Delta at JFK Ruins Christmas for My Family

Dec 26th, 2008, 05:35 AM
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Delta at JFK Ruins Christmas for My Family

Northwest at Indianapolis started it -- my sister's flight early in the morning on the 24 was canceled, and she was switched to the same flight on Christmas morning. Later in the morning, DD checked in 2 hours early at JFK in NYC for her 1:50pm flight to Raleigh-Durham. She called to tell us it was delayed until 2 something. She'd met up with a mutual friend at the airport who had been trying to get to Phoenix since Sunday the 21st...he did make it out of JFK on the 24th. Later she called to say her flight was supposed to take off at 4:15 as soon as a plane got there. Around 5, that flight was officially canceled and they rebooked her for a FRIDAY flight at 8:26AM. Not Christmas day, the day after.

Our DS lives here in Durham, but he works as a waiter and we originally thought we had hit the "luck jackpot" in that he had both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work. Suffice to say, at brunch with my sister that day, we decided to delay our big planned dinner until DD got here on the 26th. DS is only working lunch, so he could get home by 3PM, we could exchange presents, have dinner, and get Sis to the airport for her evening flight home.

Friday AM, I check online to see the Delta flight is apparently on-schedule, but the phone rings and DD tells me she's been put on the 4:40PM flight out of JFK. She was very quiet. She said the guy in front of her in line had pitched such a fit it seemed pointless to even complain.

Guess we won't have dinner together after all. Maybe she and her Aunt Nancy can wave to each other at the airport this evening, assuming that 4:40PM flight doesn't turn into a "maybe tomorrow" flight.

I'm thinking that Delta/Northwest (didn't they just merge) is way too short on crew -- both flight crew and maintenance crew and also on actual airplanes? I can only imagine that after a full week of facing people whos holidays they have RUINED that the people at the desks are completely frazzled and as miserable as their irate customers.

We're just one example. Is it just Delta? Is it just JFK? Now they probably have people who will need to get back from their holiday who will be vying for a seat with people who are still trying to GET to their original destination.

There is bound to be further airlines going completely under financially, due to the economy, simply because a week like this is going to kill any trust they once built up with customers. I've avoided Northwest for years after spending a horrible unplanned layover in Minneapolis one Friday night during what was supposed to be a quick one-day business trip.

DD will likely never fly Delta again...and I will try to avoid them as well. I'll drive before trusting them to get me anywhere in the Eastern corridor.

uhoh_busted is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 06:41 AM
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What a mess. I am so sorry.I know you must be very disappointed.
letsgo39 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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There has been terrible weather in most of the country recently, and thousands of flights were grounded, which means that planes weren't where they needed to be. The domino effect was very unfortunate.
abram is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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I'm so sorry to hear your Christmas plans didn't work out the way you'd hoped.

Really and truly, it was the weather that ruined the travel plans for many people this holiday. Not that that changes the outcome, but I wouldn't blame airlines for it.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Sorry your family didn't have the celebration they anticipated. I understand that you are disappointed.

Weather happens. Anyone who travels knows that once schedules are disrupted on one place, the dominoes begin to fall all across the continent and that this is much more likely in winter than in other seasons.

If the delays did not cause you to miss saying goodbye at the bedside of a dying loved one, or your unaccompanied young child to be stranded in a distant airport, or your soldier nephew to miss a final visit home before shipping out to Afghanistan next month, perhaps later you'll be able to put it all in perspective and entertain family gatherings with great stories about travel at Christmas 2008.
kayd is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 08:19 AM
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The weather was truly horrible in northwest, Upper MidWest, and New England for about a week. There is no redundancy built into the airline system anymore - no extra planes, crews, seats - so when stuff happens, it lasts forever and dominos thruout the system.

That does not make you Christmas plans any less frustrating and disappointing, and I do not have an answer. Sorry your Christmas got ruined.
gail is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 08:27 AM
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The weather around the NY area ruined it for you. Nothing to do with DL/NW. Next time, hope for better weather, leave a few days early, or try some other connections - of course, there's no guarantee.

And rent "Planes, Trains & Automobile" to cheer yourself up (even though that's about Thanskgiving).
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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It is really a shame your plans were turned upside down. But to swear off an airline . . . "DD will likely never fly Delta again...and I will try to avoid them as well. I'll drive before trusting them to get me anywhere in the Eastern corridor. " . . . because of weather that disrupted EVERY airline seems strange.

Out here in CA - my airport was not closed or even affected by the weather - but still nearly half of the flights were cancelled or significantly delayed because OTHER airports were snowed in.

"I'm thinking that Delta/Northwest (didn't they just merge) is way too short on crew -- both flight crew and maintenance crew and also on actual airplanes? I . . . . is it just Delta? Is it just JFK? " Neither - it was blizzard conditions over about half of the USA
janisj is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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Let's see who declares BKRPCY first in January. Someone isn't going to make it. They are staffed too thin and running on too much of a shoestring to deal with incidents like this.

I've been flying for over 40 years. There has been worse weather. Airlines were able to recover faster. Just wait and see.

I also managed a customer service department for an industry with LOTS of complaints. We never treated customers with such disregard. There is no reason to let people spend over 8 hours in airports. This season, people have been stuck for days.

Sorry, I can't let them "off the hook" because of weather. They were totally unprepared.

uhoh_busted is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Having been a flight attendant with a major airline for 35 years,I had to comment.Weather combined with the holidays has always been difficult.In your DD's case,"s%#t" happens. For you to say that you have worked in customer service and do not understand how the airlines can do this to you is funny to me.The airlines are not like any other type of company as you are dealing with people(safety,terrorists,etc.),planes
(mechanical problems) and weather.The sheer logistics of trying to have everything work picture perfect with less than perfect variables is what causes the ripples.

Have you not watched any of the news shows for the past week? From Seattle to New York and even here in Chicago we have been hit with one horrible storm after another-10 inches of snow in just one day was one of our "fun" weather days here in Chicago.I am sorry that your Christmas plans had a kink in them but as others have said it was not life or death situations.
I seriously don't think that any other airline could have done anything different for you given this situation.
dutyfree is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 10:17 PM
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You missed my key point - it is the redundancy that is missing - no extra planes, crew, seats. That is what is different than in your 40 years of flying places. That is why it takes longer to recover. No longer can an airline just roll out an extra plane that was sitting around if there are weather, mechanical or other problems. If 100 people are stranded and there are only 10 empty seats per flight from Point A to Point B, it will take 10 flights to get those people where they want to go.

Bankruptcy - that is why there is no redundancy. People demand low air fares - and redundancy is not possible for the fares we are paying.

The thing they can change for free is to keep customers informed with correct information. I should not have to be searching the web at home to find out that my dtr's "on-time" flight can not possibly achieve that since the equipment will be 2 hours late. For me, just tell me and I can better deal with the bad news and make my own decisions. In the delay your str experienced she could have rented a car and driven JFK to RDU
gail is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 02:43 AM
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"she could have rented a car and driven JFK to RDU"

You should see the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles". 1987, Steve Martin and John Candy. A classic that I have seen probably four times on TV.

What we have here is a learning opportunity. OP, what have you learned from this, anything useful? No, not that Delta stinks, that's not useful. I learned long ago (I'm an old man now) that if it is winter time (like now) and the trip is really important to you - leave a day early!!!!!

regards - cary
cary999 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 05:10 AM
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If people want redundancy so that "an airline just roll out an extra plane that was sitting around" then they had better be prepared to pay twice as much for their airfare.

I don't know of any industry which, after throwing everything they have at peak usage situations, will still have much in reserve. And with all the horrendous weather and problems this past week, even if they had 10% redundancy (already an exorbitant amount) still only 10% of passengers could be accommodated, leaving 90% stranded.

Folks, the airlines don't want these situations to happen as much, if not more, than you do. If you want better service, then you need to pay for it. 100% redundancy, pay twice or more. If you want a better chance at a seat on the next flight, pay full fare or, even better, fly full F fare. If you travel on a beer budget, expect the bottom of the keg once in a while.

And spring for the travel insurance. It may not cover everything but will help.
NoFlyZone is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 06:09 AM
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For future reference, had someone gotten on the train in NYC, they could have been in Raleigh the next day - assuming the seats were there. For Christmas, most everything gets booked.
cfc is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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What I have learned from this situation is how bad our economy has sunk not only our automobile industry, but put our airlines into even more jeopardy than ever before. What is the next to suffer, and why.

I can't imagine that my family is the only one hit with such multiple problems in one week. Yes S**t happens, BUT if you've taken the time to get peoples' cell phone #s, they are frequent fliers on your airline, you've given them tickets on a specific flight early in the AM, you've even given them cab fare to go home and return two days after their originally scheduled flight was canceled, don't you have the time to call and tell them that 1)NO they are not going to be on that 8:30AM flight, they will now be leaving at 4:40PM. THAT is where surely, there was a way to notify your customer without causing them waste six hours in the airport!

We felt really badly for the staff who had to man the desks dealing with all the folks whos trips were in shambles, and whos travel day was yet again going to be unusually long.

Yes, people had gotten used to being able to fly anywhere they wanted because there was once competition. You didn't have to fly from DC to Pittsburgh to get to Orlando, or from Raleigh to Minneapolis to get to New Orleans. The airlines once offered an excellent career path and choice for people...that ended probably about fifteen years ago.
We used to be able to be loyal customers to, say, American or United or yes, even Northwest. Now,
you are at the mercy of whichever airline serves your city.

I got tired of hearing "it's the weather." This was a gargantuan tangle, and I really don't think the weather -- yes, there were snowstorms and ice storms BUT I GREW UP IN CHICAGO....I've lived through worse storms and weather situations. It's the economy, stupid. THAT is why there wasn't a plan to recover sensibly from this situation.

The airlines SHOULD have plans to do so, and to notify flyers. Then don't.

uhoh_busted is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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What's the economy have to do with this?

The same thing happened in Feb 2007 when the economy was doing well.

I'm in the group that thinks that 3-4 days straight of bad weather in the NW, Chicago, and NE actually, coupled with huge crowds (& full planes) are at fault.

Perhaps you can explain further how this is because of the economy, not the weather so as to enlighten the rest of us.
J62 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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1 The airlines are operating with too few pilots, and too few ground personnel for reasons of "economic necessity." They went to a "regional hub" system, supposedly to make it easier to manage their schedules and share crew and equipment within the region. So, how's that helped this weekend?

2 You really believe that every aircraft on the East Coast had been scheduled through Portland or Denver? If you need a couple of bigger planes to take care of the passengers originally scheduled to fly one of five direct flights per day on smaller planes, every day delay means there are going to be that many more people who are expecting to travel. We're talking about JFK. Pretty busy "hub." Delta is headquartered in Atlanta. Not a lot of blizzard or ice action there the past week. After the second day of this snarl, SOMEONE should have been looking for options to ease it. I think they just don't have the money to do anything different than "business as usual" which got screwed up worse every day as this continued.

3 Passengers are not treated with any regard other than how much more will they pay us. I'm not talking about the staff who have direct public contact, but the executives running the airlines, SOMEONE decided to suffer through this mess and NOT spend any additional money to ease the situation.

I suspect this is the same reason that no one, by the end of the day on the 25th, was scheduled to call the people who were being bumped from the 1st flight of the day on the 26th to the to the 4th flight of the day.
Again, SOMEONE high up decided they weren't spending any additional $$ to ease the situation.

Those poor agents on desk.

4 I still blame the Executives who run Delta and Northwest for not having a plan to handle such delays. They've been around long enough to understand the FAA rules regarding pilots hours, etc. This is corporate mismanagement.

5 The economy has been driving the airlines decline for the past ten or fifteen years. It is far more the reason for this mess than some snow and ice. Again -- I've had 40 years experience flying all over the country, and suffered through lots of bad weather, and heavy holiday travel. The airlines KNOW IN ADVANCE that they are fully booked during a major holiday.

Now, if some of you seem to want to believe it's all because of weather, that's fine. The Santa Claus myth is pleasant to maintain, too.

Others see that previous staff cutbacks have left the airlines in a perilous position when they need to do something out of the ordinary to "catch up." I am positive that corporate planning and financial decisions in a tanking economy are at the root of this years problems.

On the personal level, we got a bit of a break and our little family (there are only five of us) got to spend an evening together afterall. My sister's return flight to Indianapolis last night got cancelled! We learned after dinner, before DS went to the airport to pick up his sister. DD got to have a plate of Christmas Dinner reheated when they got back, and we could open presents and enjoy ourselves because we finally were all together again...even if just for one night.

Oh, and the only reason we knew Sis's flight was canceled was because we kept checking the internet, and called to reschedule her for today when we first saw notice that it was canceled.

I know there are families out there that have suffered worse travel "adventures" -- I think of the poor people stuck in Portland's surprise nasty winter weather (especially families with little kids).

uhoh_busted is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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Just an FYI-most major airlines do not have their aircraft sitting on the ground for more than an hour as "they are coming from some other place".
If it was a regional aircraft like Comair who was supposed to fly your daughter to RDU-then where was Delta supposed to get a "bigger aircraft" when there isn't even one slotted for that flight? I am confused?
dutyfree is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 01:43 PM
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Sorry you are having a tough holiday.

Still I have to agree that Delta and JFK are not to blame. And the weather is the problem, compounded with holiday traffic. I suspect that there are horror stories to be told about every airline this holiday season.

Somehow my buddy made his Delta flight to CMH on Christmas eve without a hitch. Go figure.
SamH is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 02:00 PM
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As a American consumer I have clearly stated my preference: I want low prices above and beyond anything else. I'm not willing to pay for more room in coach, AA, so you might as well more rows back in your planes. I will drive to outlying airports to save $ & travel on a low cost airline. I will make connections through hubs in the middle of nowhere to get to my destination if it saves me $. I am not alone in making this preference clear - the traveling public has spoken time and time again.

As a shareholder in Delta or any other airline I have clearly stated my preference as well. I want a profitable operation. That means eliminate waste. I'm not going to tolerate you, Delta, buying extra airplanes (expensive capital - my money I've invested in you) to sit on a tarmac for ~360 days per year I definitely don't have a need for them. If your costs, Delta, aren't competitive then fix your business model; trim fat, become more lean. Reorganization has allowed the airlines to break from arcane business practices of the past.

So perhaps you are right - it is the economy, or more correctly the economic system we call capitalism that is to blame.

J62 is offline  

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