Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Delta Disaster

I should have listened when my intuition told me something was gonna go wrong. After booking my flight to Grand Junction, CO three hours ago, rushing to pack and managing to find a ride (thanks Allyson!), I scan my itinerary at Delta's self-check counter and am instantly informed that my flight is delayed almost an hour. "Hmmm", I thought, "I hope this won't affect my SLC connection". In all of my traveling, I have, of course, run into delays and even found myself sprinting across airports bumping into anything in my path - but I've never actually MISSED a flight. Ignoring the shaky, butterfly-in-stomach feeling that strangely started the second I heard about the delay, I continue on through security to my gate.

After waiting in line at the Delta desk (it seems there are quite a few people in the same predicament) and being assured by the Delta ticket agent that I would still have 20 minutes to get to my connection - a LIFETIME compared to others who would now be left with only a couple minutes - I sat down and waited. For two hours (because of course I got there an hour early) I tell myself that the butterflies are just me overreacting, I might have to run, but surely Delta would warn us before takeoff if it looked like we wouldn't make it. Plus we had a talk-happy ticket agent who seemed to enjoy lecturing us on how to properly board a plane and how incorrectly placing a carry-on could mean the difference between sleeping in the airport or sleeping in a warm bed. Inferring that if WE did it right, all would be well.

After dangling the carrot ("the plane is 10 minutes from landing...the plane has landed and will be at the gate in 10 minutes....the plane is here and boarding will begin in 10 minutes") for what seemed like an eternity, we are finally allowed to take our seats. It was the moment of truth - if we boarded quickly it would make all the difference. Like kids wanting to make their parents proud, we boarded so fast even the ticket agent felt compelled to get back on the speaker and congratulate us. Sitting tall and proud, we buckled our seat belts and stowed our carry-ons, then listened as the captain mumbled into the speaker "Howdy folks, ....engine maintenance...blah, blah...quick flight...depart shortly...blah, blah...".

Making sense of the main points, I realize that after our gold-medal boarding performance, we'd now be sitting on the runway for an extra few precious minutes at best. The door was shut so there was no turning back at this point, we'd all just have to cross our fingers that we'd make up time in the air.

Well the captain was right, it was a short flight, but we landed at 8:18pm...my connection was scheduled to leave at 8:08pm. The butterflies returned as I patiently waited for people to deboard. Could my connection have possible waited 8 minutes for me? Expecting to see a few Delta employees ready to help us figure out if we were stranded, I made my way down the jet way to find one Delta employee already swarmed by panicked passengers. I wait my turn and am informed that my plane is gone, then am shuffled to a scanner which supposedly will give me an updated itinerary. Well, of course I'm not in the system so I have to wait for one of the two Delta employees available to help the approximately twenty stranded passengers. Frustrated, tired and disappointed, I get to the ticket agent and am told the next flight to Grand Junction isn't until tomorrow at 1:40pm. I'm quickly given a hotel voucher and two meal tickets for $6 each which can only be used at the airport or the hotel - if they have a restaurant. How I'm supposed to cover the next 3 meals for $12 is beyond me, but that's the lease of my worries at this point.

After realizing I was stuck in an unchangeable situation, I tried to make lemonade out of lemons. My cousin lives 30 min outside of SLC so I though maybe I'd squeeze in a visit. She was happy to hear from me and suggested I see if a rental car could be provided instead of a hotel. Impressed with her creative thinking I head back into the line to check my options. Fifteen minutes later, I finally get my turn and pose my question. "Hello, I was wondering if I can have a rental car instead of this hotel voucher?", I ask. "We're an airline, not a car rental service", the Delta employee snarled. What little patience I had left immediately escaped me and I let her know the sarcasm wasn't necessary. Feeling completely defeated and out of options I decided to stay the night in SLC and start over tomorrow.

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