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. jenjen says:

    Arriving early sometimes does get you something even if the desk doesn’t open at 3:30. What it gets you is a better spot in the line. But sometimes when there’s a delay cascade, the line becomes irrelevant. I had an international flight out of San Diego out of Terminal 2. I arrived three hours early and STILL almost missed the flight. Eventually, the line became just a linear crowd that didn’t move, as airline personnel would call out the next flight leaving and all of those people got to rush up to the front so they could check in and have a chance of not missing their flights. On this occasion, the security people did let us riff-raff use the First Class line but it was the beginning of a bad-weather delay day and they could see that if they didn’t do something they weren’t going to be able to contain the crowds in the building.

    With your name in the records now, I would not be surprised if you have difficulty flying in the future. I think it’s absolutely shocking how you were treated by the guards and I completely agree about the complete lack of redress that consumers have when it comes to the non-TSA, non-airline portion of the security process. There is no transparency as to who these people are, how they are screened and hired, what training they’ve had or not had, yet we show them our IDs and plane tickets so they know our names, addresses, and how long we’ll be out of our homes. I feel safe, yep.

  2. Bill Cooke says:

    I got screwed out of a trip to Iceland because of Delta. They were rude and terribly unprofessional. Let’s all boycott the bastards.

  3. CDX says:

    Have you been under a rock for 6 years? Sexurity wait times are longer thanb ever. The TSA is dumber than ever and anythinhg you do can result in you being declared a terrorist.

    Meanwhile the bigger message of your story is that had you actually just been quiet, stood in line and not caused a fuss you really would have made your flight.

    While it sounds like you had a crappy experience it feels like a lot of it was brought on yourself.

  4. Annette says:

    I for one am shocked that these people were allowed to throw out that false accusation of a death threat without repercussion – that alone merits losing their job, regardless of all the awful behaviour they exhibited toward you!

    When I worked for an airline, as small an infraction as showing up to work late could get you fired. This is unacceptable, criminal and has to be stopped!

  5. Sam says:

    The TSA does have a dedicated and very efficient department for dealing with complaints and they actually do take care of things. Unfortunately the contact information for that department is top secret along with the rest of their rules.

  6. Stephen says:

    I have no sympathy for anyone attempting to fly. What kind of person willingly gives up their right to be secure in the privacy of their belongings just so they can get somewhere faster?

    Privacy is so hard for the rest of us to fight for because of everyone who abandons it for the sake of convenience. Stop being so selfish.

  7. Sam says:

    Mike: “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.”

    6:30 – 45 minutes = 5:15? Interesting theory. I would like to see your work.

  8. Dion says:

    If I were you, I would talk to a lawyer and sue their asses. These “big daddy” companies need to be taught a lesson. They can’t walk all over us and screw us out of what is rightfully ours. The US has gone down the crapper since 9/11. “F” this country. I’m sad to say that I happen to be a citizen here.

  9. Gorun says:

    To all the people who are saying things like “you didn’t show on time”, “it’s your fault, don’t blame others”, and especially “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part…” – I hope great great misery falls upon you at one point in your lives.

    Didn’t you hear about empathy, human factor etc etc. For example – I always help my neighbours to carry bags from the store etc. – if I would follow your logic I could tell them “hey, it’s your fault, why didn’t you plan ahead and made more children in your life – they could’ve help you to carry those bags”. I also always give seat to anyone older than 55-60 years on public transportation – same goes here, if you follow that logic – they should have made better plan – either by better organizing their lives not to depend on public transportation or something like that. You know how they say: “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part…”

    I know this is not good analogy since in those situations it ISN’t my JOB to help those people, but voluntary action, but nevertheless, my point is – even if he did show up late, given the circumstances they’ve could be enough human to sort this thing in his favor – no one would loose anything in that case, and Wayne would catch his flight. Just by arguing with him, sending him back in queue, lying that he didn’t know those people in the row etc. etc. would be enough for him to catch his flight (like he said – he missed actual flight for 2 minutes).

    I just can’t understand how can you be so heartless and cold to say “it’s your fault, don’t blame it on others”. It’s entirely obvious that practically all people Wayne encountered on airport acted like a$$holes, I just can’t understand how anyone in their right mind can defend them. To me this is not much different than saying to person whose child got hit by a car “sorry to break it to you, but you obviously did poor job in instructing your child how to behave in traffic”.

    Well, like I said, we can only hope for great misery for people who’re making Wayne into villain here (I can’t believe how Need an Advil turned this story upside down – “everything would be swell, only if Wayne wasn’t such rude person, and went on molesting poor honest, fellow compatriot-loving airport stuff”

  10. isabel says:

    I’m shaking just reading this. I’m sorry this happened to you: you didn’t deserve it.

  11. wordwarp says:

    I had a similar experience.

    I showed up insufficiently early for a Saturday morning flight during the Christmas holiday. There was no way I was going to make the flight.

    No unlike this nutless weenie, I pulled out a stack of $20 bills and started bribing my through LAX.

    First thing I did was cut the entire outside 300 person line, and walked diretly to Southwest’s Skycap station. I put two $20s on the e-ticket printout and explained to him that I was going to miss the flight if I stood in the line.

    He smiled, said, “Wait here,” and took the itinerary and the 2 $20s to a counter. He printed out “RUSH” stickers for my bags and told me to follow him. “Just stay behind me, I’ll get you there.”

    Our first stop was the bag x-ray. I handed him another $20 for the guy working the machine, and he understood it was for the guy working the machine. Front of the line, cut right past all the other bags, and whammo, done with that part.

    Then to the security line. I decided to withhold actually giving the ID checker money, but my Knight made it unncessary — we went right to the front, he opened up the velvet rope and she checked my ticket and ID.

    I had a computer bag and we needed to make one more stop at the metal-detector. He cut me right to the front of that line too, off came my shoes and out came the computer and I was ready to walk through, but before doing so, handed him another 2 $20s for a job well done. “Thanks, and share the wealth — Merry Christmas!” I said, and a few minutes later I was walking onto my plane.

    The whole process took less than 5 minutes, and cost $100 total.

    If I had missed the flight, I would have spent the whole day at the airport, and a three hour flight would have become a ten hour, minimum, day of travel.

    So, I saved 7 hours, say, at the cost of $100.

    What is your time worth, per hour, on the holidays? I would say much more; at least mine is.

  12. Loren Pechtel says:

    You didn’t arrive in time. The timeline you give shows you cut it awfully tight. Since the airport only opens at 5 I would have been there right when it opened. You obviously weren’t.

  13. Bob says:

    I absolutely hate Delta and go out of my way to fly any other airline. They stranded me in Atlanta during the first controllers strike and didn’t care in the least, They did nothing for me.

  14. Nationalism is not Patriotism.

    Note academic citations there.

  15. Rob says:

    I may be different from most, but Delta has been the carrier that I’ve had the best luck with over the years. Most of my truly crappy airline travel experiences have come courtesy of American or Airtran. And I will echo what others have said in regards to getting to the airport early. I get to the airport two hours early, even for early morning domestic flights. If there’s no one at the counter yet, I just kill time with the laptop with the guarantee of being the first in line to the counter and getting through security with a minimum of fuss.

    Having said that, the thing that really sucks about the TSA in particular, and air travel in the United States in general, is that we as consumers have no recourse when we’re mistreated either by the airlines or by the TSA. If you dare to speak up, as you almost found out, you are either explicitly or implicitly declared to be a terrorist. The only options we have are not to fly, or to lay down and take it from the TSA and airlines.

  16. myvtol says:

    sorry dude…. my brother-in-law works at orlando internetional and had a tsa employee run her fingers through his lunch just to get to work. he has to do this every day.

  17. Nick says:

    It’s great to see how many people complain about turning up earlier but don’t bother to read the 5am opening reply… If it were up to them, we’d all arrive the night before our flight with tents and sleeping bags.

  18. D McDonald says:

    Typical arrogant South Africaner. Think you’re better and can show up late and cut lines? Then when it doesn’t work you have a hissy fit and call the police? Get a life. This is America, those poor people working aren’t your SLAVES, you have no right to abuse them for your airlines faults. If you want first class, buy a first class ticket, don’t try to make a scene to sneak your way through because you think you are superior person than they are.

  19. Alan says:

    Sounds like you are just a whiney bitch. Maybe you could have gotten to the airport earlier to leave plenty of time to go thru security. Even so, certainly you could have handled the situation better. If you truly checked in on time and the security line was going abnormally slow, the airline would have made sure you got thru.

    Dude, you fucked up. Stop wasting our time on the internets.

  20. angry says:

    Reading this story made me so angry that I am sweating. Every word made me want to scream!

    Ugh, I hate people like this… stupid idiots…

  21. jacob says:

    you purchased this ticket on a credit card. By law in the US, you have upto 90 days from the day you receive your credit card statement in the mail to dispute any charges. This is automatic – there’s no special insurance coverage or anything like that to use this ability. It’s part of the law. Dispute the $225 and let the credit card company battle it out with the airline.

  22. Jacqueline says:

    Delta appears to tell its employees to blatantly lie to customers in order to get whatever they want. They tell you whatever they think you need to hear to get you to do or think what works best for them. The general public has such a huge disadvantage because we have no access to information. I have been writing to my congressmen about the airlines, b/c there has to come a time that congress steps in and tells the airlines to stop lying to customers who are paying for their services. You should write to congress and tell them about your experience b/c the behavior of these people is criminal. Ever notice that flying is really just lying with an f in front of it? I get that driven home to me EVERY time i fly.

  23. Ausmith says:

    Those terrorist dry-runs you mention were bogus, just another thing that the TSA made up…

  24. Pike says:

    I have about 28,000 miles so far this year and don’t think this is a problem particular to Delta, it’s travel folks! Things are going to happen, people are going to be rude, loud, smelly, others nice, sweet, engaging…etc. Gee, why doesn’t every little thing always go like clockwork? Suppose you are living 100 yrs ago, did people miss boats and trains? Of course they did. They met moronic people in positions of power who messed up their plans. We do too, its a mine field out there, every airport, hotel, taxi stand, shuttle shelter and car rental booth all present opportunities for our plan of travel to unravel. Sometimes that last two minutes you took to grab a newspaper/coffee/muffin makes a critical difference when you watch as the last cab pulls away. The best advice I have ever heard was to anticipate and plan for delays and problems. Its expensive, however we now travel a day early domestically, two days internationally. And Wayne you were cutting it too close for an international flight, so right away Mr. Murphy decided to accompany you to the airport in order to support his law. Imagine your experience in San Diego that day but getting there an hour earlier, now you are at the front of that twisting line as you turn to hear a frustrated late arrival begging on the first class line, since their flight leaves in 10 minutes! The flight time didn’t change, the airport was there, TSA was there, it seems it was you who wasn’t there. By not allowing for a problem you invited one. Lessons learned? Arrive early (and bring a good book) Safe travels to all and remember to plan for a problem (or two) and smile and be gratefull we have the luxury of jet travel that wisks us off to far flung places in a relative blink of an eye!

  25. Whip says:

    Mike – “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.”

    Actually, 45min before 6:30am is 5:45am, not 5:15.

    Yay math!

  26. Six says:


    There is no excuse for the behavior of most of those you encountered… Good for you for standing strong throughout…

    This is why I will not fly… That, and the fact that I am afraid to fly…


  27. Teddy says:

    Who cares if he got there 5 minutes or 5 hours beforehand? Delta’s lack of professionalism is troubling, all the same. Rudeness, round-arounds and groundless accusations of death threats are never okay.

  28. matt m says:

    All the morons criticizing Wayne are wrong. The lines are horrendous in the mornings. They are letting people bring lighters on the plane, but not coffee through security to the waiting area. The security is unmotivated, understaffed and under-equipped. I’ve actually seen them get a little better with the scanning, but they have no concern for the time wasting.

    Damn terrorists. If they weren’t completely mad I’d almost think they knew we’d react so stupidly as to destroy the experience of air travel. If someone pulls a box cutter out on a flight I’m on, it’s going in their brain.

  29. Marley says:

    I walked away from a boatload of Delta SkyMiles because I couldn’t stand their level of service.

    And a TSA employee once lectured me about how his airport was the safest in the nation as he picked over every square inch of my bags. He examined every item, tested for explosives, checked the thickness of the bag walls to search for hidden compartments. He did everything but sniff the underwear.

    And he let me through with my guitar and six sets of steel guitar strings. Can you say “garrotte,” boys and girls?

  30. kevin says:

    Classic case of defamation. The GAT Security woman “Jackie” made a false accusation and disclosed such allegation to a 3rd party. At that point, it amounts to slander and you have a claim against Jackie and her employer, GAT Security (who is responsible for her actions on the job.)

  31. delusr says:

    You probably flamed a TSA officer for asking a silly question on your forum :)

  32. Jeff says:

    The reason that your bag could fly on without you is that we do not do baggage-matching in the USA anymore. After 9/11, passenger baggage-matching (PBM) was a requirement and everyone remembers the frustration. If a person was re-routed, then their bags had to be found and re-routed with them.

    However, this changed when the TSA began screening all baggage in the cargo holds. Once all bags have been screened, the theory is that they don’t require one-to-one passenger matching because the dangerous items will not make it through screening. Essentially, the theory is that we don’t care if the passenger is not onboard because we know the luggage is not dangerous.

  33. james says:

    listen to john, he’s the only one who knows anything here … you’re just being too self-righteous about the whole thing

  34. Jens says:

    I was really cheesed when TSA of Omaha, NE converted two jars of marinated vegetables I was bringing back from Italy as presents. I don’t know if there was over 3 ounces of vinegar in the jar, but it fit in the ziploc and made it through JFK and Cincinatti screenings. TSA screener did not care that his bretheren in the prior two airports had no trouble, but these were not going in the cabin of that flight. My option was to check them in with my luggage. (but my bags are probably already on the plane) I said ok but by that time I had “surrendered” the item and once “surrendered” there is no getting it back. My option was to talk to the authorities, but I really needed to get home and thoughts of going away to jail made discretion the better part of valor. I don’t feel so bad anymore. Maybe next time I will surrender a gallon of water. Imagine if 100 people surrendered a gallon of water.

  35. Mark R says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I did read the entire article – mostly for the fact that I have had similar problems with TSA security at San Diego. For a while, I was traveling through San Diego about once per month with the SAME set of bags, toiletries, and computer equipment. I started with a grooming kit I received for Christmas: a small file, small pointed scissors (less than 1 inch blades), small rounded-tip scissors (same size), large clippers, and small clippers. On each trip through security every month, I would get a random piece of my toiletry kit confiscated until 5 trips later, they wouldn’t even let me pass through with my small fingernail clippers! On each pass, I would show them the matching toiletry kit with the outlines of the missing tools and that they were slowly stripping away a kit at random, but each month I was told “not to cause problems”, and that I “should know what’s acceptable” to take through TSA security. I told them that I was a pilot, I was aware of what was acceptable, and that small clippers, etc were just fine. “No, No, NO!” they insisted. I also would ask each month for a list of items that were not allowed so that I could show them that my simple items were allowed, but was then told that they could not show me for “security purposes” what was allowed at the gate, that I would have to look it up online at home. I tried to get names and badge numbers but was told that for national security reasons, they couldn’t give me that information. The TSA manager was always the same, and I’ve since destroyed my notes on the matter out of sheer frustration (and I only got her first name, never a full name nor a number I could call to make a complaint). I am still so frustrated by those experiences through SAN that I can’t even type a coherant description here, and it’s been almost a year since the last time I travelled through SAN!

  36. Mark R says:

    … I also forgot to mention that at random times through SAN D security, they have also tried to confiscate some of my computer/electronic equipment. (Computer, charger, phone, phone charger, cables to connect both, iPod, earbuds, and an iPod cable – all pretty standard and the ‘bare bones’ stuff you’d need with a laptop, cell phone, and iPod).

    I’d let them take my ferocious toenail clippers but stood fast and wouldn’t budge when they tried to confiscate some of my phone/iPod chargers/cords. I was told I had “too much” electrical equipment (again, it was a pretty bare-bones phone/laptop/iPod collection) and that I had to throw away some of it because I had exceeded “the limit”.

    Again, I’d push for a description of “the limit” of amount of electronic equipment, and if it passed the scan I should be able to take it. They tried to tell me again that they couldn’t describe what was/wasn’t allowed at the TSA screening gates, and that I’d have to “look it up online”.

    Each time, I got my electronics through security after waiting for a police officer to come over and ‘clear me’ (the Police were fine, the TSA were the one’s not ‘in-the-know’).

    GAH, just thinking about those agents at SAN D TSA is making me Stroke Out…

  37. Anna says:

    I’m with you, Wayne, and cheers to you for writing this all out and documenting it.
    Not sure why you’re getting so many negative comments, these people are truly nuts.
    I’ve been in similar situations to yours, and it’s totally frustrating that there is no line of recourse — even just to file a complaint!

    What can we do to fix this? I’m with you.

  38. dcx says:

    your digg link seems to be broken: it’s saying the article is “”.

  39. Jonathan Dotse says:

    I think the moral of this story (comments included) is that Delta sucks balls. I’ve been there too.

  40. All you people saying that he didn’t allow enough time… WAYNE POSTED TWO OR THREE TIMES THAT THE AIRLINE DIDN’T OPEN UNTIL 5:00 AM!

    He allowed enough time.

    Stop being apologists for this stupid-ass “security theater” — inconveniencing and humiliating passengers as a demonstration of security when, in fact, nearly all of these post 9/11 security measures are nothing but a dog-and-pony show for the public.

    Meanwhile, the general public gets increasingly accustomed to authoritarian treatment… so far confined to airports, but when some jack-ass terrorist blows up a train or a subway, you’ll have yet another arena where you have no civil rights whatsoever.

    Don’t believe me? Read this interview with the administrator of the TSA. (Posted upthread, but apparently most of you don’t read the comments before you post.

  41. John says:

    You get the government you deserve. When you figure that out and vote incumbents and incompetents out out of office and downsize the government, things will get better. Not before.


  42. Wayne Slavin says:

    @dcx, thanks for pointing that out… Both the digg and the reddit buttons were messed up. I removed them because nothing was fixing it. Kind of weird, the code is showing up properly and it was working all day… all of a sudden they are digging other stories.

  43. Jasper O waale says:

    Well I did not miss any flight but its been close, I have to say that I now try to plan around airports that have bad safety staff, I guess the best to do is to vote with you USD I do,

    One Idea to make a website only to give point for good and bad services, I like many others do 3-8 flights a months and always interested in avoiding the Jackie’s and others who failed to join the polices and now working Privately,

    Her is a good site if you like to share information on flight and airports it dont give you the option to rate any but do provide easy access to information and others who do fly allot

    All the best, and good flight

  44. rudolpho says:

    horseshit. when you people quit whining on your blogs and start DOING something about the state of affairs, i might actually give a shit.

  45. reishka says:

    Wow. I’m surprised how many people didn’t read the comments and then started bashing on you for ‘not arriving early enough’ … namely, two hours before your flight. If any of them had, they’d see that you arrived as early as you could.. when the desks opened! I read enough of the comments to read that not once.. but twice! So shame on them for deciding to jump on you about it.

    That aside, this kind of thing really disgusts me. All this stuff with the TSA screenings is garbage, and I’m surprised that we stand for it. I suppose that in a way we are forced to… and you either fly, or you don’t. For some of us, there’s no choice – we’re either going overseas or it’s just not possible to drive two days just for a business meeting to drive two days back.

    Sadly, it’s a strange and messed up world we live in.

  46. Steve says:

    What a flippin’ whiner you are. Seriously, people would have been more helpful if you didn’t have an entitled attitude. I work at the airport and if I’d encountered you…well… know. It’s the airline that determines the first class rules, not security. Pay more next time and don’t be such a baby. Shheeeshhh miss pissy proper pants, stay at home.

  47. Wes says:

    As a regular (weekly) air traveler, I sympathize. I have on several occassions gone to supervisors to document abusive behavior I have seen directed at other passengers, although I suspect nothing ever happens. We can only live in hope.

    However, I do want to correct one misconception you and many of the commenters have on security costs. TSA (meaning the government, meaning tax dollars, meaning you) does not pay for the direct costs of security. Airports and airlines pay almost all of the cost. In the case of 1Class lines, the airline has decided to pay extra for more equipment and extra labor (from TSA and contractors) to provide an extra service for their most profitable customers, and this service is paid for from ticket prices, not public monies. Not every airline does this, and not every location has an expedited line, but where they do it is their privilege and in no way is linked to the level of service at the normal lines.

    That being said, I have quit flying Delta long ago because they can’t seem to handle operations very well. (BTW, if you think the company is not spending appropriately on customer service, how much do you think they are splurging with on aircraft operations such as logistics and maintenance? Think about this when selecting your airline.)

  48. Richard says:

    Delta really shouldn’t book an international flight at a time that conflicts with their font desk schedule and makes it impossible to check in and get through security within the 3 hours. In that regard, at the least, they hold a great deal of the responsibility for the situation.

    And since it still seems to be coming up over and over and over, and in the hope that re-iterating it once again may help: to all those who are saying he didn’t get their early enough, he has repeatedly stated that Delta’s front desk doesn’t open until 5am. Not enough time to be there 3 hours ahead.

    And here’s hoping that this blame-the-consumer first attitude that is shockingly prevalent in the responses above is not an indication of things to come… The airlines certainly haven’t earned my trust or a shred of deference, I can tell you. One need only look at the statistics to see this is an industry problem, not a consumer problem.

  49. Jake says:

    That sucks to miss a trip like that. I hate getting up early, so I doubt I’d ever schedule a flight at 6:30 in the morning. I’m accustomed to unexpected delays, so I make it a rule to get to the airport 90 minutes before any long flight where I have to check bags.