Delta: Literary Punch Line

DeltaI couldn’t let more time go by without posting about Delta (I know, you’re just wondering why I let so much time go by without posting at all)…(wait, that’s assuming you actually care when/if I post)… (daring assumption)…(daring over-use of multiple parentheses)… But back to Delta.

Yes, Delta. Just when you thought it was safe to open those over-head bins, another snafu by the airline comes tumbling into your aisle seat. In this case, it came in the form of art imitating life. Now using “air travel” — and specifically Delta — in the same sentence with “art” solicits arguments of its own, but this occasion was just too perfect.

Jacket Image SILKEN PREYI recently finished “Silken Prey,” a crime thriller by John Sanford, which I enjoyed. But what I enjoyed more, was this excerpt from Chapter 20… The protagonist sent a colleague to Albuquerque, NM, to do some recon, and knowing the man should actually be on a plane, but finding him here at his kitchen table, broached the topic:

“How was Albuquerque?”

“You got me a ticket on Delta. What do you think happened?”

“The plane broke?”

“Exactly. They’re bringing another one from Chicago. Revised departure time is 10 PM, assuming that the replacement plane makes it this far. They’re probably bringing it on a truck.”

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Delta Airlines has become so synonymous with poor customer service, flight cancellations, and maintenance issues, that it’s become a target for humorous dialog  in pop culture crime fiction. And given the 4 hours I spent at O’Hare in Chicago last week waiting for a flight to Minneapolis, I’m inclined to agree. And laugh. Now, if we could all just bank Sky Miles for the hours we have to spend waiting in terminals courtesy of Delta, we’d all have Platinum Status by now!

Just for fun, let’s take a poll… 

Overheard, Overhead, and Just Plain Over It

courtesy independenttraveler.com

We’ve all been there. We’ve all participated. Whether we wanted to or not. It’s the latest in business travel communications: the ONBOARD CONFERENCE CALL (OCC). Ah yes, it’s coming back to you, isn’t it? The boarding process is nearly complete, stragglers are filing in, and then that ONE individual boards who just happens to be in the middle of some self-important business call. And then the OCC kicks in. It’s something none of us ever really anticipated, this opportunity to brainstorm and provide real time feedback on a piece of business we don’t own, nor for which we can ever bill. But it gets dropped in our lap, nearly every time we take to the air.

One of my favorite things about the OCC is that the host is typically oblivious to anyone or anything outside of the ongoing call, and always seems to obnoxiously project the conversation all the way to the back of the plane. Hell, even the ground crew can hear it. And his briefcases or backpack beat fellow passengers up side the head with every twist and turn as he moves down the aisle toward his seat. Iced coffees get handed off to seat mates — or land in their lap — while he maneuvers past the aisle and middle seat to the inevitable window seat, only to discover he is in the wrong row. And then begin the apologies — not to fellow passengers, mind you, but to the person on the other end of the phone. “OH, SORRY, RICK. JUST BOARDED THE PLANE AND TRYING TO GET SETTLED. SORRY CAN YOU HANG ON A MINUTE?” Requests to wrap up the call by a flight attendant are met with a smile, nod, and a “one minute more” index finger that all of us want to return with a smile, nod and a “shut it up now” middle finger. But instead, we share eye rolls and sniggers, listen a little more intently, and secretly hope the competitive data and merger next steps being discussed on the OCC might prove potentially valuable to us or our clients.

Oddly, this same individual seems to dial right back in to the same OCC the minute wheels touch the runway, even pre-taxi status. “OH YEAH. MADE REAL GOOD TIME. SO, LIKE I WAS SAYING…” And so it begins again, but this time around, the OCC host cradles the phone against his shoulder, grabs his briefcase in the other, and then — while continuing his OCC — shrugs, smiles, and pantomimes that there is no way he can get his roller bag out of the overhead compartment while keeping the phone conversation going, visually pleading for some poor schmuck across the aisle to lift his bag down for him. And inevitably, someone does. And in unison, the silent screams of the rest of the passengers race toward the heavens and universe at large in the hope that cosmic karma will prevail, and the OCC host will hop in a cab with a driver he can’t understand, who won’t take credit cards (when all he has is cash), drop him at the wrong hotel, and drive away with his Blackberry buzzing on the back seat.

Is that so wrong?

Cross Check and All Call

I’ve been traveling so much lately that these words have become my mantra. They may even become the names of my next generation of Dachshunds. Just imagining the look on people’s faces when they ask the names of my cute little mutts gets me through a rough take-off or landing nowadays. But I never knew what the words actually meant until today. I mean, I figured I kind of new what they meant, but it never hurts to Google, right? Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my quest for knowledge: 57, 700 hits on Google confirmed that air travelers everywhere are hungry for the answer. So, here it is… or, at least one version:

From my friends at salon.com (who knew they had an “ask the pilot” column?):

  • “Cross-check” is a generic term used by pilots and flight attendants meaning that one person has verified the action of another.
  • “All-call” is another variation on the doors procedures, above. Each cabin crew member reports to the lead flight attendant or purser that the doors and slides are properly set.

Now I wonder how our sexy Delta in-flight video star would bring those terms to life? That’s another video just waiting for production… Hmmm… “Gut-check” and “Last call”? Have at it.

One Way Ticket to Paradise

Photo courtesy: NYMagazine

Living in Minneapolis, I am well aware of the monopoly factor when it comes to airlines. Delta has us locked down, the same way other airlines lock down Chicago, Denver, Dallas/Ft. Worth, etc. And then when I think about how the airline industry as a whole has us locked down in general — from time on the tarmac to baggage costs to seating choices (within coach, mind you) — well, you know what happens: I POST ABOUT IT! Today is no different… After fasting, praying, visiting psychics, paying bookies, and yes, even throwing in a donation or two to the Humane Society in the hopes that Delta would actually offer a reasonable fare for a round-trip ticket for Chris to see his mom for the holidays (you remember her last experience with Delta and air travel? she won’t be visiting us for years, thank you very much, Delta), and STILL not finding anything under $65o for the measly one-hour flight, I called my buddy, Dan (buddy? god, I just had a straight moment) to commiserate and discovered he had found a way to beat the system.

He has some time off between gigs, and decided he wanted to spend it with friends, but was constantly frustrated with the cost of round-trip air travel. So he altered his plans a bit, added a few lay-overs rather than directs, and SURPRISE! Affordable air travel! Check it out:

  • NYC – Palm Springs = $130 (1-stop)
  • Palm Springs – Seattle = $120 (1-stop)
  • Seattle – Sacramento = $129 (direct)
  • Sacramento – Palm Springs = $84 (direct)
  • PSP – Orlando = $129 (1-stop)
  • Orlando – Minneapolis = $109 (direct)
  • Minneapolis – Cincinnati = $199 (1-stop)
  • Baggage Fee on 4 flights = $25 per flight

GRAND TOTAL: $1,000 in air transportation costs (tax included)

Now can you beat that? Really? $900 in air fare to 7 cities? So I started to think about the friends I had in cities close enough to one another for a quick drive between them or the cities with multiple airports within 20 miles, and I realized that while not necessarily convenient (and really, is air travel convenient anyway?), there was a method to Dan’s madness. Now, it helps that he is cheap. Really cheap. Cheaper than my sister-in-law, Gail (love you both. mean it.)… And on certain occasions, the last thing I want to do is spend that much time working out my travel schedule. But why not? Am I that addicted to immediate gratification? Apparently so. But New Year’s is just around the corner, and I’ll deal with that resolution then. In the mean time, I’ll celebrate Dan’s ingenuity and good fortune. I do get a visit out of it, after all!

Prisoner on a Plane

You all know how I can rant and rave about air travel. (Delta: Chapter 3, Kujo at 38,000 feet, Limited Recline, and M&M: Not So Sweet, to jog your memory…). So when the airline that is trapping you offers WiFi in your cell, why not take advantage of it, right? Now, I’m not trashing Delta. This delay is actually weather-related. But 1.5 hour “in-cabin” delay does give me the opportunity to post about something I keep forgetting to, and have been wanting to for SUCH a long time: The Delta PreFlight Video!

Based in Minneapolis (flight attendant lingo intended), I typically fly Delta more than any other airline, so my opportunities to view this video with some regularity come into play. And every time I watch it, I chuckle to myself at it’s fiercely choreographed extras, perky pilots, forced racial diversity (they even added a few “racially ambiguous” folks just to make everyone feel welcome), and, of course, our femme fatale leading lady: the flight attendant. God, I love her. I’m not really quite sure what she looked like before she had all the work done, but under the right lighting, wearing the right make-up, I’m sure what she had done looks fine. And I can guarantee you that right now, somewhere, there is a drag show in production with at least six of her, and they are all fabulous! I do have to give the woman kudos, because I have never seen anyone deliver such a mundane script with such sex appeal. Check it out if you haven’t already. Oh, and just for fun, be sure to watch her in slow motion and super slow motion. It will change how you feel about flying, and about plastic surgery.

But before I wax on further about our ingenue, let’s touch on the inordinate amount of time this video dedicates to a “water evacuation.” Not “crash landing at sea” or “emergency landing on a river we hope is wide enough to accommodate this jet.” No, a “water evacuation.” A full 1:02 seconds out of a 4:37 second video is devoted to how to use our seat cushions as a life-saving floating device, or how to inflate a life vest complete with a flashing red light for a little extra visual drama. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t the fireball on the water kind of give us away? And how am I supposed to blow up my life vest when I’m breathing in smoke and jet fuel fumes? Ah, let it go, Alan. It’s just a movie, after all.

Another of my favorite scenes in this little darling is when one of the flight attendants stands mid-cabin by an exit row and delivers the following line with a sympathetic shake of the head , “No, you cannot smoke. I’m so sorry.” Now when was the last time you saw someone wave down a flight attendant to ask if it was okay to light up? It hasn’t been legal on planes for, what, 20 years now? It cracks me up every time. And she is so sincere in her apology. Wonderful delivery. I wonder what she used for motivation? God love the casting agent for this sucker.

And speaking of casting, this is a cast of thousands. They filled that plane, and filled it with expertly color-coordinated people and wardrobe. I can’t imagine the role of stylist and casting director on this one. There is a list that was checked more than twice. Even the number of male passengers with goatees seems to be calculated! Ah, Hollywood. You’ve found your way to the industrials of the skies.

And speaking of the skies, I’m still up there. And my wine just got comped. I was digging under my seat trying to find my wallet, and when I came up with credit card in hand, the flight attendant smiled and said it was on him, for the unexpected delays. I was elated — and then I turned back to my laptop and realized that it was open to this post, and the title, “Prisoner on a Plane” was as big as life! Something tells me there was more to that comp than the travel delays. But hey, I’ll take that glass, and raise it. Cheers! See you on the ground…

NWA Not! Chapter 3: Did Donna Really Check a Bag?

Alas, we have yet to recover Donna’s luggage. While certainly not a surprise, based on our exemplary customer service experience with Delta/NWA to date, it’s still so disheartening. And let’s face it, no amount of shopping at Bloomingdale’s in New York City during the holiday season with two fabulous gay men — even if one of them is your son — can make up for the loss of personal items of monetary and sentimental value.

And speaking of the son… While I have simply allowed myself the use of this blog to rant, vent and occassionally curse Delta and NWA for the inconvenienc of the entire situation, Chris has taken it to a new level: One Bad Airline. (Did I mention he’s a Scorpio? Enough said.) This new Web site chronicles our bad experience with Delta and NWA, and invites others to share their experience with the airlines. And based on a quick Google search for “Delta Sucks”, Chris is not alone in his desire to bring to light the consistently poor customer experience across Delta and NWA. The search for these two ugly little words (sorry, Mom and Dad, but this derragatory term, while in poor taste, has been widely accepted into the American vernacular as the verbal and visual end-all of disgust) landed 1.2 million entries. Crazy, right? But even if you take that search with a grain of salt, it still means that enough people have been angered, insulted, frustrated and hurt by Delta and NWA to warrant making it known via blogs and blog posts, tweets, and even Web sites dedicated to the voicing of these feelings. I guess my question is this: What, exactly, will it take for this airline to work as hard for our money as any other company we choose to do business with? (And yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition, but it just felt right…) Based on my experiences, I’m guessing it will take a lot more than Donna’s lost bag and 1.2 million negative — if not scathing — online conversations. Maybe it’s time to enlist those Mommy Blogger’s who shut down Motrin so quickly to band together on our behalf for Delta and NWA? Let’s do it!

NWA NOT! Chapter 2: The Flight Home

Well, after 4 fun-filled days of shopping for everything carefully packed in luggage somewhere between Minot, ND and NYC, Chris’ mom flew home today… sans bag. Yep. Never found it. Wait, that might not be true. They may very well have found it. But since WE HAVEN’T HEARD A WORD FROM THEM IN FOUR DAYS, we’ll never know, will we.

Lost baggage? Understandable. It’s air travel. It happens. But to have such a poor communications system in place that not a proactive email, phone call or letter has come to Donna’s attention from the airline?  Utterly ridiculous. Four days later, she’ll be filling out a claim form at her home airport without so much as a word frrom NWA or Delta. Now THAT is customer service and an attention to detail that makes me just want to fly with them every day.

And the irony? I continually get emails and letters from NWA and Delta as an elite status traveler reminding me how much more powerful they are since the merger, how many more cities are available to me, how many more flights are available to me, how much more they have to offer combined. Well, the only thing I really need from them is a clear channel of communicaiton and some respect, and it seems neither of those were drafted into the merger.