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Opinions of Sunday, 24 March 2013

Columnist: Amuquandoh, Joe

Petition to delta airlines


This petition has been necessitated by an unbelievable and horrific experience suffered by passengers scheduled to fly on Delta flight DL0027 originating from Accra, Ghana on Sunday, February 24, 2013 and passengers scheduled to fly on transit flight DL0027 from Monrovia, Liberia on the same day, respectively. On Thursday, February 28th 2013, after a four day delay, two flight cancelations and one emergency landing for a sick passenger, the passengers for the Delta flight arrived back to America on flight DL9858.

After speaking with a number of passengers, particularly those who frequently fly the West African route, we have learned that the issue of flight cancellations by Delta for countries in West Africa, specifically Liberia and Ghana continue to be a consistent problem from this airline company. Therefore, we the petitioners would like to use this opportunity to bring to the attention of Delta, IATA, FAA, and the news and social media the endemic and persistent poor service rendered to individuals flying on the West African routes, and potentially the larger African continental routes as a whole that are serviced by Delta Airlines.
In this petition we seek a long-term and permanent remedy by Delta officials for the elimination of consistently interrupted service on the West African route. In particular, we are petitioning the airline to develop: 1) a contingency plan for returning passengers to America within 12-24 hours of a cancelled flight, 2) a professional communication procedure for informing passengers about canceled flights, 3) a plan to replace ill-functioning planes or fix them prior to cross-continental flights and 4) a procedure to provide an official letter for passengers to provide to their employers concerning days missed due to cancelation problems. Where documentation is provided, reimbursement of pay should be provided for days missed at work.
Recount of Issues on Flight DL0027 from passengers originating from Accra:

This flight was scheduled to depart from Accra on February 24, 2013 at 10:10pm GMT.
Passengers started arriving at Kotoka International airport to report for check-in around 5:00pm. Some passengers had checked in their luggage and were in the process of going through security, while others who had checked in were waiting around; when a Delta employee, Mr. Mohammed, began going from passenger to passenger telling them that flight DL2007 had been cancelled.
Most of the passengers were surprised and could not believe what they were being told because not only was the method of informing the passengers very crude but it was unconventional. The conventional method that an efficient and customer centered airline should use to notify passengers of a cancellation is through advance notice mechanisms such as emails, posting it on the flight schedule monitors at the airport, or notifying the passengers before going through the check-in process. Needless to say the people were very angry and frustrated by Delta’s inability to co-ordinate and inform its passengers in a professional and courteous manner; in other words poor customer service. To make matters worse, the Delta official neither provided passengers with a consistent reason for the flight cancellations, nor information for an alternative or contingency plan for arriving at their final destination. This lack of consideration was beyond frustrating. Reasons given to passengers ranged from “the plane had technical difficulties” to “airplane maintenance” to “shortage of fuel”; which version was correct?
The initial lack of information, explanation, or directive from local Delta staff only exacerbated the situation to the point of chaos. In addition, we were given conflicting and inconsistent information as to the accommodation arrangements. In the end, some passengers left the airport in frustration to go back to their homes or find their own accommodation; however, most passengers were put in hotels by Delta by 8:30pm GMT.
At about 9:30pm GMT, the Delta personnel, Mr. Gregori K. de Souza who had done a wonderful job of calming passengers down and coordinating transportation and hotel arrangements came by our hotel to inform us that a flight had been scheduled for us for the following day, February, 25th at 3:00pm GMT. We were to report to the airport at 12:00pm.
On February 25th, we were bused from the hotels to the airport beginning at 11:00am to report to the airport for the 3:00pm flight. This flight included passengers that were in transit from Monrovia, Liberia who had recounted a similar story of frustration over flight cancellation in Monrovia the previous day, February, 24th. (The details of their account are stated below under a separate sub heading).
Around 2:00pm on February 25th after being in the airport for several hours, we were notified that our direct flight to JFK had been changed to make a stop in Dakar, Senegal for refueling and that the flight time had also been rescheduled for 4:00pm. Most of the passengers were not happy about this development, but given what had happened the previous day, the only thing we could do was to grumble.
At about 3:30pm, we began boarding the plane and within twenty-five minutes we were all boarded and sitting on the tarmac awaiting our anticipated take-off. The airplane doors were locked shut, and we were supplied with headsets. At this point we were emotionally drained and anxious, but happy to finally be leaving for home. There were a lot of mixed emotions concerning the stop over at Dakar but we were looking forward to our flight home to see our loved ones.
This feeling of anxiety and happiness was once again crushed when at about 4:15pm GMT, it was announced over the intercom that a decision had been made to cancel the flight yet again. This time the reason was that the flight crew had exceeded the maximum allowable flight time of fifteen hours so they could not fly. This cancellation raised serious questions (which are listed below in the next section) amongst many of the passengers about the poor customer service rendered by Delta Airlines. In addition, passengers were frustrated and very angry to once again be forced to make connection arrangements for another flight or other pick-up arrangements upon arrival to the airport.
It was at this point that the airline doors were opened and passengers were allowed to de-board the plane, but without any instruction on where to go or what to do. For the next few hours, chaos emerged as passengers sought assistance at the Delta Office (where there was no Delta employee to assist us). Yet in the midst of all this chaos, the passengers of flight DL0027 of February 25, 2013 out of Accra deserve commendation for their calmness, patience and the professionalism with which they handled the situation. Additionally, the Menzies travel employees who worked at the airport were very helpful assisting us and also deserve commendation.
Recount of Issues on Flight DL0027 from passengers originating from Liberia to Accra:

Apparently, while flight DL0027 was cancelled in Accra on Sunday, February 24, 2013 in Accra, the connecting flight from Monrovia, Liberia was simultaneously cancelled. Passengers from Liberia recounted a similar story of poor treatment and Delta’s indifference to them. In essence, the cancellations of flight DL0027 brought forth disturbing information that caused many of the passengers to question the way that Delta treats passengers on their West African routes.
That flight was scheduled for Sunday, February 24th, 2013 at 3:50pm with a check-in time of 1:00pm. At about 3:30pm, it was announced that the flight had been delayed and re-scheduled to fly at 7:30pm that evening.
Sometime between 7:30pm and 8:00pm, the passengers were finally told that the flight had been cancelled due to “poor visibility”. They were told that the flight was re-scheduled for 12:00pm on February 25th with the check-in time of 9:00am.
Unlike the Accra passengers, those boarding the plane in Monrovia complained that they were not accommodated in hotels in Monrovia; so some passengers who lived far away from the airport spent the night at the airport, while others returned home at great expense. One passenger reported that she spent $50 to get to the airport by taxi, only to have to go home and pay another $50 for the return trip.
To make matters worse, when the connecting flight of DL0027 was cancelled in Ghana on February 25th, Delta Airlines did not make any transit visa arrangements with the Ghana immigration authorities on their behalf. As a result, some passengers’ passports were taken away, forcing individuals to enter Ghana without any form of identification.
The convergence of two simultaneous horrific experiences suffered by two separate sets of airline passengers for the same flight in two different West African countries cannot be overlooked. The inconsistent reasons given to passengers on both flights indicate that Delta was not being honest with any of us. This egregious disregard to the passengers reinforced the sentiment that Delta does not care about the passengers on their West African routes; and that is not acceptable.
After another day delay, the fact that these two sets of passengers again suffered a second flight cancellation on Monday, February 25th, 2013, increased passenger distress and frustrations. The situation cast more doubts in the minds of passengers about Delta’s responsibility and loyalty to its customers, and above all the perceived lack of integrity to its passengers on their West African routes.
Recount of Concerns Related to the Emergency Landing in Dakar, Senegal

If the first incidences with the Delta flight weren’t bad enough, the passengers from both Ghana and Liberia on the Delta Flight 0027 (changed to Flight DL9927) to America had one more issue that needs to be addressed in this petition. After waiting 2 days to get on a flight home, the plane had to make an emergency landing in Dakar, Senegal in order for a seriously sick passenger to be admitted to the hospital – a decision almost all the passengers were grateful for, given the worsening condition of the passenger. It was announced that we would stay in Dakar for about thirty minutes for the plane to refuel.
We landed in Dakar at about 3:00am GMT on Wednesday, February, 27th. About 20 minutes after the sick passenger had been taken off the plane, it was announced that flight DL9927 had been cancelled because we needed to refuel and the mechanic in charge of certifying the flight had gone home for the night. We were asked to disembark from the plane and were taken to King Fahd Palace hotel in Dakar, Senegal.
Our next flight out of Dakar was scheduled to leave at 5:30pm GMT Wednesday, February 27th. Even here, the inconsistent dissemination of information from Delta to the passengers and lack of effective coordination of events were prevalent.
After an absolutely horrible experience before Dakar, Delta should have coordinated to make the check-in process at King Fahd Palace hotel easy and smooth for an already exhausted, distressed, and frustrated group of passengers. Instead, everyone, including the 4 young unescorted boys was left to fend for themselves with the youngest of the boys crying hysterically for a period of time out of fear. The issue was resolved when a female passenger with a young son took the leadership to assist them. However, that was not her job! If a Delta representative had been present, the boys could have been taken care of without incident. Further, being that Dakar is a French speaking country, Delta should have provided us a Customer Service Representative and interpreter to assist us with the hotel staff.
Later in the evening, we learned that the flight had been rescheduled, without explanation, to 3:30am GMT, Thursday morning. We were stuck again, without explanation for another full day in Dakar, Senegal. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that some of us were even informed that we could have a 5 minute call from our hotel room. Many didn’t know that this opportunity was available, attesting again to the poor communication and insensitive customer service by Delta.
Finally, the lack of a Delta representative on site, at check-out put some passengers in an awkward position with the hotel registration personnel. At the end of the day, this was one of the most unbelievably and extremely stressful string of incidences that many of us have ever had to experience. Below is a list of questions that we the undersigned petitioners want addressed by Delta Airlines to the passengers of DL00027 and resolved permanently.
Unanswered Questions
Despite the unreasonable number of cancellations, passengers were treated inhumanely in that we were given varying reasons by Delta representatives for the cancellations. In addition, there was a lack of adequate communication and information between Delta personnel and the Menzies personnel who were the only ones available and assisting the passengers. We raise the following questions:
1. Why did Delta not put cancellation information about the flight on Sunday on a website or the airport flight information monitors?

2. Why were there so many different reasons for the flight cancellations given? The lack of a consistent answer communicated dishonesty by the airline to its passengers.

3. Why weren’t there established procedures for how to handle passengers effectively, in case of a cancellation?

4. At what point in time on Tuesday did Delta know that the crew scheduled for the delayed flight had exceeded its maximum allowable flight time?

5. How did this group exceed their allowable flight time, if they were scheduled to serve us on Sunday?
• In our view, the math does not add up. Passengers waited in a hot airport from 11am until 3pm only to get on the plane and learn this was the situation.
• One would think that a reputable and well-run international organization would know ahead of time that its flight crew had exceeded the allowable maximum flight time and would notify passengers (who had already suffered one cancellation the previous day) of another cancellation. This would have saved them the agony of hustling from their respective hotels and residences to the airport, only to remain in unbearable heat for more than a few hours.

6. Where was the crew from flight DL0027 that was cancelled the previous day, February 24th that had not flown for over fifteen hours?
• Could it be that the same crew left Accra, Ghana for Monrovia, Liberia on February 25th, to bring in the stranded passengers whose flight had been cancelled the previous day, February 24th?
• If that is the case, is Delta Airlines over-working its crew and putting profit motives ahead of its employees and at the expense of safety and horrible inconveniences to its passengers?

7. Were passengers told the truth with respect to the reasons for cancellations? There were too many inconsistent stories to believe that we were being told the truth.
• Which reason or excuse given was truly accurate, that there were technical difficulties, plane maintenance, fuel shortage, poor visibility?

8. Who makes decisions at Delta for the Western African route? Is Delta managed by someone in a national office in the USA or is a person with the authority to make decisions on the continent of Africa, or the West African region?
• Otherwise, it would appear that the airline allows chaos to prevail at the detriment of its passengers?
• The lack of coordinated effort to communicate with, and inform passengers of contingency and alternative flight plans, and passengers’ accommodations due to the cancellation created confusion and made the situation chaotic.

9. Is Delta taking the passengers that fly from West Africa and their safety and well-being for granted?
• While there are passengers who were too old or too young to be gainfully employed, the vast majority of passengers had jobs to return to. Many of us lost time and salary due to the insensitivity of Delta Airlines.

In collecting the signatures for this petition, a lot of issues were reported by loyal Delta customers that indicated that the experience of flight DL0027 of February 24th 2013 was not an isolated incident but something that is endemic to Delta Airlines’ modus of operandi on the West African routes. In addition, there is at least one person who was significantly traumatized by this experience and doesn’t want to ever take a cross-continental flight to Africa in fear of her inability to handle the stress, insensitivity, and poor service that she experienced with Delta.
Finally, reports were made about the consistent use of older planes for the West African route for such long flights. A case in point is that the flight that finally brought the passengers of DL0027 of February 24th, on February 28th from Dakar, Senegal was on the same old Boeing 767 which had a defective flight status information monitor. Among other things, the in flight monitor reported inaccurate information throughout the entire flight (i.e. both the distance and time travelled displayed, registered a travel time and distance of 0 (zero) from Dakar to JFK).

We the undersigned passengers of DL0027 of February 24th, 2013, believe that by informing Delta Officials and other Flight/Travel stakeholders of these facts, our concerns will be addressed including a more permanent resolution to the overarching problems.
Fr. Hilary Aidoo Reginald Aboagye Philip Adarkwa
Simon Afawubo Kofi Akomeah Mohammed Alidu
Joe Amuquandoh Charlotte Amuquandoh Justice Anokye
Elizabeth Antwi Ekua Asiedua Boampong Sathurnin Olivier Avoa
Elisabeth Boahene Irene Boateng Janet Booker
Emmanuel Bosompra Anita Botwe Aurelius Butler
Sam Clawson Sonia Cooper Weeks Nancy DeBoer
Peter Deboer Kobina Degraft Johnson Mary Dodoo
Joe Dorto Anthony Dupree Eric Eduafo
Lisa Frentz Cynthia Fulford Gladys Gaisie
Freeman Gbogbo Nana Gewu-Awuah George-Ann Green
Louis Hawkins Art Hightower Sandra Hightower
Beneta Johnson Mawata Kamara Patrick Koomson
Anthony Kowbeidu Kenneth Lartey John Davies Manu
William Marbell Henry Marsh Elaine N. Menibooa
Francis Miezah Emmanuel Mingle Afua Mireku
Mist Muhammed Peter Mulbah Virginia Nathan
Sakina Odoom Vida Odoom Brigitte Ofori
Henry Ofori Adwoa Ofori-Kuragu Margaret Okyere
Jimi Oatunji Benson Kojo Opare Collins Opuni-Yamoah
Ruth Orr Emma Osborne Patrick Owusu Boampa
Jeffrey Parker Mienbaikebi Patani Denise Richards
Joshua Richards Daniel Robins Hajara Sai
Edward Sarbah Dzodzi Tsikata Kamah Venn
Godfried Asante Mary Cofie Mamadee Donzon
Mavis Lamptey Emmanuel Mensah Joseph Nkrumah
Margaret Okyere Yvonne Okyere Abudulai Sidiki
Anthony Williams

This addendum highlights some of the feedback received in response to a request to passengers regarding the accuracy and veracity of the accounts in the main petition, and also concerns that might have been missed.
Dear Joe,
I trust you are doing well. Allow me to thank you immensely for the good works you are doing in order to let Delta Airlines feel the anger and rage it has caused all of us on with regards to this trip. I personally lost $ 42,000 in business transactions with partners from Dubai. I must say here that Delta Airlines has not respected the passengers and they themselves. I demand for Delta Airlines to compensate all of us for the horrific treatment they have meted out to us.
Delta has not provided me with Accommodation for all the days it had cancelled the flights. No amenity kit whatsoever, I personally will never travel with Delta Airlines ever again, even if I have a free first class ticket. I felt very insulted and taken advantage of for a service I payed for and didn't get anything in return.

Finally Joe, let Delta Airlines understand that we are the passengers who make them what they are today. And so if they think they can discriminate and give us ran down aircrafts without any form of entertainment for 11 hours, then a big shame on them. I am sure you saw the aircraft they gave us.

Joe, I am too upset to continue this email.

Keep well and God be with you and bless you always
-Darius Simon Junior
I just read the petition. Thanks for your great leadership on this. I agree with the account.
One more thing to point out. Delta rebooked a few passengers onto other flights that Tuesday night, but they did not announce it. You had to ask them. I only found out hours later after asking a fellow stranded passenger. At the time, my wife and I were attempting to buy a new ticket with British Airways. Delta finally booked us on Alitalia through Rome to JFK that same Tuesday night. My wife and I eventually left Ghana that night on Tuesday, but Alitalia had to redo our reservation because Delta somehow did not do it right in the system.
I am sorry for your subsequent travel challenges. I hope this petition brings real and permanent change.
-Kofi Akomeah

thank you for putting work into this response to Delta. I think you really need to highlight the fact that they took the passports of so many people overnight when we were in Accra. Delta did many bad things over these days, but that was the worst. It could have resulted in a disaster for some of us.
I believe your petition would be incomplete if you did not reference on-line articles such as this one:

Others, including President Sirleaf have been mistreated by Delta and this article documents this.
-Pete DeBoer

Grand Rapids, MI

I am so excited about this petition. I must confess, I just thought about it only to check my inbox and saw your mail. Thank you for updating us about Emmanuel's health. I am happy he is fine and we pray he arrives in the states healthy and safely.

This is a good petition but I would like you to include the need for monitors for each seat. I have flown Delta airline to London, and each passenger has his/her own monitor. Going to Africa is a long journey that each passenger will need to watch a movie or listen to a music of his/her choice. Having a giant monitor on Delta airline in such a long journey is not fun at all. Other airlines are not like that so why Delta. They need to respect us since we pay more to buy a ticket.

-Hajara Sai
On Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM, Sandy Hightower wrote:

Thank you for your hard work and determination in this collaborative work. Very well done! I also want to thank you for the update on Emmanuel.....I have prayed for him as I was very concerned. Did he by chance tell you if his dehydration was the cause for his distress? That was a problem in Ghana. The Hotel nor Delta would furnish water to the stranded passenger without purchasing it. I feel this was a contributing factor to his health issues
-Sandra Hightower
Thanks so much for the great job you have done with this petition. There is an additional issue I would like to raise, and it may not be appropriate here, but as it is about the quality of service, it may be a good opportunity to add it. It has to do with the "quality" of the planes they use for the route. The luggage bins are too small, the passengers do not have their own entertainment screen and they do nothing about the deteriorating situation in the toilets during the flight. For an 11 hour flight, this is unacceptable. When Delta rerouted my flight through Rome on the night of the second cancellation, the 11 hour Delta flight I took to Atlanta had individual tv screens for economy class passengers and the plane had more space for luggage. It would be good to compare our aircraft with what they use for the flights emanating from Europe. Given that we probably pay more, we should get state of the art aircrafts as they do.

I am copying a fellow passenger who was also rerouted through Rome- he might have some more technical details about the planes they use on the European route.

With best wishes and thanks for this initiative,
- Dzodzi Tsikata
This looks good. You captured all of the appropriate details. You might also consider requesting a complimentary year of at least gold medallion status for the sky miles customers.

God Bless,
-Lou Hawkin
Hi Joe,

Thanks for sharing. Please add my name (Sathurnin Olivier Avoa, seat 23B) on the petition. The petition described faithfully the situation we lived. I would only add the fact that Emmanuel, the sick man was feeling well on Sunday and would not have risked his life if the flight had taken off on Sunday to JFK. The sickness he experienced occurred on Wednesday while he was still in Accra. He could have avoided that high risk on his life if he was in NYC since Monday as primarily planned.

Apart from that, all is great.

Thanks for your time and effort in putting all this together.



Hi Joe,

Thanks for overseeing the development of this petition on behalf of the passengers on DL27. I am beyond livid with Delta for how they treated us. The personal trauma that I experienced from this trip has left me significantly fearful of taking another cross-continental trip with anyone, especially with Delta Airlines. I’m sad that I feel this way as I was looking forward to doing more international traveling.
While I am very happy personally to have received my full refund, I am disappointed that there was no offer by the airline to pay for missed time from work. I endured an unreasonable amount of stress about whether I would return to my job in light of a number of recent layoffs at my institution.

In order to get paid for missed time, I had to use vacation days that were scheduled for another event in summer. The worst part is that the vacation hours that I used haven’t been earned yet. Therefore, I plan to submit a request for remuneration for time lost. I don’t know if others are planning to do the same, but I would encourage you to do it if you can submit proof.


Hi All:

I arrived to the US two nights ago and recovering at home in San Diego. I did speak with Joe and Charlotte this afternoon. I sincerely express my gratitude to you all for praying for my survival and full recovery. The Lord saved my life and I am so grateful that the Lord heard all your prayers and stepped in to ensure that my precious dear life was saved. I cannot thank you enough for your kind support, patience, support and prayers.

Unfortunately, I contacted Delta Airlines for support to pay my hospital bill of $4,046 however, my request was not honored. As a result, I was detained by the clinic for three more days. I was released to travel home only after I promised to make partial payments of the bill on my return to US on good faith basis.

Once again thank you all for your kind assistance, support and prayers.

My best regards,

Emmanuel Bosompra

Emmanuel was the gentleman that got so sick on the flight that we had to land in Dakar, Senegal. It is rather unfortunate that Delta cannot extend a charitable hand to help with his medical bill despite the fact that the stress of the two flight cancellations could have contributed or exacerbated his illness.

I can understand that Delta, as a company, does not want to set any precedents regarding situations like this but given the unusual circumstances of this experience, I feel an exception can be made.

Could it be that if it had not been for the two cancellations, he could have been home in time to see his Physician and avoided incurring such a big bill?

-Joe Amuquandoh