I, too, wrote a letter to Delta. It's not been sent yet, since their online complaint form is "currently not working", big surprise. In the meantime, I post my own letter below, and the boys will soon be posting their letters on their respective blogs.
Jan 25, 2014
To Whom it May Concern;
I am writing to follow up with how Delta handled the diversion of Flight 101 from Atlanta, scheduled to land at EZE (Buenos Aires) on Jan 21, 2014. As you are aware, you left approximately 300 passengers stranded without luggage, food or any sort of communication plan at Montevideo Airport that day. I was traveling with my 9 year old twin sons, and they, too, will be writing and sending you emails about this. (An authentic situation like this makes for a great writing opportunity for emerging writers!)
My focus today is not the decision to divert itself (I am sure you and the FAA are conducting an extensive investigation into the details surrounding the decision to plan an approach into the existing meteorological conditions in the first place, as well as the pilots’ decision to divert to an airport in another country rather than an alternate within Argentina), but rather, how your company handled (or rather, failed to handle!) the follow-up to the safe landing in Uruguay.
In particular, I and my fellow passengers are perplexed as to why, after holding us hostage first in the plane for 4 hours, and then in the Montevideo airport without any sort of concrete communication for 10 hours, you would then put everyone up in hotels for 3 hours until it was time to head back to the airport and catch the replacement flight to the originally intended destination?
After being told by the original flight crew (while being held in the plane, on the tarmac, for nearly four hours!) that busses were coming to take us to a nearby hotel, we were instead transferred to the terminal, where we had to stand in a long line to be processed through customs. We then wandered (there was no direction from anyone!) into the baggage collection area, where it became clear that the baggage was not going to be removed from the plane. (I understand this is a complicated matter, having to do with customs, however I have no doubt that there is some creative way people could have been reunited with their luggage, had Delta acted quickly to respond to this emergency situation – after all, in this day and age of Internet and phone access, the four hours we spent waiting in the plane on the tarmac would have provided the ideal opportunity for your personnel to organize a plan for the planeload of weary and traumatized passengers who had paid good money to ride your aircraft the preceding 10 hours!!!)
In the baggage hall, there was a table with some water and coke on it. Eventually, some passengers surmised this was intended for us, and many were able to get a drink. Coke and water. An interesting choice, given that we had not eaten in four hours. (Little did we know at the time what a luxury that was, since we were given NOTHING to eat or drink for several more hours after that!)
As I waited in the hall, I marvelled at how well my own children were handling the agonizing wait. Looking around, I saw elderly passengers in wheelchairs, young parents with babies and toddlers, and groups of people whose connecting flights and other plans had all been put on hold indefinitely. We were all grateful to be alive; we knew that we had narrowly escaped a potentially fatal situation. Nevertheless, we were all eager to find out what the next steps were, and we were certain that a large company with a reputation like Delta’s would soon have some information for us.
How foolish we were to believe you had things well in hand. No communication came.
For hours and hours and hours we milled around like lost sheep, desperate to get out of the jail in which we were being held hostage, with no access to food or our luggage.
No one had answers.
Eventually, rumours began to circulate of an 11-p.m. replacement flight (these were later countered with other sources of information, which claimed a 3:30 a.m. and a 5 a.m. flight, respectively).
Surely, I thought, Delta would not hold us hostage for 20 hours?!
But that is exactly what you did!
Mid-afternoon, after over 7 hours with nothing to eat, we were ushered by some airport folks back through customs, and then vouchers were handed out, to an airport restaurant. The food options were very rigid, especially for those of us with dietary restrictions, but we were desperate, so most of us ate what we could.
Still there was no communication of an official plan. Many of us wondered why we were still sitting in an airport when we and our luggage could have been transported by bus or ferry to BsAs hours ago!
When finally, late in the evening, some “officials” showed up to begin transferring us to hotels for the remaining few hours before our replacement flight the next morning, there was no official announcement to organize 300 angry, tired customers. Your staff appeared completely incompetent, and as lost as the rest of us in trying to figure out how to manage. Do you not have some sort of training program for how to handle a large group of irate customers that you’ve screwed over?!
My sons and I found ourselves on a bus. They fell asleep within minutes. When we arrived at the hotel, I had to wake them up, only to be told that the hotel had no record of our rooms!!!! Our group waited for another bus to take us to another hotel. This one had rooms for us. We showered and went to bed for two hours until we were expected back in the lobby for our transfer to the airport.
Back at the airport, there was more waiting.
We were finally put back on the plane and taken to BsAs, where we arrived, tired, hungry, and fed up approx 22 hours after our originally intended landing time.
At no time was there ever an apology or explanation of any kind issued by Delta.
I am curious about how the decision to hold 300 passengers hostage with no communication and no options was made?
I am curious as to why Delta would feel the need to spend thousands of dollars to put people up in hotels for three hours, when they could have done so earlier in the day, and had people enjoy an unexpected but pleasant day at the beach? Or better yet, why they wouldn’t spend LESS money and send people on busses or by ferry to BsAs instead of keeping them overnight?
I am curious as to what compensation will be offered to us. Many lost not only a day (several, really, when you consider how long it takes the body to recover from something like that -- I myself am still having nightmares and can’t sleep at night), but also real items. In our luggage, which sat in a hot plane all day, were about $500 worth of medications and supplements that needed to be thrown out, because they were no longer good. Ditto for the chocolate potato chips from PEI which I had brought as souvenirs for our Argentinean friends. They were completely melted. :(
Moreover, I would like to know what steps you will take to ensure that such an ordeal is dealt with more effectively in the future. Mistakes are only valuable if they result in the adoption of new learning. I trust you will not make excuses for the complexity of the situation, but rather, look carefully at where your company could have done things differently, and take steps to ensure that in the future, you do!
I will be posting this letter, as well as the details of your response, on my blog at www.homeschooling4.weebly.com My sons will be doing the same. We’ve already written and posted an account of what happened. The public deserves to know how poorly Delta handles customer service, and whether or not they can work effectively to make it right for their passengers.
Eagerly awaiting answers,
Vera C Teschow, OCT, M.Ed., PPL, MOT