This is why I don't like to fly anymore…

I don’t normally rant on my blog, feel free to delete…

Christine (my wife) is on her way back from a trip to New York.

Her experience on the flight out (Delta Airlines):

  • Got to the airport at 5am for a 6:15am flight on Delta.
  • The airplane sat on the runway for ~3 hours with a mechanical issue.
  • The flight was cancelled.
  • She sat in standby queues on two more flights.
  • They sent her home at 2pm, then asked her to come back for a 10pm flight.
  • She got to New York about 16 hours after she was scheduled to arrive, causing her to have to rearrange plans.

Her experience on the flight back (USAir):

  • Got to Newark for her flight to Seattle via Phoenix, scheduled arrival 11pm.
  • Flight was delayed by one hour.
  • They cancelled the Seattle to Phoenix section. There were no more flights during the day (this was an evening flight) so they sent her away.
  • This morning she got to La Guardia for her new flight to Philadelphia, then to Seattle. Scheduled arrival 10:30am.
  • They cancelled the Philadelphia flight.
  • The new trip goes La Guardia -> Boston -> Las Vegas -> Seattle (as I write this she is in the air to Las Vegas) with a scheduled arrival into Seattle of 2:30pm.
  • Her scheduled arrival is 18 hours after the original one, and is probablycausing us to miss the signing for our mortgage refinance.

The airlines negligance costs flyers money (over $100 in this case, but for a traveller staying in hotels this would have been hundreds of dollars). As flyers we have no rights when it comes to cancelled flights if we haven’t left the source airport. USAir isn’t responsible for getting Christine from Newark to La Guardia or putting her in a hotel for the night. For all of this hassle she doesn’t get anything.

For years I’ve been trying to keep my vacation time close to home (hence going to Ross Lake this summer) and this is just a reminder of why. We have a trip coming up soon to Kauai and I hope that our flying experiences are a little better than what Christine had this last week.

I’d like to say that I’ll just avoid USAir and Delta from now on, but it doesn’t seem like there are any “good” airlines that don’t get into these messes.


  1. spudpatch says:

    …and you didn”t even get into the proctologic “security” screening..

  2. Jeremy says:

    Hear hear! I hate flying on those airlines. The odd thing is I contract to airlines and airports and install their baggage handling and EDS systems. Nature of the beast is a lot of work travel for me. I recently made a trip to Santiago Chile on LAN airlines. Great service, friendly, polite and on time. Both my connectors to get me back home from JFK New York were Delta. I think those guys are trying to run their company into the ground. I have a hard time finding one part of their operation that is smooth, well managed and pleasing to the customer. Man, I hate airlines too! With exceptions to a select few.

    Hope your upcoming trip is smoother!


  3. Rory says:

    the debate i would start with is how a “good” airline is measured. I would start with defining average/expected, and then go from anything over the top to be good.

    I”d expect an average airline to operate like a bus, and get me from point A to point B in the time alotted I purchased the ticket for. If i get to the airport and they say your travel time has shrunk by 1 hour, I”d say that could be good. if they do the opposite, I”d call them bad.

    Now, if the mitigated the circumstances by travel vouchers, I might say they get up to average/expected. Also, if they told me they couldnt fly somewhere because of a hurricane, I wouldnt necessarily count that against them.

    most of my recent experiences on flights have been average. flights are on time, and what i expected. I do usually pay the extra for direct flights, because it runs the least likelyhood of complications, and the uses the least of my time.

  4. Boris says:

    With those delays, train travel starts to make sense again. Even if the train is delayed a bit, at least you”re comfortable.

  5. FWIW, I”ve never had a canceled flight going back to the east coast for christmas on Continental. I did have a cheap flight through JetBlue canceled during snowpaclypse, and gave up and rescheduled on Continental a month later.

    My father used to fly for Continental though, so I use them out of habit and familiarity more than anything else.

  6. Jimmy Livengood says:

    A simple-ish fix might be a law that requires that any time your flight is delayed/cancelled by 1hr or more, the airline must place you on the next available flight by any airline, to any destination you wish (so you could fly to a neighboring city then take a bus/etc. if you wanted).

    This creates an incentive for your flight to continue, or for other airlines to build extra capacity or for the original airline to have backup planes. It allows for bad weather because all flights would be grounded.

    I could see an addendum that says if your destination is less than 200 miles away, the airline is required to offer charter bus service to that destination if the delay is expected to be 4hrs or more.

    There are a bunch of other additions I could think of, things like a ratio for original flight time vs. time sitting on the tarmac and how much of a refund you get.

    It seems at the moment there’’s just not a big enough financial lever to push the airlines toward what I”d call good behavior.

    It’’s still amazing that an airline can cost you two day’’s worth of vacation/work/hotel/food/missed meetings/car rental/whatever and not have to pay a dime. We”re going to Colorado for Christmas this year, and my wife thinks I”m joking when I get excited and say “road trip!”. I am not joking.

  7. seth vidal says:

    For travel up and down the east coast we”ve just opted for train travel. It may take longer but it just keeps me from chewing on glass at airports.

    Sorry for all the suffering.

  8. Alex Kahn says:

    You may want to check out, a site made with data made public my the TSA and FAA. It could help you out. It was part of Sunlight Labs” Apps for America contest.

  9. Steve Heywood says:


    I agree, flying these days SUCKS!

    However, the Delta flight from Seattle DID NOT “sit on the runway for 3 hours”. I doubt if it ever got off the gate.