Monday, July 11, 2011

Do-Over Day
Today has just been one of those days that you wish you could have a do-over on.  Ever have one of those days?  Of course you have, everybody has.  Well, before I tell you about it, I'll give you a little background since not all of you know me personally.  I travel for work a lot, though normally I leave late on Sunday evening, this week I was supposed to leave on Monday morning to save a couple of hundred dollars on the flight.

So, in order to get to the west coast and be able to work an almost full day, I had to book an early flight.  Now, you might be thinking that a 7:35 AM flight isn't an early flight, but you have to consider that I had to wake up at 5:15 just to get to the airport to fight the long lines at security and get to the gate at the recommended 45 minutes early.  I was able to do this without a hitch, so I should have known that something was up since things were going so smoothly.  I mean, I didn't wake anyone up when I left the house, I found a decent parking spot in the parking ramp and I was running on time.  Of course, I had to go through one of those stupid scanning devices at security, but overall it was good, so far.

The first negative event happened then.  I get to the gate at 6:45 and put in a $5 bill to get a Mountain Dew.  What comes out of the machine?  A Diet Pepsi!  Not really a big deal, but my first pop of the morning ended up costing me $4.50.  At least I was able to gift some random person a free Diet Pepsi.  Pay it forward, or something like that.

So, they start boarding at 7:00 AM and I get on the plane.  It's a 767, so I figure that there will be plenty of room for everything, but I didn't realize that I'm sitting behind a bulkhead.  Oops, no under seat storage for me.  Oh well, I can deal with that.  But, I have an aisle seat, so every third person is hitting me with a backpack as they walk by.  Okay, my patience is wearing thin right about now.

So, we're all boarded and they close the door.  Okay, now I get to sleep, right?  No, wrong.  They stop the plane about one hundred yards from the gate and the captain comes on the PA and announces our pending return to the gate.  All he says is that apparently the tires didn't pass the pre-flight check and although they had gotten the green light before, it had been revoked and we were being recalled to the gate so that someone could inspect the tires.  I've been on planes that have had tire problems before, so I immediately know that they're going to eventually have to take us off the plane if they're going to change it, but they don't let us off.

When we get to the gate they open the door and people start pulling out their phones and calling Delta.  The moment I had my phone on the Delta iPhone app told me that we were delayed until 8:35 AM and it was about 7:45 at this point.  I knew that I was either likely to sit on the plane for an hour or that something else was going to happen like a plane change.

The captain comes on again a few minutes later and explains the situation.  Now, get this because this is the really stupid part.  The plane had had some routine maintenance done the night before and someone had put a tire meant for international flights on the airplane.  Seriously?  They have different tires for international versus domestic planes?  If someone could explain the reason for this, I'm all ears.  Anyway, they don't have any domestic tires for a 767 in MSP, so they're flying one from Atlanta for the plane.

Pretty stupid, right?  Here's my theory.  The maintenance guy reached into the barrel of domestic tires and oops, we're out!  Oh, no one will notice if we put on an international tire, right?  This is a case of poor inventory control.  Why would you schedule maintenance on a plane and not have the right parts around?  Why wouldn't someone realize that they're running out of tires and order some?

So they let us off the plane and announce that the flight is delayed, but they can't give us a definite time of departure.  Now, this really sucks because if they could have told us then that it would have been a 12:35 PM departure, I would have gone home for a couple of hours.  Instead, they strung us on for about an hour and then told us that it would be 12:35 and at a different gate.  By this time it didn't make any sense for me to run home and then come back as I would only be able to stay at home for about half an hour or so and would have paid to get out of the parking ramp.

The silver lining of all of this is that I got a $6 meal voucher* and a $100 travel voucher (which is actually pretty sweet).  Plus, apparently the internet at MSP is free now.  Does anyone know when they started doing that?  It used to be around $7 for a 24-hour period or something like that.  Also, I tweeted about this and @DeltaAssist replied back almost immediately asking if there was anything they could do to help (like rebooking).  That was also pretty sweet.

So, overall, even though the situation really sucked and I ended up spending almost seven hours at the airport this morning, Delta has been really good about admitting their fault and (overall) keeping us informed about the status of the flight.  I know that they've been working on this as a company and I think that this is an improvement over my experiences with mechanical issues in the past.  Now they just need to work on keeping their maintenance and inventory so that preventable issues like this are avoided in the future.

*Meh, wasn't even enough for a foot long at Subway.  I got two $10 vouchers at SEA once for an hour delay.  Why so cheap, Delta?

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