Delta's Inability To Properly Schedule Plane Maintenance Leads To 24-Hour Ordeal For Passenger

Consumerist reader Joan already had quite a bit of flying in front of her when she boarded a recent Delta flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis, where she would be connecting to another flight to Washington, DC. But her day got significantly longer when Delta waited until the very last minute to perform a required maintenance check on the plane.

When Joan boarded the flight at 9:30 p.m. in Anchorage, she and the other passengers were informed that, rather than fly directly to Minneapolis, the plane would need to fly to Seattle for a maintenance check that needed to be performed within four hours for the plane to still be in compliance.

It was an annoyance that required Joan to change her connecting flight, but it was only supposed to be a short stay in Seattle.

It wasn’t.

Twenty minutes after landing in Seattle, it was announced that the flight’s pilot had completed his shift and would need to be relieved by a new pilot and cabin crew. Another 30 to 40 minutes later, passengers were told that the new pilot wouldn’t be arriving anytime soon so all the travelers were taken off the plane.

Writes Joan:

It was about 1AM and the Seattle airport terminal was basically closed. After some confusion, we were given a food voucher but only the Seattle’s Best coffee was open so we could only get pastry.

We were told that there were no hotel vacancies, so no accommodations were available. We were given a $50 apology voucher for another trip. There were about 140 people with no food, no sleep accommodations and only two Delta agents to rebook everyone. It took those agents close to seven hours to re-book everyone with connecting flights or new flights for the AM.

In addition, two elderly women were removed from the plane in wheelchairs. They were each traveling alone. They were parked in the wheelchairs and no one from Delta assisted them at all. One female passenger — who did not know them — assisted them to the bathroom, got them a beverage and, using her cell phone, re-booked a flight for one of the ladies who was visibly upset and confused at the situation.

Since we were coming from Alaska, several passengers had fresh fish packed and stored with the checked luggage. As they began to question the condition of their fish, the ground crew unloaded the fish and placed them in a freezer. They took better care of the fish, then the two elderly ladies in the wheelchairs.

Everyone had to sleep on the floor or in chairs for over seven hours. The cabin crew was also disgruntled as they had to remain with the plane all night and were not replaced. When we re-boarded, the crew apologized for the situation but announced that they too had to experience this situation without sleep.

The passengers were finally back on the plane around 8 a.m. in the morning, where they were greeted by a pilot who attempted to commiserate with the exhausted travelers by pointing out that he had to be called in specifically to pick up this leg of the flight.

“We did not feel sorry for him,” says Joan. “That is part of his job — to be on call. Delta had to have known the time limits for the first pilot and had to have known that there were no pilots in Seattle prior to 8 a.m.!!!”

But Joan’s dreary Delta day wasn’t done yet. Her bad luck crossed over to the flight from Minneapolis to DC, which had already been re-booked twice.

“The plane moved unto the tarmac and we sat for 90 minutes to allow a computer ‘glitch’ to be fixed,” she tells Consumerist. “The plane then returned to the terminal to have the problem resolved.”

By the time she landed in D.C., it had been 24 hours since Joan had left Anchorage. Now she’s looking at the Delta tickets she has booked for later this year and having second thoughts.