Delta is upping theirs, so up yours

by Jim Longworth

Delta airlines has a new TV ad campaign in which the announcer proclaims, “Delta is in the business of ‘Up.’” But on a recent trip out to California, we also noticed a slogan posted around the airport terminals, and it read, “Delta: Building a Better Airline.” Based on that catch phrase, my wife and I expected to have a wonderful flying experience. Best laid plans.

First of all, there were no skycaps to greet us and help with luggage as we drove up to the terminal at PTI. Once inside, we stood in line to check bags and get our boarding passes. The man directly in front of us was checking a long, black case which he opened up for the clerk. Inside was an AK-47. No joke. Hey, I saw Executive Decision, and anyone who thinks terrorists can’t access weapons stored in the baggage hold, is sadly mistaken.

Next it was on to the dreaded security check where everyone has to strip off their dangerous shoes. I went through the scanner, and was suddenly pulled over by a TSA agent. “You have something in your pocket, sir.” “Yes,” I replied. “It’s my wallet.” “I need to see it sir, then step over here so I can scan your palms.” “Scan my palms for what?” I asked. “For gunpowder residue, sir.” So let me get this straight: Delta will allow a guy to board the plane with an AK-47 stored below, but I’m a threat to security because my hands might have gunpowder residue on them from the wallet in my pocket?

Once we boarded the plane, we sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes. There was no bad weather, no flights waiting to take off, no delays ahead in Atlanta. We just sat for 20 minutes. I guess that happens when you’re building a better airline. When our plane finally took off, the walls of the cabin shook and rattled severely, so much so, that I was no longer worried about the AK-47 guy, I just didn’t want the bulkhead to fall apart over Kernersville.

Eventually we landed safely in Atlanta and connected with our flight to Los Angeles. I must say that our flight attendants were very friendly and efficient throughout the trip, but we almost lost one of them while we prepared for take-off. The Delta pilot was running late, so when he entered the plane, he sat his flight bag down directly behind one of our friendly attendants. She turned around to help a passenger, and tripped over the pilot’s bag. And so the one person who was trying to build a better airline was almost killed by her boss.

Moments later the captain came on speaker with an announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to be delayed here on the tarmac because the toilet is leaking.” After a long delay, Delta decided to let the plane proceed cross-country minus a restroom. The engines roared to prepare for taxi, but then shut down. It seems that the tug truck’s battery was dead, and without the truck, the plane couldn’t be towed out. We then waited until another truck could be secured, and after 20 minutes or so, we were finally taking off from Atlanta. I guess it takes time build a better airline.

Once underway, we were given a cheap set of earphones — not headphones, but earplugs with which to hear movies. It was like trying to listen to a film through the intercom at Hardees. About the time I was discarding my earphones, the pilot emerged from the cockpit because he had to go to the bathroom. This concerned me because the “forward lavatory” (that’s airplane talk) was out of order. That meant the pilot had to walk the length of the plane to relieve himself. So much for the attendants protecting their pilot with the refreshment cart. Now, he was on his own, and an easy target for AK-47 guy to tunnel his way down to the baggage hold and retrieve his weapon. Fortunately, the pilot traversed unharmed. Soon, we landed at LAX where no one from Delta warned us that their terminal was under repair, so all deplaning passengers had to walk about two miles to claim their bags.

To recap, there were no skycaps, there was an AK-47 on board, my palms were searched for gunpowder residue, the lavatory was broken, the cabin walls shook like an earthquake, the tug truck battery was dead, a flight attendant was tripped by the pilot, the movie sound was garbled, there were numerous delays on tarmacs and we had a long trek to claim our bags. Delta isn’t in the business of “Up,” they’re in the business of “F*ck-up.” And they’re building a better airline, one broken loo at a time.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).