What I learnt from Delta Airlines

What I learned on Delta Airlines, flying from Edmonton to Johannesburg via Minneapolis and Atlanta:

– I drove from Lloydminster to Edmonton. Halfway there, Marinus SMSed me to inform me that I’d left my SA phone at home. I was about to turn around and drive back, but he agreed to meet me at the halfway mark. I felt like a drug dealer during that trade.

– First flight was decent. I don’t remember any of it. I’d slept overnight in a moderately decent hotel, and made it to the airport with time to spare, preparing for the TSA o’ Doom’s “enhanced patdown”. I was surprised to find out that those random searches they do only apply (apparently) to Wil Wheaton and foreign-looking people. I was mildly disappointed that no ugly sweaty man wanted to fondle my genitalia in a sexual assault, like Wil Wheaton a week ago. I also didn’t even have to go through a machine (which I would have refused anyway).

– Second flight was decent. I barely remember any of it. There was free Twitter on the plane, so I sent a tweet into the cloud from the cloud. There were cookies, too.

Before the flight, I ate a hamburger from A&W, with extra cheese.

– Enter Atlanta, Georgia. The airport was hot, but clean (thankfully). I was even impressed (the bar is very low) by the cleanliness of the toilets. Randolph usually leaves them in a better condition than he found them, but this was unnecessary.

I ate a Big Mac Meal With Coke And Fries (compared to the other fatty foodstuffs on offer, this was healthy), and declined the upgrade to Supersize, much to the attendant’s dismay, but I was enamoured by the broad Southern accents.

There was even a pianist in the food hall, playing some decent music and singing along.

– Third flight … Fifteen and a half hours, the first 30 minutes on the ground waiting to put the luggage on the plane, despite the Boeing 777-200LR having been at the terminal for an hour before boarding.

But before sitting for half an hour past takeoff time, many passengers, myself included, found no room in the overhead bins for our luggage. I had to sit with mine under the seat in front of me, legs splayed at an odd angle. Thank goodness I’d had the presence of mind to change my middle-seat to an aisle-seat beforehand.

Only, I think that was a mistake. You see, my “in-seat entertainment system” didn’t entertain me at all. While some people had non-responsive touch screens, resulting in the cabin crew restarting the entire system twice, my screen showed the following:

RedBoot(tm) bootstrap and debug environment

And then a long list of attempts to load an image, plus complaints of a non-working network. Packets were being dropped, buffers were overflowing, and it kept resetting (Press ^C to cancel – sure, but you need a keyboard for that).

It reset itself every twenty to thirty seconds, each time the screen going to full dark before flashing on again. A conservative estimate puts that at 1800 times, being 15 hours and ten minutes of restarts (taking into account the full system reset the cabin crew did twice). While I did complain (it turns out the touch screen controls the overhead light and cabin crew assistance), nothing was done. Not one thing. I asked them to just turn it off because the constant restarts would affect my sleep. They did nothing to try fix it. Not one thing.

The dinner was crap too. They ran out of beef, so I had some dry chicken. Thankfully the Coke was in a can so that wasn’t so hard. And the fresh fruit tasted like fresh fruit, which was nice.

Then on several occasions, the plane threatened to fall out of the sky. I realise that there’s not a lot a pilot can do to avoid turbulence (except, I don’t know, fly over it?), but if you know it’s coming, surely you can warn everyone beforehand?

I did eventually fall asleep after turning my head just so, so that the constant flashing of the screen didn’t distract me, but we were at least eight hours into the flight by then.

The toilets on the plane were dirty. While I can thank my fellow humans for that more than Delta, surely a quick mop and wipe around the rim isn’t too much to ask, once in a while? Heck, I left it sparkling and I was only in there for two minutes.

So I’ve learnt from Delta that they only turn on air conditioning when the cabin crew complains. They don’t assist with finding room for carry-on luggage unless you make a scene. Some of their crew is too short to close the overhead bins properly. They don’t cater correctly. Their entertainment system is broken and they don’t care if it affects your sleep, and the pilot doesn’t seem to care if the plane flies through air pockets that rattle your teeth in their gums. And the toilets are dirty.

And for the idiot who sat behind me, it is called a “touch” screen for a reason. No need to tap it so hard. Especially. When. Playing. Solitaire.

Perhaps I’ll feel better about this once I’ve slept. But I doubt it.