Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is This Any Way to Run a Railroad: My Delta Saga Continued

My Delta saga continued….

If you haven't done so -- and why would you? -- you need to read my posting from yesterday, "Delta: Once Again Violating Its Contract With Me," to learn the beginning of my latest travel escapade with Delta before I boarded my plane in Greenville.

The story resumes after I logged off my net book in preparation for boarding my flight.

The flight's captain having come out to the gate podium and making the announcement that the problem should be solved in 20 minutes -- "20 minutes" is Delta-speak for an hour and a half -- he asked the gate crew to go ahead and board the plane, so we could take off as soon as the fuel tanks were filled.

The way they solved the problem with fueling was to bring three fuel trucks to the plane and load the fuel in from the filler openings on top of the plane's wings rather than the typical pressure-filling method. Even with three trucks, pumping the fuel through the top of the wings required nearly 30 minutes rather than the 10 minutes using the pressurized method.

Although the captain instructed the gate crew to immediately begin boarding the plane, we sat there for another 10 minutes waiting.

Tick-toc…tick-toc…

Even after the time it took to get all the passengers on the totally full plane, we sat for another 10 minutes before the captain came on the plane's intercom to inform us that the fuel was on board and we were now waiting for the paperwork.

Tick-toc…tick-toc….

We sat there for about 20 minutes before the captain announced that the paperwork wasn't forthcoming because the three trucks, after pumping fuel into the plane, took off for parts unknown without telling anyone exactly how much fuel each had added to the tanks. Someone was trying to track down each of the drivers to come up with some sort of total.

Tick-toc…tick-toc…

Another 30 minutes passed. The paperwork having been delivered to the cockpit, the boarding door was closed and the flight attendants launched into their safety spiel: here's how you buckle your seatbelt, here's how you use the oxygen mask, your cushion is a floatation device, blah, blah, blah…

We sat there for another 15 minutes.

Tick-toc…tick-toc…

The captain fired up the intercom again to tell us that there was a problem with the paperwork. The total fuel the three fuel-truck drivers claimed to have added to the tanks didn't jibe with what the fuel-level indicator said in the cockpit. The two numbers were 500 gallons apart and had to be reconciled. This should only take about 15 minutes, he claimed, and we would be underway in 30 minutes at most. They reopened the boarding door and brought the gangway back to the plane.

Tick-toc…tick-toc…

A couple of passengers came back up the aisle with their bags and got off the plane. I've never seen that before. A passenger getting off a plane creates all sorts of security issues with checked baggage and so forth. We sat for another 15 minutes before the captain, who had also left the plane, came back on board and announced that they were having a problem getting the fuel count. Evidently there were five fuel tanks on the plane and no one was exactly sure who had put what fuel into which tanks. Someone decided that they would have to come out, put some sort of magnetic measuring device into each tank and determine exactly how much fuel was in each tank that way. It would only take another 15 or 20 minutes.

Three more passengers got off the plane with their carry-ons.

Tick-toc…tick-toc….

By this time I was back on the phone with Delta because even with lots of layover time in Atlanta built into my itinerary, it was evident I wasn't going to make my connection. Delta assured me I was protected on a flight out of Atlanta to Austin.

Another 30 minutes dragged by before the captain came back on the intercom to announce that they thought they finally had the appropriate information to create the correct paperwork. He apologized for about the fourth time and repeated his statement that in more than 30 years of flying, he had never dealt with such an issue. Reassuring, indeed. He admitted he had probably lost all credibility with us, but gamely guessed we would be airborne in 30 minutes.

Another 15 minutes went by and three more passengers got off the plane. The gate attendant then came on the intercom and asked everyone to take their seats because she needed to get a head count of how many passengers were still on board. She walked up and down the aisle twice counting. She radioed the gate desk her count. We could hear the gate desk's response: the head count didn't jibe with the paperwork. Two more passengers left the plane.

Tick-toc…tick-toc….

Another head count and another one after that still didn't arrive at a number that agreed with the paperwork. Another passenger left the plane.

The head count correct, the boarding door was closed and the flight attendants repeated the safety announcement as though we hadn't heard it the first time the boarding door was closed. I guess they figured we wouldn't retain it from one day to the next.

Finally two hours after the fueling was completed, three hours after we boarded the plane, and three and a half hours after we were originally scheduled to leave, the plane began taxing for takeoff.

Upon arriving in Atlanta, we were all given $10 food vouchers for lunch. Yes, that made everything all right. I had some Chinese food and a beer that totaled $10.09. I then made my flight. My exit row seat on the earlier flight lost, I was stuck in row 43. Thankfully, that flight was without incident.

Delta: Where customer is king.

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