Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Delta Dawn, What's That Airplane I Got On?

A remarkably bad experience with Delta.

As background, I am a Gold Medallion member. That means I get treated better than the average flyer, by a fair amount. Not saying I deserve it, just saying that if this happened to me, with GM status, then the little people get...yikes!

Get to Memphis, on a Salt Lake to Raleigh trip, for layover. Plane supposed to leave at 7:05. Go to gate. Told gate is changed, flight is now 8:05.

Go to new gate. Told gate is changed, different terminal. Flight is now 8:40.

All facilities, and I mean ALL facilities, except bathrooms, close at 7:30. No way to buy anything to drink or eat. Not even vending machines. I've never seen anything like it. The airport was full of people, but every service facility, drinks food, news stores, everything: locked up. People were still in line, and the "service" folks were pulling the metal cage doors shut.

New gate announcement: other end of terminal. Flight is now 9:05. We all walk over. Arrive at gate, told that was a mistake. Wait, maybe it was NOT a mistake. Yes, a mistake. Go back to gate next to gate where we just were all sitting.

Announcement at new/old gate: "The flight is now expected to depart at 10:21 pm. That is a rough estimate, though." Bitter laughter. The mood is growing ugly.

Plane arrives, passengers deplane. Immediately, gate person says, "Now boarding, all rows, all passengers!" Now, one reason I value Gold Medallion status is that I get to board first. I have an LCD projector that is large and very fragile, and I need a minute to get it settled into the overhead. It will be damaged if I have to put it underfoot, and they are supposed to give zone 1 passengers an extra minute or two. But, not this time. By the time I get to my seat, there is no overhead space. I have to push the projector under the seat. Hear cracking sounds. Worried about it, but no choice. Keep pushing.

Stewardess gets on intercom, explains delay. Turns out that this plane (Delta #4271, Lubbock, TX to Memphis, TN to Raleigh, NC) had been stuck in Lubbock for 3.5 hours because...it was TOO HOT. Turns out that this plane cannot be operated in hot places like Lubbock, TX. Which led me to want to ask, "Why the $^%$#$ did you have this plane in Lubbock scheduled for a late afternoon take-off!? It is always hot in Lubbock in late June!" (To be fair, it hit 110 degrees F in Lubbock on Sunday. That's warm...)

Stewardess goes on to tell us the following happy news:

1. Our arrival into RDU would be 1:15 am (scheduled arrival: 10:05 pm)
2. Because they had had to pull the sweaty passengers off the plane three times in Lubbock (once after the cabin filled with smoke!), and the passengers had spent nearly six hours on the plane, the plane was trashed. But....there was no crew on hand to clean the plane. (Everyone who works for Delta in Memphis goes home at 7:30 pm, see above). So, though there was trash and stickyness everywhere....we should just go screw ourselves. Fly or don't.
3. There was also no crew to provision the plane. So, no drinks or snacks. She implied we were lucky to be flying at all, given the heroic efforts of the flight crew to fly a plane that was not really allowed to fly out of hot Lubbock in the first place...you maggots should be GRATEFUL!

Got home, at 1:15 am. And you know what? She was RIGHT. I was very grateful... that I did not have to fly on Delta any more for a while.


Andy said...

Common Mike... is that the worst travel story you can muster?!

SB7 said...

This is the sort of reason I now happily pay more or fly at less convenient times if it means I get to be on a non-Delta flight. They've screwed me one too many times to ever get another cent from me.

Andrea said...

That sounds like a rather hellish ordeal indeed.

Anonymous said...

Why did they bother boarding the passengers in Lubbock if it was too hot? News flash: if it's hot right now in Lubbock, it's gonna be hot an hour from now too. May as well have just pushed it back 3 hours at the get go rather than board and unboard in hopes that the temperature will magically drop 20 degrees all of a sudden.

Very tall Chris said...

Is there a consensus why the flying experience doesn't seem to improve? My guess is a combination of regulations and the absence of competition (partially caused by the former). I was thinking about this last weekend while sitting in the Charlotte airport, on the way to my honeymoon, with a few thousand other passengers while US Airways computers were down again.

BR said...

US Air's not any better. I could tell a similar story every few weeks.

The DCA US Air terminal stops serving food at 8:59P sharp. Regardless of how many hungry would-be customers there are. No vending. Nothing. Most restaurant owners don't hate money and vending machine operators tend to be pretty savvy, there must be a law in place to starve hungry travellers. It doesn't make any sense, but it is DC.

Anonymous said...

BR, don't trash my city. DCA is in Virginia.