To Delta Airlines:
a result of the delay and subsequent cancellation and rescheduling of my
flight, I missed a tour for which I had pre-paid (96,000 KRW, plus an
international transaction fee of $2.58), which was both non-refundable and
non-transferable, and the tour itself could not be rescheduled. I want Delta to
refund this amount. This is my only vacation for the year (I have been saving
my leave days since January, working even when sick), and losing a day of my
vacation, plus missing this tour, to which I had been looking forward for
weeks, did not start my holiday on a positive note. Frankly, Delta should also
refund me for my lost vacation day, given that I am an hourly employee working
for a small company with no benefits, but calculating that loss would be harder
to document, and after all this hassle I am exhausted. I will say that on the
one prior occasion where I offered to give up my seat on an overbooked DOMESTIC
flight, I was given a $400 voucher, which makes the $200 voucher you all
offered as recompense for the Detroit to Incheon delay seem rather pitiful. I
look forward to getting the reimbursement as soon as possible. If you all
refund this promptly, I will note it on Facebook and my blog, where my
respective 500+ contacts and the public have been privy to the miseries that
ensued earlier. Thank you.
where to begin?
We arrived in Detroit on time, if not a few minutes early. I found the next
departure gate and settled in for the two hour wait until the commencement of
boarding on my final long (12.5 hour, not 13.5 hour) leg of the journey to
Seoul. At the moment that we were scheduled to board, the plane, which had been
inbound from Shanghai, pulled up to the gate. It would take an hour to clean,
restock, and refuel it, we were told. I was a bit impressed that it could be
turned around so quickly; an hour was not a problem in the larger
scheme of things. It took half an hour longer, but again, not a biggie. We
finally loaded and taxied out to the runway in what seemed like a torrential
was on the left side of the plane on the aisle, one row behind that fronting
the middle main cabin exit, a door beside a bulkhead. There weren’t any
passengers on the exit row (it was premium economy seating), and only one girl
on my row, a young African American lady curled in the window seat, clutching
an ice pack to the appendix area of her stomach. I gave her some extra-strength
acetaminophen. In the center of the plane there was a galley where the flight
attendants were busying themselves after the safety announcements.
It’s raining hard!” I overheard one
attendant remark. “Not as hard as it was in Minneapolis the other night,” another
responded. They were about to sit and strap themselves in when the captain came
on the intercom at 6:35. The storm had shut down the airport, so we’d be
sitting still until the wind abated. Bad weather—nothing to be done but wait
until it passed. People sighed, but a storm is a storm.
long thereafter, the captain came
on and said that a maintenance issue that they thought they had fixed had
cropped up again. So we needed to return to the gate, but there was another
plane ahead of us at the gate, which was inoperable anyway because of
lightning. And then water started leaking into the plane directly in front of
me – gallons all over the rubber floor. I didn’t think this was the maintenance
issue we were turning around for. I was also glad that I was the only passenger
that could see the water as it ran across the aisle into the galley.
The captain said the fix (a valve in the engine
was malfunctioning) would take another hour. Meanwhile, the flight attendants
came around to pass out pretzels, peanuts, and water, since it was past
dinnertime and we all were getting hungry. The air conditioning finally came
on. The captain explained that the problematic valve was that responsible for engine
deicing, which is kind of essential when one is flying at 30,000 feet in -40C
temperatures. Everybody was on their phones texting and on the internet,
discovering to their disgust that we were out of range of the airport WiFi
(which wasn’t spectacular to begin with).
We waited. With the hour almost over, the captain
announced that it would be another 45 minutes. By the time it’d been 2 hours
since the first maintenance announcement, I had tweeted the company that
they needed to offer some sort of compensation—we were almost 4 hours behind
schedule, putting us arriving in Seoul about 11 PM Thursday night. My DMZ tour
required me to check in at 7 AM Friday morning. Time was getting short.
The Delta people responded that it was a
weather-caused delay, so there wouldn’t be any vouchers issued. Oh, horse
puckey. I sent them the flight information and told them to talk to the pilot
and crew, who could directly confirm that it was maintenance, not weather, that
had been keeping us on the ground.
Time continued to pass, and there were
further delay announcements.
After we’d been sitting on board for more than
3 hours, we finally deplaned. Turns out that Delta was flirting with a deadline—federal
regulations prohibit passengers being held on an inoperable flight for longer
than 4 hours, or the airline incurs a $27K fine (per passenger!).
was rescheduled for 7 AM the following morning. They had us stand in line for motel
vouchers and meal
vouchers (two maxed at $15 each). I ended up with four adjummas, the ladies who
had looked so severe sitting at the gate area near me. We stood in line
together again for the shuttle to the motel and then again to check in (it was a clean place, not totally fleabag, but not four star--the lobby smelled of stale smoke). We ended
up going to (a very late) dinner together at a more upscale hotel near that where
we were staying.
The adjummas were a trip. Two lived in the
northeast: one was a widow of 11 years who spends days at the Y doing yoga and
playing cards, and one (a cardiac nurse) confessed to having the married name
of Smith. The two others were from Louisiana and Orlando, respectively. They
chatted about their children and grandchildren. One told me that Korean women—not
men—don’t want to get married nowadays, wanting an education and career, and so
men are having to import brides.
Interesting. I knew this was a problem in China because of the one-child policy,
but I didn’t think the Koreans were dealing with a similar situation thanks to
finished supper about 11:30—we pooled our vouchers to make them go further—and
crossed the parking lot back to our lodgings, where we’d arranged for 4:30
I’d taken my shower—never have I been more grateful for having
packed extra underwear in my carryon luggage, since our checked bags were stuck
at the airport—and was just about to crawl into bed when I heard an explosive “boo YAH?!” around midnight
from down the hall. This was not the Marines going over the top, but the oldest
of the adjummas with whom I had just had dinner discovering that Delta Airlines
had sent her an email to the effect that our replacement flight had been
postponed again, until 10 minutes till 11 – putting us (provided it left on
time), getting into Seoul at 1 PM on Friday. Which of course means that I could
not go to the DMZ as planned, and that the $95 I spent on the reservation on
that tour had vanished meaninglessly, as it was nonrefundable. I
canceled the wakeup call.
wrote on Facebook (whereon I had been cataloging my ongoing woes) that if Delta were an individual, I would
recommend s/he be hanged by the nose hair from the highest yardarm.
The next morning, unencumbered by the usual
luggage concerns, I was able to observe how profoundly money differentiates
people at the airport, a distinction which isn’t normally so obvious in other situations.
The wealthy don’t have to wait in long lines—the TSA beckons those in first
class ahead of economy at security. They can even pay to be pre-screened ($85
for 5 years) which puts them in an expedited security line once there—a line
without the belt and shoe removal, the extraction of laptops and liquids, the
general divestment of anything and everything that might set off detection
equipment. The higher classes board planes first (which is not something I envy
them, as despite the cushy seating it means they have to sit on the plane 20
minutes longer than everyone else, but as they can also disembark first, I
suppose it averages to the same length of time). Besides the really obvious
benefit of more comfortable reclining seats, their money has purchased
perquisites that are laughably limited, but can make a huge difference over the
journey, from the higher-level meals and beverages, to the larger toilet stall.
I wonder how many people become communists while stuck at the airport? The
snack counter prices there are extortion—the $15 voucher I had for breakfast
was only enough to buy two chocolate bars.
we boarded the midmorning replacement flight, Delta gave every passenger in
economy a notice saying they were issuing a $200 flight voucher for future
travel. I also sent them the message at the top of this post, along with a copy
of my tour payment confirmation email, asking they refund my money for that
lost adventure. Thus far, I’ve only gotten a boilerplate email from them saying
that they are inundated with complaints associated with the August 8 database outage
debacle. I can only imagine. Thank God my cousin got back from Iceland, where
she and her daughter were marooned at that time—with my panicked second cousin
fearing that she would be late to arrive for her freshman year at college!