearest our gate. By the time we got there, our coffees were waiting for us.

After eating a cookie for breakfast (because Christmas), we headed to our gate. Despite the crowded security experience, our gate was so empty and calm! Since it was a small plane, there were fewer people waiting to board. Everyone had a seat, so no one crowded the gate area or queued early.

After a handful of pre-boarders, they called First Class. We walked right up to the gate and onto the plane.

Delta First Class Seats on the CRJ-900

First Class seats on the CRJ-900 were in a 1-2 configuration, compared to 2-2 in Economy. As a family of 3, this configuration is ideal. I was particularly happy about it because my husband took kid duty and I got to enjoy the single seat.

It was a small plane, but the seats were still good sized. The First Class seats had a width of 20″ and a pitch of 37″ — pretty standard for Delta Domestic First Class. They were covered in a faux leather upholstery and were in pretty nice shape. (They weren’t quite new, but they definitely didn’t feel old.) Each seat had an adjustable headrest and moderate recline. These seats did not lie flat and there were no foot rests.

The pair of seats were separated with a double-wide armrest. It wasn’t a large center console, but it was large enough for two beverages. There were no privacy divider between the seats.

Each seat had access to one AC outlet, located at the front of each armrest. There was no USB or USB-C charging. There was also no seat-back screen. (I have complained about First Class products not having screens in the past, but I think small planes get a pass on that.) Wifi was not operational on our flight.

Overall, the seats were comfortable and spacious. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the seat space as much as usual because I was sharing it with three winter coats. That leads us to …

Storage Space in Delta First Class on the CRJ-900

This plane was a rare case where Economy actually had better storage than First Class. In Economy, there was standard overhead bins on both sides of the aisle. The bins were a touch smaller than usual, but they still could fit most standard carry-on bags.

In First Class, these overhead bins were only on one side, above the double seats. On the other side, above the single seats, were small cubbies with sliding doors. The space inside was so small that it barely fit our toddler’s winter coat. None of our personal item bags fit inside.

Fortunately, the under-seat storage was quite spacious. Or Pico Portable Car Seat was too big for the bins, but actually did fit under the seat, which is rare. We ended up storing the car seat, our toddler’s roller bag, and one backpack under the seats, and then put my Away Carry-on suitcase and Béis Mini Weekender in the overhead bins.

The only other storage space was a large seat-back pocket, plus three smaller media pockets. There were no cubbies or storage spaces at the seat or in the center console.

Food & Beverage Service in Delta First Class

I continue to be impressed by the food and beverage service in Delta First Class.

First off, there was a mini bottle of water at each seat when we boarded. As someone who never remembers to drink water on flights, I appreciate that!

Next, we were offered a pre-departure drink as soon as we sat down. I care more than I probably should about pre-departure drink service. I just love being able to order a coffee or sparkling wine as soon as I settle in to kick off a premium cabin flight experience. In this case, I ordered a mimosa, which came in a plastic cup.

Kenny got a coffee and our toddler got an apple juice, but it couldn’t compete with their new mini viewfinder toy….

In my experience (and I’ve tested out a handful of other legacy carriers, which are linked at the end of this post), Delta is the only US domestic airline that consistently offers pre-departure drink service. It is such a small thing for the carrier, but goes a long way for passengers.

After takeoff, the flight attendant came back for the next round of drink service. I again ordered a mimosa, which this time was served in an actual glass.

After all the drinks were served, the friendly flight attendant returned with a snack offering. The basket was filled with snacks like chips, pistachios, chocolate cookies, and to my toddler’s delight, gummy bears. We were allowed and encouraged to take as many items as we’d like. (Delta First Class includes hot meals on flights over 900 miles, and we just missed that cutoff with our 888-mile route.)

There was no official food or drink service after that, but the flight attendant happily brought me a coffee by request. This is always my tip for anyone flying First Class for the first time. Always ask for something if you want it, even if it’s not proactively offered. I used to feel so bad about that, but once I started asking, I never looked back. (Within reason of course.)

Arrival at STL

After a smooth and short flight, we landed in St. Louis ahead of schedule. I’m sure I have flown through STL, but not in recent memory. I was surprised but delighted by how small the airport was.

It was also incredibly easy to find my parents outside at the arrivals pickup area. Despite arriving two days before Christmas, the pickup area was empty! My parents were just parked there waiting for us, and there wasn’t a single person out there moving them along!

The airport in St. Louis isn’t far from the Gateway Arch. My toddler has never been, so we decided to make a quick stop for some photos. After that, we were headed home for the holidays.

Closing Thoughts on Delta First Class on the CRJ-900

Overall, this was a nice and comfortable flight, made better by the service I’ve come to expect and appreciate from Delta.

I really liked the relaxing boarding experience that came with a small plane. The onboard experience was pleasant, and I really liked the seats. I loved that we were offered pre-departure drinks, and I was happy with the snack selection — though it was a bit of a bummer that we just missed the cutoff for a meal.

The one thing I didn’t like about this flight was the storage. As much as I loved the 1-2 configuration, I hated the impact it had on the overhead bin space. It would have been nice if there were standard overhead bins on both sides of First Class like they had in Economy. (I assume that simply was not structurally possible, but still frustrating.)

Was Delta First Class worth it on the CRJ-900?

Like I always say, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting with a First Class upgrade. Evaluate the perks you actually care about against the cost of the upgrade. (For example, I never check bags, so free checked bags is of no value to me.) Here’s how I decided that the upgrade to Delta First Class on the CRJ was worth it.

For this route, Delta usually flies a CRJ-900 or a slightly smaller Embraer E170. Delta’s First Class product on these smaller planes and shorter route is not their most premium offering. However, that means that the upgrade to First Class is less expensive relative to the flight cost than on larger planes.

For example … If I look at a one-way flight from LGA to STL a few months in advance, First Class is $100 more than Economy, or 50% more expensive. These flights are all on a CRJ-900 or Embraer E170.

Let’s compare that to a route that operates on a bigger plane. Below are the sample prices for a one-way flight from LGA to ORD on the same day. All of these flights are on a larger A220.

Economy prices are similar (only $10 – $20 more on the larger plane), but the First Class prices are much higher ($60 – $180 more on the larger plane). First Class tickets at a prime time are more than double that of Economy (compared to the 50% increase on the smaller plane.)

TLDR: The First Class experience on the larger plane is a little better than that on the smaller plane, and the prices reflect that. Depending on what aspect of the First Class experience that you value, this can actually work out in your favor.

Personally, I’m come to realize that what I value most about domestic First Class is the perks on the ground (e.g. priority boarding, early access to bin space, first people off the plane). I care less about the experience in the air (e.g. the comfort and space of the seat itself during the flight.)

I still get all of the perks that I care about on the smaller plane, for the lower up-charge. For that reason, I would say that the upgrade to Delta First Class on the CRJ-900 was a good value and worth the price of the upgrade. I would definitely fly this route in this cabin again.

Other Domestic Premium Cabin Reviews