A bit of a disclaimer before I get into it: first and foremost I want my blog to be a place of positivity. Traveling can be emotionally draining and sometimes I’ll have less than pleasant things to say about a place or experience because I will never lie to you, but mostly I’d like for you all to be able to come here and have a good time. A little bit of wide-eyed wonder, a little bit of self-deprecating humor, a little bit of healthy realism. That said, I am writing this in the spirit of caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” Because I care about you and hope that you can learn from my misfortune.
Now let’s get shady.
Delta Airlines… What the actual hell?
If you’ve read my most recent post, you’ll know that I spent some time in the Atlanta airport this past week. I was due to fly out to California for my grandmother’s 70th birthday. A surprise visit that never happened, because I never made it past Atlanta. My mistake was booking my flight through Delta Airlines.
You see, Delta uses Atlanta airport as their hub, meaning that the majority of their flights, pilots, and cabin crew use it as home base. So when Atlanta experienced some foul weather last week, Delta Airlines shut down. And I do mean shut down.
The inclement weather backed up Delta’s schedule internationally because all those planes, pilots, and crews had to go through Atlanta. By the time I arrived in Atlanta on Thursday at noon, there were people in the airport who had been there for two days and were still waiting on a flight out. I fly through ATL pretty frequently and I had never seen it so packed.
There were people lining every hallway, sleeping on the ground. It looked like a bomb shelter. The lines to the customer service counters were 300-400 people long, in every terminal. No one was getting through via the customer service phone lines. Planes were sitting empty at the gates, no crew available to fly them. Chaos.
So wait, how is this a Delta Airlines issue?
Ah, I’m glad you asked. The other airlines that service Atlanta airport went down for a little while during the weather situation, too. But by the next day, they were all up and running again, with minimal delays. It was only Delta and their affiliate airlines struggling.
After twelve hours in the airport with innumerable gate changes and delays, I found myself looking at a screen that read “Flight Cancelled” five minutes after midnight. The plane was waiting at the gate, but we had no pilot and an incomplete cabin crew. I was stuck in Atlanta for the night.
Now, here’s where I tell you that as bad as my experience was, I got off easy. Atlanta is about a 5-hour drive from Tallahassee, where I live. So I spent the rest of the night in a hotel, got a few hours of sleep, and – with no flight out to California in sight – got a rental car to take me back home. Not ideal, but at least I had an out. Not everyone had that option.
There were people waiting in the airport with me who had been there for three days, going on four. Who had their children with them. They were missing weddings, important business meetings, sick and dying loved ones. They were stuck in an airport just trying to get home. And this wasn’t just happening in Atlanta.
A quick perusal of Twitter, Facebook, and Google told me that this was happening all over the U.S. and abroad. People were stranded in airports everywhere, for days, because of Delta.
The icing on the cake
Throughout this entire horrific experience, not one of us was offered a meal voucher or any type of compensation for our delays, cancellations, and inconvenience. As the problem was “weather related,” they were essentially off the hook. Delta did not pay for my hotel. Delta did not pay for my rental car home. Delta did not even reimburse me for the entirety of my ticket because, according to them, I did, in fact, get a plane from Tallahassee to Atlanta.
I would like to say that the Delta staff that I encountered during my time at ATL were unfailingly pleasant. This article is not meant as a slight to them in the least. I know that they were just as tired, frustrated, and confused as us. Many of them had been there since the early morning with no idea of when they would be able to go home. Delta’s employees are not at fault for my experience nor anyone else’s.
Delta Airlines as a company is to blame. This is not the first time that Atlanta has experienced bad weather, and it will not be the last. For a company that has operated for many years and presumably intends to go on operating for many more, this is completely unacceptable.
So beware, buyer. When you’re scanning those low-price flights on Google Flights or Momondo.com, just double check which airline you’re buying from. I can’t tell you not to fly with Delta (and I wouldn’t, there are many people whose livelihood depend on that airline), but I also want to give you the tools to make educated purchasing decisions. I will not be flying with Delta again, and I think it will be a long time before I take any flights connecting in Atlanta, either.