I'm not the kind of guy who bitches incessantly about traveling in general and Delta – my airline of choice – in particular. Although, if you read this blog with any regularity, you might conclude otherwise.
In truth, I complain less now than I used to, but I used to fly 120,000 miles in an average year; now I fly around 75,000 to 80,000. I guess that could explain my more accepting attitude. I'd like to think I've mellowed in my declining years, but that's probably not the case.
I just completed my fourth Delta trip between Greenville and Atlanta in less than a week (I had a trip to San Diego 7 days ago that caused me to change planes in Detroit rather than Atlanta or it would have been my fifth Greenville/Atlanta slog.). In any event, I just completed my fourth 25-min flight to or from Atlanta.
These four flights involved six planes; half of which were broken, causing a delay. The worst experience was six days ago on my San Diego return. My original Greenville flight would have got me home at around 3:30 p.m. I have some Delta status, which means, among other things, that occasionally I get upgraded to first class. I was among the lucky first-class lottery winners for this flight. I was all the way down the jetway and could see the first of our group beginning to walk through the plane's door when one of the crew stepped into the doorway motioning us back into the terminal. Apparently the pilots discovered a fuel leak of some stripe and called for maintenance.
If this was the Wagon Queen Family Truckster station wagon, the fix would have involved some duct tape and a prayer that it would stem the fuel leak until some future day when it could be driven to the shop and fixed. This isn't how it works with planes. Whatever operation was required to permanently repair the problem had to be performed before the plane could fly. I don't have an argument when the issue is mechanical even if it does inconvenience me. My benevolent nature, however, doesn't cover non-mechanical issues that have no bearing on safety; say, like a burned out light bulb, which grounded a plane I was scheduled on from West Palm Beach to Atlanta earlier this year. Some officious snot from the FAA or some other alphabet federal agency in the course of performing a surprise inspection found the felonious bulbs and grounded the plane for two hours while the issue was resolved. Our tax dollars at work.
In the case of the fuel leak last week, the flight was delayed for about an hour as the leak's source was found, deemed not fixable at the gate and a replacement plane secured. Our departure gate was changed and in mass, 100 or so passengers adjourned to the new gate where we waited for the replacement plane to arrive and disgorge its passengers. No sooner had the last passenger walked into the gate area than the gate attendant announced that, you guessed it, this plane was also broken and the delay would be at least 45 minutes and probably longer.
When the original delay was announced, I phoned Delta and backed myself up on the next flight that was scheduled to leave around 4:45. With the announcement of the second broken plane for the same flight, I walked out of the gate area and headed to the gate for the 4:45 flight. I even retained my first-class upgrade. Delta does get some things right. I wound up arriving around 5:30, dumping me into the I-85 rush-hour traffic jam between Spartanburg and Greenville.
|Concourse B at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport.|
That was on Tuesday. My Wednesday-to-Friday flights to and from San Francisco went off without a hitch. My luck didn't hold, though. This morning as I waited for my flight to Atlanta kicking off a three-flight trip to Reno, a mechanical issue delayed me once again. Fortunately, it was only about 20 minutes. I baked almost a three-hour layover into my Atlanta stop; so, I wasn't concerned other than it was another broken plane.
I have no clue why mechanical issues are such a regular element of these uber-short Greenville/Altanta flights, but I find it worrisome. With Delta's change in the way it will compute its Sky Miles status levels in coming years, giving greater weight to money spent annually, I am forced to tack the Greenville/Atlanta flights onto more tickets to drive up the money spent, rather than driving over to Atlanta's airport as I historically have. In doing so, however, it appears not only am I flying more miles on planes that don't seem to be in good repair, but I take the chance of missing connecting flights. A rock and a hard place? You bet.
With the specter of flying more between Greenville and Atlanta, I expect to grow less and less happy with Delta and the condition of its regional fleet.
The down side for you, dear reader, is that my complaining is bound to increase. Consider this fair warning.