Unlike most people and what logic would dictate, I do not prefer nonstop flights. Although there was a 9:50pm nonstop flight from New York to Syracuse that gets me there around 11:00pm, I elected to take an earlier 6:05pm flight via Detroit that gets me there around the same time but more than twice the travel time. Why? Because I simply love airplanes. I arrived at LaGuardia Airport a little after 3:30pm after spending some time with my parents and aggressively consuming all the free food I could possibly get. Security check was relatively painless and in less than 15 minutes, I was at the Delta SkyClub at LaGuardia’s Terminal C. The lounge was fairly standard, it was crowded but had plenty of seats available. I grabbed a glass of Sprite and Bailey’s, and something “light” to eat, including crackers, celery, chicken salad, and a bowl of lentil chili.
Flight to Detroit
Boarding began on-time at 5:35pm for the 6:05pm departure to Detroit. I was expecting a completely full flight given the amount of people at the gate, most of whom were already crowding around the podium. Thanks to my American Express Gold Delta Card, I always receive Zone 1 priority boarding on all Delta flights. But given that this is a hub-to-hub flight, connecting two of Delta’s busiest networks filled with fancy business people who probably have Extra Platinum Diamond Ruby Sapphire Emerald I spend $25,000+ a year on Delta status, pretty much half of the plane had priority boarding and so my lowly status as a Zone 1 commoner who sat in Row 27F was rendered useless. Our flight pushed back on-time and took off into the New York City airspace during sunset, which made for a very beautiful scenery.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, but at least I got to finally try Delta’s refurbished A320s which made the 13-year old aircraft look brand new. There was complimentary WiFi for T-Mobile users, which I used and had a decent speed. Like the current trend on newer and refurbished domestic aircraft, in flight entertainment comes through online streaming. You bring your own device, connect to the WiFi, and watch complimentary shows, movies, and even have a moving map feature so you are able to track your flight. The entertainment selection was quite decent and I was able to watch an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, Superstore.
A quick beverage run was completed with a smile, along with the usual Biscoff cookies which is honestly enough reason for me to keep flying Delta. Those things are so good. The flight was smooth all throughout although the captain did announce that a storm is approaching DTW but we should be able to land before it hits.
Connection in Detroit
We arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. My connecting flight to Syracuse was originally scheduled to depart at 9:55pm but I received a notification that this has now been pushed back to 10:55pm. I quickly Tweeted @Delta to ask why it was delayed and within a few minutes, they responded that due to strong winds in Boston, the inbound aircraft that was going to continue to Syracuse as Flight 2270 was one hour late. Since I was in no rush and after realizing that my math homework was in fact due at 11:59pm the next day, I was not a bit concerned. The only disaster was forgetting that it was Sunday and Chick-Fil-A was closed. But my guilty obsession came to the rescue by the way of PF Chang’s. Nothing makes me feel more at home than consuming authentic Asian food at the airport. Love me some nice and warm wonton soup! (I’m being sarcastic about the authenticity but I do love PF Chang’s which my friend has told me brings shame to my Asian family).
When Things Go Downhill
Half an hour before the scheduled boarding, our flight departure was further pushed back once again. Despite the delay, most passenger seemed to be calm. A Delta agent also brought a cart filled with sugary snacks, juices, and bottles of water to keep the calm going. If there is anything that I’ve noticed that Delta does well is how they handle their delays. No one likes to spend more time at the airport (except for crazy people like me) but there’s also nothing better than free snacks (besides an on-time flight) to keep people shut and avoid them from starting a Spirit Airlines level brawl.
Half an hour later, our flight and cabin crew arrived, all decked out in their snazzy red and black uniforms. As any AVGeek would (a term describing aviation nerds by aviation nerds), I have been tracking the inbound Delta flight from Boston. It landed a little over an hour late as expected and pulled into our gate faster than I’ve seen any other planes have taxied before. Our gate agent explained that it will take a few minutes to unload, clean, and reload the aircraft, an Airbus A320 similar to the New York to Detroit flight. In no time, our crew boarded the aircraft and everyone closely anticipating boarding. But then the new boarding time passes and there were no announcements. And then another five minutes pass. And then ten. And finally twenty, right about the same updated time when we were supposed to depart for Syracuse.
To my shock, I saw the same captain, co-captain, and four flight attendants exit the aircraft and piled by the podium. This only meant one thing: we were definitely not leaving then and our flight could most likely be canceled. I quickly texted my parents about the situation and started talking to the elderly woman who was sitting next to me about it. The captain, in his very reserved voice, said that there was some sort of mechanical issue with the plane regarding the floor by Row 25 and the previous crew failed to radio it in. He calmly explained that maintenance is currently looking at it and he will update us with more information as soon as he gets it. There was obviously some confusion around the gate since only about 15 people heard his announcement. I quickly explained it to the woman, visibly frustrated but still calm, she sighed and said “I just want to go home!” Same girl, same.
And Off to Twitter I Go
I only use Twitter for one thing and one thing only: to communicate to airlines. If I have one suggestion in dealing with airline delays, cancellations, and the likes, is to contact the airline via social media. Not only do you get the chance to publicly shame them when their operations go nuts, but also, airlines have invested millions of dollars in creating a dedicated social media team to monitor, track, and respond to customer complaints, comments, and suggestions. It is a highly effective way of making your voice heard from an otherwise large company. Delta is especially a great example along with jetBlue and American Airlines. From experience, they are extremely responsive and you are connected with an actual human being who probably gives some damn about your travel experience. But good luck trying this on United.
But anyways, back to the delay. I started live tweeting whatever was happening and what the captain told us. Please disregard the sad fact that I only have one follower on Twitter, but like I said, I only use it for one reason. I also don’t want the rest of you to see how petty I could get. I actually go out of my way to block any friend who tries to follow me (sorry!!!) to avoid embarassment. But then here we are, an elaborate blog post about how petty I could get and admitting that I block some of you.
Why I Love Delta
In just a few minutes, Delta responded and wanted my travel credentials. This is usually the standard procedure for any communication with an airline social media team. They want to see your travel itinerary (reservation code, frequent flyer number, etc.) so they can better assist you and also to make sure you’re REALLY not being petty and just making shit up. It is important to note that you have to send this via direct message to protect your privacy. Don’t go out tweeting your reservation code! Someone could literally cancel your flight with just one click (and other things). Of course, who would do that? But better be safe than sorry and be stuck in Detroit.
The conversation then transitioned to a direct message communication with a Delta representative via Twitter. This is extremely convenient for many reasons, including the fact that you can better articulate your responses through words, you can continually update them throughout the situation easily rather than being on hold on the phone for a few minutes, and as someone who hates the sound of his own voice and who gets some anxiety talking to someone on the phone, then it’s a win, win, win.
I will let the screenshot do the talking but as you can see on their response in their direct message, I got some (un)expected surprise.
Finally Leaving Detroit
After 15 to 20 minutes of waiting, the friendly gate agent announced that the aircraft that was going to be used for our flight was unserviceable. Without waiting for a Spirit Airlines level brawl, he quickly explained that we will be accommodated on a different aircraft. Given that DTW is a giant Delta hub, finding a spare A320 at night (or you know maybe an A330 so everyone could have a row of their own) would not be an issue. Finally, a gate change has been announced which was located at the very end of the long concourse. The woman who I’ve been talking to kindly asked me to stay with her because “I seem to look like I know where I was going.” We both laughed and proceeded to the indoor terminal tram that connected the concourse together. Funnily enough, when the passengers boarded the tram, the automated PA system announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this train will be delayed.” Oh Detroit, you must let us go.
Within a few minutes of reaching the new gate, boarding was announced and everyone was pretty much calm. I took my seat on the exit row, which was completely empty except for a guy all the way on the other window seat. Before the doors closed, I received this message from Delta:
And another Surprise!
As you can see, as a “gesture of goodwill and apology,” Delta offered me a $200 voucher redeemable on any Delta flights and its partners. However, upon checking my Delta account to see if the voucher has been posted, it turns out, they ended up giving me two $200 vouchers, which meant I scored a $400 flight credit on a flight that originally cost me $5.60 (and 7,500 SkyMiles). I’ve since use both vouchers, a roundtrip flight to Tallahassee, FL to visit my friend and a flight from Barcelona to Copenhagen on KLM, Delta’s partner airline.
While I fly Delta quite often (at least for a full-time college student stuck in Central New York), I probably could credit some of their kindness to me because of that fact. However, I certainly do not spend enough money or have the highest frequent flyer status with them to be treated any differently than any regular passenger would be. So these are the things that anyone can do.
If there is any major takeaway from this story, it is:
- Leverage Twitter as your main source of communication to airlines.
- When things go wrong, @airline, and live tweet the situation and be detailed but concise at the same time.
- Make sure to direct message any personal or private information.
- Be polite. A little “please” and “thank you” will go a long way.
- Don’t directly ask for a free flight or voucher, phrase it in such a way that you convey that you enjoy their product and service but otherwise feel disappointed by your current experience.
- When things go right, tell the airline! Running an extremely complex operations is not easy.
- From experience, Delta, jetBlue and American are some of the more responsive airlines on social media who have given me some sort of compensation after an operations mishap.
- Fly Delta, jetBlue or American.