Friday, February 16, 2007


Wednesday's stranded-passengers debacle wasn't confined to JetBlue planes with passengers aboard stranded near gates at Kennedy International Airport. As I said before, I went to the invaluable Web site at 6 p.m. Wednesday and counted about 1,500 flight cancellations among major airlines at New York airports, at Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and in Chicago, where O'Hare was discombobulated by the Northeast mess. Even today, passengers are still stranded at JFK and other airports (though in the terminals, not confined to planes) as JetBlue and other airlines struggle to get their airplanes -- and crews -- back into normal rotations.

So I think we'll be hearing horror stories about this fiasco for some time, as the stories filter out into the major media.

Take Joe Scarborough, of MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," for example. Anyway, here's what he had to say about being stranded Wednesday on a Delta plane parked at LaGuardia:

"You know what? I can relate after spending almost nine hours in seat 41E. Yes, that‘s a center seat, where I was stuck between a man, a woman and a dog. For nine hours, I sat in very close proximity to that dog and some very agitated dog owners. Our pilot did a great job of keeping everybody calm and kept telling us we were lucky to be on the plane since this would be the only flight out of LaGuardia that day.

We actually believed him for the first four hours. After the fifth hour, we were told there was a break in the weather. Scattered applause was followed with 30 minutes of de-icing, which was followed by another announcement saying the temperature had dropped so low that we were going to be stuck for another few hours.

We got the go ahead after hour seven—again, seven hours straight on that plane—only to be told in hour eight that an engine valve was frozen and we‘d be towed back to the gate. And 4:30 PM, nine hours after most of us had boarded and most of us stayed on that plane, the plane we‘d stayed on all that time—well, it got canceled. We filed off.

My producers called Delta and got this response. “Delta‘s commitment is to maintain safety as our number one priority, keep customers informed about conditions impacting their travel and make every effort to keep them comfortable. We certainly regret the inconvenience to our customers caused by yesterday‘s delays.”

Hey, listen, stuff happens, and I try to be very Zen about the whole episode. But I‘ve yet to get an apology from Delta, and instead, I‘m getting spin from a company that‘s refusing to take responsibility for one bad decision after another, decisions that left men, women, and yes, dogs stuck on a plane for nine hours. I‘m waiting for that apology and my own free round-trip tickets, or I may just find me another airline."

(My question to MSNBC's travel department: Why the hell did you have Mr. Scarborough, a TV star, a veteran and presumably productive business traveler, and a former Congressman, wedged in a rear-of-the-plane middle seat-- back by the lavs -- stuck between a two passengers and an apparently cranky dog (and what sensible dog wouldn't be cranky) for all those hours?


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