I was stuck at the airport for 14 hours

What follows is an email I sent to James Crites, the VP of Operations at Dallas Fort Worth airport.  If it seems stupid or cranky, please note that I wrote it when I was both stressed out and sleep deprived...you know, about half an hour ago.

I believe that problems this severe should make their way to the top, so I'm notifying you personally.

Let me preface this by telling you that what I experienced is commonplace.  It is so common that one of  the customer service managers said that he called his wife to tell her he wouldn't be home hours before the incident occurred because he knew it would happen.  Additionally, another person among the group waiting established that she had encountered this exact same scenario at DFW only 5 days earlier.  Naturally, she blamed the airport.

First, the airline screwed up.  They under-staffed themselves, and when inclement weather hit DFW airport, they were unable to retain enough pilots to get their flights out on time.  Following that, they chose to rectify the situation by telling us to wait 12 hours until the next morning for re-booked flights.  Naturally, since this was blamed on the weather, there was no compensation for anyone.

Then the customer service representatives screwed up.  Everyone who was not in first class was booked on standby for a flight the next morning.  Surely, being put on standby and not getting onto a flight for another day would only create greater fury from the customers.  I know this bit was the airline again, but the staff is representing your airport poorly and I thought you should know.  This poor representation included a representative yelling at a customer (which is to be expected this late and with this much stress).

Then the staff of DFW screwed up.  In order to accommodate the large crowd, they called in several local deputies to ensure that the crowd did not turn into a mob. Then they secured a number of Coleman camping cots and told the angry customers to either accept those sleeping conditions or find a hotel and pay for it out of pocket.  The quantity of cots was nowhere near the number of people waiting.

Then the management of DFW screwed up. Given the limited accommodations, and the almost certain repercussions for running off with these priceless cots, we were all forced to remain centralized in the D terminal between gates 24 and 20.  As you should be aware, this part of your terminal is under heavy construction.  No effort was made to deal with the heavy amount of dust or noise that continued to choke and keep us awake the whole evening.

Now, I am young, under 30.  I'm healthy enough to deal with this sort of treatment.  Many people on this flight (and the several other flights that were included in this debacle) are not so young and healthy.  Many older people struggled to get in and out of the cots without hurting themselves.  I watched an inebriated man waiting in line for the re-booking of flights slip and smash his head open on the floor.  It was late at night, and much of the staff was tied up in re-booking, so it was a long time before anyone other than those of us in line were able to help him as he bled all over the terminal floor, still conscious but no doubt in need of stitches.

The staff was kind enough to come by at approximately midnight (about 6 hours into our wait) and provide us with some nature's valley crunch bars and a bottle of water each.  As you can imagine, being confined to an airport where all of the stores are closed limited our options for food.  I did not notice anyone having issues with diabetes, but I'm sure you know how dangerous that might have been.

I will not take up any more of your time.  I just thought you should be informed.

Update: James replied to my email.  This is what he sent:

Mr. Winslow,

I first want to apologize to you on behalf of DFW International Airport for yours and your fellow passengers unacceptable experience that night. I also want to sincerely thank you for your email, a Such correspondence provides information that enables those who are not directly involved in a specific situation to gain some understanding from those who were directly involved such as yourself.

Secondly, we strive to properly accommodate stranded passengers, and satisfy their needs, and it would appear we were unable to accomplish that. As such, the information you provide is something we can use to remedy are shortcomings.

All this being said, I will be sharing this email with my staff as well as the airlines and others who had a role to play in this situation, in order to implement corrective actions.


Jim Crites

Sent from my iPad

 UPDATE: The email chain continues, notice this is someone else

Hello Mr. Winslow,
My name is Paul Martinez, VP Operations at DFW Airport.  Jim Crites provided your below message to me, and as he noted, I’d also like to apologize for the poor experience you had during your recent travels through DFW Airport.
I am hoping you can provide details of your travel, such as date, airline and flight information.  We had severe weather Wednesday evening, June 18, that resulted in airline flight diversions and caused operational delays across the airport, however I’m not certain if this was your actual travel date.  Your flight details will assist me in working with my colleagues to understand the situation and with our efforts to improve our overall airport processes. 
Thank you again for your message.
Paul Martinez

I did not reply, so he sent another

Hello Mr. Winslow,
I just wanted to follow up on my message and see if you will be able to provide any further details regarding your travel experience through DFW.  We focus heavily on continuous learning and improvement, so your information will assist us toward this effort. 

Again, thank you for taking time for your message to DFW. 


Sent from my iPhone

I replied

Had to get this information from my partner as he booked the flights this time.   I did not include it because this is not a rare occurrence.
American Airlines flight 2318
Arrived 15 minutes late on June 18th
Flight 1386 was then cancelled at 9:45pm.  At 9:40 I went to the desk to ask if the flight was cancelled and was told "absolutely not "  and shortly thereafter ended up waiting in line for 4 hours.
We paid for first class tickets and were repeatedly treated like garbage in spite of our platinum level loyalty memberships.  And there are tons of others terrifying details I can provide like the cost of missing work the following morning or the couple in front of us in line who missed the cruise departure for their honeymoon with no attempt to refund them.
This is not something you should take lightly.

He replied

Hello Mr. Winslow,

Thank you again for providing the flight details and for sharing your experience while traveling through DFW during a weather event that negatively impacted operations.
We have reviewed our airport procedures and are working to shore up some internal communication to assist customers with hotel information during these types of irregular operations.
We also met with AA to review and discuss these types of operations.  While DFW Airport cannot directly address flights operated by our airline partners, we strongly believe in partnering with our airlines and work towards improving the experience for our customers.    

Again, thank you for sharing your information.

Paul Martinez  


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