Why I Hate Airlines

by John Delach

One time just before I left Marsh & McLennan, in a fit of pre-retirement candor and rash enthusiasm, I looked my client from XYZ Petroleum in the eye and said, “Do you know that the only organized group out there that has a worse reputation than ‘Big Oil’ are child pedophiles.”


Though admittedly not the brightest thing to say, I stand by that statement except I believe that the airlines have deservedly joined Big Oil as the public’s favorite whipping boy. That certainly holds true for me. I do have two exceptions, Jet Blue and Southwest. Jet Blue is my go-to airline of choice as they offer frequent non-stop flights from New York City to multiple places at reasonable fares on new, clean and well-functioning equipment with excellent crews and good attitudes. My only real criticism is directed at their on line reservation which has become overly complicated.


Southwest is excellent at moving large number of passengers efficiently and economically also on well-functioning equipment with good and sometimes great crews. Bags fly free on both airlines and my one hesitation with Southwest is the need to make connections in Chicago or Baltimore to get to where I really want to go.


That’s it as far as I’m concerned. Traditional airlines, particularly, American – U.S. Air – Air West, Delta – Northwest and United – Continental all suck. Not too long ago, I was chatting with a flight attendant on a United flight about their upcoming merger with Continental. She noted, “I wonder what the new name will be?”


I replied, “I have a great idea for the new name, “Eastern.” The look she gave me let me know she knew what I meant.


Once upon a time it seemed that I lived on Eastern Airlines because they flew to all of the places where I peddled insurance; Richmond, Boston, DC, Miami, Atlanta, Mobile, Houston, San Juan and Bermuda. I was a one of their Executive Travelers and a member of the Ionosphere Club when it mattered. That combination was so powerful that I knew the receptionist at the club in their JFK terminal on a first name basis who always  upgraded me to First Class. In fact, one morning back in the 1980s I arrived for Flight 807, the morning airplane to Bermuda, without my passport or even my driver’s license. Helen, the receptionist, asked, “What are you going to do Mr. Delach?”


“Well, Helen, I do have my company ID that has my photo and we have an office in Bermuda so I think that will work.”


“Okay, good luck.”


Imagine that encounter today. Long story short. It did work with a minimum of fuss both ways; getting past Bermuda Immigration onto the island, and U.S. Customs and Immigration getting off.


But I watched Eastern go down under Frank Borman’s stewardship. In fact we had a running joke to describe how bad things became before Eastern went out of business. “Eastern is run by Frank Borman, but the way it is run you’d think it was being run by Martin Bormann.”


Which brings me to the point of this rant. Back in January I booked a baseball trip with  four buddies that would take us to Atlanta for a Braves game then on to Charlotte and Durham for two AAA games at the respective homes of the Knights and Bulls. We’d fly into Atlanta and drive a rental north and return to our homes from Raleigh Durham. Each of us made our own arrangements but coordinated times as best we could.


I chose two non-stop American Eagles flights. The south bound flight was scheduled to leave LaGuardia at noon and arrive in Hartsfield at 2:25 PM. Or so I thought until I received an e mail message nine days before my scheduled flight. American Airlines, in their infinite wisdom, had cancelled this flight and chose to book me instead on a flight that would leave LaGuardia at 11:20 AM. But guess what – not one to Atlanta! No, no, one going to Chicago. The connecting flight would not arrive at Hartsfield until 5:05 PM!


The message noted: “If the proposed flights are NOT acceptable to you, you (your) reservation can be discussed with one of our specialists.”


After forty-eight minutes on hold, a human being answered my call. I wanted to demand being transferred to another non-stop flight to Atlanta in the same time frame with any additional cost their responsibility, but that would have required a call-back from a supervisor with no guarantees. So I asked for an alternative and the best the rep named, Nancy could do was to offer me a new flight out of LaGuardia that would get me to Hartsfield at 1:07 PM. That was the good news. The bad news: it was a US Air Flight is scheduled to leave LaGuardia  at 8:40 AM going to Atlanta by way of Charlotte.


No mas, I grabbed it. Otherwise, I foresaw continued frustration and high blood pressure.


I hate flying and I hate the airlines.