Peter King's (of SI) Unhappy Delta Experience

Old Feb 23, 04, 11:27 am
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Peter King's (of SI) Unhappy Delta Experience

Was just reading Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback on, and came across this from his Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week. Sounds like mistakes were made all around - by both Mr. King, and by the ComAir folks (I assume it was ComAir) in South Bend.

Last Tuesday afternoon, my daughter Mary Beth and I were preparing to fly from South Bend, Ind., to Cincinnati on a Delta Connection flight. We planned to continue on to Newark from there, and then drive home. We got to the airport at 2:45 p.m. for the 4 p.m. flight. At about 3:25, Mary Beth said she was going to get yogurt pretzels. "Hurry back," I told her. Well, she tarried, and finally, at 3:40, I told the agent to page her, which he did, and then told the guy I was running to find her. I found her. We sprinted back, went through security, and arrived at the gate at 3:46. "Flight's closed," the gate agent announced. Rather than explain anything -- you have to board within 15 minutes of flight time or you risk surrendering your seat -- his co-agent commenced putting us on the next flight. The 4 p.m. plane would have put us on the ground in Newark at 7:40; the next flight wouldn't get us there until 12:30 a.m. Mary Beth begged for them to open the door. The two guys said nothing. Stone cold. The second agent just continued typing furiously. I saw how unresponsive they were and knew we were cooked. I knew the flight was full, and there were two standbys, or more, and figured he'd just given away our seats at 3:45 on the nose, even with me running to get Mary Beth.

We'd gotten to bed at 3:30 Monday morning because of a two-hour, 48-minute Delta Connection delay in Cincinnati Sunday night, then Mary Beth stayed with two students in a dorm at Notre Dame Monday night, and heaven knows how much sleep was had that night. She was fried. Anyway, I finally spoke up and said, basically, that you guys saw me run to get her, and the South Bend airport is no bigger than a postage stamp, and, really, you knew I'd be right back, and you gave away the two seats to standbys anyway? "Sir, if you don't want seats on the next flight, you can take your business elsewhere," Idiot No. 2 said. I simmered. He printed out the tickets for the later flight, handed them to me, and the biggest two aviation numbskills in Indiana history walked outside to close up the commuter flight.

An older fellow who was in the waiting area for another flight then walked up to the counter and proceeded to start screaming at my Delta foes, who stopped in their tracks. "What you just did is the worst thing I've ever seen done by an airline!'' Mr. Neutral Onlooker yelled. "I will never fly Delta again! I will tell people I know never to fly Delta again! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!'' To which Idiot number 2 replied: "Would you like us to call security?" He didn't have to. A female security agent came over and asked what the problem was, and Mary Beth told her how evil the two clowns behind the counter were. At this point, the two agents walked outside, and then the first guy stood behind the plate-glass door and made faces at us -- raised eyebrows and phony smiles, head moving smugly from side to side -- and announced loudly and mockingly, in a sing-song way: "Good-bye! Good-bye! Enjoy your flights!''

The later flight began its taxi to the runway at 3:55. Western civilization was saved. Gold stars to all involved! You were five minutes early!

You know, when you fly a lot, as I do, you need to have thick skin. Things happen. I waited out a five-hour delay in Orlando last summer because the crew didn't show up. I didn't make a peep. Things happen. But 99 percent of the the time, you're treated with some kind of common decency, even in the longest of delays. And here are two uncommunicative, unresponsive, totally unprofessional slugs, who can't spend 10 seconds explaining what happened but who can threaten to call security and mock our anger. All they had to do, even one of them, was to explain exactly what happened, which they never did, and say they're sorry, but rules are rules, and we had to be there at 3:45, and we weren't. I would have been angry, but not volcanic. Things happen, but in 24 years of flying for my job, I've never been treated like this, and I will not accept being treated like this.

The only thing you can do in a case like this is to not fly the airline. And so my little protest will be just that, a little protest. But it will be real. For the next year, until Feb. 23, 2005, I will not fly Delta. My guess is that will cost them maybe $5,000 in business. If Mary Beth goes to college in a town serviced by Delta, she will not fly the airline for one year either. I'm sure Delta will get a chuckle out of this protest. My only hope is the airline disciplines the two numbskulls -- I just wish I'd gotten their names, but Delta can figure out easily enough who they are -- for costing the company a few G's.
CLTFlyer is offline  
Old Feb 23, 04, 11:34 am
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Is this what is referred to as Simply Good Business? Yet another example of the deterioration of a once great airline. I wonder how often this happen to people who don't work for major media outlets?
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Old Feb 23, 04, 11:46 am
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Not sure if you can blame SGB directly. But, the long history of blaming agents for taking care of passengers (against certain rules-SGB) has begun to show it's ugly head in instances like this. After you treat employees poorly long enough, you will eventually train them how to be jerks.

The same thing can be said of the worthless security hassles that are slowly taking the wind of flying (pun intended). Give it time, and commerical aviation will no longer exist.
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:11 pm
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Peter King has a tendency to over-dramatize everything. He probably even said, "Do you know who I am? I am Peter King and I write for SI"

He got his article published on and now Delta will probably comp him with a $1000 voucher or something. I think that is pretty sorry to voice your dissatisfaction in that sort of forum.
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:13 pm
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Please -- the guy wasn't at the gate, it was entirely within his control and so they closed the flight within the rules. Boo-hoo.

Should they have held it up because he's a SI VIP who's more inmportant than everyone else?
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:25 pm
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I don't think his point was that he was upset for them not holding the flight up (although it probably wouldn't have killed the gate agents to do so considering he had them page his daughter and they knew he was going to get and come right back). After all, SGB dictates that a rule is a rule.

Rather, I think he was pointing out the lack of professionalism that these two gate agents exhibited. Truthfully, I would be livid if someone treated me that way too. I would expect them to treat all passengers, especially Medallions, with kindness and respect.

Yes, Peter King can exaggerate from time to time but avid readers of his MMQB column (of which i admittedly am one) also find him to be truthful and respectful of others. My guess is that is all he wanted in return.
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:33 pm
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Mary Beth is the idiot here, along with her jerk of a father.

Why did she spend 15 minutes getting yogurt pretzels when it was only 35 minutes before published departure time? She had 40 minutes to get her yogurt pretzels (2:45 to 3:25).

Why did her father let her do that? If he flies all the time, doesn't he know what happens when you're not at the gate 15 minutes before departure? On a full flight, they do that in order to process standbys.

As far as the gate agents making faces at him ... while I wasn't there, I'll bet you that he threw a world-class hissy fit. Of course you aren't going to read details like that in the article, because he is the one who wrote it.

I would love to read the gate agents' side of this story.

Well, on the bright side, this means two fewer people flying Delta who hop up and down and scream like a spoiled toddler when they don't get their way.

[This message has been edited by JS (edited Feb 23, 2004).]
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:40 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by CLTFlyer:
I found her. We sprinted back, went through security, and arrived at the gate at 3:46. "Flight's closed," the gate agent announced. </font>
Who leaves the secured area of the concourse 15 minutes before departure? I realize that SBN is a small airport, but it's still pretty dumb to wander outside of security. Sounds like ol' Mary Beth ain't the brightest student at ND.

Assuming Peter King's retelling is accurate, I do think the gate agents behavior was poor and unprofessional.

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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:42 pm
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Rules are rules..... But, if true (and I have no reason to believe that not true), the gate agents need to fired for their mocking actions (or at least loading baggage for the rest of their lives.)
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Old Feb 23, 04, 12:46 pm
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C'mon King, you whiney jerk! Everyone is aware of the rules. You should have told your daughter no.

King is the sports version of Martha Stewart. MA will get away will breaking Federal laws governing insider trading because she is a celebrity and the laws don't apply to her. King things the rules governing boarding don't apply to him.

Grow up King! You creep.
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Old Feb 23, 04, 2:08 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by DrBeeper:
C'mon King, you whiney jerk! Everyone is aware of the rules. You should have told your daughter no.

What exactly were the gate agents supposed to do? Tell those who were on standby "Sorry, you'll have to wait a bit longer to find out whether you will make this flight because some guy who has already checked in had to go find his daughter?" In other words, were the gate agents supposed to inconvenience several people or two people? And once King and daughter lost their seats, what did they expect the airline to do then? Throw people off of a presumably full flight so that they could get their seats back?
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Old Feb 23, 04, 2:12 pm
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The more I read this, the more I think he should just slither back into the corner and chill out. He says he will not fly DL for a year, and his daughter will not fly for a year either. HE BROKE THE RULES, no Delta.

Not flying them for a year means pretty much nothing to Delta. But, it could make his life miserable if there are no other options. Now that is stupid. He had a bad experience, but he and his daughter caused it to happen, not DL.

" will not fly Delta. My guess is that will cost them maybe $5,000 in business. If Mary Beth goes to college in a town serviced by Delta, she will not fly the airline for one year either..."
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Old Feb 23, 04, 3:09 pm
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I think y'all are being a bit ridiculous here. He admitted it was their (he and his daughter's) fault. He was justly upset by ground agents who were frankly cold and made faces at him (what is DLX hiring? 11 year olds?).

His daughter was none too bright for running off to get food; but his criticism of the agents is legit.
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Old Feb 23, 04, 3:21 pm
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I have children, too, three of whom are about the age of King's daughter. After a lifetime of flying with me, they KNOW that we are to be AT THE GATE when boarding begins, let alone at the 15-minute mark. If one of my children had insisted on leaving the gate for any reason so close to boarding, I would have given him or her the appropriate boarding pass, and the rest of us would have gotten on board!

Having said that, and with the additional assumption that King is describing the agents' behavior reasonably accurately, I would fire both of them immediately. I don't care how much King might have annoyed them; their behavior cannot be tolerated. I wonder if anyone in South Bend can let us know what happens as a result of this incident.

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Old Feb 23, 04, 3:38 pm
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I sat next to this guy a few years ago flying into IND. I remember him being nice, but What struck me was that he was savy and understood the rules. I think the airline treated him fairly. It's sad that DL doesn't get to do a rebuttal in the same article. Odds are though that the agents don't even remember this because it happens so often. Countless times, I will see agents page (not that they should have to) for people who had checked in, but are no shows. DL did the right thing here. Thankfully, they did not delay everyone as some man from SI was not ready to board because he gave his daughter permission to go on a pretzel hunt (on the other side of security, no less!).

[This message has been edited by jeffreyt (edited Feb 23, 2004).]
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