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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