Monday, July 28, 2008


Airing It Out

Another black eye for the airline industry. This time it is Delta whose Vegas-bound passengers were stuck in a plane for, um, a lengthy period. Quick word of advice to airline PR officials. This is probably not the best approach to damage control:
Passengers aboard a Las Vegas-bound Delta Air Lines jet reported waiting nearly seven hours before their flight was ultimately canceled after thundershowers delayed more than 130 flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport.


Delta Air Lines Inc. spokeswoman Betsy Talton said the Las Vegas-bound flight was delayed five hours. She conceded passengers may have included the time it took them to board and then disembark at the gate, which was not included in her calculations.

So, it was "only" five hours in airplane-delay, but seven hours in "real" time. This, of course, is the same reasoning that tells passengers that their flight leaves at XX hour, but if they're not on the plane by XX-30 minutes, the gate is closed and the passenger can't board.

But, hey -- five hours? seven hours? What's 120 minutes between friends?

Anyway, I bring this up because I would like to show the other side of these nightmare stories.

Your hardworking blogger had to fly out Friday to New Mexico to attend St. John's College board business. Responsibilities at the day job forced me to take a relatively late flight out to Albuquerque (where I rented a car and drove out to Santa Fe). Anyway, I did my dutiful day of meetings Saturday, went to dinner with a few other Johnnies and prepared for my Sunday flight back.

Well, I mistimed my drive back to Albuquerque Sunday morning and got to the airport about 25 minutes before my 9:35 AM departure. "Too late!" I was told at the check-in, so I was rebooked for a flight leaving in another hour. OK, not too bad -- especially considering that I had been facing a three-hour layover in Houston from my original flight.

Flight departs on time. I get to Houston about 1:30 Central time. Now my next flight is supposed to be at 3:55 (so I believe). I head to the gate and prep myself to hang out for a couple of hours. One hour into my wait, the info at the gate changes. My flight is now leaving at 5:10 PM. Okay, no prob. So it goes.

Then, for some reason, I look into the envelope that the ticket agent at Albuquerque had given me and found out that when she rebooked me, she took me off the 3:55 flight and put me on another one -- 2:15!! D'oh!! By this time, it's 2:45, half an hour after the flight I was supposed to be on has left. On top of that, I don't have a ticket for the 3:55 (now 5:10) flight I thought I was supposed to be on! Worse, the gate I'm waiting at has yet to be staffed, so I'm really starting to panic.

Anyway, a few minutes later, a gate attendant appears. She assists one person ahead of me. I then -- somewhat embarrassedly -- explain my situation. She pauses and says, "Oh, why don't you just get on Flight (whatever)?" I say, "Didn't that leave already?" "No, air traffic control has all flights to New York delayed. Hold on just a moment." She picks up the phone and says, "Hey, I'm over at 45. Have you guys finished boarding yet? Great. I'll send Mr. George over."

It was, fortunately, not a lengthy swift walk to the right gate (E-6). Our flight was in the air by 4 and landed at LaGuardia at 8:30 PM!

So, yes, many of the airlines get a lot of crap (some of it quite deserved). However, I want to give tips of the cap to the employees of Continental Airlines. Both the ticket agent in Albuquerque and, especially, the gate attendant in Houston (I wish I wasn't in such a hurry that I didn't get her name) both of whom were quick and professional in assisting me (even though it was my own errors that helped cause my predicament).

Good service does still pop up on occasion and should be celebrated when it does.

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