19 May 2006


Flight/Airline from Hell

I mentioned our MD-88 from Hell below.

After visiting Fort McHenry, we had lunch at the Rusty Scupper -- Chesapeake Bay Oysters, mmmmm -- on Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Then we made it to the airport -- remembering, just barely, to refuel the rental -- with perfect timing: one hour before our scheduled 3:30 p.m. EDT departure time. Security was no problem. Getting onboard was no problem.

The problem was that one of the ground crew accidentaly hit the wing of the plane with a baggage cart. This meant inspections. This meant repairs. This meant we didn't get off the ground until 7:40 or so, a delay of over four hours.

There was no particular ineptness in the accident or the repairs involved, at least as far as I could tell. But there is a general ineptness to Delta Air Lines these days. There was no local Delta maintenance crew: It was farmed out. So the paperwork for every major decision, just like a dead Southerner on his or her way to Heaven, had to go through Atlanta. Ugh.

They let folks off the plane fairly early, and quite a few, including one of our group, rescheduled flights right then and there. (He was on his way to Boston the next day, and was convinced by the Delta gate agent that he'd never make his scheduled flight out of Daytona Beach.) And finally, they opened up the bar, giving complementary drinks to all who chose to partake (see photo of folks stading in the aisles at the galley). Things did reach an absurd point when the repairs were finally effected, and they had to get the passenger manifest/count in order. It only took them three tries to get it right. And then they had to take some fuel off the plane to get the weight/balance right.

When we got to Atlanta, we had just missed the last flight out for Daytona Beach. But we got ourselves onto a flight to Orlando, rented a car one-way there, and drove to Daytona Beach. After dropping off my remaining travel companion, I got to drive back to Debary, getting home about 2:30 a.m.

I do think Delta has pretty much lost it. It reminds me of Eastern back when it was on its last sloppy legs. Recently, when I travelled to Birmingham, Alabama, Delta cancelled my connection from Atlanta to Birmingham hours before it was scheduled to happen. Mack was taking me to the Orlando airport to catch my flight to Atlanta, when I got an automated call on my cell phone telling me that I had been "protected" by being "reticketed" on a flight out of MCO the next day. We were almost to the airport when this call came in. When I tried to get Delta reservations on the phone, I was connected to outsourced -- somewhere on the Indian subcontinent I would say on the basis of the accents of the two different folks I talked to there -- customer service representatives who seemed not to have the slightest context for how to interpret my situtation. They seemed incapable of getting off the scripted interaction and dealing with me as an individual.

I don't fault the flight crew, cabin crew, or ground crew of our flight the other day: Shit happens. But I do fault Delta management and bean counters. I think their cost-cutting measures are reaching a point of having major impact on customer satisfaction. Next time we have to go to Baltimore on business, we'll take the United direct flight from Daytona Beach to Dulles. It'll be a longer drive compared to flying into BWI, but it'll be quicker overall. And it'll reduce the number of times I have to fly Delta.

Effects of cost cutting, manifest.

What a bitch. It sucks everywhere you're affected by it, it's depressing, unfair, and ultimately destroys the very thing it's purported to help.

Home at 2:30 A.M....I would have been livid.

- BT
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