Delta First Class Flight 3394 Washington, D.C.-New York JFK

Major Delay Heralds a Temporary Return of Civility in the Air

By Jonathan Spira on 4 August 2014
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This is the story of a very delayed 40-minute flight, a patient and supremely welcoming flight attendant named Christine, a proactive SkyMiles agent, a tired but friendly Sky Club receptionist, a gate agent named Jonathan, a very late American Airlines 777 captain, and me.

I arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with plenty of time to spare, heading directly for the dedicated TSA PreCheck security checkpoint. Things were quiet at the terminal, and it took all of five minutes to make it from curbside to the Delta Sky Club, where I had enough time for a juice before I headed to the gate for my 40-minute flight to New York.


Boarding was scheduled to start at 5:34 p.m. Delta boards first-class passengers before others and, when I arrived, Jonathan, the gate agent, was patiently trying to explain to a coach passenger why she couldn’t bring four carry-on bags onto the plane and why she couldn’t gate check them either. This distraction notwithstanding, boarding started promptly and I was one of the first on the Bombardier CRJ-900. I left my roll aboard bag at the end of the jet bridge and proceeded to my seat. We pushed back on time and the captain announced we’d be holding for 20 minutes due to traffic en route.

Delta Sky Club at DCA

Delta Sky Club at DCA

The hold time extended to an hour and then to two. I took out my MacBook Pro and started to watch the movie “Grand Budapest Hotel” from where I had last left off. To avoid possibly being in violation of the three-hour tarmac rule, Delta sent us back to the gate, so I only saw an additional half hour of the film.

As we taxied, I called Delta and, despite what must have been significant delays across the United States, spoke with an agent within 30 seconds. She looked at a variety of options and asked me if I’d be willing to take another airline, US Airways, to LaGuardia instead if this would speed things up. It turned out that the US Airways flight was pushing back as we were arriving at the gate so that wouldn’t have worked, but I’ve never had an agent proactively suggest a routing on another airline before, and I appreciated it. The agent also booked me in seat 1A on the first flight out of DCA the next morning, just in case we cancelled.

After disembarking, I headed directly for the Sky Club, which was scheduled to close in 15 minutes at 8:00 p.m., but would remain open until the last flight, mine, departed. No one else was there, and I could see my aircraft at its gate from the window.

The Sky Club agent told me she would watch the flight and she also told the gate agent that she had a passenger on his flight. The bartender, who probably thought she was done for the day, was very welcoming and offered me anything I would like. “One ginger ale, very little ice, please.” She asked, somewhat knowingly, if I were heading to JFK. “It happens every week,” she said, very empathetically.

Click here to continue to Page 2The Wait, Boarding for the Second Time, and Departure

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