Delta’s Delay Dilemma


Delta’s arrival/departure board in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport-filled with cancellations and delays. (Sloane Warner/The RamPage)

Sloane Warner, Co-Marketing Manager

Many people go to the airport with their fingers crossed for a safe, crisis-free trip.  Lately, it seems that the hypothetical carefree trip is happening less and less.  With so many people traveling for spring break, the airports across the country remain crowded and commotions can take place at any place or time.  Incidents have occurred across many airlines, and many have gone viral on the internet.  Infamously, a United Airlines passenger was dragged from his flight after refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight.  Flights have been delayed for hours, even days, and many passengers end up waiting for long periods of time for their flights to depart in the airport.  I should know—I sat in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for 10 hours this spring break.  

The morning of my family’s flight to the Bahamas, my parents both received confirmation texts from Delta, including our departure time and gate assignment.  However, as soon as we arrived at the airport, we were notified that our flight had been canceled.  After standing and negotiating at the ticket counter for at least an hour, we were put on a flight to the Bahamas through a connection in Orlando.  Delta’s ticket agents were more than helpful, and we hoped to make it to our vacation without any more travel glitches.

Walking through the airport, we encountered people who said that they had been waiting for their flight for at least 12 hours.  Delta had switched them to new flights, which had been delayed, and eventually canceled, which then forced them to move to another new flight.  By the time we got to our gate, we were confused as to why so many flights had been delayed or canceled.

I asked the gate agents and the few flight attendants at our gate if they knew what was going on.  The general response I received was that Delta flight attendant crews were separated because of storms earlier in the week and that they hoped that our flight would be on time.  Two gate agents told me that this was the “first time with this many delays” in the ten years they had been working for Delta.  One agent said that he had been working for eight days straight already, and he was trying to get home.  

Delta sent out a series of tweets and updates to their operational recovery from the storms during the week.  The updates stated that travel waivers had been issued for those having trouble and that customers may be entitled to a refund.  Meanwhile, flight agents were not allowed to request flights, which is something they can normally do.  My mom saw two agents across the terminal and asked if they would be willing to work on the flight to Orlando.  While they were willing to help us, they were unable to switch flights.  

Delta’s tweets of updates during April 7/8 delays. (Delta/Twitter)

At a gate down the terminal, we heard a commotion.  Passengers were finally boarding their flight to Orlando, four hours later than scheduled.  My family managed to switch onto what seemed to be the only flight getting out of Atlanta.  We proceeded to sit on the plane for half an hour before being told to deplane because no pilot was present.  It seemed that Delta flights were simply not meant to happen.

Finally, our original Orlando pilot (who had been calling to find flight attendants since 7 A.M. that day), was able to find enough flight attendants to leave.  Everyone boarded the plane as fast as possible, and the flight left Atlanta about seven hours later than scheduled.

While my family was waiting for our flight, I had noticed my mom talking to another woman at our gate.  When I asked her who the woman was, my mom said that she had gone over to talk to the gate agents and had ended up speaking to this passenger.  As it turned out, the woman was friends with one of my mom’s college roommates who lives in Orlando.  Both my mom’s friend and the other passenger are Jewish.  My mom told me that they had a conversation about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and that she thought it was funny that she could find another Jew who is a part of her community in the airport.  I disagreed, saying that I tend to see people either from my Jewish day schools or Jewish youth groups more often than not.

Now, some may ask, how did you manage to stay calm during this delay?  Let me say, it wasn’t easy.  However, we kept our hopes up that Delta would not let us down because they have been good to us in the past.  Taking walks down the terminal, eating delicious airport food, and talking to passengers we met along the way kept us going.  So, if anyone ever gets stuck in an airport for much longer than expected, turn around and say hello to the person behind you.  They might have been waiting at the airport for two days and just want to talk to someone.  Keep your head in a good place, and have faith that the airline will take care of their customers, whether with a refund, a waiver, or complimentary in-flight snacks. 

Snacks provided by Delta gate agents at the terminal. (Sloane Warner/The RamPage)