Delta Air Lines Comes To The Rescue After Students Abandoned By American Airlines

Delta Air Lines, fortunately, came to the rescue for a group of students travelling to Washington. It has been reported that the children, in the fifth grade, were effectively abandoned by American Airlines, despite looking forward to the trip for over a year.

Delta rescues stranded passengers
Delta commandeered a partner’s CRJ-900 in order to fly the stranded passengers. Photo: Delta

It is fairly unusual to see airlines intervening in matters concerning other airlines. This is especially true when they haven’t been approached by the original airline. However, it seems as though this is the case in this particular incident. Indeed, it is certainly a situation which I would not expect to see myself when travelling.

What happened?

A group of 41 fifth grade students and their teachers were due to fly from Oklahoma City to Virginia on the 2nd June. The students were heading to Washington DC for a field trip that had been planned for over a year, but American Airlines unexpectedly cancelled the flight. This meant that the students were left stranded with no more than the promise of a refund.

This is where Delta Air Lines entered the picture and saved the day. The airline reportedly went above and beyond in helping another airline’s passengers. Indeed, the airline showed that you can put passengers needs above financial needs.

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Delta Rescues Stranded American Airlines Passengers
Some of the group of stranded passengers rescued by Delta Air Lines. Photo: Delta

Delta’s charter flight

Delta proved that it had a heart by organising a replacement flight for the students stranded outside of their care. According to View From The Wing, the airline’s ground agents in Oklahoma contacted their management to see if anything could be done. and to maybe reroute them on a Delta flight. However, this is no easy feat when you need to fit 41 passengers onto flights at short notice.

Aware of this, Delta flew an aircraft to Oklahoma just to carry the students to their destination. Delta additionally flew the students directly to their destination, cutting out their flight connection. The whole incident took place on the 2nd of June, and despite being reported by the airline on the 3rd, has only just caught media attention. This was a great chance to generate good PR by doing the right thing by Delta.

“We see people”

Speaking regarding the rescue operation, Jeff Trainer who is a duty director in the airline’s operational control centre said,

“When we heard about this group of students booked on another airline that [was] stuck in Oklahoma City, there wasn’t even a consideration given to not making an effort in finding a solution.”

He went on to add “When we see people in a bind, we don’t see customers of one airline or another – we see people”. The passengers were certainly very lucky as this is not seen every day.

What do you think of Delta’s extraordinary rescue mission? Let us know in the comments!

43 comments
  1. Delta CEO Ed Bastian “This industry is about more than just airplanes and technology. It’s about people. And we have wonderful people that provide great service.” June 1, 2019

  2. My daughter was once stranded in Toronto in 2016 flying a connecting flight from Quebec on her way back to Rio de Janeiro – Brazil after a 3-month stay in Quebec as an exchange student. Air Canada did nothing to support her or any other passengers on the flight. Air Canadas’s ground staff gross and uncommitedly told her “she was not in Brazil” where airline companies are by law enforcement responsible for the welfare of their ticket buyers/passengers. At the time my daughter was a minor under 18 and had to struggle by herself to find a way to get back home. Either I or my family wil ever fly Air Canada again. To top it off my daughter only managed to fly back by means of a flight to The US and then back to Rio where she got two days later after leaving Quebec. She was tired out and humiliated.
    Next time she’ll surely fly Delta!

    1. Agree with the Air Canada sentiments. In-flight is “fine,” but as soon as you have to deal with any form of customer service, it is an absolute nightmare. I see their awards on Skytrax either as an indication of the terrible state of North American airlines, or of Skytrax’s flawed metrics (or some combination). It’s nice to see Delta stepping up and hopefully this takes shape across the board, as I would much rather spend some extra money on an airline I trust and that I feel has my back.

  3. This, at the same time that the United CEO can’t figure out how to make his customers happy.
    I avoid United and American at all costs, happily fly Delta and Alaska (legacy Virgin America) whenever I can. I’ve experienced this kind of attitude and care from Delta, personally, and sorry to say, the opposite from United as well.

    1. I agree, Delta is the best American airline. We only fly Delta and dropped United and American years ago, and we will avoid flying both of them. I’d rather fly a bicycle.

  4. not often you hear of an airline doing the correct thing! Kudos Delta (let’s see how United gets out of this pickle)

  5. This seems to be a new Delta. I used to fly frequently for work. For a while, one airline was about the same as the other. I retired in 1999. Since then, I do not fly as often. However, I have flown a lot so far in 2019. My brother had a near fatal accident in NC and I live in AL.

    I called Delta to see if there were better rates for last second travel under the circumstances and better flights with less than 4 hour layovers in Atlanta. I was asked to hold and a few minutes later the agent was back with me. I had several options over the next several days and all of them were as if I booked a month or more in advance.

    That was the first of four trips. One trip had the return date post poned to an open ended date. Delta fixed it with zero questions. The fourth trip was one that we knew was coming, but the precise dates were going to be last second. (I am a planner and this drove me nuts.) Dealing with Delta was easier than dealing with the hotel.

    That trip had me fly to NC from one town in AL, and accompanying my brother to another town in AL to transfer into a VA rehab center. They sat us in comfort plus because he could not bend his left leg and to accommodate his other injuries. No fuss no muss, they just made it happen. Everyone was super attentive to my brother’s needs on each flight.

    Had Delta not been willing to help with fares, I would have had to make those ten+ hour drives and I would have spent several days recovering from each drive.

    Kudos that Delta stepped up and hooked this class up with a direct flight.

  6. Im a loyal Delta customer, switched over when NWA and Continental broke up their shared mileage program. I have to say that Delta is one of the few if any corporations that have improved customer service and employee morale as they acquired NWA and grew much larger. I have rarely encountered a nasty or unhappy employee in my many trips, which is a real credit to Delta. Im pleased to hear Delta helped out this group, and also pleased it was initiated by the local Delta folks that saw a need.

    1. I have been a loyal NWA flyer since 1970s and became a Delta passenger when it merged. I flew over 200 round trips including 100 international flights. Based on my personal experience, my entire family is now are all Delta frequent flyer members over last two decades. We are not surprised that such an extraordinary deed for the helplessly stranded students came from Delta. Thank you Delta!

  7. I usually fly Delta. They don’t have any 737 Max aircraft. They should advertise that fact.
    Google “Southwest Airlines is going to allow people who don’t want to fly on the Boeing 737 Max to switch planes for free”. United as well so far. Hopefully all other airlines allow passengers to avoid the 737 Max for free as well.
    Not American so far.

  8. I usually fly Delta. They don’t have any 737 Max aircraft. They should advertise that fact. Google “Southwest Airlines is going to allow people who don’t want to fly on the Boeing 737 Max to switch planes for free”. United as well. Hopefully all other airlines allow passengers to avoid the 737 Max for free as well.
    Not American so far.

    1. They are not going to advertise that fact as it would injure any good relations they have with Boeing for the 777 and 787. Also when they acquired NorthWest they got a lot of Airbus aircraft which they can now use to justify future mixed fleets from both Airbus and Boeing.

  9. As a loyal American Airlines customer since I started flying as a child, and now a consistent frequent flyer on American, I have to say how disappointed I am in @Americanair. It makes me reconsider my allegiance to an airline that “sees people”

    1. So far American will not allow you to switch aircraft for free to avoid the 737 Max.
      Southwest and United will.
      Delta doesn’t have any 737 Max aircraft. Even better.

  10. Thank you Delta! for caring about our children. American Airlines have lost their edge many years ago! I try not to travel with them! I recently miss out on a cruise due to boarding American they could care less! We had to take a loss and went back home!!

  11. I have to admit, I abandoned Delta many years ago after moving from Dallas. Now, I cringe at the thought of flying United and American. I have traded in my miles for Amazon cards. A flight on Alaska Airlines was wonderful and the international flights with Air Canada were passable. I am tall [5’10”] and cannot fit into a seat meant for someone 5’6″. After reading this story, I am willing to give Delta another chance.

  12. Delta Airlines should be very proud of doing what American Air should have done, Delta’s culture of concern for passengers should be emulated by other airlines.

  13. I think I should abandon American now and start taking Delta! Thank you for doing the right thing which is hard to find these days in the airline business.

  14. I have had a lot of bad experiences on airlines that cannot seem to get you from Point A to Point B recently. I fly Delta whenever I can because I haven’t had one of those bad experiences. Kudos to them.

  15. Delta Air Lines, America’s oldest airline , and the most caring also! Must be that great southern hospitality that over here in Ireland we hear about. Delta will be my choice of airline , when i visit the US next year if im spared. We have American & United here at Dublin also.

  16. While I am proud that Delta stepped in to help the stranded students, the “we see people” quote from Mr. Trainer is a load of crap. Two days ago, 23 people (myself included) traveled to RDU in order to serve a mission trip in the Dominican Republic on an all Delta Air Lines itinerary.

    Our flight to JFK was delayed at least 9 times from 7:00a all the way until midnight. Around that time they told us the flight was going to happen and to prepare for boarding. Another 20 minutes go by and they tell us that the flight won’t happen. After spending 15 hours in the airport, the flight was unsurprisingly postponed until the next morning, but the plane would go to JFK completely empty. Our group was rebooked with us arriving on two separate flights. Whatever, we’re one day late, but at least we get there.

    When we woke up, our new flight had been delayed another 6 hours. Realizing that half of our group wouldn’t make the connection, I called Delta to rebook once again. The agent I spoke with couldn’t deduce that arriving 10 minutes after your connecting flight departs was a problem and asked me what I wanted her to do. I suggested that she rebook the passengers who wouldn’t make the connection and she told me, and I quote “that’s not my job.”

    Admittedly, I lost it at that point. I asked to speak to the supervisor. This employee was the only one who seemed to get that we had been greatly inconvenienced. She told me that there was no way that we would get all 23 passengers to the Dominican Republic that day (day 2). After hours of trying to figure everything out, she finally booked half of our group on United and the other half on American.

    I used to be a HUUUUUGE Delta fan, but as of this week, I have lost all faith in the company. I was with the group that flew United and I have to say, they were amazing.

  17. The, by far, greatest problem in airline customer service is bad weather. And sometimes nothing much can be done to fix the problem especially with the current load factors. You can not expect a company to shoulder the cost of bad weather. Sometimes for their best customers, by that I mean those who spend the most, they make exceptions, but bad weather is an act of God and even the best planning and preparation can not overcome the worst weather. You can hate or you can get real.

  18. When I lived in New York City, I almost always chose Delta and found it always went above and beyond expectations. 7 years ago I retired to Miami, where American has a hub, so if I nonstops, I’m often forced to take American, which is crappy compared to Delta. Even United is better than American as far as customer service is concerned. The one thing that makes American bearable are its Ambassador Clubs, which are excellent. However, American check-in and in flight service are pitiful. They don’t even have peanuts available!

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