Friday, April 21, 2017

Open Letter to Delta Regarding Removal of Passenger on DL2035 on 4/18/17

Dear Delta: 

On Delta flight # 2035 this week, I observed the most outrageous treatment of a paying customer that I have seen in my two decades of flying.  I trust that you will investigate this matter and see that similar situations are handled better in the future. Not only did your staff truly harm and humiliate one person who was forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a new same-day flight, but you forced the rest of us passengers to endure a 2 hour saga of watching a man being targeted for having a bathroom emergency.  I am disappointed and horrified at how Delta Airlines staff treated their customers/passengers. 

I was a passenger on DL 2035 on April 18, 2017 from Atlanta to Milwaukee (2:55 pm departure time).  I was seated with my husband and with my infant in my arms across the aisle from another passenger, a stranger to us, but clearly a nice gentleman (“Nice Gentleman”), who played hide and seek with my child as we waited to takeoff.

When the flight attendants commenced the security instructions, the Nice Gentleman was on the phone, and the attendant told him (in a very harsh manner) to end his call. He apologized and promptly did so.  This was my first insight into how the flight attendants viewed the Nice Gentleman. 

We were then told that we were third in line to take off; however, we waited and waited and barely moved.  Nice Gentleman got up, went to the back, and returned to his seat very quickly.  Some more time passed, and my husband commented that we had already been waiting for 30 minutes to take off.  Nice Gentleman got up again and went to the back, and very quickly returned to his seat.  At that point, the pilot stated that we needed to return to the airport to remove a passenger.  Everyone was shocked – what could have happened? 
Nice Gentleman quickly spoke up and apologized, saying he thought it was him, and he explained to those of us nearby what had happened.  The first time he stood up, he went to the back and told the flight attendant he had to use the bathroom because it was an emergency.  The attendant (Katherine S) told him that he needed to sit down or he would make the plane lose its place in line because the plane could not move if he was in the bathroom.  He apologized, said he didn’t want that to happen, and quickly sat back down.  He waited some more.  Finally, he couldn’t wait any longer and returned to the back to use the restroom.  He used the restroom very quickly; I would estimate less than a minute.  When he came out of the restroom, he was told that he caused the plane to lose its place in line, and the pilot would have to talk to him.  He was apologetic for causing any delay, but it was an emergency … because he is a human and these things happen to everyone. 

Our plane returned to a gate (which wasn’t far because we had not moved much this entire time).  A Delta employee (Horatio) came on and asked Nice Gentleman to gather his things.  Horatio talked to him in a rude and harsh manner, demanding that he leave the plane; Horatio wouldn’t explain why and wouldn’t give any assurance he could still travel to Milwaukee.  Nice Gentleman said he wouldn’t get off the plane.  

Then Delta employee Bryant R. [full name redacted] then came on and treated Nice Gentleman in a somewhat more appropriate manner and listened to him a little; he would only tell  Nice Gentleman that he would get him on a later plane.  Nice Gentleman explained that he needed to get back for a school field trip the next day.  He explained that he understood what happened, but that he needed to use the restroom and it was an emergency.  Bryant R. claimed that Nice Gentleman broke the rules and that this requires that Delta staff talk to him.  Nice Gentleman said he would explain his situation to everyone who needs to hear it but does not want to leave the plane to do so.  Bryant R. claimed that Delta had never encountered an issue with someone using the bathroom during taxi/waiting takeoff (REALLY DELTA?!?!).  Nice Gentleman stated he would not leave the plane because he is afraid he won’t get on another flight out.  Bryant R. then left the plane. 

Next we heard the plane engines turn off, and the pilot indicated that it would be getting warm in the plane.  Apparently Delta was trying to sweat us and Nice Gentleman off the plane!

Then a flight attendant announced that Delta was making everyone get off the plane.  The seat neighbors around us were all astounded and visibly angry at Delta.  There was a general talk of no one leaving the plane in support of Nice Gentleman and in rebellion for the terrible treatment by Delta of this man. We eventually deplaned and, in the airport, Nice Gentleman was kept apart from everyone. 

While we were waiting, I spoke with another Delta Airlines passenger from a different flight,  DL566 from Melbourne, FL to Atlanta.  The same thing happened on her flight: while waiting to taxi, TWO people used the restroom.  However, that situation was handled very differently.  The flight attendant informed the pilot not to move because two people were using the restroom; when the two passengers returned to their seats, the flight attendant informed the pilot that the people had returned to their seats… and the plane continued to taxi and eventually take off.  No return to the gate.  No removal of a passenger. 

We were eventually allowed to reboard the plane, sans Nice Gentleman. Delta staff claimed that he was not criminally charged, because he was not aggressive, which is not nearly the legal description of probable cause. But, here’s the kicker – Delta staff refunded his flight (but only from Atlanta to Milwaukee – and they kept the taxes and fees) and refused to transport him to Milwaukee!  Delta wouldn’t return his gate-checked bag to him and told him he could get it when he finds a way to Milwaukee.  I doubt that Delta paid him the cancellation fee that it surely would have charged if he had attempted to cancel his flight that day. 

Once back on board the plane, imagine our surprise when a woman arrives on the plane with the seat assignment for the Nice Gentleman’s seat!  Delta used the 2 hour delay that IT created to bump someone onto our flight. 

The final event of this horrifying saga occurred when, after the plane was airborne, the pilot announced his apologies for the delays and explained that the situation was due to a security concern/issue.  My husband and I observed the entire event (my husband accompanied the Nice Gentleman when he was taken aside in the airport), and there was never any hint of a security risk or concern…  unless an emergency need to use the bathroom after unpredictable delays is now considered a “security risk/issue”.

Delta, what was Nice Gentleman supposed to do?  Here are the options as I see it:  1) Urinate in his seat.  This would be unpleasant for him, everyone around him, and the airline staff member who has to clean it up.  2)  Urinate in a vomit bag or some type of device he could have possibly found.  Again, same issue with being uncomfortable for him, those around him, and anyone cleaning up later.  3)  Do what he did—wait as long as humanly (remember, we are humans?) possible, and then go to the bathroom as quickly as possible.  As evidenced by what happened earlier in the day on Delta #566, the flight attendant can tell the pilot someone is using the bathroom, and then the flight process proceeds as usual.  In the worst case, perhaps we have to wait a little longer to get back into line—no one wants that…especially not the Nice Gentleman who doesn’t want to hold everyone up!  I am racking my brain to think of other options that would have been a better solution for this Delta customer’s unfortunate situation. 

Yes, Nice Gentleman may have broken the rules when he stood up to use the bathroom.  Yes, flight attendant Katherine S. may have had her authority questioned when he used the restroom quickly.  However, the situation was resolved in the 1 minute he was out of his seat.  I don’t believe the plane moved an inch during that time.  Why did Delta have to continue this saga by returning to the gate to remove him?  What about him made you want to remove him from the plane?  Was it the color of his skin that you didn’t trust?  Or the color of Katherine S.’s skin that made you trust her version of the story?  When did using the bathroom become a security risk?  Do you truly claim that this is Delta’s policy EVERY TIME this happens?  Because, based on the events on Delta #566, we know that it doesn’t happen this way every time… and, regardless of what Bryant R. says, I am sure that this occurs on a daily basis. 

My take-away from this experience is that I will not be flying Delta again.  Who treats a person like this?  Have you forgotten that the people that pay to fill the seats are actually human beings who sometimes have emergencies (like having to use the bathroom when you have been waiting on the plane for an hour)?  Nice Gentleman was faced with an emergency that I’m sure nearly every passenger has faced before; no one wants to be “that person” who needs to use the bathroom while awaiting takeoff. 

I think you may have forgotten that your passengers are people too, who sometimes have to go to the bathroom when they can’t wait any longer.  These same passengers are your paying customers… or maybe they won’t continue to be your customers if this is the “new standard” of customer treatment by Delta.  I hope you will repay Nice Gentleman for the expense he had to go through to find a new flight, and remember to treat all of your customers as human beings in the future.  

Krista R. 

Two videos of the incident:

Video of Second Delta Employee Sent to Remove Passenger