Monday, July 14, 2008

Hell is AirTran at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

Flight delays, cancellations, two people working at customer service with over 100 people in line, missing pilots and/or flight crews and no one to help you at the gate. Welcome to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on Sunday, July 13 and Monday, July 14! I should be writing this post from the Washington DC area, but unfortunately, I am not home. Hundreds of flights were cancelled and delayed on Sunday due to a storm. Although we arrived a few hours late, we were able to make it from Jacksonville to Atlanta Sunday evening in time for our flight to Baltimore-Washington International. However, our 7:50pm flight was delayed to 11:50pm. No problem as we had a lovely dinner at the airport Chili’s. And then we waited and waited and waited and watched for updates on the screen. The flight was rescheduled to 12:30am. We saw other flights rescheduled for 2:45am and 3:00am. At 12:25, the airline changed our gate. At approximately 1:30am, my brother called informing me that according to the AirTran website, our flight was cancelled. We didn’t receive official word at the gate from about this until close to 2:00. By this time, we were already on hold with AirTran for nearly 25 minutes before someone answered. We are now returning on the next available flight; late Tuesday morning as there were no flights on Monday on AirTran to Dulles, National or BWI.

The next step: where is our luggage and how do we get it? The answer: I don’t know! We went to baggage claim and had to ask AirTran to pull our luggage. After waiting another hour and fifteen minutes, we learned that our luggage is probably on its way to Baltimore. For all we know, the luggage could still be in Jacksonville or in some other tropical location like Cleveland.

While the delays and cancellations were completely due to the weather, I feel that AirTran deserves plenty of blame. They did not have nearly enough staff at the gates, at the baggage claim, for the planes, or available at customer service to assist the thousands of stranded passengers. The reason our flight was cancelled was because there were no flight attendants available. Apparently, the gate staff was counting on the flight attendants from a flight that arrived around 1:00 to work the Atlanta to BWI flight. However, that particular crew had already served the maximum number of hours it could for the day. AirTran should have realized this and either had another crew or cancelled the flight much earlier. Delta encountered the same problems as AirTran, but the Delta gates were empty by midnight as all of its flights either departed or were cancelled. Concourse C, where all of the AirTran gates were located, looked like it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving even though it was 2:20am.

To top everything off, I awoke in the middle of the night (for me that was close to 7:00am after going to sleep around 5:00) with a terrible cramp in the back on my leg.

Off to Walmart to try and find some socks and underwear!

Update 2:55pm - I now have socks, underwear and deodorant courtesy of Target (and my credit card)! I also learned that our luggage made it to BWI. Finally, courtesy of Atlanta's WSB-TV, "Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said he believes visitors to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport should be allowed to carry concealed weapons under a bill he signed into law earlier this year." Based on the amount of angry people at the Atlanta airport, I can't think of a worse idea.

Update Tuesday, July 15 - 4:30pm – We’re home! Our luggage arrived at BWI well before we did, but it was at the airport waiting for us. Thanks to DJ, Poof and Heinz for accommodating us refugees while in Atlanta. For everyone else who struggled traveling on Sunday or Monday because of weather/AirTran problems, feel free to continue posting your comments. It can be very therapeutic and you’re among friends who understand what you went through.


Anonymous said...

I was part of that massive line and thoroughly pissed off. My flight from Vegas arrived in Atlanta at 12:15 a.m. and we sat on the runway for 3 hours waiting for a friggin' gate to open up! After that I was treated to a 5 hour wait in line to talk to Customer (Dis)Service. They told me Tuesday to get back to DC and I said, So I took the first flight to Richmond, caught the Greyhound from there and as of Monday, July 14th at 2 p.m...I am home. *bows* Airtran is the work of the devil.

Anonymous said...

I, too, got to enjoy the warm, informed, courteous service of the 5 Air Tran employees on hand to "help" the thousands of stranded passengers. My flight came from Orlando. Because of the weather, it was 2 hours delayed, but still arrived on time for the connecting flight to St. Louis. Unfortunately, after a mere hour or so on the runway waiting for a gate to open, we stepped from the gate to see a mass of pissed off passengers like none other I have witnessed. Our connection was pushed back to 2:24 am. Then to 2:50. I headed to the Delta gates so I could get some rest (they had already taken care of their passengers). For some strange reason, as 2:00 approached and I headed back towards C18, I actually felt relief that I was soon to be on my way home. Unfortunately, our flight ran into the same problems as most everyone else there. First a gate change (likely to separate out all the pissed off passengers before their flights were canceled), followed by a round of applause as our pilots made there way to the plane, and finally, disappointment as we learned that the flight was canceled because there wasn't a crew to staff it.

The word we heard was the next available flight wasn't until 9 or 10 pm on TUESDAY night. That was unacceptable, so my travel partner and I, along with a couple other passengers from the flight, headed up to see if we could rent a car. That idea was about 12 hours too late, or at least that was what the AVIS desk attendant suggested when he told us no one had any cars available Luckily, I doubted his veracity, looked online and found a non-airport based rental agency with an available car. That agency opened at 8 am, and after a few minutes of cat napping and 8+ hours later, we arrived in St. Louis.

On the way, we called to see what refund or credit might be available due to the cancellation. As with most of the other lies Air Tran spewed forth in the last 48 hours, all of us were first told no refunds were available only to be followed (after additional requests on our parts) by an acknowledgment that a "supervisor" had authorized a refund in our particular case. The interesting fact, though, was that 2 of us were told that full refunds for the canceled leg were available while the other 2 were told that only 50% refunds were available (BY THE SAME CUSTOMER SERVICE AGENT...ON THE SAME TELEPHONE CALL. We just passed the phone around the car to see what we could get from this agent).

I don't know what is going on at Air Tran, but I do know that just about every single person I have encountered in the organization is either incompetent, a liar or some combination of the two. It is one thing to just say: I don't know or can't say, but more often than not last night there was misinformation provided to passengers. Whether it was that the flight had a chance of going out (when it obviously should have been known that the crew's hours had been or would be exceeded), or whether it was that the only refund available was a 50% credit, everyone at Air Tran is simply a liar.

Anonymous said...

I was in the midst of that hell with you as well, in fact from how it sounds, I was to have been on your flight up to BWI as well.

About 3am I finally made it down to the second customer service desk, and made it up to the girl around 630am. She got us onto a 820am flight to Dulles. Then we had to take a shuttle bus up to BWI to get our luggage and car.

To add insult to injury, the shuttle bus had 3 stops in DC! It took us 2 hours to get up to BWI. It looked like everyone's luggage was there, and we were one of the first to make it back.

I'm flying down to Ft.Laurdale in October, and booked on AirTran (now AirTrash), by the end of this week week I'm cancelling with them.

Megan said...

I was also booked on the STL flight. A bunch of us ended up chartering a bus (AirTran didn't pay for it) to get home. otherwise, I would have spent a second night in that airport. Never again will I fly on that airline if I have any other option.

Anonymous said...

I was supposed to be on the flight to San Diego that day, that was canceled at 3:00am in the morning. The earliest they could get us back was THURSDAY. We had AirTran fly us to Vegas instead on Monday morning, but we had to pay the $350 to fly ourselves home from Vegas.
AirTran has to say it was the weather that caused all of the cancellations, otherwise they would have to refund us our money. Although the weather caused the flight delays earlier in the day, AirTran was the only airline that couldn't pick up the slack by the end of the day. Ten flight cancellations and the other airlines having one at most... that doesn't sound like a weather problem to me anymore.

Anonymous said...

We should have hung out! I was at the ATL airport then too. We were at a wedding in NYC over the weekend and flying back to PHX through ATL on Sunday afternoon. JFK to ATL was about a 2 hour flight but we were on the runway in each city for 2 hours each waiting to take off/waiting for a gate. In ATL, we boarded our Delta flight at 10:30PM (it was 4 hours late, but that was ok, because we were 4 hours late getting into our ATL gate!). Then they announced we were a flight attendant short and the flight was cancelled. I felt very lucky to be in a city where I knew people - one of my college friends w/a baby picked us up at midnight and we all stayed at her house, happy to have baby supplies. The lines to get rebooked and get a hotel room for the night were ridiculously long. We helped a couple with a baby get a hotel room since we knew the city and all the airport hotels were booked. We just went with my friend then called Delta from her house about 1AM. The soonest they could get us out was Tuesday. We asked if they could put us on another airline, and they said it depended on the reason for cancellation. He looked it up and said that everything that could have gone wrong with our flight did, there was even a maintenance issue, so he rebooked us on a direct on USAirways for Monday evening. Kind of a long day and a hassle, but it all worked out OK and I even got to hang out w/some Atlanta friends! And luckily Blake was in a pretty good mood the whole time.

Anonymous said...

I was on my way from Orlando to Dayton, Ohio to attend my brother's funeral Monday morning at 10 am. Needless to say, I missed it. Stayed at the airport until around 3:30 am and the flight to Dayton was cancelled due to a pilot who had waited too long for a crew to show up, and could no longer fly. We had even boarded the plane, and had to deplane. I had my daughter at home book me a hotel, and we got a car from Avis. A kind fellow traveler told us if you called and made a reservation, you could get a car. We checked into the hotel at 5:30 AM, and drove back home to Orlando on Monday. We had our flight money refunded, but had close to $500 in expenses to return home ----- and most importantly, missed an important family event. There isn't any monetary satisfaction for the emotional distress I was caused. I am still crying. And the luggage still remains a mystery - have only been able to talk to machines.It was inhumane to strand people in a strange city in the middle of the night with no help.

Sean said...

After reading everyone's comments, I feel like I had it easy in Atlanta. On her blog, Megan (the 4th comment) wrote that the air conditioning was turned off around midnight. I somehow forgot to write about this and the fact that I wasn't able to make phone calls on my cell. Even though it said I had 3 or 4 bars, I wasn't able to make an outgoing call.

Amy - I'm sorry that I missed you and the chance to meet Blake.

Sean said...

To anonymous at 9:48pm, I'm really sorry for your loss.

There was a nice older couple next to us at the gate who scheduled a medical appointment over 3 months ago at Hopkins in Baltimore on Monday. I don't know if they were able to reschedule the appointment. There were also people trying to get to important family events or conferences who couldn't get there. All that I missed during my delay was two days of work.

Dar said...

Delta didn't do any better, they just hid us in hotels with a reduced rate coupon. And at hotel _ _ _ _! at that. The elevator buttons were hanging on only by wires. The alarm clock or alarm on the telephone did not work. So there was no sleep for us, but it was away from the airport for a few hour before we had to deal with them in the morning.
After 5 hours on a plane in Orlando (we were only told we would be delayed every 1/2 to 1 hour at a time, so as not to upset us I quess? Ha!!!)and then a 3 hour wait in line in Atlanta. I was told when I asked what we needed to do now (knowing our fight was cancelled)
WHATEVER! That's what a Delta employee had to say to me. I said What? then back came "MOTHER NATURE, WHATEVER" Again I said what? A third time came "MANTENIECE, WHATEVER....". I then said what! Are we going to work for manteniece or sleep there? And then gave her a WHATEVER. I knew she had nothing intellegent to say...So I walked away so mad that I could of slap her.
We are home now and I am so thankful. I know others had it worse than we did and pray they all got home safely to their families. We will never fly with Delta again. We were treated worse than animals. A mere we'er sorry or a thank you for understanding we don't control the weather. It's just they had no understanding or manners.....Thanks for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

Today, My husband went to help my son return from a summer research stint @ GA Tech 7/25. He took down 2 duffle bags for the 10 week stay from philly, no problem. Today, they are returning, Each bag weighs ~5lbs less than 50 lbs (no more shampoo, and unneeded stuff). But the a**hole at the gate decided to "measure" the bags, sticking his thumb in, I'm sure. Funny, they were 62 inches total coming down from Philly, but now they are somehow 64 inches, and considered OVERSIZE!! How did they grow, with LESS in them??? These dildos at Airtran charged an additional $29 per bag.