Stuck On The Tarmac? Delta Placates You With Pizza

Hey airlines, if you’re going to strand a bunch of people on the tarmac, but want them singing your praises anyway, placate them with pizza. Pizza is a magical substance that causes joy no matter the circumstances.

At least, the NYT seems to think so:

Passengers on three flights on Aug. 17 were astonished to see that someone had thought enough to have pizza and sodas sent their way.

One of those passengers was Robynne Reiber, a frequent business traveler who lives in New York and said that every flier she knows has been complaining about “the hassles of air travel and the lack of respect given passengers by airlines.”

That’s why the pizza at the airport in Syracuse was such a shock. “I was astounded,” she told me.

“I couldn’t believe how well I was being treated,” she said.

She was on Delta Flight 424 from Phoenix to Kennedy International Airport. About 90 minutes after takeoff, the pilot made one of those dreaded announcements that typically begin with the words, “Well, folks, …”

It was a Friday afternoon, and half the flights over the continent seemed to be heading for the East Coast, where thunderstorms were turning most of them away. The Delta flight had been instructed to circle over Colorado.

With Kennedy closed, the flight was ultimately diverted to Syracuse.

There, according to Ms. Reiber, the pilot said: “I’m not going to keep you on the plane. I’m going to pull up to a gate where you can get off, as long as you wait there in case we have to leave. I know you’ve only had cheese and crackers. So I called the Sbarro in the terminal and asked them to keep sending pizzas out until the whole plane gets fed.”

At the gate, tables were set up. “The pilot said it might take a while to get everybody fed because this is probably more pizzas than they’re used to turning out at a time, so please be patient,” Ms. Reiber said.

Flight attendants helped serve while the pilot made regular announcements from the departure desk about the prospects for getting en route again.

“Finally, he said, ‘All right, everybody back on the plane, we have a slot,’ ” Ms. Reiber said.

“On the plane, the flight attendants kept saying, ‘If anybody needs anything, just ask and we’ll do the best we can. We’re all in this together.’ “

Gee, that sounds a lot more pleasant that the usual horror stories of overflowing toilets. Pizza is magical!

Best Choices To Be Stranded: Syracuse, Albany, Pepperoni [NYT]
(Photo:Morton Fox)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kezzerxir says:

    The way it should be.

  2. homerjay says:

    My first instinct is that the pilot was later reprimanded for spending that kind of money. Its pretty sad to think that, I know, but its what we’ve come to expect.

    Kudo’s to this pilot. Hopefully Delta has turned over a new leaf.

  3. thepounder says:

    Definitely “mad props” to the pilot. If that were my flight I’d surely fly with them the next time around.

  4. jamesdenver says:

    Eh – that’s one sad looking pizza. How about including some chicken or veggie wraps too? The last thing I want for six hours of sitting time is grease.

    But kudos to the crew for realizing the passengers are actually there and need certain life support utilities like food, water, and bathrooms.

  5. @homerjay: Or the pilot did it on his own bill…while not unlikely, not unheard of…

  6. akalish says:

    To JAMESDENVER: The whole _point_ of pizza is the grease. In fact, the chemical structure of the grease is what makes the combination of bread, tomato sauce, cured pork and cheese so good and oh so magical. For further information, see “College.”

  7. lostsynapse says:

    Meanwhile the lactose intolerant became too weak from hunger to make their weeping heard above the jubilate pizza tribe.

  8. k8supergrover says:

    The weeping of the lactose intolerant at least overpowered the moaning and gagging of those allergic to tomatoes…

  9. The_Shadow says:

    @lostsynapse: Lactase is broken down in the process of making most cheeses [some “soft cheeses” don’t age enough to break lactase down].

    Ergo, someone who is lactose intolerant would most likely be able to eat pizza.

  10. ptkdude says:

    I am oh so tempted to call “bullshit” on this, especially since it is Delta. However, I admit it is possible. I’ll still connect in Tokyo to avoid Delta if I have to (and I live in Atlanta, so it’s not an easy thing to do).

  11. ptkdude says:

    @The_Shadow: Tell that to my colon!

  12. thepounder says:

    Dear jeebus… lactose intolerance, tomato allergies. I get that there’s many folks with food allergies or other afflictions that may hinder them from enjoying a slice of pepperoni heaven, but ya know what, this was still a nice gesture on the pilot’s part. I’m just spitballing, but I have a feeling he took it completely upon himself to do this. Who knows…
    Some folks are just inclined to not be happy… ever. (it’s okay, and don’t take me wrong — not bashing anyone)
    I would, however, like a slice right now. ;)

  13. formergr says:

    @ptkdude: I’m going to guess (or at least hope) that at the very least the NYT fact-checked the article before printing it, so I’m pretty sure it’s not bullshit.

    Kudos to the pilot though!

  14. Better than peanuts…

  15. nctrnlboy says:

    Pizza would sure would placate me!

  16. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    @jamesdenver: This picture appears to be from the Flickr photo pool… Sbarro airport pizza isn’t the greatest, but it definitely isn’t that greasy!

  17. Good to know my local airport sucks less than most.


    It seems to me that this was a genius move, either by the pilot or Delta testing a new policy.

    I personally don’t fly but several other members of my family do on a near weekly basis. They’ve all told me that the delay itself isn’t too much of a hardship, it’s being crammed into a tin can with a hundred or so other people with no food, water or bathrooms.

    When you treat people like people and not as cargo they’re much more willing to suffer long delays and diverted flights.
    Hell, just the fact that the pilot was so damn nice and kept everyone informed probably helped more than anything else.

  19. rolla says:

    i want that pilot on my next flight!

  20. I_AM_A_CSR says:

    I was recently on a AA flight on my way to my Honeymoon in the Caribbean with tons of other newlyweds. We had a 5 hour delay in Miami because the thermostat on the plane was broken and then the second plane the cargo door wouldn’t shut. Big surprise eh? Well some aa electrical engineers came over in their special little vehicle. After 10 minutes of looking at the cargo door the pilot made an announcement that a wire needed to be split and re-connected. Well I look over and the engineers are having a 30 minute smoke break. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for safety but you know what it is like when you want to get your vacation started. We ended up getting 10 dollars per person to eat in the terminal. Unfortunately, the voucher excluded alcohol. Then when I arrived home I got a letter from AA. See below:

    August 23, 2007

    Dear Mr. XXXXX:

    It’s completely realistic for our valued customers to rely on the scheduled departure and arrival of their flights. For that reason, we were disappointed to learn that flight 2297 was delayed on August 13 and we wanted to take the opportunity to apologize to you for the disruption of your travel plans.

    I realize that our expression of regret is of small consolation in light of the time
    you spent waiting in Miami for your flight to depart. I hope you will accept the addition of 8,000 Customer Service Bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account as a more tangible apology. You should see this mileage adjustment in your
    account very soon. For your convenience, you can view your account via our website at []

    We appreciate your understanding during the delay of your flight and hope to have your continued business. We will do our best to provide a smooth trip the next time you fly with us. We’ll look forward to the opportunity.


    B. J. Russell
    Customer Relations
    American Airlines

    Well, B.J. Russell of AA. I have nearly enough miles to get my first FF voucher for a trip within the US. Yes my honeymoon was nearly ruined by Hurricane Dean, but I really appreciate the customer service I received.

  21. goodkitty says:

    It does seem kind of obvious (though not in an executive-friendly way) to spend $150 on pizza and pop to keep a plane-load of people happy customers, instead of jailing them inside the torture-tube and burning up $300 worth of jet fuel to run the A/C and entertainment gizmos. Then again, it seems like the plane was lucky to have an open gate and the ability to use it.

  22. cliffb says:

    Uh, surprisingly the pilot didn’t pay for the pizza, the customer service agent did:

    “Lynn Casey, a Delta customer service agent, paid for the pizza at the Syracuse airport – and did the same thing for another flight from the West Coast that had been diverted there the same afternoon, a Delta spokeswoman said.”

  23. Maulleigh says:

    If I’ve learned one thing from playing days of SIMS, it’s that people need to eat and go to the bathroom to have a good time. If you block the doors, they get upset, pee their pants, and fall asleep on the floor. And then they wake up miserable.

  24. mrmysterious says:

    Treat customers like humans with just simple acts of kindness and people will love you.

    They spend a few hundred on pizza and saved on fuel as stated above, but they also saved on bitching complainers tying up reps at the destination, possible (though unlikely compensation) and they took strides to create people that would fly their airline again.

    Kudos to all of them, but I’m sure in the next day or two we’ll see a story on an airline treating their customers like crap.

  25. Musician78 says:

    Pizza has to be my favourite food. I could eat it every day. And it’s good for you to boot. I eat it with ham. That means I am getting all 4 major foodgroups.

  26. NeoteriX says:

    @lostsynapse: Or, you can just say “Screw it”, help yourself to some pizza, and allow everyone else on the plane to share in your misery. :)

  27. Starrionx says:

    Look at that. Treat customers with some respect, tell them what is going on, drop a bit of cash on pizza and soda and reap the PR rewards.

    It’s a hell of a lot smarter than ignoring the customers then issuing a full page mea culpa in the NYT because you screwed up so bad.

  28. ptkdude says:

    @formergr: My post was meant to be incredulously funny. That said, just because it was in the paper, even the New York Times, doesn’t mean it is true. I have no doubt they fact check, but the fact remains they still have a quarter-page of corrections EVERY DAY. I assume since you read The Consumerist you don’t believe everything you read, but you know what they say about making assumptions…

  29. GuruSteve says:

    The few hundred dollars they spent on pizza is worth at least 5 national TV commercials in terms of PR. I don’t understand why most corporate PR people cannot figure out what the video game and MTV PR type people already know: viral advertising is the best possible advertising. I’d consider a recommendation from a friend or co-worker over a commercial anyday.

  30. overbysara says:


  31. ribex says:

    @Maulleigh: Thank you – I found your comment hilarious. :)

  32. QuirkyRachel says:

    It’s especially magical if you’re allergic to dairy (points to friend) or allergic to wheat (points to me).

  33. bohemian says:

    The pilot is a hero. Even sans pizza the ability to walk around and use a bathroom would have been enough.

  34. JMH says:

    Sbarro in most locations = overpriced
    Airport food = overpriced
    Airport Sbarro = WAY overpriced

    Good on whoever made this call to bite the cost bullet and feed the passengers.

  35. Yourhero88 says:

    In college, our apartment’s heat went out for 5 days straight during a 20 degree January. It was not fixed until after the weekend. After the fact, we were awarded one free pizza.

    I think perhaps that pizza is not always a universal tool of placation and reconciliation.

  36. timmus says:

    Airport Sbarro = WAY overpriced

    Yeah, no kidding. How much is a whole airport pizza? I’m going to guess $18. If we assume there’s 140 people on the plane, and two thirds of them eat, and they eat 1.5 slices on average, and there’s 8 slices per pizza, that’s 140 slices, or 18 pizzas, totalling $324. And we haven’t even gotten to the drinks yet. With that kind of bill, I’m really skeptical that any personal money was used, and that it was corporate money. Unless the gate agent (or pilot, or whoever) has a nice nest egg and a nice character.

  37. TheSlate says:

    I like pizza, but free pizza only makes me angrier. It’s just slightly better than doing absolutely nothing.

  38. bnosach says:

    @Maulleigh: Bravo! That comment made me laugh out loud.

  39. SaraAB87 says:

    They did say if you need anything else just ask so I am sure if you were lactose intolerant or had an allergy to something on pizza that made you not able to eat pizza they would have ordered something else for you.

  40. Miguel Valdespino says:

    @The_Shadow: Some types of cheese have more lactose than others. Soft white cheeses like mozarella have plenty of lactose. Believe me, I know. However as one of the non-mutants among you (lactose tolerance is a mutation mostly held by Europeans), I still appreciate their attempt to satisfy people’s needs. If I were there, I’d still eat the pepperoni and the crust.