The Delta Connection experience


This past weekend was a quick, relatively local getaway down to Savannah, Georgia. The trip was great overall. Savannah is a lovely town, and I’ll get to writing up some of those details eventually, but the flights both ways were rather worse than expected. And I wasn’t really expecting all that much from Delta Connection.

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The outbound flight (LaGuardia – Savannah) was operated on N800AY, a Canadair CRJ-200. This aircraft type should be removed from service globally as a violation of torture treaties. Seriously, they are the most uncomfortable seating and in-flight experience I’ve ever had. I also had the apparent good fortune to be seated in a seat where the seatbelt was more than 3 feet longer than necessary. Apparently they don’t stock seatbelt extenders on those aircraft so they have some that are built extra long just in case. I seriously think I might have been able to sit in the row in front of me and still use this belt. But at least that was entertaining rather than troubling.

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We also had some issues with seat assignments on the flight down. We couldn’t get seats assigned at booking which is usually no big deal. At the airport we were assigned seats that were not together. Again, no big deal as we can handle 90 minutes not sitting next to each other, but when I asked about switching it up the agents said there was no chance. So what are the odds that the only empty seat on the plane happened to be next to my wife? Go figure.

The return trip was an even greater adventure. As we were getting out of the taxi at the Savannah airport (great facility, though the free wifi was busted) my phone rang and the Caller ID showed Delta’s number. Not good.

Our flight was going to be delayed. It happens some times, but the way it was handled was anything but smooth. I asked the ticket agent why the flight was delayed and he offered up that it wasn’t loaded in their computer and that it was probably ATC in the New York City area. Probably a safe bet, but in this case completely false. The issue was actually that Chautauqua, the carrier providing the service, had a rather significant systems meltdown and they were having difficulty dispatching a number of flights, with cancellations and significant delays throughout the system. So when I asked about alternate routings and other options and they suggested that it was no big deal I wasn’t all that impressed.

Two hours later, while still waiting for the aircraft to depart from New York to get to Savannah to operate our flight the agents were much more helpful, but they were also now more limited in terms of what alternate flights they could offer. Eventually we got rebooked via Atlanta with roughly 9 minutes to get through security and on to the plane. Awesome.

We did make the flight despite the best efforts of the TSA to mess that up and then were in Atlanta looking to get on the next flight to New York. With a two hour layover we headed to the gate of the earlier flight to try to get on as standby passengers. Ahead of us in line was a pilot dead-heading and the flight was full; the pilot couldn’t get a cockpit jump seat and was number 5 on the standby list when he walked away from the podium. I was quite surprised to hear the same agent who just put the pilot on the list tell me that there was no opportunity to be listed as a standby passenger and that, "There is no way I’m going to put you on this flight." Harsh.

At least we had dinner at One Flew South (my first time there and it lived up to the rave reviews I’ve heard). But beyond that the experience in Atlanta was pretty poor.

And then we caught our flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia. It was a reasonably quick, though bumpy, flight and we made it home the same day as scheduled and only a few hours late. In the end that’s great, but most of the customer service interactions along the way, save for the two women in Savannah who actually cared and tried to help us, were pretty craptacular. I doubt any other airline would do much better, particularly for a pair of customers with no elite status. Sad, but true.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

6 Comments

  1. Sounds like you really got hosed. Yet another reminder of how elite status is sadly becoming necessary if you want to be treated as a person by airlines. Given staffing levels and workloads, the situation is somewhat understandable, if regrettable.

    1. The staffing levels was another interesting thing to see. In Atlanta there was only one agent working the gate at boarding time. So even with other passengers needing help and standby/upgrades to clear the one agent was busy actually boarding the flight. A second agent showed up eventually; he was the jerk that basically told me to get lost. But the lack of staffing was notable in terms of the customer service level, or the lack thereof.

    1. My choice was Delta for the same reason most folks make such decisions: price and schedule. Continental was charging $100+ more per person or I could fly to an alternate airport that offered a 2 hour drive at the end (and required a rental car). Neither of those were particularly appealing options.

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