DEPARTURE DELAY FROM ATHENS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TURNS INTO A CANCELLATION

WHY I DON'T CHOOSE TO FLY UNITED STATES AIR CARRIERS


You know the departure from Athens delay I wrote about a couple of days ago?  Well, the “delay” turned in to a cancellation after sitting on the tarmac for two and a half hours.  But we were treated to informative announcements from the Delta pilot about once every twenty minutes  as we sat unmoving from Gate 30.  They went something like this:

“Folks, this is your captain speaking and I want to inform you about our situation.  We are having a problem in filling on of our jet fuel tanks and we have a crew analyzing the situation.”

“This is Captain XYX and I want to let you know that we are still unable to fill that fuel tank.  We have a local team trying to resolve the problem and we have a headquarters team assisting our local team.”

I was thinking that since we were sitting in 104 degree temps on an Airbus A-330, they might want to contract some technical crew in Toulouse, France, for help since they might be more familiar with such a problem.  But these twenty minute interval “information announcements” went on for about two hours when this came over the PA system:

“Well folks, we have not solved the fuel tank problem but now we are facing another problem.  The crew of your Delta flight is coming up against the limitation on our work hours, which means that in a few minutes we will not be able to serve as your crew.”

It was maybe five minutes after this last announcement that we were informed that the flight had been cancelled.   As we sat waiting for instruction about how to proceed, I tried to remember the last time I’d had a flight cancelled out from under me.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t even recall the last time I was on a delayed flight.  But, then, I haven’t flown a U.S. carrier on an overseas flight in over a decade.  Yes, it seems that the international carriers I flew over the last decade - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar –  had it more together than Delta.  Of course, I’m being unfair.  It was mere coincidence that I happened to be booked on Delta flight 194 from Athens to JFK and was not (presumably) the fault of crappy maintenance or cost cutting measures the airline took.  But, then, who knows?  

On the other hand, I don’t know how our U.S. carriers can serve the slop they do when the aforementioned international airlines serve food that is not only edible but reasonably tasty.  I do not consider a “RICCO’s meatball wrap” served in a cardboard sleeve like some Taco Bell breakfast crunchwrap anything I would consume unless it was pretty much the last meal available on the entire planet.  Yet, this is what we were served.  Of course, it’s coach cattle class but at least Qatar seems to treat their economy class passengers as living, breathing, human beings.   The U.S. airline industry is currently engaged in a battle with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar governments since these governments subsidize their airlines while the American government does not.  At least not directly. But what does it say when Emirates, Etihad and Qatar don't charge you for selecting a seat with 2" more knee room, and don't charge you for drinks and don't charge you for every little thing that Delta charges its passengers?  What it tells me is that maybe those airlines that are subsidized by their governments might just be better options for the traveling public.  We, of course, are stuck with the rules and regulations that accompany our Free Market Capitalist Economic System even though eating any of the "food" they serve you inflight is better used as fertilizer for agricultural crops.   Or fish food.  Or starter packs for you backyard composter.  Yeah.  

Now I have to admit, that Delta did a great job in accommodating 200 or so cancelled passengers with overnight hotel accommodations, meal vouchers and transport to the Metropole Hotel (not far from the Acropolis) and back to Athens International Airport to catch our replacement flight at 9:00 AM the following morning.  All went quite smoothly, even if it took a couple of hours.  Then again, one has to think that if they were so good at taking care of us from our cancelled flight, they must have a boatload of such experience in such situations, right?  Not exactly the best of endorsements. 

Delta re-booked us through to Washington from JFK on a flight at 8:00PM seven hours after our arrival time at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport of 1:00PM.  It took several phone calls to Delta’s “cancellation hot line” to cancel that booking (I mean, sure Delta may not have had any earlier flights but there are at least 20 other flights from JFK to DCA every day.)  and I found an American flight that left at 3:00PM figuring that two hours would be just enough time to go through customs and passport control at Terminal Four, take the Air Train to Terminal Eight, go through security there and board our flight back to D.C.

I neglected to figure in the extra time my partner needed – he’s not a U.S. citizen – to get though U.S. immigrations and customs.  Me?  Took maybe 15 minutes.  Him?  Over an hour.  I was standing in the baggage claim area outside the passport control area with one eye on the clock and another eye constantly searching the massive crowd still wending their way through passport control.  By the time the clock ticked  2:15 I had decided that we were not going to make it.  It was just then that I heard my name shouted from way over on the other side of the baggage claim area.   And there he was! Finally! 


So we ran though Terminal Four, clambered aboard the JFK Air Train, dashed through the American Airlines terminal to the security check.  I noticed that there was no one in the TSA Pre line and since both of us qualified (I have no idea why) we were able to get through in about 2 minutes, ran down hallway after hallway to Gate 40 were the last of the passengers were boarding the flight to National Airport.  We made it!

But I can tell you that I will not make a reservation on an American carrier for an international flight unless they undercut Etihad, Emirates and Qatar by about 50%!

Have A Good Day!








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