Monday, March 15, 2010

Mystery of Missing Checked Bags, Solved

As we were sitting in one of Delta Airline's 757-200s at the tiny St. Thomas Airport Saturday for an hour, waiting to take off, I heard the head ground crewman say to the pilots at the cockpit door "too heavy? by how much?" A moment later, the yellow vested crew chief exited the aircraft and the pilot announced "we have a problem with our weight and balance in the flight computer, it's a safety issue we're working on, sorry for the delay." Well, weight and balance can be a problem in small and large aircraft, sure. I've been on Lufthansa CRJ aircraft (20 rows of seats) flights where they asked you your weight before they assigned you a seat, and Gawd Forbid you change seats mid-flight, or the Air Nazis, er, I mean Flight Attendants would reprimand you to return to your original seat At Once! Jawohl!

So when Dr Desert Flower, who was seated beside me next to the window, said "they're off loading bags!" - it did not surprise me. I'd heard the forward cargo door open beneath our seats a moment before. She counted 10 large roll on bags (approx 50 lbs a piece) being off loaded. None of them had the yellow "Priority" tags on them, as ours did, since we flew 1st class and I am a medallion member frequent flier with Delta. The St.Thomas ground crew placed all 10 bags on a large rolling cart, wheeled it away from the aircraft, and there it sat, for another 30 minutes. Once the pilots rebooted the flight computer enough times to get it to take the new weight and wind speeds, they closed the cargo door, drove the conveyor belt truck away, and left the 10 bags on the ground, as we took off for Atlanta.

So the next time you're booking a trip on a full flight, and you're checking a bag, consider that your bag is not intrinsically linked to you and your boarding pass. Your checked bag is just more ballast in the hull of the ship, that may be jettisoned if the Boeing software can't reconcile the passenger, cargo, fuel, and provisions' weight inputs. Why they didn't empty out the lavatory sumps (liquid human waste weighs alot more than checked luggage) I do not know. Somewhere, some MBA calculated that it is cheaper to pay for lost luggage & courier delivery than it is to pay a waste discharge fee in the St. Thomas airport, and so those 10 bags that some "non priority" customers were counting on had less value to Delta than the blue dyed human waste stored in the plane's lavatory tanks.

How do I know they didn't discharge the lavatory waste? The surly flight attendant who refused to give me a double whiskey on the rocks (really? you can't serve a double? the last 5 flights I took this month had no problem serving me one... but ok young missy, it's your plane and your rules) brought around a snack tray that previously had Sun Chips on it, before it reached Dr. Desert Flower and I in the last row of 1st class. Now Sun Chips are not low carb, but they are tasty, so I inquired "are there any more chips?". "No, we only have what we brought from Atlanta on board" the Flight Matron replied. An hour after we took off, she came around to "take our order" of "curry chicken, or curry chicken, since the pasta is imaginary" (those were her words, seriously). Twenty 1st class seats, and she admitted "They only gave us 7 pastas in Atlanta". Would have sucked if I was a vegetarian. I told her that curry would leave me in the lavatory the rest of the flight, and she brought up a fruit and cheese plate that they were selling back in coach - which was the only nice thing she did for me (1 of 20 1st class passengers she looked after) the whole flight.

So Delta sends planes to the V.I. with round trip provisions. Delta Doesn't take on food or water once they land in the V.I., and doesn't discharge human waste, taking on Only Fuel - since it would be unsafe to land with 60% full fuel tanks. Besides, a 757-200 doesn't really have a safe 8 hour flight range with 2 full power take offs involved. And Delta (now the "world's largest airline) values not paying the waste disposal fees on the island more than they value re-uniting passengers with their checked luggage. Wow.

It looks like Delta took on all of Northwest's worst customer service aspects, and repainted their aircraft white after absorbing them. What a shame. I used to like flying Delta.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, and the cost difference between 1st and coach, was only $200 for DDF and the difference of 70,000 freq flier miles or 60,000 for me - so since it was the first time in many years that we were taking a vacation, we went 1st class. We gotta remember to lower our expectations next time, or take another airline.


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