Delta Responds To JFK Clusterfracas

Reached for comment about the big mess I and others observed at their JFK terminal today, Delta said they are working hard to add capacity and find flights home for the stranded passengers whose outpouring of anger at yet further delays required police intervention:

Via email, they wrote: “Delta has been working diligently to reaccomodate passengers displaced as a result of this past weekend’s record-breaking winter storms. Just yesterday we added approximately 6,500 additional seats into markets where we were forced to cancel or delay flights as a result of snow and ice. We are continuing to identify markets that are in need of additional capacity to ensure that our passengers are able to make it home for the holidays. Along with this, we have offered passengers refunds or the ability to change the date of their travel without fee. To date, we have successfully reaccomodated the majority of impacted passengers.

The incident that you mentioned occurred today as a result of a weather-related cancellation we were forced to make on Sunday to Port Au Prince, Haiti. Similar to others, these passengers were offered a refund or the ability to change their travel dates. Understandably, because of the holidays many of them chose to continue their travels and we worked to accommodate them on the regularly scheduled nonstop daily flights. Today some passengers were disappointed they were unable to make today’s regularly scheduled flight as a result of heavy flight loads. When we recognized that our current schedule was not going to ensure that all of these passengers were going to be able to travel today, we opted to add an additional flight for tomorrow. The addition of this flight will successfully reaccomodate all of these delayed passengers. We apologize to these customers for this delay and have been working around the clock to get our customers home for the holidays despite the disruptions caused by weather over the last few days.”

PREVIOUSLY: JFK Delta Terminal A Living Hellhole, Cops Called To Quell Crowds

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  1. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I am going to use the word “clusterfracas” in the future.

    • tbax929 says:

      Me too. That’s a great word.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        Apparently I’m not allowed to say “fuck” on basic cable. It’s infringing on my vocabularial richness. “Fracas” will do nicely. :D

        • RandomHookup says:

          The old Army officer in me can’t see or hear “cluster” without appending the appropriate suffix. Even cluster bombs and peanut clusters end up being a charlie foxtrot in my head.

        • Hyman Decent says:

          Do you do a show on a public access channel?

          • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

            No, local government is broadcast live. And believe you me, there is a LOT of stuff in local government that deserve to be described as a clusterfracas.

  2. coym says:

    Why is everyone getting so mad? Delta can’t help it if the weather doesn’t allow for outgoing flights. Jeez, I know it’s the holidays but stop being so ridiculous. And really Ben. Delta Fail? I mean I know you want to attract readers to articles but some of your headlines are just grossly misleading of what is actually going on. You’re so quick to blame companies for wrong doings.

    • Ben Popken says:

      I didn’t come up with it: http://twitter.com/search?q=%23deltafail
      And yeah, if they’re understaffed, as they were, they can help it.

      • coym says:

        Indeed you did not :) I don’t tweet that much so it didn’t click what the hash mark meant till you linked to it.

    • mcgs999 says:

      Don’t you know that Delta planned the snow?

      Also, did you know know The Consumerist has, as of late, just become a place to come to whine? Everyone is in the wrong except the hipsters seems to be their new motto.

      • supercereal says:

        I thought I was the only one who noticed this, and was hoping for the exact opposite following the CU buyout. Gone are the useful articles, Lifehacker-esque money tips/tricks, and heck, anything remotely related to legit consumer activism. Now everything seems to have been replaced with entitled, anti-business folks whining about minor things that could have been prevented with the slightest semblance of foresight.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          entitled, anti-business folks whining about minor things that could have been prevented with the slightest semblance of foresight.

          I’m not sure how a near-blizzard is “minor” and I’m not sure how anyone could have prevented a snowstorm with any kind of foresight. Maybe people should have known better, and should have taken time off work just to fly out last week, ahead of the storm. Maybe people should have known better than to want to see their families during the holidays, and planted themselves at home. Maybe people should have known better and driven – doesn’t help the people who are going to Haiti, though.

          • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

            Exactly. Unlike many of the other travelers, these particular people do not have the option to take other means of transportation. Granted the lack of communication is frustrating, but rioting is not the answer.

      • Wireless Joe says:

        I’m sitting in the Delta terminal posting on my slow AT&T iPhone (because my Dell Mini9 exploded) after being tackled at a WalMart I was abandoned at by Greyhound, so I’m getting a kick out of your comment.

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          I hope your pointy knees were not injured when you were tackled.

      • Gramin says:

        Careful Mcginlep… you might get disemvowled or have your commenting rights revoked for questioning the editors. I once objected to an irrelevant consumer post and they took away my commenting rights. They, the editors, want us to question big business but can’t handle it when we question them. Completely agree with you though.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think people are frustrated because of the weather, yes, but they are upset with Delta because there is no communication. No one is telling people when an end is in sight, when they might be able to get on their planes, and it makes it hard for people to make any plans in case they are stuck at the airport. Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you had no idea whether it might be 1 hour before you get on your plane or 6 hours, and every time you try to find out, no one has a clue or refuses to answer your questions properly?

    • MikeB says:

      Delta can’t be held responsible for delays due to weather. But, by now, they should realize that 1) travel during the holidays is very high. 2) travel after a major storm that cancels/delays flights will be very high. Add them together and oh boy, travel is even worse. Delta should have added more staff and I can probably say, been better at communication with the people in the terminal.

      • Hoss says:

        They didn’t even need to apply any logic skills — they know how many people will show up based on the ticketing. Most times I’ve seen situations like this there were people with clipboards ensuring everyone was in the right line

      • sven.kirk says:

        What? Having more CSRs telling you that we can’t fly because of the snow will speed things up?

        • Hoss says:

          Clear skies in the east US today, the storm was last weekend

          • pinkbunnyslippers says:

            It was this weekend. And some of the airports like Dulles are just now opening up their 4th runway – so yeah, great weather today doesn’t mean everyone’s all cleaned up from 3 days ago…

    • c_c says:

      Yes but Delta’s recovery from the weather has been much much worse than the other airlines, as far as I can tell from reading on the internets.

    • Dave B says:

      I can reconginze that the holidays are going to be crazy at any airline, however I do want to point out that Delta has continually shown the same lack of communication and incompetence in every one of my unfortunate trips through JFK. There are no signs and no flight boards whatsoever. We we’ve told to go to three separate terminals by Delta empoyees (all wrong – the shuttle actually had the correct posted information). I would concur with the comment that Delta is complete fail.

    • RandomZero says:

      There’s just one itty-bitty problem with saying “It’s not Delta’s fault – it’s the weather!”. Checking Dec 22 caches of a few travel sites, I’m not seeing this mythical “weather delay”. In fact, I’m seeing minimal delays at JFK if any – nobody but Delta had this problem. How does one explain that?

  3. Etoiles says:

    Delta seems to be missing the point, though.

    Pissed-off customers? Rarely raging about what’s actually happened. If my morning commute is stalled by a broken train, if my flight is cancelled by a snowstorm, if something knocks out my cable, if my waiter spills my soup all over… fine. It’s life. Shit happens.

    However, where the business comes in is in their RESPONSE to whatever has happened. And Delta clearly couldn’t give a rat’s ass, here, about how their customers were being treated, or about how they were communicating with those customers. And that seems to be where most companies and services really fall down. I wish they wouldn’t. Frequent, transparent, as honest-as-possible communication would make most of these situations at least tolerable, and would generally prevent them from devolving into mob scenes.

    • P_Smith says:

      Usually, Delta’s acronym (“Don’t Expect Loved-ones To Arrive”) refers to their propensity for crashing planes.

      Here it seems to only refer to crashed hopes of customers and their families.

  4. thisistobehelpful says:

    Really, people should be calmer about this. It’s a) the worst travel week ever and b) the week after one of the worst storms in December. It doesn’t usually snow that much in DC area at all and NYC is definitely not used to that much snow coming this early in the season. It sucks but being impatient or belligerent doesn’t help and it really REALLY isn’t the airline’s fault that 500+ flights got canceled this weekend just in three airports.

    • coym says:

      Exactly!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I read that the DC area usually gets 16 inches throughout the entire winter season – this year, we got 16 to 20 inches in one weekend. Cut us some slack, we’re trying our best. We get all sorts of complaints from people telling us we’re wimps about the snow – we don’t get 16 inches of snow in one weekend every year, and we don’t usually even get it in five years. The DC region has enough weather-related resources (like ice plows or salt) to handle the weather as best it can considering the average snowfall per year – obviously a city like Denver or Chicago, both of which get much more snow on a more frequent basis will be able to handle their weather problems better – they have devoted more resources to something that happens with frequency.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        Um… I was the one cutting slack. I even said it doesn’t snow that much at all. Maybe I should’ve said per season?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I wasn’t talking about you specifically. Sorry, sometimes I think it’s implied that I’m not saying that one person specifically was saying something I was opposing, but then a person doesn’t know I’m not calling them out and then it’s a clusterfracas!

          I’m totally using that word from now on.

  5. idiosynch says:

    Hmm, I heart it was the Port Authority Police Department, not NYPD.

  6. Funklord says:

    Yeah, right. Delta is taking this “very seriously”, I’m sure. Three years ago, same airline, same terminal at JFK, three days after a big ice storm, I waited in line with a very pregnant wife for 9 hours to check our bags. At no point during this time did Delta have more than 3 people working behind the counter. There were people who had essentially been living at the airport for three days, still trying to get on a flight home. We missed our flight by 6 hours and when we got to the front, were told there was nothing they could do and that we should go home. We insisted they put us on standby for the next flight to our destination, assuming that the hundreds of people behind us in line were going to miss that flight, and lo and behold, we flew on a half-full plane a few hours later.

    This is nothing new for Delta at JFK. This is a long-term, ongoing problem that could easily be fixed by hiring more personnel, or paying some overtime to get more people working on days when there is a crisis. Delta lost a customer that day, I’ve not flown on their airline since and will never do so again. I’m betting they lost some more today.

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      Thank you for this. I would never fly on Delta again. They have been doing this sort of thing for a long, long time. Professional consumer advocate Clark Howard, who is based in their hometown, has many times commented about the poor service of Delta … this is going back at least to 2000, when I first heard his show.

  7. Starsmore says:

    “Just yesterday we added approximately 6,500 additional seats into markets where we were forced to cancel or delay flights as a result of snow and ice.”

    So over 6000 other customers just got bumped to make up for missed flights last week?

    • aviationwiz says:

      How would you figure that? This is routinely done by airlines when needed and can be accomplished by adding flights to the schedule or by upgrading existing flights to larger aircraft.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      One would hope it means additional or larger equipment. But given the delays they’re probably flying empty planes.

  8. diasdiem says:

    Can we please have high-speed rail now?

    • Etoiles says:

      Real high-speed rail would certainly cut down on JFK/BOS or JFK/IAD or maybe even JFK/ORD flights, but I guarantee you it wouldn’t help anyone trying to get to Haiti! ;)

      • diasdiem says:

        It would if you could quickly travel to another airport that isn’t shut down by bad weather.

        • Etoiles says:

          The way all airports between Washington and Boston were shut down for the same weather at the same time? And that same snow also made rail travel slower than usual, and more hazardous.

          I’m a huge proponent of high-speed rail and think it’s an absolute travesty that this nation doesn’t have it, but there are some problems trains really won’t fix.

    • Kishi says:

      Well, that won’t help much for the folks going to Puerto Rico.

    • PanCake BuTT says:

      P.R. & Haiti, stunning choices for travel! I’m sure that specific crowd that commutes to both places would be seriously heated if the speed rail didn’t make it all the way to their end !

    • pot_roast says:

      Ironic, because a power outage shut down some Amtrak routes earlier today.

  9. ConsumerWolf says:

    The fact that so many people desperately believe they need to be somewhere on a specific day because that’s when they believe an all-powerful, all-knowing, invisible man in the sky sent his son (who was also himself) down to earth to die a horrible death and reanimate three days later to pay for the sins that he himself created is kind of amusing from an outside, objective perspective. But when it devolves into this type of behavior it’s more sad than anything else. Why don’t these Christians start acting more like the guy whose birthday they’re celebrating?

    • Etoiles says:

      I believe I need to be somewhere on a specific day because it’s one of the very, very rare days in a year that my job, my husband’s job, my dad’s job, and my in-laws’ jobs will all give us a simultaneous day off.

      Want to reschedule that to April 9th? May 7th? July 17th? I’m game…

    • Anathema777 says:

      I don’t have to be a practicing Catholic to want to see my family on the one day of the year where they all gather in the same place.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      What is your problem? People want to get home to see their families. They’ve spent hard-earned money to travel, and they’re being met with delays and lack of communication. The next time you’re stuck somewhere, and you desperately want to get to your destination, maybe someone will tell you that your travel plans don’t matter.

      And FYI, God sent Jesus, who was a physical human being, who died on the cross for sins that the humans Adam and Eve started and were allowed to continue out of God-given free will. God did not create sin, He allowed for mankind to exact free will.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Oh and I guarantee plenty of athiests and agnostics are at JFK right now, waiting for their flight. You want to tell them their plans don’t matter either?

      • ConsumerWolf says:

        You’re right, it’s probably all those Atheists rushing home for Christmas who are acting like animals. Sure…

        • floraposte says:

          Huh? I’m not sure if you’re implying that atheists are incapable of bad behavior or that atheists don’t travel on the holidays, but I can assure you that as a third-generation atheist I’ve seen plenty of customer temper tantrums by atheists, and that businesses and schools close down the same days for us as for anybody else. Dunno what the anti-Christian bee in your bonnet is, but it’s awfully naive to blame travelers for being unable to travel during times when their businesses are running and kids are in school.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      So that means it’s perfectly fine for this to happen on Thanksgiving because it’s a non-religious holiday. Awesome.

    • Tyr_Anasazi says:

      Troll much…?

  10. CTAUGUST says:

    The line Delta left out was “and we are growing frustrated, like most companies, that every time we screw up it ends up all over the internet and turns into a big story we used to be able to hide.”

  11. CTAUGUST says:

    The line Delta left out was “and we are growing frustrated, like most companies, that every time we screw up it ends up all over the internet and turns into a big story we used to be able to hide.”

  12. humphrmi says:

    It sounds, from the two posts I’ve read about this, that Delta needs to add more check-in counter agents, and start nagging TSA to add more security checkpoint agents. More capacity at the gates doesn’t help if you can’t get people through check-in and security. But their statements don’t seem to be addressing that problem.

    • supercereal says:

      It’s Delta’s fault that the TSA is understaffed? People will say anything just to point the finger to the big business around here…

      • Funklord says:

        No, it’s Delta’s fault that they can’t add a few people behind their own counters on days when they realize that capacity is going to be extra-high (say, a few days after a major snowstorm). Security lines aren’t a problem at the JFK Delta terminal. It’s getting to the security lines that takes hours and hours because there’s only 2 people working the check-in counter.

      • humphrmi says:

        Delta and every other airline have direct contact with TSA management. It is within their power to advise the TSA that long security lines are hindering their ability to board planes, and well within their right and responsibility to ask for more agents. So yes.

      • cluberti says:

        Actually, yes it sort of is. My neighbor works for a particular airline, and they can indeed request (and apparently almost always get) additional TSA staff during incidents like this. Why Delta was unable or unwilling to staff on such an occasion isn’t something I’m aware of (perhaps they have lots of staff on vacation too???), but it’s not really excusable to have a complete lack of information going to and from passengers after things like winter storms – it’s not like snowstorms and delays never happen (especially in the northeast) and they have no idea what to do.

  13. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    They was a big snow storm this weekend, so everything is backed up. This is probability going on in other airports and with other airlines. Give them a break. They doing what they can giving the circumstances.

    • Cameraman says:

      They most certainly are *not* doing what they can, given the circumstances, that’s what everyone’s all mad about. What kind of idiot company fails to realize they need to add extra agents at the gate on the busiest travel week of the year two days after a massive freaking snowstorm? We’ve allowed businesses to jerk us around for too long, and we’ve grown accustomed to thinking that it’s somehow okay for a company to do a lousy job of providing the service or product they’ve sold you, all the while jacking up prices and adding fees to everything.

      • Kitamura says:

        I think it begs the question of if they have the staff available to call in. You can have all the staff in the world, but if they’ve all left to do their own holiday thing with their own families, you can bet they’re not going to be any happier about their employer demand they give up their holidays to come in and work a madhouse than the people stuck there are.

        This is the big problem with this time of season. Everyone wants the time off, so if some unplanned incident happens, you have very little backup to call in.

      • pinkbunnyslippers says:

        Have you thought about the fact that maybe they *don’t* have the staff available? In addition to it being a hella craptastic economy and Delta having laid off over 2000 people this year alone, it’s the holidays – people could be off, people could not be able to make it in due to weather, etc.

        There are always two sides to a story. I’m tired of everyone jumping all over an airline because heaven forbid they don’t get their ducks in a row lickity split after a major snow storm that cripples the eastern seaboard over a two-day time frame.

        • humphrmi says:

          Exactly. They laid off people to save themselves money, and now their customers are suffering from lack of communication due to inadequate staffing. And who’s fault is that?

          I don’t think that we need to be patient with companies based on the argument that they laid off too many people.

          • pinkbunnyslippers says:

            Well then let’s all show up at JFK’s Delta terminal with flaming pitchforks then, shall we?

            Unfortunately, a perfect storm (bad weather + holiday travel + lack of staffing) created an extraordinary issue. Their response is what’s causing this to be even worse, which I understand, but an airline is comprised of more people than just the higher ups who make bad business decisions. It consists of people who are on the front lines, working the gates, dealing with people like you and me who are probably hell on wheels when their travel gets screwed up.

            The fish rots from the head down – let’s not take it out on the people on the bottom. That’s all I’m sayin’…

        • Gorbachev says:

          Why is that not Delta’s problem?

          If my job designed their operations in such a manner, whoever was in charge would be fired after the first emergency.

          You always have a contingency plan, no matter what. Delta has none.

  14. what+the_smack says:

    When will Mr. Garrison’s gyroscope-powered monowheel hit the market?

  15. pridkett says:

    I’m not trying to sound like a Delta apologist in this, but my experience with Delta was exactly the opposite of what most people are describing. I’m not one of those Platinum frequent fliers — I have the lowest level status on one airline (not Delta) and never brought it up during my trip.

    I was booked to fly out on a 4:20pm flight from LGA->DTW->AUS on Saturday, December 19th (day 1 of #SnoMG or #snopocalypse). I honestly had no idea that snow was coming to the NYC area until about 5pm on Friday evening when I went to check in and saw my flight was canceled. I called up their customer service number for SkyMiles members, which was busy, so I paid $0.75 and used one of those services that keeps on calling a busy number and then will ring you back when it’s not busy. After about 10 minutes in phone trees and on hold I got a nice woman who greeted me by name and asked if I’d be willing to take the 11am flight from LGA->MSP->AUS. No problem for me. She puts me on the flight.

    Realizing that there were lots of canceled flights, I got to the airport a little over 2 hours before my flight (normally I’m one of those people who get there 45 minutes early). Security was a bit slow, but I was at my gate about 1:45 before my flight. Found power, and just chilled. The flight was overbooked and people were clamoring to get on the flight, but I wasn’t going to give up my seat. Made it of NYC before the snow started to fall.

    When I arrived at MSP I kindly asked the gate agent for my next flight if I could get moved to the later flight to Austin that left about 6 hours later. I’ve got some friends that I figured I could see. No problem at all — even though they didn’t need volunteers to give up their seats on my original flight, they still changed my flight for no charge. They even put me in the exit row on the flight to Austin.

    So, for the Delta folks who might see this – Sara in your reservations department was awesome, and Alice from Mesaba in MSP was great! I don’t have any sort of status on Delta, but they treated me well and let me get out of NYC and down to visit family before the Snowpocalypse messed everything up.

    Now, this didn’t happen entirely by magic. Here’s what I did that really helped me out (I think at least):
    1) I looked up alternate routes to Austin on Delta before I called. Therefore I knew how many flights a day went to Austin from their hubs at DTW, MSP, ATL, and MEM. I had four planned iteneraries and an idea of how many seats were available on each of the flights by using their booking system. If you don’t have access to a computer when you’re calling you should at least have an idea of the carrier’s different hubs, possible flight alternatives, and carriers that they have ticketing agreements with. There are times that the gate agent or ticket agent helping you may not think to check a route (for example, switching airlines at a partner’s hub).
    2) I arrived very early at the airport. Yeah, it sucked that I had to leave for the airport three hours before my flight, but I made it out of New York, unlike thousands of other people.
    3) I was always nice, made sure to compliment people when they helped out, or even were just doing their jobs. Wished a few folks Merry Christmas and all that jazz. When I called I always introduced myself using my full title and name and made sure that I had my title listed on my frequent flier information — If you’re doctor, it really pays to have that Dr. title on your FF info. After introducing myself I never made mention of the title. You want to seem important, not a jerk.
    4) I realized that the weather is not something that they can control and just made the best of a bad situation. I sat down and talked to other passengers, those with confirmed seats, and those who were hoping for a standby seat (including one girl who was on her sixth standby of the day, and it was only 10am). We shared some food with each other, passed around a copy of the NY Times, etc. However, I made sure not to talk about how messy the airport was or how chaotic things were, that just stresses people out.

    So, yes, it can suck. But it’s not always impossible to turn a potentially crappy situation into something that works out quite nicely. In the end my flight arrived in Austin 4 minutes after my original scheduled flight and I got a chance to say hi to some friends along the way.

  16. Chmeeee says:

    The storm affected travel in New York on Saturday. The flight to Haiti is a once daily flight, and they’re just now getting around to adding a second flight for Wednesday? It’s not like they couldn’t do the math and see that the flights over the four days after the storm didn’t have enough empty seats to make up for the cancelled one.

  17. Chuck Norris' wig says:

    Delta is doing them a favor by keeping them out of third world shitholes.

  18. GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

    It looks like several commenters maybe didn’t read the earlier story where one of the Consumerist folks where in that very airport earlier. The write up stated the clear lack of staffing on hand when they knew what was coming down. To not ramp up in light of knowing full well that thousands were affected and a high percentage will possibly be showing up is simply bad business sense or no common sense.

  19. ckaught78 says:

    Originally traveling out of Baltimor this past Saturday and realizing the storm was going to be a problem I called my carrier, United, and they changed my flight to Friday evenning without issue and at not additional cost to me. In fact I received a credit for $130 becasue my new flight was chaper than my original flight. I got out of the East and home before everything shutdown on Friday. I guess I was just lucky.

  20. DonToolBag says:

    I have a picture from the incident if you need any more documentation. I only hope Delta can do something to compensate me for getting me there LATER than my original flight last friday after I used skymiles and paid extra to go on standby for an earlier flight.

    Then, getting me stuck in NYC for two days and having me lose two days worth of pay. (Being a contractor sucks sometimes. And on a holiday week, my paycheck is going to be next to nothing.)

    Then having me experience what I did at JFK, Terminal 2. I said in the other post, that I did email Delta executives FROM the airport with a picture of the incident, telling them that they had a mess on their hands, and they needed security and organization. They never responded. (It was an executive email carpet bomb thingy….)

    Plain and simple, worst travel experience of my lives.

    Did I mention that it seemed like half the kiosk’s were out of paper, so people couldn’t even PRINT their tickets? Such a disaster.

  21. bdgbill says:

    You can fly directly to Port-Au-Prince from JFK?? I don’t know what these people are complaining about. No matter how bad JFK is screwed up, it bound to be a lot more pleasant than their destination airport.