Thursday, July 15, 2010

DELTA = Doesn't Ever Leave the Airport

The plane that never left the ground.
This was the new meaning a fellow passenger gave to DELTA as we waited and waited at Gate F8 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Delta now holds the distinction of being my LEAST favorite airline and one I'll try to avoid at all costs in the future. Now I'm sure that many of you have had your own flight delay horror stories but see how yours compares with my recent experience with Delta Airlines out of Minneapolis. (Being a writer I always travel with a notebook so as events unfolded I jotted down the times and details of our two days stuck in the Minneapolis airport.)

I was flying from Minneapolis to Orlando with my three kids and my sister-in-law to meet up with my husband and two other families for our long-awaited 5-day vacation to Walt Disney World.
June 17, 2010
1 am: Accidentally discovered that our original flight to Orlando was cancelled (without any notification from Delta) and new flight was leaving two hours later at 9 am.
7 am: En route to the airport, I received a message that Flight 2586 was delayed to 10 am
9 am: Arrived at gate to discover that Flight 2586 delayed to 11 am. No plane in sight.
11:15 am: All passengers moved to a different gate at other end of airport. Departure time now 12 pm but still no airplane at the gate.
12 pm: Departure time changed to 1 pm due to a “mechanical problem.” Passengers getting a bit restless and agitated. We were told that the part (a battery) had arrived on another flight and was going to be tested. They were waiting for a crew to test the battery. THIS WAS THE FIRST OF MANY DELTA LIES! (The truth came out later that night that the new part arrived at 8:30 am. The driver lost the part/battery in transit. Both driver and part were missing for 3.5 hours. At noon, the part arrives at the hanger. Still a mystery what the driver was doing with the part for all those hours.)
1 pm: Passes. 2 pm passes.
3 pm: Crew supposedly arrives to test the part. Still no airplane at gate.
4 pm: The natives are getting restless and asking for another plane . . . Gate agents inform us that problem fixed. Plane arrives and we board the plane. Hurrah! So we think . . . 
5:30 pm: Passengers sat on the plane for over an hour on a 90°+ day with sporadic air conditioning and lights. Told there was still a “mechanical” problem they were trying to fix. The pilot Delta put on this plane was over his legal limit for flying hours. Isn’t that somewhat illegal??
5:45 pm: We were given the option to deplane and stay in gate area. 
Waiting . . .
6 pm: It’s announced that a computer was broken and must be replaced. The original flight was not cancelled so I could not rebook us without paying a steep penalty and the cost of 5 new tickets otherwise I would have gotten us out at that time. Fellow passengers are now screaming at the ticket agents, all of my kids are crying, and the airport is now under a Tornado Watch and Severe Thunderstorm Warning with the Western sky turning black. Sort of tops off our already horrible day.
7 pm: Plane now deemed fixed and we are back on board by 7:15 pm, strapped in and ready to go.
7:30 pm: The flight crew on the plane announces that the plane has no pilot to fly the plane. 
8 pm: Flight 2923 is finally cancelled while we are sitting on the plane. There is no other pilot available anywhere and no other planes available for the night. The flight supervisor put 150 passengers on a plane knowing that no pilots were available to fly the plane! If the passengers had knives, there would have been a mutiny on that plane.
10:30 pm: At hotel in Edina, Minnesota for the night without our luggage. We were given hotel and food vouchers and told to come back for a 7 am flight to Orlando the next morning. Yes, this unfortunate sage continues . . .
June 18, 2010
4:15 am: Get the kids up. My youngest is so tired that he hops into the shower wearing his boxer shorts. He ends up going “commando” until we arrive in Orlando. We put on our dirty clothes from the previous day and board a shuttle bound for the airport to start all over again.
6 am: Arrive at our gate for Flight 9856. The same airplane as the previous day is at the end of the gate. We spot a pilot and flight crew. Fellow passengers are hopeful.
7:45 am: Board the plane and push back from the gate. Cheers from the crowded plane! Then we sit and wait for nearly an hour without a word from the pilot or flight crew. I have a sinking feeling this is not going to be good. The pilot finally musters up the courage to announce that the plane has THE SAME COMPUTER PROBLEM AS YESTERDAY and wasn’t ever fixed. He asks us to stay on the plane while mechanics attempt to fix it for a SIXTH TIME!!! By this point, all hell breaks loose on the plane. Children and some adults are crying, people are screaming and frantically pushing their call buttons, people (including myself) are on their cell phones with Delta getting the run around. I’m thinking they need a computer expert and not a mechanic to fix this problem. Without uttering a word across the aisle, my sister-in-law and I (through our years of honed non-verbal messages) decide that there is NO WAY we want to fly on this broken plane, convinced it will plummet back to earth once airborne. This is the last straw, and we are getting off this plane and onto another flight to Orlando.
8:15 am: Asked to deplane from this heap for a 3rd time! As we enter back to the gate area, my son pulls me to the floor, plops into my lap, and proceeds to cry and scream (at the top of his lungs) how much he HATES DELTA. He manages to grab a sympathetic nod from once of the police officers in riot gear who has been called in to manage my fellow passengers and I. We are not happy campers! In addition to all of the crying children who have been missing out on 2 days at Disney World, an entire volleyball team has missed out on a national tournament, a diabetic woman is completely out of her medicine and is threatening the flight crew with her cane, people are hurling insults and threats at the lone Delta supervisor (who probably doesn’t understand because he really doesn’t speak English all that well), and a man has missed the final few hours with his dying father who passed away before Delta would allow him to rebook his flight. We got to pay Delta for this pleasure!
8:45 am: Mechanics still trying to fix the doomed plane. A 10 am departure is announced. Police are still on hand for the mob scene unfolding at our gate. Local TV crews are on their way to cover the chaos. (See attached clip.)
9 am: Luckily, I am still up at the ticket counter with an upset child when it is announced that a few seats remain on a flight through Charlotte to Orlando. Without hesitation, I rebook us and we are outta there! 
Exhausted but finally in Florida
5:15 pm: We and all our luggage arrive in Orlando nearly 36 hours after our airport ordeal started. Here’s how it all ended, once the TV stations arrived at the gate, Delta sent a new plane for Flight 9856. It arrived safely in Orlando. The broken plane hopefully has been retired to the scrap heap. 
There was no excuse for the way Delta airlines treated it’s passengers bound for Orlando. Minneapolis is a Delta hub. How could Delta not have another plane available? We were there long enough to have a plane flown in from anywhere in the US or even Europe. As for the broken plane, Delta fixes it’s plane in Minneapolis. I think they knowingly stuck us with an inoperable plane. 
I apologize for the long account but I feel better having told it. I have spent far too many hours on the phone and computer with Delta lodging complaints and trying to get reimbursed for missed Disney days and our flights. So now I’m going public and telling everyone I know how horrible Delta Airlines is. I’m avoiding flying Delta in the future and urge you to do the same.
In the end, we finally made it to Disney World but missed out on two of our days. We packed all of the Parks into our remaining days and had an amazing time with our friends and staying in the Treehouses at Disney. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t even miss out on any of the roller coasters and my new favorite is the “Tower of Terror!”
Also, if you have any Delta horror stories to share, please add a comment for me. I’ve already heard 3 new stories in the past week. Happy travels!

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