Fuck You Delta Airlines, You Fucking Fuckers.

(photo courtesy Jennie Zed)


It was way past bedtime when we finally got home. I put our girls to bed while John called to locate our missing bags and I was almost asleep when he finally came to bed looking grim. Apparently, because we hadn’t stopped to file a claim for our luggage before we left the airport, they wouldn’t help him on the phone. “Fuck Delta. Fucking fuckers,” was all he could say before he pulled the comforter over his face.

Now, my man is not the bellicose type, so when he curses, it’s almost funny. I would have giggled if I wasn’t so exhausted. I don’t think he has ever punched a wall, not even as a teenager. He doesn’t yell or say things he’d later regret and he’d definitely score higher than most people, including me, on any test of sensitivity or tact. But during the last 24 hours, while I practiced deep breathing, fought to keep my expectations low, and slowly retreated (from the dirty-scalp-stench of the chatty stranger sitting beside me, the impossible sprints through labyrinthine corridors, the cardboard pizza with oily, brown lettuce on the side, the pain in my ass, and the constant sound of our daughters bickering) to a dark place deep inside, I had been peripherally aware or my lovely husband morphing into a barking, thin-lipped rager.

My theory is that in a relationship, you can’t have two of something: We can’t all go crazy or fall apart at the same time, you won’t find two good guys in the same room, and you’re never both happy simultaneously. Well, maybe not never, but most of the time there’s something about a marriage (or any pairing, any duo) that pulls people towards polar opposites. I don’t mean that opposites attract, although that may be true, but that, by taking one stance or filling one role we compel our partners to take an equal, opposite stand for the sake of balance. But maybe I’m digressing. For now, suffice it to say that from the moment you buy your airline ticket, any amount of pessimism you can muster will certainly help you survive the trip. It was John’s hope for the best and his trust in human kindness that tripped him up, big time.

So when he went back to work the next day, I took over the task of finding our lost baggage. Since we’d checked our toiletries, I borrowed shampoo from the neighbor and the girls and I shared an old toothbrush. I bathed them, made breakfast, then plugged them into some PBS kids so I could make the calls. An hour and a half later, I still had not been able to contact a human being who could help me so I sent an email to the Customer Care address I found not on their website, but on a fellow (disgruntled) passenger’s blog.

Re: Delayed Baggage
Dear Customer Care,
I can’t reach anyone by phone and the website was not helpful.
Last night, after over 12 hours of delayed travel from New Orleans to Atlanta to Phoenix to Oakland (not our original itinerary, mind you) with two young kids, of course our bags were mislaid. Since we ended up at Oakland and our bags were sent to San Francisco, we didn’t even bother to look for them when we arrived, we just took our kids home to bed. Now, Delta says that since we didn’t file a claim in person and had to switch to a different airlines midway (not our original plan, mind you), that Delta is not responsible for our luggage. Apparently, you have my bag and my carseat in your baggage area but you will not deliver or give it to me. If I want our bags, I have to drive to San Francisco, file a claim, and then wait for the luggage to be transferred to the other airline before I can pick it up.
Now, this just doesn’t seem right. We have the baggage stubs you gave us when we paid extra to check the bags, after all, and I’m sure you have a policy for what to do in cases like ours. Please tell me what I need to do.
Sincerely, Anna Fonté

I didn’t get a reply that day, so the next day, I got up early to call again, thinking that maybe I should remember my own theory about relationships; maybe, by trying to be reasonable, I was just pushing Delta Airlines to do the opposite. Resolved to amend my tactics, I dialed the 800 number again. The lines were busy but if I gave my name and number, they would call me back in an hour and eight minutes. In the meantime, we took more baths and I did the laundry from our carry-on bags.

Finally, while I was feeding the girls lunch, “Felicia” called me back. At first she would not tell me where the bags were because I didn’t have a “real claim number”. She repeated: Unless I drove to San Francisco, no one would help me.
First, I tried being snotty, thinking maybe that would force “Felicia” to play nice. I said, “And what guarantee do you have that if I drove to SFO, someone would help me?”

“The airport is full of people whose job it is to serve you.”

Oh, she was good. She had skipped over nice and went straight for the bald-faced lie and patronizing tone. So I tried to win her sympathy: “Felicia, I have two kids. How am I going to drive to San Francisco if I don’t have my carseat?”

“That is not my concern. They’re your kids, not Delta’s.”

Yet, I persisted. “You do realize that everyone is out shopping for Christmas. It will probably take me at least an hour to get there, plus an hour to get home?”

“Nevertheless, if you want your luggage, you’ll need to come get it.”

“So let me get this straight.” I thought that maybe if I started acting crazy, she’d have to say something sane. “You want me put my two kids in my car, tell the little one to duck down so no cops see her without a carseat, pray I don’t have an accident, pay toll across the bridge, and pay for parking, even though we’re in this mess because we paid Delta extra to check our bags?”

Silence.

“Okay, Felicia. When I get to the airport, should I go to Delta’s luggage claim area or the other airline’s?”

“You’ll have to work that out when you get here. It’s out of my hands.”

Finally, after another half hour of reverse psychology, veiled threats, and so many deep, calming breaths I nearly passed out, I got Felicia to agree to transfer the bags to Oakland. I figured, Oakland is our home and these are my people so surely I’d find a real human being to help? But the stench still lingered like a dark cloud—the smell of recycled air, cardboard pizza, and dirty scalp—and as I scrubbed my girls in the bath once again, I told myself to hold on to my pessimism. Don’t succumb to the dark force of the light, I repeated. If worse comes to worst, we could always take BART. I’d pack a lunch; we’d make a day of it.

That night John came home late from work with dark circles under his eyes. “Any news about our bags?” He asked, hopelessly.

I gave him my cheeriest smile. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all under control.”

The next day, I called Oakland. A man looked up the baggage numbers and said they were still in SFO. Turns out, “Felicia” had lied just to get me off the phone. In a spasm of dismay and self-defeat, I planted the kids in front of the television again and spent at least an hour on the computer tracking down the names and email addresses of Delta customer service representatives—again, I did not find this information on the Delta website, but from the many desperate posts of fellow passengers I found floating in the ether like impotent screams for help.
Re: Missing/Stolen luggage
Delta Airlines:
NO ONE WILL HELP ME. NO ONE I SPEAK TO WILL EVEN TELL ME THEIR LAST NAME. IT’S BEEN FOUR DAYS AND WE STILL DON’T HAVE OUR BAGS.
Four days plus the horrific 12+ hour day of delays and last-minute changes, with two suffering children in tow (one caught a cold along the way), we finally landed in OAK but our baggage had gone to SFO. We just went home and put our poor kids to bed. Was that a crime?
Apparently it was because now, Delta is yanking my chain. First, you claim you aren’t responsible because we ended up on another carrier, even though we paid you extra to check our bags and you had them in your baggage area. Then, you said you would not deliver them because we had not filed a claim. How would we know to file a claim if we landed in the wrong airport? Nobody warned us that if we didn’t stand in another long line at the airport that night, we would be punished. Finally, “Felicia” said she’d transfer the bags to Oakland and we could make arrangements from there, but Oakland never got them and I can’t get through to SF.
1. FOUR DAYS IS PUNISHMENT ENOUGH FOR WHATEVER CRIME WE COMMITTED IN INCONVENIENCING YOU FOR FLYING DELTA.
2. HOW AM I GOING TO DRIVE IN MY CAR TO GET MY BAGGAGE AND CARSEAT WHEN I DON’T HAVE A CARSEAT? DO YOU THINK I SHOULD BUY ANOTHER CARSEAT SO THAT I CAN GO PICK UP MY CARSEAT? BUT THEN I’LL BE BREAKING THE LAW AND ENDANGERING MY CHILD AGAIN TO GET TO THE STORE!!!! THIS MAKES NO SENSE!
3. IS THIS REALLY HOW DELTA TREATS PEOPLE?
Our bags numbers are 6006DL909790 AND 6006DL916154. There’s an older-model gray carseat with stickers all over and a big old-fashioned floral mod black-and-white suitcase you can’t miss. They both have sentimental value and we really would like to have our toothbrushes, PLEASE.
Fiercely, Anna Fonté

There was no answer that day. The next day, I got up early to put my name in the call-back line. Later, “Janice” called. We had the conversation from the day before all over again. I repeated it all and heard the same response, verbatim. Redundancy and despair had pushed my voice to a high, pinched whine that sounded so pathetic that it made me want to shake myself or slap a hand over my own mouth to make it stop. I looked over to where my girls sat huddled together on the sofa, staring not at the television but at me, with terrified expressions. I gave them the thumbs up and carried the phone into the closet and shut the door so they couldn’t hear.

My voice cracked into the phone. “Janice, did you ever have to help a kid pee in a room that’s 2 by 3 feet small? Do you have kids? Is there any way to do it without touching those puddles on the sides?”

“It’s not our policy to discuss personal information. Is there anything else you need to know?”

“Well, my nose is still full of the smell of that blue toilet disinfectant.” It was dark in that closet and the sound of the television thudded on the other side of the door. I told her, “From Atlanta to Phoenix I was sitting next to this young guy in military fatigues who smelled homeless and talked nonstop. I guess he was in some special high-tech branch of the Air Force. He said they were training him how to hack into any cell phone he wanted. He told me, ‘Did you know that with a flick of my wrist, I could ruin your life as you know it? It would take you months, if not years, to recover.’ Do you think he was telling the truth, Janice? Could he do that?”

“I wouldn’t know. Are we done with this conversation?”

“Almost. Just a few more questions. I wonder, what’s the opposite of stoic? Is it hysterical? Or maybe the opposite is paranoid? Did you ever read Catch-22?”

“Excuse me?”

“Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Such a great book if you like that kind of thing… I think you’d like it. Janice, do you think they took those new pictures of us in the security checkpoint? The ones that can see right through your clothes? I guess I was too stressed-out to notice what was happening. Does the airport have photos of me naked? Do you think they took pictures of my kids?”

At this point, something shifted. “Janice” must have heard the magic word, some trigger in the tone of voice or combination of words I was using. She lowered her voice and said, “I think your luggage might be on its way to Oakland now, via Seattle or possibly Portland. It might arrive there by tomorrow if everything goes well.” She cleared her throat of what sounded like a large plug and continued under her breath: “I’m not 100% sure but I do know that if you don’t come to the airport within the next eight hours to file a legitimate claim, those old baggage numbers will be recycled and assigned to other bags, and your luggage will probably be lost forever.”

“Really? Really, Janice?”

“Really. And you won’t be compensated because you can’t prove Delta lost them. I know, it’s all sort of crazy but that’s the way it is. I really can’t help you.”

I thanked her. We said goodbye. I joined my kids on the sofa and spent the last hours of daylight making a list of the things I’d never see again: my one good bra, my electric toothbrush, my favorite tweezers, the girls’ new fancy party dresses and all their Christmas presents, John’s good suit, our well-worn jeans, the cashmere scarf I had splurged on, and my best boots. Goodbye. Goodbye to the funky mod suitcase I found at the thrift store and the trusty, battered carseat that had kept both girls safe for so many years. I avoided my husband’s forlorn inquiry at the dinner table and we went to bed early.

The next morning, John walked out the front door and then stuck his head back in. “It’s here,” he called before shutting the door behind him.

I rushed down in my pajamas and stood in the doorway, scratching my head. There they were—the suitcase and the carseat, wrapped in clear plastic and apparently unscarred. Almost as if nothing had happened.

About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

22 comments

  1. Lisa Chipkin

    Oh, the madness! Oh, the senseless torture! So well portrayed- I felt your angst reading this!

  2. You got my heart racing. fantastic story.

  3. I confess that, since I like to string f-words together in creative ways, along with other similar words that often defy the laws of physics, your title caught my eye. This story is sad but hilarious; maybe everyone should just stop at UPS before they leave for home and ship their bags to themselves instead of checking them onto the plane. Laughed the loudest at your closing line to your one email: “Fiercely”. Thanks for a good read. Glad you folks got your bags back, by the way.

    • Why, thank you, trailertrashdeluxe! I’m always glad to hear that my pain was not for nothing– at least you got a good chuckle! This post was by far the most popular post I’ve ever written, probably because of the f-words in the title, although I’m not sure if all the folks who ended up on my blog got what they were looking for, if you know what I mean. Thank you for reading!

  4. OMG! This piece is sooo good, and it evokes that whole bizarro world of “customer service” so well, that I had to resort to self amusing teen speak to help get the contact kink out of my neck! I was so glad you got your luggage back, that I jumped up in my chair and scared the cat!

    Just finished petting the poor dear to calm her down… I’ve had too much experience in trying to deal with companies who “want and value my business.” The most satisfying complaint I ever lodged was on my own Facebook page and then on the business in question’s page. They worked so hard to get me to take it down, that I eventually received dinner for two and a $50 dollar gift certificate to make it go away! Of course, they were a local (although supposedly high class) shopping mall, and not a creepy airline or phone company that doesn’t seem to have to care. I’m just glad that the (mercifully!) decent human you spoke to last, was able to do something to help! I know from personal experience, how awful it feels to need a job and hate the ridiculous and awful things you need to say and do in an attempt to keep it. I think she did something in an effort to save her own soul, as well as to help you!

    Yay you, for your persistence and eventual victory!

  5. Thanks for the comment! I think this kind of customer service debacle is becoming a common shared experience. I don’t think I will voluntarily board a plane any time soon, especially not with my kids– the horror of this experience is still too real. And honestly, I don’t think Janice had anything to do with my luggage arriving– that was just a freak fluke– but at least she was honest and real with me at the end, and for that I am (ironically) grateful.

  6. OMG! I can’t describe in word what I would’ve done to them if I were there. These people keep playing the same record all over again, like they’re any help at all. They’re paid for what? Annoy other people? This is just insane!!
    I pity you…

  7. Aynnie

    I don’t fly at all, but my husband does!! We drive with our two daughters all the time on trips, and the only benefits are that we sit next to family exclusively and have all our luggage when we arrive (except the things we forgot at home.) This is just proof positive (other than my fucking fear of heights and loss of fucking control) of why I, personally, should avoid air travel. Thank you for your informative and fierce insights.

    • I have not flown a fucking plance since this happened. I mean, maybe if it was without the kids, non-stop to Paris, I could suck it up. But for a kids-in-tow cheapest-tickets-we-could-find trip with stop overs (the only trips we’d probably ever take), someone’s going to have to knock me out to get me on the plane.
      Thanks for reading!

  8. Really liked this story Anna. It does suck to travel and it does feel good to swear if the swear words are used properly, which yours are. The more I read the better I know you.

  9. You get the award for perserverance. I can’t imagine what I would do but I know I would be mega – pissed. I don’t fly for all of the reasons in your story. You pay to get disrespected. I would much rather watch a travel video. I tell everyone who lives far away that they can come visit me and put up with the hassle. They reward a stay at my “Casa de Paz”.
    My mode of travel is non- flying – cruising. If I can’t take the ship without flying we don’t go. A vacation is supposed to be enjoyable. Airlines have taken the fun out of traveling. They should all go bankrupt. We’d be better off without them.
    WOW …. you exposed my feelings.
    Fire coming otu of Head …
    Isadora

  10. 80% of the universe is made up of Dark Matter. And that’s what I blame everything I can’t explain on. So blame this whole experience on Dark Matter.

  11. I’ve had this experience on United! Great title, by the way. Sounds like something my husband would say…or me.

    • If you use the f word, you get a LOT of attention, let me tell you! When I’m feeling a bit down, I drop an f bomb, watch my graph of readers shoot up, and feel much better. Cheap thrills, for sure. (Thanks for stopping by!)

  12. You’re a seriously talented writer, and finding your blog is bliss. I love all I’ve read so far, and in time I intend to read every single one of your posts.Your reading preferences also make me smile, as I find there books (and authors) I couldn’t possibly live without… Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for reading, Nina! I agree, books feed me every day and there are certain books that I read over and over because they make my life so much more meaningful. I wonder which ones you love. Thanks again.

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