The MIA to LGA Debacle

It has been a hectic month or so with work and a bunch of personal events and travel. Seeing family and friends and sharing experiences with them has been great, but my recent trip home from Miami was less than ideal.

The flight down to Miami was exactly how you wish every flight is – uneventful. Coming home was another story. I had arrived at the airport pretty early, about an hour and a half earlier than my departure. I hadn’t ate breakfast yet, so I went over to the food court area to grab a bite and kill time. I walked back over to my assigned gate and my flight had been delayed about two hours due air traffic control. Apparently NYC airports were experiencing high traffic and congestion and therefore we were taking off around 1pm instead of the scheduled 11am.

I was returning from a bachelor party so obviously this delay seemed about two days, not two hours. We finally board the plane and take off around 1pm headed for LGA. We were supposed to land around 330pm (originally scheduled for 130pm). I looked at my watch and 330pm came and went. I was wondering what was going on. Finally the co-pilot came on and said we were going to be hanging out in the airspace to the south of LGA while traffic cleared up. Oh great, more delays. Another 20 minutes or so passed and we get the announcement that we’ll be landing in about 10 or 15 minutes. It was very overcast that day so I couldn’t see anything out the window but clouds. Then I heard the landing gear come down and I thought “About time!”

Well I learned if the landing gear comes down, it doesn’t mean you are actually going to land. I could feel the plane pulling back up and the landing gear retract. It’s approaching 430pm at this time and the co-pilot comes on again. He said that we were low on fuel and headed to Bradley International and he’d have more information for us when we are on the ground there. For those of you not from the Northeast, Bradley International airport is in Connecticut half way between Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT.

About 20 minutes later we’re on the ground in Connecticut. Apparently people were not listening to the previous announcement because when we landed I heard a bunch of people saying things like “This isn’t LaGuardia!” or “Are we in Connecticut?” One girl in my isle that might of had one too many vodka sodas had to be told twice that we weren’t in New York. We get to our gate and the pilot comes on explaining what had happened (air traffic control basically would not let our plane land due to congestion), but had no idea what was going to happen next. I had already been traveling for about eight or nine hours at this point. I was starving as all I had was breakfast at the airport and some Delta peanuts. I was also a little pissed off since I was scheduled to land at LGA at about 130pm and it was now 530pm and I was in Connecticut.

They kept us on the plane for about a half hour and then said we could get off the plane and grab food and wait to hear more. Myself and many others had decided that this was our final destination and made other plans. Delta were unsure if and when the flight would be returning to LGA. I said “screw this! I’m taking Amtrak back to Penn Station.” I grabbed my carry on luggage and headed to the train station.

I got home around 1130pm (about 9 hours after originally planned) and was exhausted. I was just happy to be home, and wasn’t going to let a bad travel day ruin the fact that I had a blast the past few days.

The next day rolls around, and as you know I love to negotiate when I think the service or product I’ve received has not been worth what I had paid for it. I go on to Delta’s webpage and filed a complaint. I explained everything that happened which I discussed above, plus the fact that I’m a frequent Delta flyer for business and personal which is true. I asked to be compensated for the lack of information I was given throughout the whole process, my Amtrak ticket, and the delays.

So as you are probably wondering, let’s go over the numbers:

I had spent $230 on the flight which was a round trip Delta flight (LGA to MIA). I then spent $42 on an Amtrak ticket from Hartford, CT to Penn Station which I was not planning on. When the Delta representative responded to me the next day, they had said they were issuing me a $42 refund for my Amtrak ticket and 5,000 Delta points for my hassles. At first I was like well the $42 is nice and 5,000 points will get me maybe a fourth of a flight. I told my travel hacking friend what they had given me and he basically said it was terrible and that I need to respond back with another complaint, which is exactly what I did.

I basically laid out all the facts again, but in a harsher tone (not mean but I made it clear I was not happy with my service). They responded back quickly with a $50 gift and said they’d follow up with another email shortly. I thought the $50 gift would have to be used for Delta, but to my surprise (and delight) I was able to get a $50 Amazon gift card. Then I received another email saying I would get a $101 refund as well (why $101, I have no idea). So in the end, with my persistence, I received $101 refund, 5,000 Delta points, and $50 gift card. Not bad if I do say so myself, and Delta did not lose a customer in the process.

Have you been compensated for travel issues? How did you go about getting the best deal for yourself?

26 thoughts on “The MIA to LGA Debacle

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    Ah Delta, not one of my favorites. We have run into issue with them in the past. We try and avoid flying them if possible. I can’t recall being compensated for travel issues, but with any service issue, always being persistent with your complaint usually gets you the something in return. Nicely done.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I can’t say anything bad about Delta since they’re so easy to fly living in NYC. I’ve had no issues except for this one. Hopefully you don’t ever encounter travel where you need to complain.

      Reply
  2. Lifestyle Accountant

    Sounds like a total drag, and after a bachelor party, I can imagine you were probably hurting. Good thing for your travel hacking friend suggesting you respond back. It’s so easy to just accept what you are given at first. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to go through something like you went through but I’d like to think I’d be prepared on getting some form of compensation in return. Good job!
    Lifestyle Accountant recently posted…6 Things Every Accountant Should Be Doing With Their OWN FinancesMy Profile

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  3. Our Next Life

    Nice work getting all of that out of an experience which wasn’t even Delta’s fault. On United, you can listen in on air traffic control conversation, and that has taught us that pilots are often truly in the dark about what’s happening, and often wait long stretches for info. Of course, your pilot should have shared more of that with you. That’s the real problem. Thank goodness you were diverted somewhere where you could hop on a train and still get home — we’ve been diverted to random airports where that was not an option and have had to do expensive one-way car rentals plus a long drive. (We would have given anything to be able to sleep on a train when that has happened, instead of having to force ourselves to stay awake for the drive!)
    Our Next Life recently posted…in early retirement, what’s to stop us from getting old too fast?My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Interesting about listening to air traffic control conversations on United, I didn’t know that. If it was work travel I would have just hired a car service to drive me directly home 🙂 but it unfortunately was personal. Hopefully your future travel is uneventful.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I haven’t had any complaints about them before this incident, but they redeemed themselves in my mind.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I can’t remember the last time I flew with a connection, as I tried to avoid them at all cost. It’s pretty easy and the directs end up usually being cheaper since I can choose between Newark, JFK, and LGA. Hopefully Delta can redeem themselves if you let them 🙂

      Reply
  4. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I don’t travel much and thankfully haven’t had issues. It sounds like you had a terrible travel day and I would be so pissed if there was so much congestion that the plane literally couldn’t land. Kind of unreal. I think it’s great you got something in return but it’s annoying they didn’t give you more. Should have gotten 20k delta miles imo.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Tax Nightmare: The IRS Lost My Money!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Talking to some frequent travelers, Delta could have done nothing since it was really the air traffic controllers fault. When you add in the cash, gift, and points they compensated me close to $200 which I’m happy about.

      Reply
      1. DC @ Young Adult Money

        Good point! I always try to haggle for more, but you’re right that sometimes you just have to realize it’s not always [insert company’s name] fault and take what you can get. Now was it the air traffic controller’s fault or weather’s fault? I always wonder how airports forecast/plan for weather and how the heck they ever get back on a regular schedule after a big storm.
        DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…How to Handle Relationships and DebtMy Profile

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        1. Fervent Finance Post author

          It was raining which I think added fuel to the fire, but the main reason they offered up was the air space was jammed over NYC due to all the airports in the area and so many flights that day I guess. The pilot said it does happen fairly often. Luckily that was my first time dealing with it.

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  5. Mrs. FI

    Now THAT is one heck of a delay! I would’ve been pissed, too. Especially being held in the dark for so long not knowing what was happening and when I’d be able to get home! It’s one thing to be on the ground knowing your next flight is delayed and having the option of getting a snack or finding another way home, but sitting in the plane for additional hours not knowing what’s going on? That would have made me crazy! At least you got some money back for your troubles and kept a positive attitude about the trip even after all of that. Props to you. Major props.
    Mrs. FI recently posted…Fun in MayMy Profile

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  6. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    Man that sucks…sorry to hear that! I flew from and back to LGA recently and glad that didn’t happen since we were flying with our toddler for the first time…he would not be that patient with that delay. Not sure if it was Delta’s fault or just “congestion.” I rarely fly Delta, usually AA or JetBlue, but the one time I did fly Delta, they called me (automated) the night before my flight to tell me it was cancelled and gave me some other flight options. (And I was attending a wedding the next day). Not a great experience but ultimately I still got there around the same time, but the seats were messed up (didn’t sit with my wife) and had a layover as well as had to get up earlier. They gave me some Delta points but I don’t fly Delta much. Oh well…I guess I could have negotiated harder but it wasn’t as much of an inconvenience as you experienced so not worth it to me.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Live Like a College StudentMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I was going stir crazy… never mind having a toddler with you! At least you made it to the wedding on time! Take care.

      Reply
  7. DivHut

    Joys of air travel in the good ole U.S. of A. What a shame how this country has gone downhill in a major way not the least of which is air travel. When I travel internationally I specifically choose foreign carriers. I can’t imagine when someone from abroad flies into the U.S. to go on a 3, 4 or 5 hour flight to be served peanuts and nothing else, let alone charged for baggage. Imagine what they must think. Fly within Asia on a 2 hour flight or less and get served a full meal with real service. In any case, yes I had issues about 2 years ago on Delta with a flight that was delayed big time with missed connections as a result and was compensated $150. Sometimes all you have to do is ask and you get what’s coming to you.
    DivHut recently posted…Recent Stock Purchase II – June 2015My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I agree with you DivHut. We used to be #1 in infrastructure in the world. Our roads, bridges, and airports aren’t really the sparkle of our eye anymore. It’s too bad.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Deacon. That’s great to hear. I wonder if having NYC as my home base was the problem and not Delta. According to the pilot all the NYC airports share the same air space so things can get pretty jammed easily.

      Reply
  8. Evan

    Having done multiple travel bachelor parties (most recently LVS and Costa Rica) I couldn’t even imagine the pain you were in when you found out you were re-routed. My flight was canceled due to a storm in January from CR. Took me 24 hours to get home!

    BTW Long Island here…
    Evan recently posted…I Hate Being a HomeownerMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Evan. That’s insane that it took 24 hours. When I fly I always get nervous that something is going to get messed up, but then I try to remain optimistic.

      Reply

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