Happy New Year – Your Flight is Canceled

January 5, 2011

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

I decided to visit my family in La Verne, California the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. There are several airports in the Los Angeles area, with Ontario International Airport being the closest one.

I booked Delta flight 4756 from SLC to ONT the morning of Christmas Eve. Other than sitting next to a young lady who wreaked of perfume that can only be described as BUG SPRAY (it was awful!), the flight down there was uneventful.

The trip home, however, was quite the adventure. I booked Delta flight 4754 from ONT back to SLC.

I arrived at ONT on New Year’s Day at 11:00, which was two hours before my flight was to depart. I figured since it was New Year’s Day the airport would be crowded. Wrong! ONT is usually DEAD! Hardly anyone has even heard of that airport, not a lot of people fly in and out of there. It’s a wonder that airport is even still in business.

Anyway, I check in and go through security, which took maybe 15 minutes. There was nothing to do except sit and wait. We finally boarded and Lindsay, the flight attendant, ran through the safety briefing. Shortly afterwards, the pilot announced that at least one of the tires on the aircraft was completely flat. Terrific. They had all the passengers exit the plane and told us a mechanic should be there in about 45 minutes to fix it, and that it shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes to change the tires.

Well… 3 hours later… the mechanics FINALLY showed up. I guess Delta doesn’t have any mechanics at ONT? These guys drove in from LAX. Once they arrived an announcement was made, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the mechanics are here. This should only be a 5 minute fix for them to change the tires, and we’ll be on our way shortly.” I knew that was a lie! It was at least 45 minutes later before another announcement was made. “They’re just now signing off on everything, it shouldn’t be much longer… ”

We FINALLY boarded the aircraft. Lindsay ran through the safety briefing again, and we started taxiing towards the runway. We got about halfway out there and the plane came to a stop. We sat there for a while and then the pilot announced, “Uh… ladies and gentlemen, because of the delay in getting the tires fixed, I am now past my flying hours for this evening. I’m not legal to take off, so we’re going to have to return to the gate. You may retrieve your bags at the baggage claim…” What I found odd about this was why did they depart from the gate in the first place if they knew they were over their allotted flying hours? Was there no other pilots they could get to fly the plane? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

So… everyone gets off the plane AGAIN, and by this time there were several moans and groans. The baggage claim area has 4 carousels, but the place was dead. It took quite a while for the bags to FINALLY show up. After I retrieved my bag, I headed over to the ticket counter. Wouldn’t you know it, NOW the place was jumping and there was a long line of people. Ugh!

I finally got up to the ticket counter and spoke with David. “The next flight out of here is tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.”

“Are you serious??!!”

“Well, if you don’t mind going to another airport, we can probably get you home sooner. We have one leaving LAX at 6am, and another one at 10am.”

“I’ll take the 10am flight, but what do I do in the meantime?”

“We’ll get a shuttle to take you out to LAX, and we’ll have you stay at a hotel at LAX.”

At that point, I thought, “Well, that doesn’t sound so bad… ” David was extremely apologetic for everything that had happened regarding the delays and interruption of travel plans. He provided me with a voucher to stay at the Radisson Hotel, along with two meal vouchers at the hotel, $10 each, one for dinner and one for breakfast.

When the shuttle dropped me off at the Radisson Hotel at LAX, I went up to the check-in counter. The desk clerk was rather snooty. I showed him the hotel voucher. “Hmmmph… We can’t accept that, sir. Delta never contacted us about any of this.”

“So what does that mean?”

“I don’t know, sir. You’re on your own. You might want to go over to that desk over there and speak with the concierge. They might let you contact Delta to work out some other arrangements…”

At that point I asked, “Well what about that young man over there? He was also from the same flight I was. Are you going to turn HIM away, too?”

“He is? Hmm… just a moment, sir.” He walked behind this partition and chatted with one of his managers, then he returned. “Well… we are going to go ahead and let you stay.” He crossed out the $10 on the meal vouchers and changed them both to $7. (What?!!) He gave me my room key and sent me on my way.

I put my bag away and headed back down to the lobby. By this time, I was starving as I hadn’t had anything to eat since morning, and had expected to be home by 3pm that day (it was now about 8pm). The hotel had a small lounge and a restaurant. I decided to try the restaurant. When I got the menu, I just about choked. The cheapest thing on that menu was about $25. YIKES! Well, since I was hungry, I figured I’d use the meal voucher and then pay the difference. The head waiter or Maitre d’ said, “Oh no, no, no! Don’t even worry about that! We just want you to be happy!”

“Are you serious? I don’t want to cheat anybody.”

“Oh, no problem, sir!” I must say at that point I was pretty impressed. And that was the best meal I’d eaten in quite a while! The food and service were superb! When I went to leave, however, the waiter handed me my check! I ended up paying for the meal anyway! I didn’t contest it because I didn’t feel like making a huge scene. I thought the situation was a bit appalling, but also amusing. Five star prices, at a 3 star hotel? OK, whatever. I don’t think that $7 voucher even covered the gratuities!

The next morning I went to get some breakfast. They had this little deli or bakery section in the lounge. The cheapest thing I could find was what looked like an Egg McMuffin from McD’s. I asked for that and a glass of milk. “That’ll be 10 dollars, sir.”

Ummm… if anyone from Delta is reading this, you MIGHT want to consider providing meal vouchers that would actually cover the cost of eating at the hotel! What’s the point of a $7 or $10 voucher if the cheapest thing on the menu is more than that?

The flight home from LAX to SLC was about 30 minutes late departing. The flight itself was uneventful, but one of the flight attendants was downright creepy-looking. Her hairdo can only be described as “Wicked Witch of the West Meets a Flock of Seagulls.” It was jet black, the sides were combed up into points, but the top was flat and cut like a butch. Weird! At least I didn’t have to sit next to someone who wreaked of “bug spray.”

Anyway, I finally made it home. What a way to begin the new year!

– The Gummyroach

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

MJ January 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Uh, I went to college in Claremont and Ontario is the closest airport – we all used it and it was not "usually dead."

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Stephanie January 7, 2011 at 1:48 am

I was thinking the same thing. I've flown through Ontario before for connections and it wasn't dead when I was there either. It wasn't as bad as Denver or SkyHarbor though.

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ps January 7, 2011 at 3:32 am

First, Ontario usually is not dead. Second, this long prose wreaks of someone's imagination, written in a very familiar style in terms of length and content. FOH is sliding downhill. Too bad, it used to be fun.

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dave January 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

ditto

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rerere January 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Looks like EVERYBODY that had problems this holiday season flew DELTA.

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Jaci January 18, 2011 at 7:03 am

I guess that I'm one of the few that got lucky on Delta this holiday season. My flights were delayed, but I still got home the same day.

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Karl January 8, 2011 at 5:00 am

My New Years resolution as of today: No more reading Flights from Hell. To many fake stories. I rather read something like "Neighbors from Hell" – They seem to be more authentic.

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ps January 9, 2011 at 4:49 am

If you're reading this, I agree wholeheartedly. This site used to be a blast. Now its bad fiction by 1 or 2 losers. Too bad.

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Aaron January 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

Although I am not as quick as some to assume a story is fake, I do agree things have gone downhill. I'm not motivated to add my latest flight stories because I'm sure they'll be assumed to be fiction and then what's the point?

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Gregg - admin January 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

Response to Karl, ps and Aaron: Flights From Hell was certainly more exciting when new stories were posted every day. Much of that was due to a backlog of hundreds of stories we received as a result of CNN’s Mr. Poopy Pants article. That backlog became exhausted a few months ago. Marketing and promotion of the site would help to generate new submittals, but most of my free time is being devoted towards the creation of a third website.

I can't help but wonder, though, if story submittals have become sparse because writers don't want to face criticism for the quality of their story or for having a fake story (as Aaron noted) or what not. I think that story writers deserve consideration for taking the time to share their experiences with others. Without them we wouldn't have a website.

I'm considering making a change so everyone will feel comfortable sharing their stories. Moderation of comments is one thought. However, I'm not sure if I'd have the time to do it. Also, there would be difficult decisions to be made about which comments to accept and which not. I've hoped that the posting of a Comments Policy and self-policing would be sufficient, but perhaps not. Another thought is to no longer accept comments. The problem with that is that comments help to build a sense of community. Also, the sharing of information, particularly by frequent fliers who sometimes pass along travel tips, would be gone.

Please feel free share your thoughts.

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Aaron January 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I don't mind a slower rate of posts. A drop off is likely due to two main things: a) the backlog of stories has been reduced, and b) people are discouraged by the critical nature of many posts and the immediate judgment that the stories are fiction (this is just my opinion, btw).

Fewer posts hopefully reflects, in part, the real rate of flights from hell (face it, millions fly, few have hellish flights in a given day…I mean real hell, right?).

I know moderating is time consuming. I'd rather see us try to change the culture of the little FFH community, which has become very negative and self-absorbed. I hoped this site would be a little more communal and a place to vent those painful tests of our endurance with a (modestly) sympathetic audience. At least one that understands. But, it's not going in that direction.

The people make the site.

Gregg doesn't need to change what he's doing, we need to change what we're doing.

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ps January 10, 2011 at 5:25 am

You're right. Fewer posts isnt a bad thing either. There has to be a few diamonds out there with what's going on with the friendly skies. But you do have to admit, some of the stories are just so-o-o fabricated and it almost looks like they're written by the same person.

rerere January 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I agree with Aaron, I know I have said some things in the comments before that I shouldn't have, but I know what I have did and am stopping it. Sadly, there are some people here that just troll and bring both the OP and the commentors down. What I like about this website is that it is flights from hell, meaning it could deal with the passenger, crew, airline, or nature. I hate those websites (and have actually been banned from) that just bash the airlines for really stupid reasons. This is why I enjoy this website, plus everyone here can vent about anything/anyone (the other website I used to be on banned me because of some of my opinions). So moderation can be ok, but it all comes down to the user, and I for one actually like this website and will continue to use it.

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Dina January 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

I would like to see posts moderated a bit more fully. In the past, there have been some clearly fake and openly racist and homophobic posts that have gotten through, which doesn't make me feel terribly comfortable! I'd rather have fewer stories come through than ones that are offensive troll posts.

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Gregg - admin January 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Thanks for your feedback Dina. Thanks also for all of the comments that you've contributed on the site.

Karl January 8, 2011 at 5:01 am

My New Years resolution as of today: No more reading Flights from Hell. To many fake stories. I rather read something like "Neighbors from Hell" – They seem to be more authentic .

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Gregg - admin January 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for your feedback and support Aaron and rerere! Feedback from others is welcome as well.

What would you think if a comment rating feature was added? It would allow users to rate posted comments via an up or down thumb. I'm wondering if it would improve the quality of comments and reduce trolling?

Also, what about a rating feature for posted stories? I wonder if it would encourage – or discourage – story submittals?

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rerere January 10, 2011 at 10:55 am

I like the idea of rating the comments, it will show who is genuine and who is just here to troll. I also like the idea of rating posted stories, that way you can see if you are reading an entertaining flight from hell story or if it is obviously a fake.

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James January 11, 2011 at 6:52 am

Comment rating is a good idea, with low rated comments being "hidden."

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Gregg - admin January 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Thanks rerere and James. I'm leaning towards both comment and story ratings.

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Gregg - admin January 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I can be reached at contact@flightsfromhell.com for those who'd like to chat "off the record."

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thatchetty January 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

You have a problem with the emphasis of the site, which is basically, entertainment. Legitimate contributors see that they must "top" earlier contributors in order to get attention, and they go elsewhere with their complaint. Meanwhile, you attract a number of bogus contributors who exaggerate their stories, or send you complete fiction. Suggestion: De-emphasize "entertainment" values and concentrate on specifics. Keep records and post them- how many complaints, and what kind, against United or Delta or Phoenix airport or Amarillo airport, etc. Communicate your information to the airlines that are responsible and be a spokesperson for your large audience. Block commenters who make personal attacks against the contributors, or who complain that the stories are boring.

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James January 11, 2011 at 6:51 am

There is already a site tracking United: untied.com Some amusing stories there…

But basically the site needs more marketing. Not sure how to do that.

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Gregg - admin January 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I agree that something needs to be done about personal attacks. I see two options: moderate all comments, or try comment rating. A big problem with moderation would be the time involved.

The site is about people sharing their flying hell experiences via stories. It will never become a consumer advocacy site since there are already some very good ones out there – Elliott immediately comes to mind. I'm thinking that story ratings will help to minimize bogus stories.

Thanks much for your feedback thatchetty!

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KH January 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

That happened to me once, too (the part about the pilot being over his hours). I too, thought it was odd that he would try to take off if he knew it was that close. Apparently, if they take off before a certain point, they can get one more short flight in (for example, if the pilot is coming up on 10 flying hours, as long as he takes off before that 10-hour make he could complete another short 2-hour flight). I'm making up the numbers, but that's the general principle. I would assume that your pilot was trying to 'beat' that cutoff by getting in the air and being able to complete the flight, but he didn't make it and had to turn back.

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