My Wonderful Trip To South Africa That Didn’t Happen Thanks To The TSA And Delta Airlines

I don’t normally post personal items, but I think that everyone should know about some of the horrible things happening at San Diego International Airport and with Delta Airlines. I wrote this immediately after the events that transpired so that I would have an accurate log.

Summers are the busiest travel time of the year. Each year more than 750 million passengers move through our country’s airports raking up more than 800 billion miles of travel. (Source) Along with the increase in demand, air travel complaints are up as well. (Source PDF)

Now, we all know this year has been a special one for the airlines and air travel as a whole. From the JetBlue hostage crisis, the terrorist “dry runs” on airport security around the country, and the most recent debacle on Southwest Airlines where they asked a woman to cover up because of her lewd attire.

Also, after learning about Xeni’s experiences, reading Bruce’s article, I decided to post this. Here we go!

Recently, I had to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa for business. I had an important meeting for a big bid that was scheduled for Monday. I was scheduled to arrive on Sunday. The thing that was going to make the 25+ hour trip worth while was the opportunity to spend some time with my relatives that I have not seen in many years, so I had planned to have an extended stay.

Any way you slice it, it’s pretty crappy flight, mine was supposed to be the best of the worst according to friends that had made the same flight previously. It was certainly the least painful of all the previous routes that I have taken to Johannesburg in the past. My flight was from San Diego (SAN) to Atlanta (ATL) and then on to Johannesburg (JNB) via Dakar for some fuel. All flights on Delta. Flying coach.

I was scheduled to depart Saturday morning at 6:30 AM. I arrived at the airport on time, checked in at the Delta desk in Terminal 2 (PDF). I checked in at the First Class counter, they let me because no one else was waiting in that line.

That is when the fun began.

At the time that I place my bag on the scale I look over my left shoulder to scope out the security screening line.

Side note: Delta only lets you take 50 lbs. per bag, but they let you take two bags. I got charged $25 in overage. So much for the 70 lbs. of other international carriers.

“Jesus”, I thought to my self.

The security line was the longest I had ever seen it, dozens of switch-backs, and even extending onto the sky-bridge! Memories of the lines I endured at London Heathrow during the ‘liquid bomb’ scare flash through my mind.

I ask the Delta agent if I had a fighting chance, she said that I should have “no problem, it moves fast”.

As I get in line, I look out over the sky-bridge just in time to see the sun beginning to rise.

The line shows no sign of life for minutes. Suddenly, some action – three steps forward…

The mother in front of me with her two little girls lets out a sigh. I tell her “just when you think there is no hope.. it moves”. She laughs and asks where I’m from, I tell her that I’m a San Diego native and ask her the same question. We chat about San Diego, and where we are traveling and things of that sort. I then ask her “What time is your flight?”, “7:30″ she replies. “What about yours?”, “6:30″. She tells me that she will gladly hold my spot in line while I go to the front. I told her that I’ve got 45 minutes and there is no point getting nervous.

After fifteen minutes finally I make it inside the terminal, clock on the Blackberry reads 6:00 AM at this point. I see another nervous guy jump out of line and go up to the TSA staff and “First Class” security line. A minute passes and he returns discouraged and starts speculating about his flight leaving at 6:30, I asked him what they said. He was told to get back in line and that he would be fine. I was unimpressed with this, but figured it was just to early to start escorting passengers. I decide to wait.

The entire security line is snapped to attention when a rather large TSA employee decides that 6:05 AM is the perfect time to make an announcement at the top of his lungs. He requested that everyone make sure that all water bottles were out of the bags and that if you had anything larger than 3 oz. to come and get a zip lock bag from him. He also said that “If you have any questions, I am at the TSA desk and will be happy to help.”

It is now 6:12 AM on the Blackberry, the sign on the turnstile reads 25 minutes to go (the previous one read 15 minutes), I tell the woman and her husband, who had just arrived, that hopefully I won’t see them later (because I’ll be on my plane), but I would appreciate it if they could hold my spot. “No problem, good luck!”.

So I quickly walk up to the area where the loud TSA employee is standing and approach a woman wearing a maroon “Supervisor” polo-shirt. I tell her that I have a 6:30 flight. “Get back in line”, she tell me. With no eye contact.

I then hold out my ticket and say “Ma’am I’ve a 6:30 flight to Atlanta, I think I am going to miss my flight.”

“Get back in line”, louder this time, still no eye contact. (Think nightclub door man/bouncer.)

“Ma’am, please, I have an international connection in Atlanta I cannot afford to miss my flight.”

“I told you, GET BACK IN LINE” (Even louder, still no eye contact)

I then realize that this is going no where with this woman, and say to the TSA employee who made the announcement; “Sir, I beg you, please may I go through, I am going to miss my flight to South Africa.” He was standing right behind this “supervisor.”

This entire time, first class passengers are being allowed through their VIP entrance to their own x-ray and metal detector. No lines for VIPs. Just like a night club.

This lovely “supervisor” then snaps to him “Don’t get involved! Don’t make me call Frankie.”

Thinking that maybe this “Frankie” might have more intelligence and compassion I say, “Who’s Frankie? Lets call Frankie!”

“You don’t tell me who to call, sir!”, snaps the “supervisor” (Very loud and aggressive).

At this point, there were no more first class passengers going through this entrance.

I decide to hang around and wait, perhaps this “supervisor”, Jackie, would have a change of heart and let me through to make my flight. Given that there were no first class customers waiting, no sweat off her back. There is also no point in going back to the line, if I do that I am guaranteed to miss my flight.

At this point, I turn around and am confronted by two Harbor Police Officers. Officer Columbus Offord (Badge #3306) and Officer Walter Tucker (No badge number on his card?)

“This guy refuses to move!” Jackie pipes in from over my shoulder.

“Whats the problem?” the officers ask me.

At this point, we are in the middle of the terminal. Before I respond, the officers and I walk off to the side near the check-in counters.

“There is no problem officers. I am going to miss my flight, I have an international connection to make and she will not let me go through. I have been here with plenty of time to make it through security, but the line is not moving.”

“Well, we cannot just put you to the front of the line, you have to speak to Delta”

“Ok, I’ll go speak to Delta”

The Delta check-in desk is the closest to where I am now.

I walk over there, the officers stay put. I ask the First Class Delta employee – “Will they be holding the 6:30 flight for people that are waiting to get through security?”

“No, and if your not at the front already you wont make it”, she responds.

“Thanks” (Read: SHIT!)

So I walk back towards toward the line.

The officers then ask me, “What did they tell you?”

“That I’m not going to make it” I say.

“Let me have your passport”, demands one officer.

“What do you need it for?” (I’ve seen this movie before, I’ve done nothing wrong, but you know… abuse of power, police state, post 9/11 age, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc)

“So that I can know who I am talking to”, he says.

“Ok, here you go”, as I hand him my passport.

The officer then proceeds to radio my details in, and his partner just stands with me.

He then must have gotten word back from dispatch that I am NOT a terrorist, or he just wanted to log it in for their records.

He then gives me back my passport, waves his hand, and says “Go through.”

I then hand my tickets and passport to another first class “document checker”, and then Jackie says “What do you think your doing?”

“The officers said that I could come through!”, I plead.

“Oh no they didn’t, you get back in line where you were!”

Now, remember back now to the family holding my place in line? They had been watching this entire thing and were now at the front of the line, literally next in line. They waved to get my attention and say “We are here! We’re up here!”.

“I’m with those people, thats where I was”, I tell Jackie.

“Oh hell no, he’s not up there with those people, he’s got to get at the back of the line where he was.”, Jackie says.

“No, I was standing with them”, I plead again.

“They’re on Continental, they don’t know him!” (How could she know this?)

“I do know them, they are here from Florida on holiday, they were here for a week. Their flight connects in Houston!”, I say.

At this point the husband of the family, my hero – got love New Yorkers (living in Florida). Screams at the top of his lungs “He’s with us, you let him up here right now!” directly into the face of the TSA bouncer that made the announcement earlier.

The TSA officer says to the husband, “Sir, lower your voice.”

“Fine go through”, Jackie says knowing she could no longer deny me and had lost.

At the same moment I walk through the First class line behind the TSA officer. I hear the husband ask, “Why are you guys doing this to this guy, he just wanted to get on his flight?”

As I walk by, I hear the TSA officer respond – “Sir, that gentleman made a death threat on my life”. AN OBVIOUS LIE! I ignore it, as at this point I am shaking from the stress of the situation and I am nervous that I am not going to make my flight.

“Oh, I didn’t know anything about that”, the husband says.

The family and I are now parallel in the lines. I say thank you to both the husband and wife for their help and they try to calm me down, I was visibly shaking. I give the husband my business card and say please get in touch so that I can thank you. I hope he reads this and does.

I did not think a thing about the TSA officer’s “death threat” statement and went to the x-ray machine.

I take out my Powerbook and put it in a bin with the case, and toss my sandals and backpack in another.

No x-ray or metal detector alarms, and I get re-dressed.

I then run to Gate 40, basically the farthest gate in the terminal (check map linked above). I though the adrenaline would have got me there faster, but by Gate 38 my legs were running at half speed. Note: It must have been the sandals :)

I get to the gate counter nearly dying and say to a Delta clerk, named Ana, “Did I make it for the 6:30?”

“Nope, its already gone.”, she says.

“How long did I miss it by?”, catching my breath.

“Technically you missed it by 5 minutes, but actually you missed it by 2″, she says. (Read: SHIT!)

“Let me see you ticket”, she says.

So I hand her my ticket, tell her I’m catching a connection to Johannesburg.

She then puts me on the 8:00 AM flight to Atlanta, and tells me that I will need to run, “No Starbucks”, and puts me as far forward on the plane as she could. Seat 12C.
I ask her about my bag.

She says that it left on the plane without me, but assures me that it will be on the plane to Johannesburg.

I thank her and then go to the bathroom for a little moment. “This sucks, is it still worth going?” I think to my self.

I gather my composure and start walking back to the security screening area to find out the names of the people I had just dealt with so pleasantly at the security screening.

I spot a “security guard” on break and ask him if he knows who the woman (Jackie) at the front was and who the guy (TSA) was. He explains that TSA wear all white, and that some are private employees but still employed by the government.

He then says that he wants to see who these people were also and starts walking back with me.

On the way I see the two officers, Walter Tucker and Columbus Offord, sitting on coffee break and I approach them.

I say “Hi officers, I just wanted to let you know that I did not make my flight.” I continue, “I know you were just doing your job, but I would like to get your names and badge numbers.”

“What do you need that for?”, one says.

“You don’t need that!”, the other proclaims.

“What do you need it for?”, they both say obviously feeling defensive and threatened.

I respond, “I need it for the same reason that you needed to see my passport, so I know who I talked to. I want to be able to remember everything accurately.”

They then begin to pull out their business cards.

As the first officer, sitting on the right, hands me his business card, he says “You know you don’t come to the airport and make death threats.”

I respond by saying, “That is a ridiculous lie! You and I both know, you better than me, that if I had made a death threat to a federal officer that I wouldn’t be here right now, I would be arrested. You probably would have been the ones to do it. Its very easy for that TSA employee to make false accusations, I am just a regular citizen and I have no recourse, and he has no repercussions for making these false accusations.”

“Ok”, they say as they stare at me blankly.

After that, I walk towards the TSA kiosk, on the “secured” part of passenger screening.

I walk up to, a senior looking officer. Scott Stanfield.

I tell him, that I had a problem with some employees and I would like to know who they are so that I can file a complaint.

He says OK, but wants to make sure that he knows who I am talking about. So I tell him the woman in the front, with a maroon polo shirt, and the larger gentleman with a white TSA shirt at the desk in front. He walks me over to a more direct line of site, and points at them. I confirm that those are the people, even though I could not see the woman at the time.

He begins to tell me that the woman, Jackie, is not a federal employee, but is employed by a private firm GAT Security. I tell him thats fine, give me GAT Security’s number and the manager’s contact information and I will file a complaint with them.

Then I say I want to know who the TSA employee is, he says that he cannot give me his name because he is a federal employee. At this point I look at his badge and say “Scott Stanfield, are you kidding me? I can just go walk up and read his name off his badge, but you can’t tell me?”

“No, Sir I can’t. If you tell me what your complaint is, I will file the complaint for you”, he responds in a serious manner.

“Ok then”, I say.

At this point, several other TSA employees start to crowd around like school children trying to eavesdrop on a secret.

I tell him, that I don’t feel comfortable where we are standing and move over to the side a few feet.

I then explain to him, that as I walked behind the TSA officer he told another passenger that I had made a “death threat on his life.”

I tell Scott that this is a blatantly false accusation, and that his employees should not joke about these types of things. I also tell him, what everyone knows, that if it were true. I would be in custody.

I can see that this is not going anywhere, as he hardly agrees that this was a problem.

“This type of behavior must be encouraged”, I think to my self.

Before I go, they give me a piece of paper with – “G.A.T Security – Kyle 619-491-2864″, written on it. They say that Kyle is the Jackie’s manager. I thank them and go on my way.

When I return to Gate 40 I speak with Ana, the Delta clerk again. She says that I should go over and speak with the Delta manager, she points him out for me.

I walk up and ask the Delta Gate Manager about GAT Security and tell him my story.

He then says he will call a GAT manager to come speak with me.

I wait about 10 minutes and a guy shows up with a reflective safety vest, the GAT “manager”. He has been out on the runway, with his vest and ear plugs. This guy looks like a baggage handler, not the manager of airport security.

I explain to him what happened, and he tells me this in not the first time they have had problem with Jackie.

He then gives me the office number 619-491-2864 and Kyle’s name. I decide to give the number a call, it goes straight to voicemail on a cell phone, its Kyle’s cell phone. I start to wonder why is this number for the office going to Kyle’s cell phone?

I then go back up to Ana, she asks for my tickets again, and says if the plane doesn’t board in the next twenty minutes that I won’t make it. She wants to put on me on the same flights for tomorrow. I tell her “Ok, thank you”, and wait like the rest of the passengers.

At about 7:45 AM the plane has not boarded yet, and I get approached by another Delta manager who asks if the GAT supervisor was helpful. I tell him no. He then says, “come over here I want to lookup your flights.” He confirms that Ana had put me on for next day and says, “see you tomorrow.” It turns out that the bolt that they use to attach the plane to the vehicle for towing into the gate had broken and the plane was stuck on the runway.

I go up to Ana and thank her for being “the nicest person that I had dealt with today.” She said she was actually in a bad mood, but liked me. She asks for my tickets again, and at this point I figured I would ask about bulk-head seats for tomorrow. She said that they are only assigned the day of the flight. She then said, but don’t worry I have upgraded you to Business class. Don’t tell anybody.

I thanked her graciously and left the airport.

On my way out I see the TSA’s Scott Stanfield coming up the escalators near where this morning’s events began. I tell him that the second flight had mechanical problems and thanked him.

I spent several hours after I got home trying to find GAT Security in the White Pages and online, I could find nothing. I then decide to call the San Diego International Airport and ask for a manager… there is none. The only person to speak with is the directory assistance person.

I then try call the Harbor Police, I finally manage to get hold of a Sergeant Micksel. I explain to him what had happened with his two officers, that they initially refused to provide their badge numbers and names. I then spend nearly an hour and twenty minutes explaining to him why it was NOT appropriate behavior for them to tell me “You know you don’t come to the airport and make death threats.” He could not see why this was a problem. I tell try to walk him through the logic that it was a lie and a false accusation, and they knew it was false because if it were true they would have had to act.

Finally I tell him, “If you are not going to take my complaint seriously I will find someone who will.”

That gets his attention and he says he wants to get the dispatch logs and call me back. I wait for his call, and twenty minutes later he does call back.

He says that I dealt with “one African American officer and one Asian American officer.” I tell him, “No, actually they were both African American.” I don’t know why this was relevant?

He then tells me that all the dispatch logs said was that someone, called in “a disturbance”. I tell him that I had not created a disturbance, and the tells me that all the Harbor Police do is respond when they are called.

I then ask him how I can go about filing my complaint. He tells me to contact Internal Affairs and speak with John Reilly at 619-686-6590.

I thank him and hang up the phone.

The next morning I then decided that a trip of that length, when I have already missed my meeting is not worth taking.

My next mission is to get my ticket refunded.

I call Delta and ask for a refund, they tell me that I can’t get one even though it was a mechanical failure that prevented me from making my flight and even though I no longer need to make the trip.

I then ask how I can go about getting my bag back to San Diego… Remember? It flew WITHOUT me!

They tell me that they cannot get it, I have to go to the baggage desk at the airport.

So I go back to sleep and when I wake up I go to the airport to request my bag.

The baggage desk requests for the bag to be sent back to San Diego and delivered to my home.

My girlfriend, then says “Lets go to the Delta desk and ask for a refund.”

I oblige.

I tell the Delta clerk what happened, and that I no longer need to make the trip and would like a refund.

Interestingly, she does not offer me another ticket for another travel date. At the time I did not know that was the typical response. To be honest, I have never missed a flight before. Let’s hope this is not a new trend for me.

She then proceeds to do a TRR (Ticket Refund Request).

The manager comes over and explains that because I didn’t buy my ticket directly from Delta the amount that I purchased the ticket for does not show up in the system. Therefor, he cannot refund me today.

I tell him that I understand. The clerk then gives me a print out and tells me to call 1-800-847-0578 on the 23rd of August. They will take about two weeks to find out how much I paid and then be able to process the refund.

I thank her, and ask her about the $25.00 in over-baggage that I had to pay.

She says that they will be able to refund me when I call.

I thank her again, and go home.

Two weeks later, on Monday the 27th I call the refund center and give them my TRR number.

I am told that they can see my name in the system, but they have not yet received the actual request from the airport for a refund.

“What? I don’t understand, you have my name and the TRR number? What else do you need?”, I ask.

“We need the actual paper receipt from the airport, it can take up to 40 days”, the customer service representative replies as if this was normal.

“I have a paper copy”, I tell him.

“Ok, you can fax it to us at this number: 404-715-9256″, he explains.

So I fax it through immediately.

I wait until Wednesday and call back. I give the representative my TRR number and they tell me again that they have not received anything from the airport.

I tell them that I faxed it through already.

“When did you do that?”, she asks.

“On Monday”, I reply.

“What time?”, she says.

“Around 11:30 AM”, I tell her.

“Ohhhh I see that here, it will take at least seven business days to before anyone can get to that”, she explains.

“Ok, thanks”, I say and hang up.

Several days later I call back and ask for an update.

They tell me that they have refunded me $1943.71

I ask why the amount is $1943.71 and not $2143.71, which is what I was billed.

She tells me that there was a $200 penalty.

I tell her that I missed the flight because of Delta, and should not have to pay ANY penalty.

She says that its the policy.

I ask her about the $25.00 over baggage fee.

She says that it was not included with the refund request and cannot do anything.

I tell her that the Delta desk told me that the refund department would be able to process that at the time that my ticket will be refunded.

She tells me to go back to the airport and ask them.

And that is where we are today… So my friends, I pose the following questions:

What recourse do passengers that encounter things like this with the TSA have? This is obviously a case where the TSA officer felt that it would be easier to lie to justify his actions, rather than do the right thing and help someone.

How can Delta let my bag fly without me? I thought that airlines are supposed to remove passengers that do not board? Isn’t this a HUGE security risk? I mean, you could read my story and find a massive loop-hole in the security system at airports. Especially given that in recent “dry-runs” bags with simulated bombs made it onto planes. I know I don’t feel safe now, knowing that the baggage belonging to the guy being detained at security is on the plane even if he is not. Does keeping him off the plane make us safer?

Why should coach passengers be discriminated against? Why do first class passengers receive special security treatment? Are they paying more taxes to support the TSA? No! They should be in line with every other tax payer in coach.

Seriously, what if I end up on a “no-fly” list? What recourse does one have in a situation like this? Like this guy?

Who is GAT Security? How did a company with two employees, Jackie and Kyle, with only a cell phone get into a position where they can over rule the TSA and dictate what passengers get on to their flights and which get delayed?

Why did the TSA’s Scott Stanfield refuse to provide me the name of the other TSA employee? His excuse was bogus, if the employee wears a badge… his name is not a government secret!

Why does it take Delta? Two weeks/40 Days/Seven days to process a refund? The kicker here is that my credit card was billed by “DELTA AIR LINES ALEXANDRIA VA” and not by the website that I purchased the tickets from – Is this just an excuse to keep our money and make it difficult to get refunds for things that they did not provide?

Thanks for reading!

So much for the friendly skies.

If you are looking for some other interesting reading check out these articles:

Editor’s Note: This post was not proof read and was written on my blackberry. Please excuse any grammatical errors.

240 Responses to My Wonderful Trip To South Africa That Didn’t Happen Thanks To The TSA And Delta Airlines

  1. Dave says:

    My brother in law was in line about to miss his flight and he called the airline customer service number and explained the situation to them. They had someone go to him in line and escort him through security – it is something to think about.

  2. Wayne Slavin says:

    I just want to point out to all that the Delta desk only opens at 5:00 AM. So arriving 3 hours early would have done me no good for a 6:30 AM flight.

    This is not a new flight, I am sure that if other passengers needed 3 hours Delta would open at 3:30 AM to allow adequate time for check-in right? I think not.

    There is no excuse for falsely accusing someone of making a death threat, especially at an airport.

    Thank you carry on.

  3. [...] My Wonderful Trip To South Africa That Didn’t Happen Thanks To The TSA And Delta Airlines [...]

  4. Jared says:

    Airlines let bags fly all the time, once it goes thru check-in all they see is the call number, they have no way of knowing if you made it on the flight or not. I have had trouble with Delta in the past too. I was to fly from Hartford CT, to Tulsa OK with a stop in ATL. When we arrived are gate was changed and we were forced to wait for two hours. None of the desk clerks knew anything (hell they didn’t even know our plane was on the tarmac until some passengers informed them). When we arrived our bag wasn’t on the plane, instead it had some how managed to get to Tulsa before us (even though there was no earlier flight).
    I suggest flying on another airline from now on.

  5. Grant says:

    Try showing up on time!

    You detailed everything except what time you got there, except to say that you got there in plenty of time. Based on your “facts”, you got in line at 5:45am (because at 6am, after being in line for 15 minutes, it had barely moved), which means you got to the airport at 5:30am, at the latest (since you went through the empty first class line). Interesting how you are so detailed and leave the one bit of information that puts the blame on you out of the post.

    If you had been there 2 hours early, it would have been fine! I have flown over 100,000 miles a year for the last few years and have never had this type of issue. You sound like a guy who showed up late and is looking for someone to blame, you were probably an a$$ to the TSA too, serves you right!

  6. Slightly hard to sympathize says:

    While I feel that the security misshandled the situation, you obviously did NOT arrive to the airport ‘on time’. There is a reason they suggest you arrive at the airport early in case of hold ups exactly like the one you specified. Yes, it makes traveling a pain, especially if you’re about to go on a long flight, but it will keep you from missing your flight exactly as you did.

    The lack of recourse, however, is still disturbing. There seem to be fewer and fewer ways to correct flaws in the system, and less and less flexibility when it comes to correcting problems. A lot of this is backlash caused by consumers that feel ‘over-entitled’, and the huge number of frivalous lawsuits due to procedure not being followed correctly, but we need to find a happy medium.

  7. John says:

    I have been to 50 countries and have made countless international flights. I have seen this sort of problem with other people many times.

    You arrived at the airport too late.

    The departure was scheduled for 6:30am

    But after clearing the check-in, you started the security check at sunrise (San Diego on July 15 was 5:53am according to the Almanac)

    That means you had a half-hour to clear security, make a very long walk to your gate 40 and depart on an international long-haul flight – coach class probably full.

    Solution: On a busy summer day for an international flight (via Atlanta), you should have been at the check-in area 2 hours before departure. There might not have been anyone at the check-in counter at 4:30am, but you would have been in the front of the line and coasted through. If you had, you would have made it to your destination with minimal hassle.

  8. Brent says:

    I was under the impression that it was FAA regulation that your checked luggage could NOT depart the originating airport without you on the plane. If so, Delta broke that regulation. It is, however, okay for your bag to fly without you from connecting airports and such.


  9. Klaus says:

    I agree with John 100%. You didn’t show up early enough. It sounded like you got to the airport about an hour before departure. If you are an experienced traveler, you have seen the insane security lines before. This was not Delta’s fault you missed your (first) flight. If this meeting was so important, you should have shown up earlier.

  10. RonB says:

    “There’s always a John on threads like this, isn’t there? I’m not sure where his apparent sad little need to be on the side of authority comes from.”

    Um, MB – this has nothing to do with being on the side of authority. This has to do with common sense. I hate TSA. I think their rules are dumb, asinine and pointless (any rule they have, I can come up with 20 different ways to get around them). I really think that you have a bunch of people on power trips, that are mostly not that aware of what is going on, that it probably isn’t that hard to slip stuff past.

    Now that being said, since I know they exist, I plan accordingly. This has nothing to do with taking the “side of authority” it has to do with dealing with the system with least resistance. I don’t actively go out of my way to make myself stand out in these lines. I won’t ask for preferential treatment (moving up in line, etc), because it can work against you (as the above story is an example of). I do my best to be on time (at least 1 hour to hit security, more for internationals). And above all, I do what I can to stay on the good side of these people, a single “GET BACK IN LINE.” is enough for me.

    You know, very few TSA horror stories start with “I was just waiting in line moving along with the herd.”

    I feel for Wayne for missing the flight, and all the trouble, but at the same time, the whole situation could have been avoided.

  11. Alex in Toronto says:

    Your story points out how rude, inept and tyrannical the security people are at airports. I had to deal with that same attitude some years ago at the Canada-US border.

    I would have hollered right back at Jackie. What an idiotic maroon treating you like a child. I would have been incensed.

    This story also points out that you should carry with you an mp3 recorder to capture any dialogue that you can use to collaborate your complaint. A cellphone with a camera helps a lot too.

    Please complain to the authorities some people have listed above. I would also contact your local media stations consumer line. You need to do it to get satisfaction for the ill-treatment you received and you feel you received.

    It pains me to read your tale and compare it to the complaints people have with the current administration in Washington. People have valid complaints with the government. Congressman and senators reiterate the complaints in committee hearings and nothing of consequence really happens. “The war on terror” and terrorist screenings is a major issue here. It’s as thought people do whatever they want damned be anybody else. Democracy is being eroded bit by bit and it is the public who will end up holding the bag. We all have to become as little children and exclaim metaphorically as in cases such as yours, “The emperor is naked! He isn’t wearing any clothes.” The current illusion society uses today to make democracy work is being eroded. We must take back our rights and demand redress from inept bunglers who apparently are in charge of this nebulous system encompassed by the “the world after 0911.”

  12. BlahBlah says:

    Your luggage flew without you because it is basically impossible for them to do otherwise. Imagine you check your luggage and then simply miss the flight. At the moment the doors of the plane were closed the list of passengers that passed through the gate would have to be cross-referenced with the list of passengers who checked in, and the luggage for those not actually on the plane would have to be removed before the plane disembarked.

    The only way for this to be remotely practical is if the doors are closed prematurely, a ground crew is available and waiting for the list of bags to remove to arrive so they can be removed promptly, and the bags are all easily accessible to the ground crew (again, for prompt removal). Alternately, the bags could be loaded onto the plane after the doors are closed and the necessary bags filtered out of the loading process.

    Given the tight time-slots in which airlines operate, a limited number of ground crew, and the general disarray at the airport, there is simply no way for this process to happen reliably.

    Personally, I do my utmost to avoid flying nowadays and I am considering simply taking the train when possible instead. My last experience with the airport was on a short flight for business. After plane delays, security problem, etc, it took me half again as long to reach my destination than if I had simply gotten in the car and driven there (12 hours of plane travel vs. an 8 hour drive), *and* I had to purchase a second ticket on another airline simply to do that well.

  13. Doug says:

    Definitely email the story into the Consumerist. They can usually help get you satisfaction out of completely embarrassing the horrible customer service actions of companies.

  14. Alan says:

    Amusing horror story.

    I was encouraged to see you follow best practices for resolving consumer or legal issues. Document as much as possible, names, times, dates, locations.

    My advice for possible followup: Write a letter. You have written a wonderfully blog, but a written letter does wonders where voice mail or phone calls fail.

    1) Dispute the charges to Delta on your credit card.
    2) Send a formal letter to Delta with your informaion.
    3) Send a formal letter to CA senator/reps.
    4) Send a formal letter to TSA.
    5) Send a formal letter to GAT.

    Update the blog with follow-up information.

    Interesting to see how many people did not read the story and assumed you did not show up in time.

  15. Chad says:

    Sorry man! I’ve been given the runaround as well and it is excruciating! I was getting stressed out just reading your story!

  16. cpuwhiz11 says:

    I am never flying

  17. Martin says:

    Ever time I have flown from the UK to mainland Europe and back, it has taken literally under 2 minutes to get from the back of the queue to security. The long waits you americans accept are appalling.

  18. Kakaze says:

    Dennis: Someone paying umpteen thousands of dollars for a first class ticket is just as able to bring a bomb onto a plane as someone paying a couple hundred. They should get the same amount of security screening as everybody else. The fact that they don’t shows me that the level of security they enforce on the people flying cheaply is unnecessary.

  19. Graham says:

    A girl wearing a mini-skirt gets national attention for her airline troubles – you should pass this report on to the media outlets as well. Try CNN’s I Report, or Jack Cafferty. Make sure these bastards get a good reprimand for their stupidity and ridiculous behaviour.

  20. Peter says:

    Sounds like Delta. I stopped flying with them when they billed me $175 for one of their errors (on a $238 flight) a few years back. I think your best bet is small claims court. You can also claim damages for not having gotten to your meeting. Your next best bet is just to cancel the charge with your credit card company.

  21. Peter says:

    What time did you arrive at the airport? You don’t say… just that you were “on time,” which is relative.

    It sounds like you didn’t make it into the security line until 5:45. That is only 45 minutes before flight was to leave, and about 15 minutes before your flight was to start boarding.

    It sure sounds like you didn’t arrive with enough time to get through the Delta check-in line and the security line.

  22. PaulGuise says:

    Wow. I am glad that I never fly anywhere. If I have to travel overseas, Ill take a boat. But since most folks over there arent too fond of Americans at the moment I think I’m good there.

    Still, as far as I can see in their policy, they should really have gotten back with you refund in about 10 days. They only really make it that hard so people will either A) forget about it or B) get fed up and say ‘nevermind’.

    And concerning your troubles, I smell a punitive damages lawsuit coming on.


  23. Great Example of why airlines are not secure

  24. Kiki says:

    So wait, are you telling us that the ONE person who was helpful (Ana) asked you not to tell anyone that she upgraded you to Business Class and then you went ahead and posted it on your blog? Some thanks!

  25. fred says:

    It sucks, yes, but that’s why you’re supposed to get to the airport ten hours early now days. You knew how fuucked up airport security is, you should’ve been prepared for that.
    I used to fly from San Diego to San Francisco all the time. Now, I drive. With all the airport security bullshiit, the drive time (about 8 hours) is really not much slower than the 1.5 hour flight when you add in all the airport delays.

  26. Joseph says:

    This could have all been prevented if you arrived early to the airport like the family in front of you for the 7:30 flight. Traveling in US airports is time consuming but you lacked proper planning.

  27. Dillenger69 says:

    Things like this are why I will never fly unless it’s absolutely necessary.
    I will do everything in my power to never board another plane again until this is turned around.

  28. Omar says:

    Mistake #1: Showing up in the security line less than an hour before departure time, especially for an international flight.

  29. Nicki says:

    I am sorry for your experience, those sorts of situations are always annoying and make you feel powerless.
    I would like to say that to say that because of a few less than curtious people (which unfortunately every company has), ultimately, the TSA was trying to do their job.
    It sucks that the line was that long. Maybe you should have gotten there much earlier simply to make sure that you would have had enough time.
    If your bags were not screened thoroughly and something had happened on a flight that day, people would have absolutely no problem blaming the TSA for not being vigilant enough.
    It sucks, lines are long, there are compounded problems in service with profit seeking airlines (although that is part of capitalism) and multiple lines being drawn with who is responsible for what between airlines, the FAA and the TSA, but to say that they caused you to miss your flight is just as problamatic.
    Best of luck in future travels.

  30. Jon says:

    Anyone who still flights is a stubborn idiot. I mean come on! Who in his right mind would flight this days, I JUST HATE HAVING TO FLY. I’ll rather change my job than having to fly with a bunch of people making my life miserable.

  31. [...] My Wonderful Trip To South Africa That Didn’t Happen Thanks To The TSA And Delta Airlines | NetStu… Fly the Friendly Skies… (tags: airlines tsa security) [...]

  32. Kris J says:

    I feel your pain. I traveled for 6 months straight last year and had nothing but bad experiences with the TSA. Regarding problems with time I live by the rule of get to the airport 2.5 hours before your flight leaves. This leaves a nice buffer for when things like this occur. I remember standing in line in Atlanta for an hour and several people missed their flight but I still had a nice 45 minute cushion to grab something to eat and relax a little before the flight.

  33. Mesrop says:

    You got what was coming to you. Death Threat Blah blah… If your flight is at 6:30 you should have been at the airport at 3:30AM and you know you were wrong because you posted you were there “ontime”…(what does that mean, 45 minutes before your flight? My last flight cost $2065 and I was there 3 hours early because A) I wanted to make my flight and B) I didn’t want to deal with any BS. Whats your excuse… you said it y ourself your heart wasn’t into it.

  34. Ravi says:

    To the many dipshits who keep claiming it’s the passenger’s fault for not showing up on time – read his god-damned responses first.

    Delta opens at 5 AM. His flight was at 6:30 AM. Delta manages distribution of passengers among the security lines. Showing up 3 (or even 2) hours early wasn’t going to do much to help.

    Missing his flight is entirely and exclusively the fault of Delta. No one else.

  35. Ian Holmes says:

    That sucks. But let’s face it, flying is heavily subsidised by governments; we can’t afford it as a planet; and it’s time we all stopped relying on it so much.

  36. Need an Advil says:

    The narrator is “shaking” from stress by the time he enters the x-ray line. I doubt his courteous manner considering this level of tension. His anger has even spilled over into the secure area when he decides to kill time before his rescheduled flight by logging complaints and asking for badge numbers, almost exacerbating the problem. If he were really that humble with the employees I am sure it would have translated itself into complete relief, as opposed to revenge, once he made it across with a new flight. We are subject to the censored version of a story about cranky people who, as evidenced by the narrator’s tardiness, probably had one too many the night before.

  37. John says:

    I do want to say you got lucky on the baggage front. Alaska lost my bag on the last trip i took to SFO (from SAN) (how someone loses a bag on a direct flight within the same state is beyond me). It took more than two months to get a measly $500 out of them (after 1 1/2 months of “searching” and another half month of “arbitration”). Meanwhile, I have to basically re-purchase my wardrobe and don’t have money to buy a new bag because I didn’t have a reciept, a lovely experience that obviously pales in comparison to yours.

  38. John says:

    Dennis, the security checkpoint is a federally mandated procedure. I pay my taxes the same as any other person (no matter WHAT price they paid for their ticket). They should get in the same line I do, no matter what.

  39. John says:

    @ Stack
    Not flying an american airline is a luxury. If you’re a govt employee you are required, by law, to “Fly American” whenever possible

  40. Mike says:

    > I just want to point out to all that the Delta desk only opens at 5:00 AM. So arriving 3 hours early would have done me no good for a 6:30 AM flight.

    Then why was the security line so full if you got to the
    Delta desk at 5am and were immediately checked in (at the 1st class

  41. Ted Sbardella says:

    Thanks for that sad story. I know now to get the airport 4 hours early with my DS a couple of books and a well charged mobile

  42. Think about getting to the airport a couple hours before your flight?

  43. JayCee says:

    It sounds like a terrible day. I have some experience with the airlines and have had similar terrible days. It seems that once Delta has your money that is the end of that. good luck getting it all back even if they were to cancel the flight and never have it again. We have as a group let them set the policy on how they take our money for a service and even if that service was not provided they seem to find a way to keep it. the only way to change the system is to find alternatives. I know that it is sometimes not feasible but I try to do my best. the TSA is taking over the document checking at my airport so there is no longer a first class line for the privileged few. The private contract companies are the worst of all. they know whatever they do the TSA will end up taking the heat. I do not excuse the way that they acted but at least at the airport that I use they are for the most part friendly and at least tolerable. I feel your pain because I know that I have it better here than most. good luck on getting your money back.

  44. Joe says:

    Wayne, I’ve worked at an airport for over four years now. The one thing I’ve learned is that airline passengers are some of the rudest people in the world. The main reason we have employees like “Jackie” is because they have to endure being treated like crap everyday. I would have to say I encounter 1 or 2 pleasant people a day as opposed to about 50 rude ones. Now to get to my point. I disagree with the fact that you placed these peoples names in your blog. I understand you were just trying to vent, but how can all of us reading this be sure that you were telling the truth. Suppose the roles were reversed and you were Jackie and Jackie was you. You may have been very professional and kind and doing your job, and Jackie was a rude passenger running late giving you a hard time. You might not have done anything wrong, but what if Jackie decided to blog about you and how supposedly rude and unprofessional you were to her and put your name along with other innocent people’s names in the blog. And what if hundreds of people read it and believed it. Now if she did that wouldn’t that be libel.

    I’m not saying all airline employees are innocent because I’ve met my share of “Jackies.” Just try to do what I do every time I fly. Be as kind and pleasant as possible to the airline employees no matter how they act. Maybe your kindness will have some impact on them and they in turn will be kind and pleasant to all the passengers they encounter later that day. Maybe if enough people do this, airline travel will become better and more enjoyable over the years. Just a thought.

  45. Charles says:

    I’m Canadian and fly domestically *a lot*, internationally regularly. In my biased experience, Canadian airports are by far the most secure and customer friendly I’ve ever flown through.

    On a recent (my first) trip to New York I was stunned to see how lax the security was at the airport. I actually stood there wondering if I’d been through security or just some odd check point. It was clear that the Homeland Security people take themselves entirely too seriously, though. Arriving at my destination my checked bag had been rifled through, hastily taped shut with a note inside telling me that Homeland Security had done a hand search. They broke the good quality zipper on a very expensive bag. I have no recourse. Getting up into the Statue of Liberty was higher security than getting into the United States.

    Weeks later flying through Charlotte, NC en route to San Jose, Costa Rica, again I was stunned at how lax security was (not even looking at my passport when boarding). Again, arriving at my destination Homeland Security had opened, hand-searched, taped closed and damaged my checked bag.

    My dad worked in airport security back in the 80′s so I obsessively show up 2 hours before domestic and upwards of 5 hours before international flights. We all know of the BS at airports so I take it upon myself to do as much as possible to not miss a flight…I never have.

    Flying out of Heathrow earlier this year I actually left for the airport 6 hours prior to departure (an estimated 30 minute drive) because of potential M4 delays, check-in delays and security delays. Sure enough, although all of my details were confirmed before leaving home, Air Canada couldn’t immediately find me in their computer system resulting in a 40 minute delay checking in. I wasn’t stressed because of the massive time cushion I’d built in.

    I would sooner wait at the airport for an 4 extra hours and know I’ll get on the plane than arrive just on time and be stressed.

    That said, I purposefully avoid U.S. airports when I can as they’ve proven to me that generally, they’re completely inefficient, not designed for customers and really, not overly safe even with military personnel with machine guns in-hand ‘guarding’ the food court such as at Laguardia.

    In Edmonton, Alberta there is a priority security line for disabled customers that is used as part of the regular queues if nobody is in that specific line. My last flight through Edmonton was around midnight and that priority line was the only one open. I was through in minutes.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Wayne. I’ll consciously avoid Delta in the future. I’ve heard stories of them being notoriously late and over-booking, but have never flown them personally.

  46. Wayne Slavin says:

    @Joe, I seriously thought about your point regarding including the names of the people that I dealt with. Eventually I decided that, this being the internet, had not included those kinds of details that my story would just be regarded as a fairy tale. It is not my intention to harm the employees of Delta/GAT/TSA.

    The masses and companies need to be made aware of the abuses taking place on the ground floor at airports all over the country.

    I trust that some people will see this and be more willing to report their own experiences while traveling. The run around that I got from the TSA/Delta would have caused 90% of people to write the day off and never file any complaint – the only way we will get action is if we complain and I’m pretty sure Homeland Security doesn’t forbid us from criticizing companies… yet.

  47. max says:

    Next time you should just walk.

  48. Mike says:

    > I just want to point out to all that the Delta desk only opens at 5:00 AM. So arriving 3 hours early would have done me no good for a 6:30 AM flight.

    You say your flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30 am. You say you left the security line 45 minutes before your flight. That’s 5:15 am. You say 15 minutes elapsed before you left the line, that’s 5am. You spend time talking to the woman in front of you, and before that, waiting a few minutes in line. And then before that you had to
    spend time checking in. So the Delta desk opened well before 5am.

    Your story doesn’t add up.