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Watching 2024’s Total Solar Eclipse on a Delta Airlines A220 Flight

Osman Dadi
On April 8, I had the incredible opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse from the comfort of a Delta Airlines A220 flight from Dallas to New York LGA. While I couldn't secure a seat on one of the exclusive solar eclipse viewing flights due to high demand and steep prices, I discovered an alternative route that perfectly aligned with the eclipse's path, allowing me to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event in the sky.

On April 8 earlier this year, I had the incredible opportunity to witness the 2024 total solar eclipse from the comfort of a Delta Airlines A220 flight from Dallas DFW to New York LGA.

I couldn’t secure a seat on one of Delta’s exclusive solar eclipse viewing flights due to sold-out high demand and exorbitantly steep prices.

With some extensive custom research and luck, I discovered a secret non-marketed alternative flight that perfectly aligned with the eclipse’s path, allowing me to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event in the air.

Viewing the eclipse on a plane, provides a really unique and very clear viewing experience of the total solar eclipse – being completely above all atmospheric conditions.

However, I don’t recommend solar viewing flights for any kind of solar photography. There are some perks to taking a marketed solar eclipse viewing flight when those are next offered.

On top of everything else, this flight still mostly delivered on the service and quality I am accustomed to with Delta.

The Search for the Perfect Solar Eclipse Flight

I had to travel to Houston Texas on April 5th weekend for a college reunion with my college classmates. Incidentally, this timing aligned well the 2024 Solar Eclipse, spanning from Texas to Canada on April 8 2024. I could fly back from Texas to New York on Monday, April 8.

A map of the contiguous U.S. shows the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse stretching on a narrow band from Texas to Maine.

When I learned that both Southwest and Delta Airlines were offering special solar eclipse viewing flights from Austin and Dallas Texas, I eagerly checked their availability. To my dismay, the prices for economy class middle seats started at a staggering $1,220 for any compatible route from Texas, and I had already missed the prime booking window for First Class – sold out.

Undeterred, I decided to search for an alternative flight that would coincide with the eclipse’s timing. To find the ideal flight, I first examined the path of totality as projected by NASA.

This crucial information helped me understand when and where the totality would cross the United States and the precise timing of the event. The totality was expected to begin around 1:50 PM Central Time and end between 2 and 3 PM Eastern Time.

I then searched schedules extensively for all flights potentially traveling this path during this period.

After very extensive research, I was thrilled to find Delta’s 12:59 PM Dallas DFW to New York LGA flight, although not marketed as a solar eclipse viewing flight, usually routes almost perfectly aligned with the eclipse’s path.

Using FlightAware flight history, I discovered three possible routes this flight would likely take, all of which were likely to follow the path of totality or at least within the 90% eclipse zone.

Booking Delta 534 from DFW to LGA

Knowing that the flight would be operated on a Delta A220 with large windows ideal for viewing, I booked a first-class ticket.

To ensure the best possible view, I aimed for a seat on the right side of the plane, as far in front of the engine as possible. Although seat 1D was already taken, I first settled for 2D in the center row of the cabin.

The booking process was straightforward, and I used an old e-credit to secure my one-way ticket for approximately $500 USD.

Renting A Car From Houston HOU to Dallas DFW

To reach Dallas Fort Worth, I planned to rent a car and drive from Houston to Dallas. Unfortunately by the time of booking National Car Rental was completely sold out, so I opted for Hertz instead. I found and booked a one-way rental car from Hobby HOU to Dallas DFW at 1,500 Hertz points.

My solar eclipse adventure began the day before my flight, as I set out to pick up a rental car from Hertz at Houston’s Hobby Airport. As a one-way rental without an airline connection, I was dropped off directly in front of the offsite car rental facility.

Upon entering, I was shocked to find that the rental car lots were empty, including the President’s Circle section, which is normally well-stocked for immediate pick-up. It looked like the demand for rental cars was extraordinarily high, there was a massive line for service and even the Presidents Circle counter was not staffed.

Instead of the usual speedy pick-up-and-go process, I was asked to wait for 30 minutes while they located a car for me. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t select the vehicle I wanted on the lot.

When I mentioned upon query that I would not be returning the car to the same location, the Hertz agent provided me with a lower-quality vehicle than I booked. I let it go this time since there was no choice, but this experience deters me from using Hertz again.

As I later discovered, the entire state of Texas was experiencing a rental car shortage on this day and all locations in the entire state were sold out – with people from all over seeking transportation to view the solar eclipse.

Getting to DFW Airport

The next morning, I left the house at 6 AM and started driving north to Dallas.

Instead of taking the usual I-45 route north, I opted for a more scenic journey along Route 6 to Waco, then northbound on I-35 to Fort Worth, and finally to DFW Airport.

This route allowed me to appreciate the beauty of the Texas landscape as I made my way to the eclipse’s path, and an arrival at the car rental facility in DFW airport at 11:15 AM.

I found a massive queue of people waiting for the shuttle buses here.

Luckily, as soon as I arrived, the buses literally arrived for every single terminal quickly.

I ended up getting to Terminal E at DFW at 11:40 AM.

Check In at DFW

Upon arriving at the Delta check-in counter, my Gold Medallion status was promptly recognized, making the process quick and efficient.

I checked in one bag and received my boarding pass, eager to start my solar eclipse flight adventure. I also switched to seat 1D, which was available and is my preferred seat on this aircraft.

The priority security line, located near gate E30, was quite a distance from my gate at E13.

However, security at DFW was swift, and I focused on reaching the gate as quickly as possible to ensure I would be among the first to board the plane.

A Glimpse of Delta’s Marketed Solar Eclipse Flight

On my way to the gate, I passed by one of Delta’s specially marketed solar eclipse flights bound for Detroit, departing at 12:30 PM, just before our flight.

The gate for DL 1010 from DFW to Detroit DTW was adorned with a massive balloon arch, signs, and a photo-montage moment set up, creating a festive atmosphere.

Delta staff were distributing branded solar eclipse viewing glasses and holding up special placards to celebrate the occasion.

I was decidedly envious at this point – the environment on the viewing flights were incredibly festive. Looking at the follow up media article, there were gifts and goodies available on board, not to mention interviews with the pilots.

Boarding My Flight

In contrast to the fanfare at the marketed solar eclipse flight’s gate, our gate had no indication that this flight would be crossing the path of totality. I was even asked by the gate attendant why I was taking so many photos, and for what purpose.

As I double-checked my flight details, I noticed an incredible stroke of luck – our flight path had been switched, now following the path of totality! Earlier in the morning, it appeared that our flight would be heading eastward through Atlanta, potentially missing the eclipse entirely. However, the updated flight path revealed that we would be following the eclipse’s path nearly all the way to Detroit, setting the stage for an unforgettable experience.

As I shared the news of our flight’s altered path with two other passengers at the gate, the excitement began to build. We marveled at our good fortune, realizing that we would have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view the total solar eclipse from a unique perspective.

Still, I was surprised to find that mostly no one was aware or cared for our unique opportunity that lay ahead.

The Flight Begins

As the first passenger at the gate, I had the privilege of boarding the aircraft before anyone else.

The Delta A220, my favorite narrow body plane for its large windows, was the perfect vessel for this solar eclipse flight.

However, I did notice that the aircraft hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned, with napkins scattered about – a disturbing trend I’ve observed on some North American airlines.

I had secured seat 1D, which offered two windows and an excellent viewing vantage point.

I noticed that although we were well clear of the engine, the windows were slightly textured, which could affect detailed photography.

Unlike the marketed solar eclipse flights, the atmosphere on our plane was surprisingly calm and unremarkable.

It appeared that only a handful of passengers, including myself and the pilots, were aware of the incredible moment that lay ahead.

During the boarding process, an announcement was made, informing passengers that we would be passing through the path of the solar eclipse and would have the chance to view it on the right side of the plane.

We took off pretty uneventfully on time. The cabin was stunningly quiet and many people sleeping.

The Total Solar Eclipse

The first hour of the flight were standard.

I declined meal service at first to be able to photograph the eclipse an hour into the flight.

The pilots kept us informed with periodic announcements.

As we approached the path of totality, the atmosphere around the plane began to dim.

I noticed the 90% eclipse already creating an otherworldly ambiance. However, nothing could prepare me for the moment we reached totality.

Suddenly, the earth below fell into darkness, while the distant horizon glowed with an ephemeral sunset-like light in every direction.

The moon’s shadow passed over us, and for a brief moment, time seemed to stand still.

Because our flight was traveling in the same direction as the eclipse, we were able to witness totality for a few seconds longer than those on the ground.

This extra time allowed me to fully immerse myself in the experience. Viewing a total solar eclipse is much cooler than I imagined, as you can see the corona with the naked eye. At our altitude, there was almost no atmosphere obstructing our view.

To get the best view from seat 1D, I found myself crouched on the floor of the plane, peering out of the window.

The viewing angle from the plane was slightly awkward, with the eclipse positioned at the 4 or 5 o’clock position and high above.

It was an unusual position, but in that moment, it was a small price to pay for such a breathtaking sight.

As the path of totality passed over us, the darkness slowly gave way to light.

The entire experience lasted about four minutes, leaving me with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for having witnessed such a rare and magical event.

The Rest Of The Flight

Approximately one hour before our arrival, the copilot emerged from the cockpit and approached me with an enthusiastic question: “Did you get it?” His excitement was palpable, and it was clear that he, too, had been eagerly anticipating the solar eclipse.

I noticed and pointed out the pilots even veered the aircraft to the left at one point, allowing them to catch a glimpse of the eclipse from their cockpit window.

As I shared my amazement with the copilot about our flight path aligning perfectly with the eclipse’s trajectory, he revealed an incredible piece of information: The pilots had actually requested a change in the flight path prior to takeoff, specifically to ensure that we would witness the solar eclipse. Not only that – they deliberately veered left in flight to view it!

This revelation only heightened my appreciation for the dedication and passion of the Delta Airlines crew! Sometimes, the airline is simply passionately miles ahead of their competition, especially in their culture!

During the flight, I had the opportunity to try the Neapolitan Pizza, a dish that could only be selected prior to the flight.

Unfortunately, the Neapolitan Pizza proved to be a weak dish. It was essentially a standard fast-food pizza with a thick crust and almost no cheese, lacking the finesse and flavor one would expect from a premium in-flight meal.

I also tried an Old Fashioned, which was good. The disappointment in the food quality stood in stark contrast to the rest of the flight.

Landing and Approach

After the Eclipse, I didn’t think the flight could get better.

Luckily, we got the “corridor” approach into LaGuardia over the Hudson River on a completely clear day.

We crossed right by Manhattan on the right side, giving impressive views of the city.

The Captain graciously greeted everyone coming off the plane!

Our flight landed on time, in the most positive spirits.

I received my checked bags quickly at LaGuardia…

….and soon took a taxi and subway home to Manhattan.

Final Thoughts

Viewing the total solar eclipse from a Delta A220 flight from Dallas to New York was an unforgettable travel experience that I will cherish.

The A220’s large windows, coupled with the serendipitous flight path change, created the perfect conditions for witnessing this celestial wonder. Honestly, it was much cooler to see it than I imagined.

This flight still delivered on the service and quality I am accustomed to with Delta.

The conversation with the copilot and the revelation of the requested flight path change added an extra layer of excitement and appreciation to an already incredible solar eclipse flight experience.

Thoughts On Booking Solar Eclipse Viewing Flights

I can confidently say that this Delta Airlines solar eclipse flight will forever remain one of the most memorable and cherished experiences of my journeys.

While it may not be the most suitable option for photography, the unique perspective and clear viewing conditions made it an incredible way to witness this celestial event.

For those seeking a similar experience during future solar eclipses – I’ve provided all the steps here to find an appropriate flight.

  • Understanding the Path of Totality: To plan your solar eclipse viewing flight, you must first understand the path of totality.
  • Choosing the Right Flight: After studying the path of totality, look for flight schedules to find routes and flights that align well with the solar eclipse timing.
  • Analyzing Flight Routes: Using tools like FlightAware, analyze the possible routings your chosen flight might take. Ensure that the flight path is likely to follow the path of totality or at least the 90% line. This will maximize your chances of witnessing the solar eclipse during your journey.
  • Selecting the Best Seat: To optimize your solar eclipse viewing experience, book a seat on the correct side of the plane facing the sun on the route, and also during the moment of totality. This will allow you to see the sun on the proper side as the aircraft follows the eclipse path. If possible, choose a seat as far in front of the engine as possible for the best views.
  • Booking Your Ticket: Once you’ve identified the perfect flight and seat, proceed with booking your ticket.

Solar Viewing Flights Are Good For

  • Celebratory atmosphere with flight attendants, passen
  • Collect cool gifts and unique collectibles
  • Meeting unique celebrities and airline figures.
  • Don’t need to worry about clouds and atmosphere

Solar Viewing Flights Are Not Good For

  • Photography – the windows are simply too pixelated to allow any detail of something like an eclipse to be captured in detail, not to mention motion and vibration.
  • Viewing if you’re not right at the window, on the correct side of the plane!
  • Solar Viewing flights are expensive and sell out quickly.

Overall, booking a proper viewing flight probably provides a more luxurious, personable and memorable way to enjoy a total solar eclipse.

But, I think it’s more awesome and fortunate to find a secret viewing flight, like I did!

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