Dear Delta Airlines,
You asked for feedback on my recent trip from Seattle to Binghamton on October 17, 2015. I’ve told a number of people how my flight was, and it’s about time I told you too.
You asked for it.
First, can we all just agree that most commercial airlines suck? Charging for more legroom or the privilege of entering the jetway by way of the shoddy red carpet as opposed to the filthy blue one? Come on.
But then there’s you, Delta. I’ve had a number of stand-out experiences on your flights. How about some highlights?
#1: On a flight to Greece with my-then boyfriend, a flight attendant profusely thanked me for being a frequent flyer. What the what? There had to be more frequent flyers on board than me. I hadn’t even cleared 100K.
As if her words of gratitude weren’t enough, she swiped two amenities kits from Business Class and sneaked them to us. No wonder my boyfriend proposed!
#2: On a flight to Chicago with my-now husband and then nine-month old son Quinn, a flight attendant asked if I wanted something to drink.
“Hell yeah, I do!” I shouted. “Every day for the last nine months!”
We chuckled. He said my baby was cute. I said, “just wait,” and asked for a glass of water.
When he came back through the cabin to collect our empty cups, he slipped me a glass of wine.
“Your baby is still cute, but just in case,” he said with a wink.
I asked him to be my baby’s godfather.
#3: En route to Indianapolis for work I told a gaggle of flight attendants how much I enjoy flying Delta and how much less depressed they seem than flight attendants on other airlines. We chatted about how divine Biscoff cookies are and what a great crust they would make for a cheesecake.
A few seconds after returning to my seat, a flight attendant came by with—get this—AN ENTIRE SLEEVE OF BISCOFF COOKIES! Are you kidding me? Have you any idea the amount of joy one can experience alone in a company-paid hotel room, with free HBO, and AN ENTIRE SLEEVE OF BISCOFF COOKIES? Magic, I tell you. Pure magic.
But none of the above is why I’m finally writing you, Delta. Here’s why:
A few weeks before my dad’s seventieth birthday, I decided the best gift I could possibly give him would be quality time with his grandson.
I planned to surprise my dad during the small gathering planned at my parents’ home in upstate New York. I cashed in most of those miles that once so impressed a flight attendant for two round-trip tickets from my home in Seattle.
The day before my flight I got an email saying the departure time for my Seattle flight changed. I would miss my connection in Detroit. WTH, Delta? This was so not like you!
It was 7:30 AM. I wasn’t ready for work. Quinn didn’t want to wear pants. I needed coffee and hadn’t prepared my lunch yet. Did I really need the hassle and inconvenience of calling an airline to rebook a ticket? I dialed customer service preparing to be angry, impatient, and condescended to. (If I wanted to be treated that way, I would have continued the “why you need to wear pants to school” conversation.)
Then things got really weird.
After the spiel about my call maybe being recorded, I heard a nice, friendly voice thanking me for calling and asking if they could help me.
DELTA: Hello, thank you for calling Delta. How can I help you?
ME: CUSTOMER SERVICE!
DELTA: Yes, speaking. How can I help you?
ME: FOUR! Seven! Zero?
DELTA: Hello? Can I help you?
ME: You’re not real! I know you’re not! None of this is real!
First, apologies to keeping you on the phone six minutes longer than necessary because I didn’t have my confirmation number handy. I honestly thought I would have at least twenty-five minutes on hold to look that up.
You were apologetic and patiently went through my options. I was paralyzed by choice and couldn’t decide which was the lesser evil. You understood. You assured me the tickets weren’t going anywhere and encouraged me to take some time and think about it. So I did. When I called back, another real, live human answered the phone. Amazing.
The flight to my first connection in Salt Lake City was blessedly uneventful. We had big leather seats equipped with our own TVs and there was an entire channel dedicated to kids. I almost wished the flight were longer.
And because the Universe loves me, I arrived in SLC at the exact same gate I was to depart from. The exact same plane! The clock on my FitBit read 12:03 PM meaning we had an hour before we would start boarding for our 1:45 PM flight. I took Quinn to a less crowded area three gates over to let him burn off some energy.
I bought Quinn a yogurt parfait for lunch and a few snacks for me and then changed his diaper. Would you believe that was the exact moment Quinn decided he wanted to try potty training?
“I SIT ON PEE PEE POTTY TOO!” he shouted.
I looked at my FitBit. It was 12:40. We still had about twenty minutes before boarding so I told him to go for it.
We emerged from the restroom at 12:45 and I immediately knew something was different. It was quiet. Eerily so. There were considerably less people. And pretty much no people at our gate. What hap–OMG NO! I ran towards the gate.
“Where’s the flight?” I yelled to the two gate agents who were walking away. (I realize now this is not an incredibly helpful thing to yell in an airport.)
The agents seemed appropriately confused, so I elaborated.
“Where is the flight to Detroit?! Where is it?”
“That flight has departed,” Agent 1 said.
“It left a few minutes ago,” Agent 2 said.
“But it’s too early!” I shouted. “You can’t just take off early!”
I checked my FitBit again to show these two nice, but clearly muddled individuals they were wrong. And just as I was about to wave my left wrist in their faces, I realized what happened. FitBits don’t automatically sync when you enter a new zone. I was an hour ahead of Seattle.
Here’s where things get really good.
I cried. But wait—that’s not all! You want a side of pacing and heaving breathing with your breakdown? You got it! We’re talking your grade A, level 101 high-school drama club portrayal of “hysterical women in airport.”
I knew I was making a scene and yet I couldn’t stop. It was like I left my body and watched this sad lump make a fool of herself. HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID? Rookie mistake!
Here’s the thing, Delta. I’m a pretty seasoned traveler. I’ve explored other continents in different hemispheres with nary an issue. I have traversed more challenging wilds than Salt Lake City International Airport. It was a ONE HOUR TIME CHANGE!
The agents returned to the desk. Perhaps they were seeking cover. They asked me where I was trying to go and I blurted out a few key words.
They typed frantically, occasionally sighing, which I took as a bad sign. Maybe they were just emailing each other things like, “Ugh. How we gonna shake this loon? Want to get lunch?”
Someone handed me a tissue.
“Mommy crying?” my son asked.
“Yes, buddy. Mommy crying. Mommy messed up big time.”
Finally, Agent 1 confirmed it. I wasn’t getting home tonight.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, and I think she meant it. “I can get you on a 7:30 AM flight tomorrow morning.
Cue the waterworks! What would we do for the next eighteen hours?
“I can’t stay here!” I cried. “I have a baby! We have nothing.”
Okay, yes, this was Salt Lake City, not Komodo Island. I realize how dramatic I sounded, not to mention insulting to people who really have nothing.
But I wasn’t rational in the moment and was feeling pretty destitute. I pictured Quinn and me hunkered down outside of Pinkberry like a couple of extras from Les Miserables.
And then I heard the words I never expected to hear from a gate agent representing a major airline trying to help a passenger who made a stupid mistake and missed her flight.
“I will make an exception,” she said. “I can put you up in a hotel tonight.”
A hotel room.
I stared at her because I didn’t know what else to do. Perhaps she thought we were negotiating here and she insulted me with her paltry initial offer.
“And meal vouchers.”
“For today and tomorrow morning.”
I could tell you how I responded but it’s probably better to picture it. Remember how sensitive Evelyn in A League of Their Own reacted when Tom Hank’s character yelled at her? It’s the scene that generated the famous, “There’s no crying in baseball!” line. Well, I made Evelyn look as emotional as Mr. Spock.
My tears were confusing to the poor gate agent. She was probably thinking, “Bitch, did you hear me? I’m putting you up for the night! Now make like a whisk and beat it!”
Oh I heard you. And I want to make sure you heard me. I know it was hard what with all that blubbering. I wasn’t crying because your offer signified I was not, despite your best attempts, going to surprise my dad that night. I wasn’t crying (only because) I missed my flight. I wasn’t crying because you were being unfair. Quite the contrary. I watched the meal vouchers come off the printer and heard you explain where to meet the hotel shuttle all I could think of was, Why is this woman being so kind? I should really get her name and write a letter to corporate!
And it didn’t end there. I was gifted two overnight kits complete with toothpaste, shaving cream, hair brush, and cotton t-shirt. (You probably could have just given me one. I mean, even though Quinn has some of my Lebanese and Italian genes coursing through his veins, he’s not shaving quite yet.)
By the way, I love that t-shirt, Delta. I love it so much.
See what you did here? Everything. Everything you could to fix a situation that wasn’t your fault. I’ve been screwed over by airlines in ways much worse and even when it was their fault I didn’t get an ounce of the attention you paid me.
I have not properly thanked those two gate agents so I hope this letter finds its way to them. If you happened to be working at Salt Lake City International Airport on October 17th at Gate B22 for flight #1384 headed to Detroit, thank you. And thank you, Delta for employing such empathetic, kind, sincere representatives for your company. I don’t want them to remember me like that. I’m really much cooler and laid-back in real life. I make a mean cheesecake with Biscoff crust.
Please know my son and I had a wonderful time in Salt Lake City. The hotel was lovely. We found a nice pond covered in goose poop, which my son found hysterical. We ate flatbread pizza and French fries in the hotel restaurant. We watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in bed and ate the bag of Pirate’s Booty I procured with the generous vouchers you supplied. Not sure how you did this, but my bags ended up on the same flight I did. Well done, Delta.
It’s hard to like an airline let alone be loyal to one. But, not with you, Delta. I don’t know if you’re officially the “World’s Most Trusted Airline,” but you’re mine.
Forever your sky partner,