I want to say at the outset that this is NOT a rant against Delta Air Lines and my experience on Monday, August 15, 2011, attempting to fly from DCA to ATL. Things worked out, and I’m typing this from the first class cabin of the Delta flight I ultimately wound up on heading south to the A-T-L. Quite the contrary, Delta got a lot of things right today….and a few things they could have done better. Any “negative” things should be seen as constructive criticism if anything.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about my trip to Atlanta. I left my house at 7:30am this morning for my 10am departure. That left me plenty of time to walk to Metro, and get to DCA. I wound up in a cab as I learned walking out the door that the Yellow and Blue lines were experiencing issues, but that’s neither here nor there. Long story short, I got to DCA way ahead of my scheduled departure time. I did the usual dance with TSA and then headed up to the Sky Club where I bided my time with coffee, those mini-muffin things they serve, and my laptop. Life was good. I was # 1 of 13 on the list for an upgrade with 3 seats available, and I ultimately cleared into first class upon arriving at the gate. The flight was late inbound so my 10am departure became a 10:40am, but the airplane was at the gate, and announcements were made that preboarding would begin shortly.

We crept closer and closer to departure time, which became 10:50am, then 11:15am. I thought to myself that it must be taking a long time to clean the airplane. Then the gate agent started calling standbys up to the gate. It took me a minute to catch on, but I finally did when what appeared to be a non-revving pilot collected his belongings and made his way over to the regular 11am departure. The ex-airline guy in me knew that this was a sign of something, especially since there were plenty of empty seats on the plane. Finally, an 11:45am departure time posted, and only then did the agents bother to tell us there was a problem. You guessed it, maintenance was on board, and even though an 11:45am departure was posted, the agent said they really had no idea when we might depart and recommended that all those with connections line up at the service desk for rebooking. I took one look at the gate for the 11am, and decided against even trying based on the zoo that it was.

I marched up to the Sky Club, and the very nice lady at the front desk took care of business. While she had shockingly little information about the status of my confirmed flight, she did protect me on the 12 noon flight after I asked about it. I had a few minutes to enjoy a soda, and camped out in the Sky Club yet again before heading back down to my gate. I’m not positive what time I went back down…perhaps 11:20am or so, but I arrived to find a few confused looking people and 2 agents. There was a little line but soon enough I was able to speak with the agent. Lucky me, I picked the one with the broken computer. I discussed the status of my flight, and she said they recommended that everyone rebook to other flights as they really didn’t know what time my original flight would leave, though it now had a 3pm departure posted. The agent said I could go over to the kiosk to reprint my boarding pass, and off I went.

Of course, the kiosk couldn’t find my flight. A quick look at Delta’s excellent iPhone app showed that my booking for the noon flight had disappeared. I know it was there, because I’d looked earlier. Turns out that when I did not check myself in for that flight within 30 minutes prior to departure, my booking was cancelled. Yay me! But all wasn’t lost, as the iPhone app offered me some options for rebooking. The 2pm was available as was the 3pm. I’d remembered earlier that the 3pm was showing some upgrade availability when I checked earlier, so I figured what the heck?! I chose it, checked myself in, and immediately cleared into first class. Rather than head back to the office, I could just camp out in the Sky Club, fire up the laptop, and work rather than waste time taking transit there….and having really no time before I needed to turn around and head back to the airport. That’s exactly what I did, and it worked out just fine. Now, I’m winging my way southward towards Atlanta, and truth be told, I probably got more work done today than I would have if I actually managed to make it into the office.

There is a wrinkle (or 2) to this story, and that’s where my constructive criticism comes in. My Delta.com profile is fully completed and I’m registered for flight notifications. To my knowledge, I’ve never received one except for when upgrades clear in advance. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been at the airport in time for an earlier flight, and had the opportunity to take it pass me by because Delta doesn’t seem to have a reliable system of notifying you of flight changes on the day of departure. I only discovered that my original outbound was late when I signed into Delta.com to check my status on the upgrade list. In that case, the fact that I was delayed was displayed in big red letters. I’d appreciate an email (or a push notification to my iPhone) the minute a delayed departure gets posted. The other wrinkle you ask? Since I was rebooked off of my original flight and onto the one I am now, I became non-existant on my original flight. And oh yeah, you guessed again….it wound up departing at 1pm!

In summary, I’m not mad at Delta, and I’m only a little mad at myself for not paying attention to my flight options. That said, just a few things could’ve happened to make this better. On the good side, rebooking a Delta flight on their excellent iPhone app was a snap. Seriously, I think it’s the best of the bunch. All’s well that ends well. I’m seated in first class, and surfing the internet. And that cabernet I talked about making in the title…well, you can guess what my inflight beverage of choice is.