Arnon Grunberg



Yesterday I was supposed to fly out of New York on Delta flight 446 to Amsterdam. The evening started ominously. My driver said: “There is an accident in the Midtown Tunnel, what route do you want me to take?”
I suggested that we take 1st Avenue and then the Triborough Bridge. I made it on time but hardly.
About twenty minutes after we pushed down from the gate the captain said: “We have a situation in the back of the plane, we have to go back to the gate.” A situation – a beautiful euphemism that can mean almost anything, but in this case it meant that we had a passenger on board with “an item that is prohibited on planes”, a knife.
The passenger looked like a confused farmer from Bulgaria or Montenegro, he was so confused that when he was being escorted off the plane he believed that he was escorted to the bathroom.
“No not here,” a stewardess hissed, “there.”
Anyhow, TSA, FBI they all took this very seriously, probably rightly so, we need to take confused farmer from Bulgaria seriously, so our names were checked and double checked to make sure that there were no more passengers with knives on board and after two hours we were cleared to go.
But then the clock in the cockpit had stopped working, and the captain said that without a working clock we could not cross the ocean. They were going to repair the clock and every ten minutes or so he would update us on the situation. The captain said.
Another situation: this time not the knife situation but the clock situation.
Well, the captain didn’t update us; he fell silent for about four hours, then he said: “Excuse me folks, but it’s not safe for me to fly this plane anymore, the pilots are leaving this plane, we know that this is frustrating, but don’t take it personally. Perhaps they will find another crew to fly this plane, Atlanta is working on it as we speak.”
This is what he said – he could have been a comedian.
It took another twenty minutes before somebody finally announced: “This flight is cancelled, please take all your belongings and leave the plane.”
The lines for rebooking were long as you can imagine, but somebody said: “Go the lounge, you are a platinum member, in the lounge the lines are shorter.”
They weren’t. I stood in line for about forty minutes, a man behind me said: “It doesn’t make sense to go to bed anymore. We should just all get drunk.”
“I don’t want to be rebooked,” I said firmly when it was my turn, “I want my luggage back and then I will buy a ticket on United or Lufthansa or British Airways, I really don’t feel flying Delta anymore. Don’t take it personal.”
“I can’t do this,” the lady said. “Your luggage is going straight to Amsterdam. You will find your luggage in Amsterdam.”
She rebooked me. She gave me a voucher for ground transportation but I could not find the company that accepts these vouchers, so I decided to take a yellow cab and pay for my own ground transportation.
Back home I got an e-mail from a certain Jason Hausner, director customer care at Delta Airlines, he wrote:
“Hello Arnon,

RE: Case Number 13574994

I understand Flight 446 from New York to Amsterdam on September 4 had to make an unforeseen return to the gate in New York. We want to continue to be your first choice when it comes to air travel, and we regret any inconvenience you may have experienced, but the safety of our passengers and employees is our number one priority.

You're important to us, and as a goodwill gesture I've deposited 15,000 bonus miles to your account. Please allow three business days for the mileage to be posted.

Thank you for continuing to choose Delta. We look forward to seeing you on another Delta flight.


Jason Hausner”

I answered something along these lines:

“Dear Jason, you must be kidding. You just stole 8 hours of my time, Ariana Afghan Airlines is a miracle of friendliness and accuracy compared to Delta. And on top of it does your airline do to suitcases what ISIS does to journalists: you kidnap them.
And then you believe you can bribe me with 15,000 bonus miles?
What are you thinking?
Is offending and abusing loyal customers your business strategy?
I expect you to fully reimburse me for my ticket and to pay damages for the appointments I missed in Amsterdam.
Kind regards,
Arnon Grunberg”

I should not have made the comparison with ISIS but it was late, and I would say that the passengers of flight 446 were slightly abused.

Delta has not responded to my e-mail yet.

The flight I’m booked on tonight (KL 446) is already delayed – I would not be surprised if this flight will be cancelled as well.

But I pledge to be a Buddhist. I pledge to reincarnate as the opposite of a frequent flyer, a tree for example. A beautiful tree, that’s my ambition. All other things are just killing time.

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