My Delta Nightmare — A Tragicomedy Of Epic Proportions

I have had a nightmare with Delta that is going to last almost 24 hours. I write this while still in SLC.

It all started when I arrived 2 hours early to process my emotional support animal. Delta reservations told me to arrive this early. Because my drive to BWI was an hour, this means I started my journey at 13:00. When I arrived, I was told that my doctor’s note wasn’t valid due to a lack of NPI number, a registration number for health professionals that is apparently required by Delta, but not other airlines. The note which I had been using with Frontier and other airlines simply wasn’t valid. Never the less, I called my health professional and within an hour I was through. Precheck was a breeze.

When I arrived at my gate, all proceeded as normal. We boarded the plane with ease. That is when the nightmare began. The flight attendants announced that there was a mechanical malfunction which had occurred while the plane (which we had already boarded) was in the air in the last flight. I do not know why they boarded us knowing there was a malfunction. They said, “It’s okay! We have a part here in the airport and we have been informed it will be a 30 minute repair.” It took longer than 30 minutes for me to replace the spark plugs in my car when I owned one. I was sceptical, but pacified.

Then, that 30 minutes turned into an hour. Then 3. Then 4 hours. A diabetic woman was told that she could not get off the plane for food without cancelling her flight w/ no refund. Eventually they offered her chips, but no sustaining food. She later bought a sandwich but couldn’t eat the bread due to her diabetes. I chatted with my seat mate. She told me she was irritated because her flight at 7:30 AM had a similar problem and she had been kicked off due to “weight restrictions.” Little did we know, this would be the case with our flight too.

After 4 1/2 hours we were told “at least 40–50 need to get off this plane so we can fly at lower altitude. We can fly without the navigational part. They don’t have it at this airport. We are so sorry for the inconvenience.” The plane was overbooked and people were waiting for standby flights. I wondered how many other planes would be “overweight” since at least 2 had been compromised the same way. At least 100 people were affected by this between the 2 flights.

No part?! That’s right. There wasn’t any part for the repair at this airport after all. They boarded us knowing there was a malfunction. They didn’t check to find out if the part was really there. The negligence was apparent but all the passengers tried to stay calm and nice. There was a family of 5 travelling with a cat who had a connecting flight on frontier. Even they tried to be patient.

They deboarded the plane. A number of people started rescheduling their plane tickets. We were offered food and hotel vouchers, but no skymiles or voucher tickets to compensate this huge inconvenience.

I rescheduled, but when they announced that “enough people are no longer on the flight, we will reboard” I asked to be put back on the flight. At this point, no one had been able to go and get food. Not even the diabetic woman. The line to get the vouchers had been too long. I felt bad for the desk clerks, who were clearly frazzled and tired of these shortcomings.

I thought to myself, “why don’t they have procedures for this? This shouldn’t be left to chance. Those poor stewardesses, pilots, and clerks have no idea how to handle this.” It was obvious how little planning had been put into these errors by Delta policy makers. The one thing that irritated me though, was that every single steward thought I was 13 or something. They kept asking me if I was “unaccompanied” or if they should call ahead to my parents. Nope. I’m 23 and flying alone. I just wish they had thought of my dog’s predicament as much as mine. He was struggling not to pee this whole time.

Somehow I made it back onto the flight after 50 people were kicked off. We boarded. At this point, my poor dog hadn’t peed since 13:00 and it was now 20:00. 7 hours. Poor dog!! I felt so bad that there wasn’t a place I could take him- the nearest “relief area” was past the TSA. Since they kept saying that it would be only “30 more minutes more” I didn’t feel I could leave the secured area for my dog. Boy, was I wrong. I wish I had just taken him and come back. But alas, it was not to be.

After we were on the plane, the pilot announced that they couldn’t take off. Apparently the computer system that weighs the plane wouldn’t do so with a part malfunction. I was starting to wonder if I was in a play, a darker version of Airplane! perhaps? “Why had they boarded us without checking if the computer would let us leave?” I wondered.

An hour later, we took off. But not before we had to kick off another 4 people. We were still over the weight restrictions. Again, they apologized. People were hungry and cranky. They told us that food would be for purchase. FOR PURCHASE? When they came by and asked what we wanted, I tried to use my food voucher. NOPE. “Those are for the airport, they aren’t valid on Delta flights.” WHAT? I overpaid for a small sad sandwich which was warm and soggy because it had been waiting as long as I had. I made due with what I had. I bought a snack box for my dog just for the salami. I waited…

I tried to turn on the WiFi which I purchased for $16 when I booked the flight. It was not working. The pilot came on and apologised, said he would restart the router. They announced this 3 times. The WiFi never worked. I hope I get that $16 back. WHAT A WASTE!

When we made it to SLC, we were told to go get our vouchers for Hotel. We were not given food vouchers for the new airport. I asked about getting my checked bag for clothing. “We don’t recommend it. It could be up to 2 hours to wait for a bag.”

Well then. I guess I wasn’t going to get my clothing if I wanted to sleep tonight. My new plane took off at 08:30 SLC time. It was 23:00 and I still had to get to the hotel. As soon as I was outside I let my dog out. He peed and pooped immediately and wagged his tail so hard. He was SOOOO ready to be out of his carrier.

My dog didn’t get to pee for 12 hours including the TSA time. My poor dog suffered for your incompetence. It’s a shame that you treated the people this way, but the dog couldn’t understand the announcements. All he knew was that I wouldn’t let him go for a long time. poor buddy.

At least the shuttle would be here soon; I was grateful for that. Whoops! The shuttle to the hotel was full?! I waited for 3 shuttles to pass before there was room for me, my backpack, and my dog. The shuttle waiting area was a smoker’s area. I was coughing because cigarette smoke irritated my lungs, only a few weeks ago I had gotten over pneumonia. Great. Just great. I didn’t get in until practically midnight.

At this point, I was ready to drop. I had a headache that I knew wouldn’t go away. I set an alarm for 06:00 so that I would have time to process my dog. I checked my email and my health professional had sent me a new note for my dog with the NPI. Thank goodness. At least I would be processed in a timely manner. I printed the letter in the morning, and sure enough, the check in was much easier this time.

With that, I tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I was allergic to the bedsheets. My eyes started to puff up. I was itchy. I tossed and turned, eventually choosing to sleep on the little couch in my room. My feet and arms were swollen from the allergy. I was cramped and unhappy. I’m still tired, running on no sleep.

When I went down for breakfast I found out the hotel didn’t do breakfast until o7:00. I decided to grab an (again overpriced) Jamba juice smoothie in the airport.

When I was waiting to be boarded I saw familiar faces, all exactly as tired as mine. There was I hope they get their miles. The woman with the baby, my seatmate, and more. They all looked ready be home. I am still swollen from my allergies. Dehydrated from my ordeal. Irritated from limited food. And I know I’m not even the worse off. People fly for funerals, weddings, work, marriages, health care… Life changing events! I can only imagine what the 100 “Bumped” people are going through.

On my way into the plane I noticed a sticker that touted how many awards the airline had. As though that guaranteed a good experience on their flight. Yeah right. I rolled my eyes at that, while trying not to say anything to the crew. After all, it’s not their fault that all this happened. The employees are as much a victim in this as anyone.

I hope Delta chooses to reimburse us all. If not, I’m never flying Delta again. Regardless, I hope that Delta chooses to make policy binders for this stuff. There should be a set of procedures that easy to follow. Their staff shouldn’t have to guess what to do. They should have called ahead to get another plane, rather than boarding people before attempting maintenance- or even checking for the part. I mean, COME ON. Why board people on a plane you know isn’t in service? Especially when it’s overbooked. A little forethought would have prevented this massive fuck up.

Seriously Delta.

Figure out how to handle your maintenance. This gross incompetence is inexcusable.

I know I won’t be flying Delta as a first choice for a while.