I have done a lot of traveling in my life and generally enjoyed most of it. Even hopping rides on military transports was great fun to me. But just recently I had to travel from California to Kentucky and the true disaster that we call our major carriers was brought home to me on a Tuesday.
Most travel advisories tell you to travel on a Tuesday because it will be less crowded and cost less. The Monday business people are already at their destination and the families are all home. It made perfect sense to me so I booked flights on Tuesdays. What I failed to understand and what has been on the major news channels for some time now is that the airlines OVER BOOK!
It was a Tuesday and we had gotten up at five in the morning to make a Delta flight at 7:55 a.m. We figured with a bite of breakfast, because only first class has a hope of any food on any flight and turning in our rental car, we would be well within the two hour check-in window as requested by Delta Airlines. What we did not understand and were notified on my cell phone after we got to the airport was that the flight was cancelled because the plane broke. Not my words here, this is what the Delta agent told us when we went to check our bags. It was chaos. An entire plane of people looking for ways to get home. American Airlines had two seats, but those went fast while the Delta agent tried to find some way to connect us to a California-bound flight. Tim the Red Vest Delta agent, I think the ‘manager’ gave us a voucher for a taxi to Cincinnati and directed us out the door.
Now we were a little pressed for time because we have pets that we believed we would be home in time to feed using our original itinerary. The Delta agents in Cincinnati encountered the same problems and we sat and waited while they conferred, far enough away from us to prevent any chance we would over hear them. My husband, who has a whole set of his own issues, decided to eavesdrop on the red vest agent as they all tried to figure out what to do with us. Now I did not hear the complete conversation but at some point my husband slammed his cane on the desk and I heard “…do I look like I fit in a center seat?”. Well, as embarrassing as it was, things suddenly started to happen. We got tickets on a flight leaving at 11:40 and first class tickets for our connection to California. They also gave us $50 vouchers (only good at Delta.com) and a promise that when we reached San Francisco (we live in Sacramento), a Delta agent would be there to give us a voucher for a taxi to Sacramento.
I sincerely wish that was the end of the story, but there was more to come. We checked in at the gate for the 11:40 flight, but it had been delayed so we took our food vouchers off to have some lunch. When we returned to the gate we were told that plane was also broken and they directed us to another gate. Anyone who flies knows gates are never close together, so we walked fast and made that flight.
If only that were the worst of it. When we arrived in Detroit the connecting flight to San Francisco was listed as “boarding” at gate 16. We were at gate 4. Now that may sound like a good thing but we were at the hub and the next gate down was gate 38 and even with the moving walkways it was a run to make it to gate 16. If you have read this far and I can’t imagine why, you will remember the slamming cane. Yup, the old guy cannot run. I tried to tell him to let me go ahead and hold the plane, but he insisted on trying to keep up. It was at least a two-mile hike to get to the next gate and at some point I stopped (I stopped several times to let him catch up) and said that it simply was not worth dying over. He was looking a bit droopy. Thankfully, at least from our standpoint, some prior passenger had stopped up the rear lavatory and the plane was delayed. I felt sorry for the flight attendants as the captain wanted to depart and was riding the attendants to handle the situation. We were the last of the first class passengers and when the flight did take off we had a very nice experience on a four hour plus flight.
Now we were in San Francisco and of course, no Delta agent had any knowledge of our need for ground transportation to our car in Sacramento. To give credit where credit is due, the ground personnel at Delta were Wonderful! They had to go through their channels and we waited about forty-five minutes for things to be sorted out, but we received a voucher for a super shuttle to Sacramento. I will stop here because the super shuttle is too unpleasant to recount. We finally made it home about twenty-four hours after our five in the morning beginning of this mess.
The moral of this story, if there is a moral, is you cannot be polite to the agents of the major carriers. It is sad, but I believe we might still be sitting in a Delta terminal somewhere in America waiting for more broken planes to take us home. Delta, I fear, was just like all the other major carriers. They were overbooked and only my husband’s outburst got us moving. Delta has a slogan “Keep Climbing”. I have a suggesting, Delta. You seriously need to “Keep Trying”. The vouchers were a nice offer, but I don’t think I will try flying on Delta again. I don’t think I will fly on any major U.S. carrier if I can avoid it. Overbooking is here to stay and shame on all carriers for maximizing profit over service.