Jill vs. Delta Air Lines, The Novel

Here is a video that sums up how I feel today:

I realize that most people read Feministe for the political and feminist content, and not for the Feministe authors’ personal grievances and/or self-indulgences and/or bitchings. However! Why have a blog if you can’t occasionally use it to indulge your narcissism and turn it into a platform for your personal complaints? Behold, Feministe readers, what is possibly the Worst Travel Story of All Time, brought to you courtesy of Delta Airlines and yours truly.

This weekend, I flew down to Austin for SXSW. It was lovely. Austin is lovely! Good people of Austin, you are lovely, and you have great tacos and BBQ and one of you even gave me a liter of horchata. I like that. What I did not like? Returning to New York.

My flight back was from Austin to New York (La Guardia) through Atlanta on Delta Airlines. The flight out of Austin was delayed, as flights are wont to be. But instead of flying us to Atlanta, the pilot first circled for an extra hour, and then announced that we had been diverted, and would instead be flying to Montgomery, Alabama, where we would have to sit for 2 1/2 hours before going on to ATL. Have you ever been in the Montgomery, Alabama airport? I would not recommend it. It is tiny and the bar is apparently closed on Sundays. But what can you do, right? So we sat in the Montgomery airport, and were all very relieved when some time later, we were told to get back on the plane so that we could continue to ATL. Except once we were back on the plane, the pilot got on the speaker to announce that he had surpassed his duty day, and could not legally fly us to Atlanta. Which, personally, is something that I would file under “Things You Could Have Thought Of Earlier,” but I guess that is not The Delta Way.

We all exit the plane, and are told to wait. So we wait. And wait, and wait. And let me tell you, not a soul appears to be working at the Montgomery airport past 6 p.m. Finally a man comes out and tells us that they are trying to get a bus to drive us to ATL, which is three hours away. So we wait more, and more and more, and the bus does not appear to be materializing. 11 p.m. roles around, and it is increasingly clear that there is probably not a bus driver in Montgomery who wants to drive us all three hours to Georgia. And by “increasingly clear” I mean that I am guessing this is the case, since there is not a single Delta or airport employee in sight. A nice young lady, also traveling alone, comes up to me and says that she’s going to rent a car, and asks if I want to drive with her to Atlanta. YES, YES I DO. Also, yay for sisterhood, the kindness of strangers and ladies doin’ it for themselves. Too bad we can’t leave, since our checked baggage is still on the plane, three hours later.

Finally we see a baggage claim guy, and people start asking him if we can get our bags. He tells us that diverted flights are last priority, and that they have to get the bags off of all the other planes before they can get ours. Which is fine, since there is one baggage claim for the entire airport, and there aren’t that many flights — but he tells us it’ll take a long time anyway, because there are only two people working. He is correct, it does take a long time. Sometime around 1 a.m., we finally get our things, locate a third solo female traveler and hit the road.

In the meantime, my cell phone is about to die and cannot sustain what will surely be a long call to Delta, so I call my mother in Seattle and ask her to please call the airline and get me on a new flight in the morning. She does, and also gets us a complimentary hotel — since it is 1 a.m., and we are driving in a strange state in the middle of the night, and we have not slept, it would be nice to take a little nap, charge our phones and shower before flying out in the morning. However, Mitsey at Delta Airlines would not give my mother the hotel information, saying that we had to go to the airport first and speak to a Delta agent. Annoying, but we have to return the rental car anyway, so fine.

After a three-hour drive, we walk into the Atlanta airport and there are hundreds of people crowded around the Delta counter. There is no one at their customer service counter, only the check-in/ticketing counter. I flag someone down and briefly explain the situation, and am told that we have to stand in the massive line in order to get our hotel info. However, this person tells me, since my flight is at 7:40 in the morning and it’s now sometime close to 3 a.m. and that line is about 3 hours long, I should probably just forget the hotel and line up. So after returning the car and migrating back to the counter, at which point it is 3:30ish, we line up and check in. All we want to do is go to the gate where we can sleep — there isn’t really anywhere to sleep in the check-in area, and people are literally passed out on the conveyor belts behind various counters. Then we are told that we cannot check our bags for two more hours, when the day crew begins their shift. Frustration ensues. We decide we will carry on our bags, despite the fact that mine has tons of larger-than-allowed liquids and another girl’s is just enormous. I end up having to throw away a lot of my stuff (perfume, pricey shampoo and hair products, etc), but it’s 4 a.m. and I’m exhausted and just want to get to the gate so I can shut my eyes for a few minutes.

I get to the gate and do indeed shut my eyes for a while, only to open them and realize that there is no one around and the flight leaves in 40 minutes, so that’s weird. Also, per usual, no Delta employees are to be found, and the Atlanta airport has a serious lack of those electronic readerboards telling you where your gate is. I figure out that the terminal has been changed, so I end up running with my stuff to make it on time. I do, and I board the plane. Where they insist on gate-checking my bag, because there is no more room in the overhead compartments. Awesome. Glad I threw away all my shit.

Then the flight is delayed. We sit on the runway for some time, and because of the new federal law requiring that airlines not keep people on the tarmac for more than 3 hours, they let us off for about 5 minutes before insisting we all get back on because we are leaving right now. We do not leave right now, or for several more hours. They let us off the plane again. Shortly thereafter, they insist that we all get back on the plane because we are leaving right now. We do not leave right now.

At some point after the second or third round of boarding and being told to sit down because we are leaving right now, a man towards the back of the plane stands up to get himself a cup of water. For context, this flight is (or was supposed to be) a 7:40 a.m. flight from Atlanta to New York, landing around 9 a.m. It is full of (mostly white) business people in suits. This man is brown, and appears to be South Asian. A flight attendant at the front of the plane, near where I’m sitting, sees him stand up and panics. She throws open the airplane door and starts yelling at him that he isn’t allowed to stand up, and that he needs to exit the plane immediately. The man is confused, and says, “What? I was only standing up to get a cup of water.” She yells out, “I don’t care, you’re off the flight! Get your things, you’re off the flight!” Water Man starts arguing with her about how he just wanted a glass of water, and he is happy to sit down now, but he’s not getting off the flight. The flight attendant says that she feels threatened and gets a supervisor, who in turn gets airport security, who in turn tell the man that he is going to be arrested and charged with a felony if he does not exit the aircraft. The man, probably smartly, exits the aircraft.

We sit on the runway for another two hours or so. Then they announce that our flight is canceled. Water Man, reportedly, got on the 8:40 a.m. flight, which made it out on time and beat all of us to New York.

Back to the Delta customer service counter, which by now has a huge line and only two employees working. By the time I get to the front, the only flights into New York are the next morning. I’m already missing a day of work because of this, so another day is not going to fly. I get a little beggy and irate, and the agent says he just found a seat on a flight to Newark (which, for non-New-Yorkers, is a New Jersey airport close to New York; it’s a far drive from where I live and ends up being a $100 cab ride, which is why I never fly in or out of there, but at this point I was a little desperate). Great, I say, put me on it, but what about my bag that they made me gate-check? Hmmm, he says, that will go to La Guardia (again for non-New-Yorkers: La Guardia is another airport in New York, located in Queens, and is where I was originally slated to fly into). Ok, I say, can we arrange to have the bag delivered to my home? No, he says, you have to go get it yourself from La Guardia. So, I say, I have to fly into Newark, then go from Newark to La Guardia to retrieve my bag, and then go home? Yes, he says. Having no other choice, really, I say ok.

The flight to Newark is delayed. But we finally board. As we’re waiting to take off, I look out the window at the bags being loaded onto the plane, and I see that they are loading a dead body in a travel coffin. This cannot be a good sign, I think. But we do actually take off.

Then we get hit by lightning.

Now, apparently planes get hit by lightning all the time, so this doesn’t make us crash or anything like that. It does scare the hell out of me, though, and emphasizes that God or the universe or whoever must be really fucking pissed at me right now to evoke those levels of Biblical fury. Lightning aside, we landed safely in Newark — late, and about 30 hours after I initially departed Austin, but what can you do — and, of course, my bag is at La Guardia. Thankfully, there is apparently one single competent person who works at Delta, and he was managing the lost baggage station yesterday night. He scheduled delivery of the bags to my house that same night; naturally, they did not arrive last night, but did at least come this morning (I’ll take what I can get at this point).

When I called Delta Customer Service to complain, I first received an automated message that because of high call volume, they could not take my call. Which, if that many people are complaining about you? I dunno, maybe time to change! I called back and the lady hung up on me. I called a third time and they first told me that “there is nobody here who takes complaints,” but after I insisted on voicing my complaint offered me a $200 travel voucher. Which, (a) I spent waaaay more than $200 on rental cars, cabs, and replacement personal products, and (b) not sure I’ll be flying Delta again any time soon, so a voucher isn’t exactly ideal. Oh also now I am sick from being up for approximately 52 hours in row, except I don’t have time to go to the doctor because I have so much work to do from missing Monday. When I said that a $200 voucher didn’t exactly cut it, the Delta man told me I would have to write a letter. Since I do enjoy writing strongly-worded letters, I followed his advice, and it is a strongly-worded letter indeed. We will see what happens, or if anyone actually reads it (or if anyone actually reads this!), for they are both quite long.

So there you have it. Delta Airlines is basically Satan, and we are apparently engaged in a multi-day fight to the death. Oh and all of this was tweeted, if you would like to read the carnage in real time.

Who else has something to complain about today?

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79 comments for “Jill vs. Delta Air Lines, The Novel

  1. anon mouse
    March 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Geez, that sounds utterly terrible :(

    You should send your story to consumerist.com … I think they’d, well, not get a kick out of it, but be very interested!

  2. Ami
    March 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm


    I recently moved to Austin, and I’m from Indianapolis. It’s a pain in the butt getting between those two places because no direct flights. Friends and family have had hard times with Delta and weather delays in the past. But NOTHING like that.

    You are a strong, strong woman…

    I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Austin, sucks it had to end on such a sour note.

  3. Amanda
    March 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Just……wow. That’s all I can say. Make sure you let us know if/when they respond to your letter. That’s just ludicrous!

  4. March 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Your flight reads like a horror movie. You hd to be desperate to fly to the shit hole known as the La Guardia Airport.

  5. March 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Oh no! All of that is terrible (except the rental car travel buddies and your mom –they are not terrible!). I second the notion that you send your story to consumerist.com. If only because I flew Delta to Baltimore a few summers ago, had to give up my seat for an EMPTY CAR SEAT (EMPTY. CAR. SEAT. EMPTY!) and had to give up all of my carry ons, and Delta kindly eviscerated my laptop in return. And it wasn’t really “mine,” it was my roommate’s. (Let the public record show she was really cool about it. I would not have been cool about it. Also, I called Delta, and it was my fault. It was all my fault a passenger had extra carry ons. ) There’s a welcome space for you in the Never Flying Delta Ever Again Club! (And I didn’t deal with anything compared to you. I’m a mostly lucky traveler.)

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  6. Ben
    March 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Sadly, Newark is worse than LGA, at least if you are trying to get there from New York City.

    Air travel from New York is so ridiculous that it makes sense to take a train or bus if going to Boston or DC or points (roughly) in between. I don’t know what to make of it when it almost makes more sense to road trip it to Austin.

  7. March 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Wow, Jill, this story is even worse than I’d gathered from the live-tweeting. Damn. I’m glad you’re home safe now, but it sure must have sucked to have been you. :/

  8. piny
    March 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Well, I hope you can dooce them.

  9. Lauren
    March 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I don’t have a story anywhere near that bad, but yesterday we were delayed an hour and a half (on a Delta flight), and it was so turbulent that I thought I was going to throw up and die.

  10. Ginjoint
    March 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Good night, the levels of fuckuppery there are staggering. This is, by far, the worst airline horror story I have ever read. Just when I thought it would end for you, I kept scrolling, because there was more. There was always more! I don’t know how on Earth you managed to stay awake, Jill – there’s no way I could’ve pulled that off. I am so sorry that happened to you.

  11. margosita
    March 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I also had a Delta horror story last week, which involved multiple delays and the whole board-now, no-wait, get-off thing and 6 hours in the Detroit airport. But your sounds worse. Yikes.

  12. Rebecca
    March 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Wow, that is even worse than the time we were separated, I in Clifton, New Jersey with a pack of British Trekies, you in Madrid by yourself, both of us crying—COMBINED with 114 degrees on a train AND wandering around Nice trying to find a place to stay and the story that ensued…. UGH… poor Water Man!

  13. Gillian
    March 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I am going to have nightmares after reading that. I can’t imagine how you are still sane and managed never to tear your hair out.

  14. Allison
    March 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Holy shit. That’s about all I have to say. Midway through I started laughing because it’s just too ridiculously horrible!

  15. piny
    March 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    My favorite part was the one where you had to go and pick up your fucking luggage yourself.

  16. March 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I’ve had some bad travel stories (involving British Airways and lost luggage in the Rome Airport) but this takes the cake.

    Send the letter. Ask for Delta Crown Room membership for a year (not ideal, but hey, it’s something).

  17. piny
    March 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Although, now that I think of it, your luggage could very well have ended up buried in sand. In Guam.

  18. March 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Okay… I have a Delta horror story about a flight that was delayed due to weather, leading to our following horrendously bad advice from well-meaning Delta employees (who should have known better) that resulted in needless complication, delay, and their loss of one of our suitcases during the simple task of transferring it from the customs area to baggage pickup. And yes, I also know the pleasure of that two-and-a-half hour line at the Delta counter, staffed by one or two people no matter how many people are waiting in line. And yes, we ended up renting a car to finish the last leg of our flight… because it was either an eight hour drive or a two day wait for the next available flight. But still… your story beats mine, hands down.

    During our two-and-a-half hour wait at the Delta counter, as we approached the front of the line we let a guy cut in front of us. He had been given a hotel voucher good at several local hotels, all of which were full. (Another recipient of a voucher noted, sardonically, that the “50% off” price was not only “good” for hotels that were full, but their “off the street” discounts were within dollars of the supposed “half off” rate listed on the voucher.) We did save the poor guy some time, but guess what…. He got the “We can’t help you with that, go wait in that line” treatment, and got to start over at a different counter.

    (If you’ll forgive a short digression…. The car rental company wasn’t much better, first renting us a disaster of a car with front end alignment about 20 degrees off center and getting about 8 mpg due to the drag, and did I mention we were trying to drive around a massive storm front that was dumping huge quantities of snow on the roads? Then – after we called in to arrange a replacement – not having the replacement ready as promised at the pickup location… and making us wait for about an hour despite there being nobody – that’s right, nobody – ahead of us in line while the people behind the counter (to the best of my ability to tell) did nothing. At the end of the hour they gave us the only similarly sized car on their lot and told us, as if we should be grateful, that we were getting a “free upgrade” to a car with a GPS. Which turned out to be broken. But at least the car drove in a straight line)

    Somebody observed about a year ago that merging the airline with the worst customer service rating with the airline with the second-worst rating was not likely to result in an improved customer service experience. I guess Delta and Northwest showed them….

  19. Marksman2000
    March 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I don’t have your patience, Jill. When that flight attendant starting yelling at Water Man, I would have lost it. Thing is, I don’t think race had anything to do with it. I believe the flight attendant was stressing just as bad as everyone else (or worse), and she just decided to vent on that poor bastard.

    Of course, I’ve seen police officers do the same thing with fists and batons.

  20. emr
    March 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    anything that involves the atlanta airport always involves carnage. when i lived there and would fly ANYWHERE, my flight was always delayed (one time it took an hour and 45 minutes of sitting on the tarmac while they tried to locate sandbags – but that was continental.) my worst experience involved trying to fly from columbus, oh to jfk when our plane caught on fire. harrowing, to say the least. THAT was delta.

  21. March 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Och! Delta Airlines in the WORST! I flew solo when I was 10 and the left me in the terminal by myself. No one had bothered to phone ahead that an unescorted minor was flying so they had no idea what to do with me! Took a few solid hours before they would let me go with my family. Terrible.

  22. March 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Holy cow, that is one amazing story!! I’ve lived in Austin for years (glad you enjoyed your time here), so at least your return trip had a good start. I could never have held myself together through your ordeal. It sounds like you got a fabulous story out of it — and I hope you hang tight to your complaint until you get some kind of satisfaction for this situation.

  23. preying mantis
    March 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Great googly moogly. They really just won’t be happy until the only people trying to fly are rich-ass bastards, will they?

  24. That Girl
    March 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Wow. That is by far the worst airline story I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I could have handled not yelling at something. Thank God for Twitter and that immediate release

  25. Rachel
    March 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Delta: Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport.

    The last time I flew Delta (July 09) it was an international night flight from JFK. Since tons of flights from America to Europe leave at night, one would think that the international terminal might, you know, have employees hanging around to check people in. There were about 3. One who was checking in a line 30 people deep, and 2 others who were standing around yelling at everyone on line to use the self-check in terminals. Unfortunately, one of the flights that was leaving around the same time as mine was to Tel Aviv and, somewhat unsurprisingly, passengers going to the Middle East are subject to more thorough screening. Which means that they can’t use the terminals (or at least couldn’t then.) This is, of course, the sort of thing that the idle Delta employees might have known if they had stopped berating everyone for a moment and allowed one of the passengers (many of whom were obviously Orthodox Jews and carrying Israeli passports) to tell them where they were going and that they needed to be checked in manually. Also the sort of thing one might expect airport employees to know. Not so. This all went on for a good 25 minutes. Finally one of the Delta crones nastily grabbed one passenger’s passport and tried to “help” this fool who was obviously too incompetent to use a computer…only to discover what all of us already knew, that it wasn’t going to work for him, or half of the people on line. Not that this inspired anyone to get behind the counter to help check everyone in.

    But seriously, your story takes the cake. That’s got to rank up there with one of the top disastrous travel stories of all time.

    I suggest sending a letter to the airline (wouldn’t hurt to send a link to this post, or to mention your average pageviews…) and to Consumerist. You might be able to get them to reimburse you for some of the expenses.

  26. Ellie
    March 23, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Um, that fing sucks. Sorry you had to deal with that. :\

  27. herong
    March 23, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Better Business Bureau. They are amazing and respond personally to the complaints.

  28. PrettyAmiable
    March 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    emr: YES. Delta for sure was a shitshow with this situation, but don’t underestimate the problem that was Atlanta. Atlanta has the longest delays of any airport in the US.

    I flew Delta last week from France to the US and the first leg was fine, but the connection from JFK to STL was ridiculous. It ended up being a four hour ordeal for a two hour flight… but it seems stupid to complain now, haha. Sorry! I hope that you at least find it a fun story to tell.

  29. Sarah
    March 23, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    The worst flight I ever took was with Delta. They canceled our flights, shuffled us around, made us miserable, and then lost our baggage. When the baggage was returned to us – three days later – it became clear that our bags had been left out in the rain at some point.

    And my suitcase was growing mold. I was Not Pleased.

  30. dakus
    March 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    OUCH! Sorry to hear about your horrific travel experience back home. Have you considered moving to Austin? You are always welcome down here.

  31. Jenn
    March 23, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed Austin, but that is a terrible story! The one problem with Austin is that there are so few direct flights to and from. I have a 2 year old and I can only IMAGINE how god awful this experience would have been had it been she and I. Good reason not to fly on Delta anymore.

  32. March 23, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about this. Here’s my story regarding a board member of Delta who framed me out of my career of 18 years. This will give you some insight into why the airlines are so screwed up.


  33. chipchop
    March 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Wow. I definitely hope you get more than the voucher out of this whole deal.

    But on a more positive note… did you see any great bands/films at SXSW?

  34. March 23, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Holy mother of god.

    A lot of airlines have relationships to hotels that have points programs, too. Perhaps you can demand that instead.

  35. March 23, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Jill, as shitty a day as I’ve had, your story has cheered me up by comparison. Which is to say, I am sorry.

  36. prairielily
    March 23, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    As awful as this sounds, I have to know… how do you know that Water Man got on the 8:40 flight?

    I used to live in Atlanta. I will never comprehend why there are so few of those boards in such a gigantic airport. What the hell, Atlanta? WHY? Also, for some reason, when I lived there if you needed to use the payphone to make a local call it would cost $1.75 in quarters. What the hell, Atlanta?

  37. March 24, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I’ve got a waaay worse story than this that ended with my getting $1700USD from an international air carrier after writing a three-page complaint letter. I hope you have the same good fortune.

  38. March 24, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Hey Jill, I followed some of this on twitter. I am glad to hear that you finally made it up but I gotta say that your story has to go down as the worse travel story that I have ever heard.

  39. Alexandra Lynch
    March 24, 2010 at 3:29 am

    This is why I do not fly.

    I have got enough medical issues that traveling even by private car is sometimes an interesting and challenging hurdle to be managed. And that’s with as much control as I can have regarding timing, conditions, and the ability to access water, sleep, and medications as needed.

    So no, not flying.

  40. March 24, 2010 at 3:31 am


    Jill, do you ever read Patrick Smith’s column on Salon.com? One of the points he always makes is that air travel in the U.S. is just not as good as it should be. For a wealthy country, there are way too many problems. Granted, fuckery happens everywhere else – it happens in Europe, it happens in the Middle East – but the sheer amount of fuckery in the U.S. still has the power to surprise me. I mean, let’s put it this way – something like Royal Jordanian is a bastion of customer service in comparison to Delta.

    And it’s also true that airports such as ATL are a huge chunk of the problem. And then there are mismanaged and inefficient security checks. Combine all that, and you’ve got chaos.

    Anyway, I hope you write your letter, and I hope you get something out of them. Delta should erect a monument in your honour for the amount of composure you showed alone.

  41. Ginjoint
    March 24, 2010 at 7:12 am

    After I left my comment above and had plopped my lazy ass on the couch to watch some T.V., my thoughts kept returning to that man who was needlessly and cruelly expelled from his flight. I felt so bad for him. Did any other passengers stand up for him? Maybe the social pressure from other passengers *cough*other white people *cough* would’ve gotten through that attendant’s thick skull enough to cause her to rethink her actions. Or not.

  42. Tree
    March 24, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I actually like flying out of Newark, at least compared to JFK or Laguardia. There is a bus to the Port Authority and a train to Penn Station from Newark, if you can deal with taking luggage on the subway.

  43. Fine
    March 24, 2010 at 8:28 am

    USA airlines have a dreadful reputation all over the world and are the reason why many people chose not to travel there. That, and the horrendous thugs in customs and immigration.

  44. Bonn
    March 24, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Are you sure you weren’t starring in a remake of Planes Trains and Automobiles without your knowledge? What a terrible story.

    My worst flight ever was Delta … until I flew Northwest. And now they’re the same, or something. Unsurprising. Nothing at all near that level of crappitude, though. Just stuff like flight attendants stepping on my foot and dropping water (at least it was water) on me. And awful food (international flights). And no monitor to watch for the whole 14 hour flight because I happen to be short and can’t see that ONE screen at the front of the section. But if that’s the worst of my troubles … well … yeah, that’s not so bad.

  45. Amy
    March 24, 2010 at 8:44 am

    You are much stonger than I am. I would have probably ended up in jail for freaking out on the Delta staff.

  46. Kate
    March 24, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Yes — this is why I now refuse to fly Delta despite its reasonable southern-traveling fares, because this is what happens. 3 near-death events [a near miss mid-air collision with another Delta plane that didn’t realize it WASN’T the one that was cleared for landing; one flaming blown engine with consequent emergency landing in Kansas City and a 23 hour ordeal following similar to yours; the third, a thousand foot free fall after a lightning strike, which was my last straw] and I just can’t do it; I’ll pay the extra hundred bucks to fly another airline that won’t try to kill me. And this is also why I fly Southwest as often as I can. While their checkered feminist past is painful, at least they get me where I’m going safe, sound, and on-time — and if not, someone’s there to deal with it with a smile in airports big and small.

  47. Amy
    March 24, 2010 at 9:02 am

    P.S. I found your blog link from the Austin American Statesman- At least you had an enjoyable SXSW!

  48. March 24, 2010 at 9:34 am

    “Are you sure you weren’t starring in a remake of Planes Trains and Automobiles without your knowledge? What a terrible story. ”

    No kidding… I kept expecting Jill to mention “And up walked a guy name Dell Griffiths”… Sorr you had such a crappy travel experience doing something as simple as just trying to get home.

  49. ACG
    March 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

    When your first strongly worded letter gets blown off, as it inevitably will, take a few minutes to write an even more strongly worded letter in response. I’ve had good luck with that in two cases. Volkswagen retracted their initial offer of good financing on a brand-new Passat and instead paid for the parts to fix my Cabrio. Air Canada retracted their initial “fuck you” and instead reimbursed me for the flight I had to buy on another airline when A.C. swore there wasn’t another flight going out until the next day.

    And never underestimate the power of “I’m leaving, I’m taking my business with me, and so are all of my friends and readers.”

  50. Ledasmom
    March 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I love the way Delta refuses to assume responsibility for either its passengers’ safety or their arrival at their ticketed destination. It appears that, if one didn’t complain and keep complaining, one could stay in the airport to which Delta decided to reroute one until one died, several decades later, still wondering where one’s luggage was.

  51. val
    March 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Worst airline story ever. However, i too am curious about Water Man, but for another reason. If you were boarded, and sat “for hours”, then unboarded, reboarded and “sat for hours” before the Water Man incident, how could he possibly have been on an on-time flight that left 1 hour after your scheduled and repeatedly delayed flight?

    • March 24, 2010 at 10:33 am


      From what I understand (and this is from overhearing flight attendants), the 8:40a.m. flight was also delayed, but it did eventually get off the ground. So it actually took off sometime around 11. Water Man exited our flight around 9:45, and apparently got on whatever the next flight out was, which I heard was the flight scheduled for 8:40.

  52. Flowers
    March 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Delta – Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive

    Sorry about the horror story. I won’t fly them ever again for pretty much the same reason.

  53. The Flash
    March 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

    In case anyone was paying attention, this is a very popular blog, which means you should go out and short Delta stock.

  54. March 24, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Look, I know this is a bit of a derail, but I really don’t find a video of a clearly traumatized animal who is almost certain to be euthanized all that hilarious. :-(

  55. Marie
    March 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Well written. Sounds like quite the adventure. I have never flown DELTA and will avoid doing so after reading this. Glad you enjoyed Austin though :)

  56. Teri
    March 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I was trying to get BACK to Austin the same time you were trying to leave…My nightmare was in Denver..and with United airlines..
    However, after reading YOUR story…mine…does not hold a candle..and I am happy to say that I hope I NEVER have that awful of travel experience.

  57. Anony Mouse
    March 24, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Delta is the worst. All the airlines are pretty terrible, but whenever I hear someone tell a truly horrific travel story, it’s always Delta.

  58. val
    March 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Ah, thanks for the explanation. That makes more sense than him being on an 8:40 flight that actually left at 8:40. :D I thought i had a doozy of a time last month going through Newark, but you’ve definitely topped it!

  59. March 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Delta is horrible. The last time I flew them, they completely shredded my bag–not only was the canvas torn but one of the hard plastic wheels was sliced in half–and refused to compensate.

  60. word problem
    March 24, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    ginasf– I completely agree with you. My first thought was, “Oh no, poor kitty!” But then I looked closer, s/he has a collar with tags which leads me to believe this video is from a vet not a shelter. I imagine my cat from hell looks much like this at the vet after I leave. I don’t know if that helps, but it made me feel better!

  61. mary
    March 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I hate to tell you this, but it’s not Delta, it’s every single airline out there. I think it’s circumstantial. I have had, and have had friends who have had, very similar experiences, minus being hit by lightening, your own personal treat. It’s what happens if you fly a lot. All the airline regulations equal extreme frustration. No employee is allowed to do anything outside “the rules” which to normal people sounds insane. Sorry for your experience but it is far from unique to Delta.

  62. March 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Your flight reads like a horror movie.

    No shit. “Memento” crossed with “Cube” mixed with “Twilight Zone the Movie (gremlin segment)”, screenplay: Franz Kafka , directed by Neil LaBute.

    & people wonder why I take the train.

  63. Ginjoint
    March 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Ginasf, I’ve always hated that video too. However, I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but it’s possible the cat’s freaking out simply because it’s coming out of anesthesia. (Perhaps from being spayed/neutered?) Anesthesia can really mess with a cat’s depth perception, and this of course frightens them. I had a cat who would howl like that after the two surgeries she had. I was supposed to be able to take her home the same day, but she screamed (really screamed) any time I tried to get her out of the cage. (The vet assistants couldn’t get near her.) I ended up having to leave her at the vet’s overnight, so the stuff could wear off a bit more. The next morning, she was sweet as ever. So, the kitty in the video may be only temporarily upset – not feral, not about to be euthanized. Doesn’t mean some jackass had to film it, though.

  64. aguitar8me
    March 24, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I had a VERY similar experience on Delta trying to get from NYC to Chicago for Christmas in ’08. I was at least lucky in that every time they canceled one of my flights (five or something in three days), I could go back home to my apartment!

    But believe me, it was exhausting enough dragging a heavy suitcase in and out of subways and buses, since I made futile trips to both JFK and LaGuardia.

    The final re-booking would have stopped in Atlanta on its way to Chicago, but by that time I was fed up and booked on Southwest instead (I know Southwest has handled things badly in a few cases recently… Kevin Smith and the woman with the “too-short” skirt… but they are affordable, fly out of LaGuardia now, and have *in general* much better customer service than other airlines.) Had I taken the flight that stopped in Atlanta, I would have been stranded there (flight into ATL late, flight out on time)!!

    Even worse, at that time, they didn’t automatically refund checked baggage fees on canceled flights. I had to fax them receipts and various other documents to get that money back!!

    I had the same “we don’t take phone complaints” BS so I faxed them a strongly worded letter. The reply was incredible. “We’re sorry you were inconvenienced! But not that sorry! We’re not going to compensate you in any way… but please fly Delta again!”

    Yeah, right. I’m never giving them another dollar of my money. It doesn’t make a big difference to them but it at least makes me feel better.

  65. Peggy Kelsey
    March 25, 2010 at 5:13 am

    All you need is a gifted songwriter to make this into a song which you can post on utube and wait a bit for it to go viral ala the United Breaks Guitars song. What comes to mind after reading this is something reminiscent of Alice’s Restaurant in flavor…. Go for it!

  66. Gabriele
    March 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    This is very similar to my Worst Travel Story! Last week I flew Delta from Jackson, Mississippi, to Atlanta to NY-LaGuardia. Except the NY-LaGuardia flight never materialized. We were forced to spend $200 like you to stay overnight in a hotel and book a different flight. But your story is still much worse, and if you’re like me, you know that true justice will come only on the day that Delta declares bankruptcy and closure of its company. That will beat any voucher any day.

  67. Leslie Patino
    March 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Wow, Jill, your story wins the “Worst Delta Experience” hands down! On Sunday, March 14, my husband and I flew from Denver to Savannah via Atlanta. There were many setbacks, but we finally arrived about 7 and a half hours late. Along the way, there were many setbacks, including an hour and 20 mins. in line in Denver to get new boarding passes, even though we had downloaded them at home. During the trip, we listened to multiple complaints from other travelers, especially while we waited in Atlanta.
    We were luckier than our daughter in Boston who was going to meet us in Atlanta. She received an automated call in the early hours of Sunday morning saying her flight was canceled, come 2 hours later. She did, only to find that she was scheduled for Monday instead of Sunday. She took a taxi back home, $60 net expense. Originally, she was going via Atlanta, then Cincinnati, then Atlanta. She finally arrived in Savannah a few minutes before midnight on Monday/Tuesday.
    In the future, we will avoid Delta like the plague!

  68. March 26, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Followed this from a Twitter link. What an ordeal! I must admit, I kept waiting for the part where you would write that you got really fed up, because I know I could feel my blood boiling just reading it! I’m coming from Canada and don’t travel to the States much at all, and I booked a flight through Priceline to attend a conference in New Orleans next month. And I just checked my itinerary and confirmed that I am flying Delta. And now I’m super nervous, because I don’t have the money to do all the things which you had to, and I’m also connecting to another flight in Atlanta. No wonder the flight was so cheap! I probably shouldn’t even take their word that I’ll be in New Orleans by 8am. And what will probably really grate me is that I really don’t take it well when employees blame customers or users for their problems or present them with shitty options when they are supposed to be in positions of power for having more information than us…better meditate in advance, lol.

    Thank you for sharing. That said, I don’t think it took a lot, Delta pretty much made sure of that!

  69. Tim
    March 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Well I must say before I read your 5 chapter rant, you must do your research first. Your number one mistake you made was purchasing a flight with a connection in Atlanta. Atlanta is chronic for delays and if you went the extra ‘mile’ and purchased a straight flight, you would of not experienced this. Or if you’re a Delta SkyMiles member, you could of still connected elsewhere to save some money such as Memphis or even Detroit. I hate to say but this is going to be a lonely battle for you. You can’t blame Delta, they have strict FAA guidelines to follow. Every frequent or even non-frequent flyer experiences these things, it’s just inevitable.

  70. FrequentFlyer
    March 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Good story… Yes, Delta was horrible, however you let this happen to you in so many ways…
    – Flying to Austin through ATL? That’s a mistake to begin with… don’t connect in ATL unless you absolutely have to (lesson learned)
    – Flying to Austin? Fly direct… it’s a small market w/few good connections other than on AA
    – Flying w/a connection in the US? carry it on…
    – These weren’t all Delta issues – many of these were FAA issues, and as such, Delta can’t do anything

    Advice from someone who flies 200k+ miles/year

    • March 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

      Ok, to all the people who are like, “This is your own fault! Why did you fly through ATL? Why didn’t you fly direct? Why don’t you upgrade your ticket?” I say, what-the-fuck-ever and also fuck you. If I pay for transportation, I expect that transportation to work. Yeah, I get it, some airports are terrible and it’s better to fly direct and blah blah blah… but putting the blame on individual travelers for failing to pay extra money to avoid ATL is ridiculous.

      Also: Try finding a direct ticket from La Guardia to Austin during SXSW for a reasonable price.

  71. Joe
    March 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    “what-the-fuck-ever and also fuck you”


  72. hal
    March 27, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Wow! Great story, and comments.

  73. crockinthekeys
    March 30, 2010 at 11:45 am


    You have the patience of Job!

    By the way, let me know when you are flying again so I won’t.



  74. Evi
    March 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    And this is why I’m getting a pilot’s license…

  75. Gizelle
    March 31, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Wow, this sounds so much like an experience I had with Delta trying to get out of New York a few weekends ago during high winds. It took me about 60 hours and an all-day detour to Atlanta to make it home (instead of the original 1 hour 30 minute direct flight). When it finally looked like I was on my way out of New York, the flight was delayed 3 hours because the crew was still sleeping. On my second attempt to get out of Atlanta, I was ripped of the plane like a terrorist at the very last second so a crew member could deadhead on my flight. All the while, I was treated as if I had done something wrong. As I told Delta in my complaint email (which they responded to in about 3 days), I understand delays, but I don’t understand their rude employees and lack of organization and communication. Our whole flight was called liars by a supervisor at the ticketing counter at JFK. I also lost a day of work, incurred additional expenses, and was given the infamous $200 voucher. My complaint letter also netted me 10,000 bonus miles. Like you, giving me more means to take another Delta flight is really not compensation at all. Sorry you had such a hellish time but glad you enjoyed Austin!

  76. Maribelle
    April 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    @ Leslie Patino – At least she GOT a message!!

    ** My Horror Story **

    Pretty mild compared to others on this page, but mine involved a over two hour drive from the place I was staying to my original departing airport.

    I woke up at dawn, seriously, and was on my way to CLT from Lexington, SC for a 12pm flight by about 7 in the morning. Maybe earlier, all i know is that I got to CLT about 9am.

    When I arrived in CLT, i noticed that I had received two missed calls from Delta in the past half an hour – as I was NAPPING on the way to CLT I didn’t answer (and was half awake anyway). As I was already at the ticket counter, I didn’t check my voicemail, but once I realized my flight had been cancelled, I went ahead and called to see if they’d said something.

    No messages.

    Two calls and not even a “we have an important message about your flight” from those assholes. Okay, I didn’t pick up, but considering that they called in rapid succession, it was NOT an automated call. it was a REAL LIVE PERSON.

    They also rebooked me – seems nice, right?

    Yeah…. the flight wasn’t schedules to leave for Atlanta until 5pm. And again, no messages to even indicate that. You know what really pissed me off about the no messages thing though? The fact that they called about the time someone would be leaving for the airport if they were nearby.

    I mean, they could not have JUST decided the flight was cancelled, that’s just not POSSIBLE.

    So I rebooked MYSELF for a flight that left about three hours later at CAE. Flight got off relatively on time, and it turned out I was going to have a little layover in ATL when i got there.

    Then, THEN my flight leaves two hours late from ATL. That’s relatively normal though, and they at least boarded us on time. No false “get off, no, get back on” crap here.


    I know it isn’t as bad as everyone else, but it was just like ‘really? what the fuck? not even a VAGUE message?’

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