Steaming over air travel. Delta, you morons.

February 5, 2009

I’m mired in a world where technology, food and travel dominate my situation. I’m always eating. I’m constantly on the Internet or on my iPhone. And I’ve been bitten so hard by the travel bug it hurts.

Being a slave to these nouns often causes angst of a kind that can only be alleviated by screaming or laughter. Or screaming laughter. Mostly because the bumps that come in the road of life are caused by a lack of thinking or a preponderance of idiocy. Most of the time it’s the latter.

Take my recent flight on Delta Airlines.

A board of directors’ meeting and the opportunity to work the Super Bowl presented themselves and I jumped at the chance to fly to Florida. The plane trip down was uneventful, but the return leg to Boston was rife with annoyances. Let’s go through the list…

Arrive at the airport at 3:15 for a 4:35 flight. Woman behind me in the security line must have been afraid to be alone because she was touching me or nearly touching me the whole time in the line.

Even sudden fake vertigo attacks in her direction didn’t deter her from staying close. I was quite pleased when my knowing nods to the security staff got her taken out of line for a personal search. Seriously, they took her away, but not until we had gotten all the way through the metal detectors and she had spent 11 minutes resting against me and my bags.

Next, the counter staff failed their primary duty – or what I see their duty as – of being pleasant and assisting passengers. The woman I spoke with at Delta must have understood her job description to be lawyerly and not get pinned down on any facts or information that could ever be used against her.

The exchange went something like this…

Me: Can you help me? Is this the gate for the flight to Boston?

Gatekeeper: On Delta? (she was in a Delta uniform AT a Delta Gate) We have a couple flights to Boston. One is at 4:35 (mine), another at 7 and another later in the evening.

Me: The 4:35. (Did she think people showed up at the gate five hours early for domestic flights?)

Gatekeeper: Oh, that flight will leave from here but it’s been pushed back to 6PM.

Me: Really? I checked online before I came to the airport and it said everything was on-time.

Gatekeeper: Um, we just found out.

Me: What’s the likelihood it will be delayed even more?

Gatekeeper: I couldn’t say.

Me: I’m trying to decide whether to leave the airport and come back at 6.

Gatekeeper: That’s your decision, but the plane and crew are here and they could leave at any time.

Me: You said it was delayed until 6…

Gatekeeper: I have no control over what they do.

Me: (Sincerely) Thanks for your help.

Gatekeeper – no response.

So I wandered to the bathroom and while I was in there an announcement came over the PA system saying that my flight was leaving at the scheduled time of 4:35 and passengers should be at the gate for boarding. This was three minutes MAX after my chat with the gate agent.

Get yourself a cup of calming tea. The next part will make you a little scared and a lot puzzled.

So we board the plane. The thing is jammed full and I’m happy to be in an aisle seat. As we sit on the plane we look out the window to see mechanics and others staring at a flap on the wing. It seems that they are puzzled about something.

The flight staff makes an announcement that there is a mechanical difficulty and will have more info for us shortly. Then we get the more info from the pilot. He tells us that the fuel guy got the fuel door stuck between the flap and the rest of the wing and they’re just checking to make sure the flap still operates correctly.

People in trucks come to take photos of the damage. We’re still sitting on the plane. More people come take photos. Still we sit.

Then the captain comes back on and tells us he’s comfortable with the operation of the flap and we’ll be pushing back from the gate in a moment.

Captain comes back on the air and says during the inspection we missed our window and we’ll be sitting on the plane for about an hour. Make yourselves comfortable. We see the captain leave the cockpit and walk out the door. Presumably to go take a nap or get a drink.

25 minutes later the captain comes back and announces that we’re almost ready to leave, get in our seats. We do so and we pull away from the gate. It’s now 5:20 (we were supposed to leave at 4:35). The pilot also announces, “Good news, I’ve been told that we’re scheduled to be in the air at half past the hour.

We start taxiing out to the runways and then the pilot comes back on.

“I’m sorry for the confusion,” he says. “Make yourselves comfortable again, traffic control was saying half past the hour of six o’clock, so we’re not leaving for another hour.”

This comedy continues for a while as we’re parked in the infield between four runways. A total cell deadzone, so nobody can make phone calls. The flight staff decides to make our waiting more productive and friendly, so they start passing out menus. I think it’s because they are going to offer us some free food. No way.

They’re offering menus so we can choose what food we want to purchase once we’re underway.

We finally leave about 30 minutes later. The wings remain on the plane. There are no other bothersome occurrences. And we get home in one piece.

It’s two days later and I’m still shaking my head over the lack of communication (how about texting me if the plane is going to be late?). Over the lack of communication (how about checking on your info twice before announcing it to the entire plane and then taking it back?). And the lack of communication (how about putting yourself in our shoes before you joke about how the flap will probably work and saying ‘we should be fine’?).

Last Delta flight I take for a while, thank you very much.

More to come…