Just one airplane with a mechanical problem can cause serious headaches for airlines and their customers. Just ask Delta Air Lines. On March 18, a cancelled flight cost hours of delay and disrupted the complicated ballet of getting travelers to their destinations. And despite a 5-hour delay (in Detroit, no less!), word is passengers didn’t go away hating Delta Air Lines.
Everything I know about this situation comes to me from my wife, Sarah. She flew out of Baltimore Washington International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. There, she was scheduled to fly on Delta Air Lines Flight 1921, a 757 that would arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by 10:30 a.m.
What I’m about to say is no indictment of Delta Air Lines, but a look at how airlines in general handle situations. With that established, let’s get back to the story: Flight 1921 pushed back and headed to the runway – apparently, the cockpit crew detected an engine problem. They returned the passengers to the terminal and promised to get them on another flight.
Somehow, Delta Air Lines scrounged up a 747 that had arrived from Japan and dubbed it Flight 1821. They combined Flight 1921 passengers with those of two other flights. That left some extra folks, and Delta offered $400 for anyone willing to take a later flight.
Sarah wasn’t tempted by the ducats, so she stayed on 1921. She boarded the 747 and returned to Arizona at about 3:15 – about five hours later, for those counting at home.
Here are some of her thoughts about the situation:
- The Delta Air Lines staff was communicative, forthcoming and courteous. They gave affected passengers $25 for food, drinks and sundry other items while they waited at the terminal. They also apologized sincerely and offered an in-flight “adult” beverage to passengers of legal age.
- The Delta Air Lines 747, which is used for intercontinental flights, didn’t measure up to recent flights Sarah has taken on Qantas, Asiana and IcelandAir. It had no Audio/Visual On Demand system at each seat. Take note, travelers: Amenities like AVOD make intercontinental flights a lot more pleasant. On the other hand, the intercontinental seating configuration on the Delta 747 still means more legroom than most domestic configurations.
- Better a five-hour delay than an airliner with any trace of an engine problem.
Well-handled by Delta Air Lines, both in safety and communication with passengers.
I’d be interested in comments from anyone at Delta Air Lines who is familiar with this situation. Also, many airline passengers have no idea the scope of combining three flights into one, and finding a spare plane to do it: If you can shed light on this, I’d love to hear about it.
And last – my information is from someone who was there. But sometimes messages get mixed. Let me know if there’s anything I can clarify, update or correct.
My Switch Vision sunglasses giveaway is still going on! Competition is heating up, with hikers and mountain bikers pitching in some great stories about the best thing they’ve ever found on a trail. Best story wins! Check this blog post for the rules. Deadline is March 30, 2012.