From a first time blogger, thoughts about life from an American missionary now living in the US after years in Russia and doing a lot of back and forth. Family stuff, Christian content, sports innuendo and lots of quotes from good books.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

That Goodbye Lufthansa Hello Delta Decision Looking Very, Very Good

I really don't know a place or way to express the gratitude I feel towards Delta right now but this is a start. I'll write them directly as well you can be sure. Having someone you love injured and on the mercy seat of an airline during the busy summer time travel season can go either really well or really, really badly. Thanks to Delta, it went about as good as it possibly could for me, my two sons, and my mother (a widow of a Delta man of 32 years). Here's the story:

This past Sunday morning, my two sons (8 and 5), and my mother (62) flew from Novosibirsk (OVB) to Frankfurt, Germany, via Moscow on Aeroflot. We planned to stay over one night at the Sheraton Congress Center (at FRA) before getting on a flight Monday morning for Atlanta. I and my 5 year old were on paid tickets and my mom was using her Delta pass and my 8 year old son was using a buddy pass. Availability was kinda tight but we were confident that we'd get to Atlanta by Monday night one way or another. If my Mom and 8 year old had to stay a day extra in FRA that was fine by us.On Sunday night at about 8 p.m., at the Sheraton Congress Hotel located just beside the Frankfurt airport, Mom slipped while getting into the shower. She grabbed for a faux door that gave way and then fell backward, hit her arm, back, but thankfully not her head. She screamed and I went running to the bathroom. Since she was getting into the tub she obviously had no clothes on. Wanting to protect her dignity but needing to get in there to see how bad things were I told her to get the bath robe that the hotel provides and try and cover herself up. She was able to though with a lot of pain. My sons were just about to go to sleep as we had been awake for about 18 hours already. Mom was hurting very badly and crying out loud. After a few minutes, I was able to help her get to the bed dressed only in a bath robe still. She was in a lot of pain and thought she might have broken her hip. My sons were now just about asleep.

I called my father in law (a retired Delta man as well) in Atlanta and told him what happened. He said she might have broken a hip or leg so best to call an ambulance. I asked him if he would fly to Frankfurt immediately to help me with my sons. He agreed and left for the airport at once. Meanwhile, I called the hotel's front desk and they called an ambulance from the Frankfurt Airport Hospital in Terminal 1. In about 15 minutes we had two medical professionals and a lot of managers from Sheraton at our room. My sons are now deeeeeeep into sleep. They put a neck brace on mom and said we would have to transport her to the airport's hospital. I had to wake up my boys, get them dressed, and follow the medical people with mom on a stretcher out to the parking lot on the ground floor just outside the Congress Center entrance. They put her in the ambulance and then I had to answer a bunch of questions for legal reasons I was told. My sons were tired but very cooperative. Not a word of whining or complaining. I've got great sons!

After filling out paper work and such (it took about 15 minutes) they took me and the boys to the airport hospital. They decided before we got there that it would be best to take Mom to a real hospital in downtown Frankfurt. So, my boys got in the front seat of the ambulance and I got in the back with Mom and one of the doctors. We drove about 30 minutes to the hospital. We got there about 9.30 p.m. We saw different doctors, had x rays taken, spoke with a specialist and finally decided that nothing was broken but a lot was very, very bruised. A number of meds were given to her. During my meetings with doctors and such my sons slept quietly and uncomfortably on one chair each in the emergency room we were all in. At about 1 a.m. they released mom. We got a taxi back to the Airport Sheraton. Mom got to our room and in her bed with the help of some hotel staff. The boys went straight to sleep after being awake for a very, very long time. It was about 2a.m.

This is where my love and ever growing appreciation of Delta people starts to pick up. After everyone else was asleep, I got on the phone with Delta Airlines in ATL trying to change our tickets for the next day and work out some kind of plan for getting mom home. She took pain meds and rested about 7 or 8 hours. At 6.30 the next morning I was at the ticket counter just to the left of Delta's check in area at FRA. The nice lady there saw what had been put in the computer the night before on the phone and told me that with a letter from the hospital, she'd change my and my son's ticket (the 5 year old who was on a paid economy class ticket) as often as needed to get us home with no charge at all. I had that letter from the hospital so all was well. I also asked her if I could speak with the Station Manager about our situation as I needed some flexibility in dealing with one son on a paid ticket and 2 others (father in law and older son) on passes. I could tell this was a request they hear a lot but rarely honor. She went over to one of the desk agents at the Business Elite check in area and they called me over. She, Margo was her name...a saint of a woman, asked what this was in regard to. I began to explain it and she "enough. I'll go get her." Two minutes later I have the full attention of the Delta/Swissport station manager. We spoke for about 15 minutes and she assured me they'd do whatever they could to get my sons back out with my father in law that same day if they could. If they could not then come back before 3 p.m. and we'll work on the plan for tomorrow.

At 8.30 a.m., I took my sons from the hotel back to the airport to meet my dear father in law (I have not one father in law or mother in law joke in my arsenal. They are wonderful supportive people of my and my family's tranoceanic lifestyle) who had just arrived from Atlanta. We checked them in with all of our baggage, said goodbye (a big gulp in my throat as my two sons walked through security without me), he took my boys, and they tried to get back on the flight to Atlanta with he and my 8 year old on passes and my 5 year old on a confirmed economy ticket but with the understanding that if they all did not get on then he would not get on. I went back to the hotel to be with Mom and see how she was doing. My dad in law called me about 2 hours later to say they did not get on the flight as there were no seats for standby passengers. They were the next 3 in line but the fight went out full. Oh well. He got all the checked luggage back and I went to meet them back at the Terminal 2 meeting area just outside baggage claim.

We then all came back to the hotel room. Management had left me a number of messages about coming down to the front desk and updating them on the situation so I went down to the front desk to update them on what was happening. I had not slept since Saturday night in Novosibirsk and then for only 3 hours so I was not looking, smelling, or feeling very talkative at all this Monday afternoon. When they learned that my wife's father had come all the way from Atlanta to help with the children they gave him a free hotel room two doors down from mine so we would not all be in one small room together. They also promised me the same cheap rate for that night and put us on the breakfast list for the next morning. If you've ever had that breakfast experience at the Airport Sheraton at FRA you know what a blessing that was. It was not originally available to us on the rate we had for the one night we had reserved in advance. We all rested well that day. Later, Papa and the boys and I went for a walk to the train station beside the hotel while Mom rested. When we got back to the hotel Mom was feeling a lot better. Pain meds were working.

Looking at flight availability for the next day online via tools afforded a retired employee we decided it best to buy tickets back to Atlanta for Papa and the boys. Using their passes could take a long time to get out as there were a good back up of non rev passengers all trying to get out. It was not cheap but their mom really wanted to get them back as we'd been gone from her and our 3rd son and newborn daughter for nearly a month already. $1600 per person later they were confirmed on a CSA flight to PRG and then on a DL flight to ATL. So, on Tuesday morning the three of them flew to Prague and then connected to a flight to Atlanta. Mom and I waited a few hours after they left and then tried to get on the last flight of the day to Atlanta (DL27). The Delta people were great and helped us all they could. They earlier allowed my dad in law and sons to check more bags than allowed so that I could focus on helping my mother and not being worried about baggage carts and carry ons as we moved through the airport. That was one huge blessing to us all. They also allowed me to change my ticket 3x with no change fees since I was helping her. If she were a paying passenger this would be, in my mind, expected. She was a pass rider though so I thought this was above the call of duty.

While checking in at FRA the Swissport agent (some of the folks we dealt with were Delta and some Swissport) told me she was lead on the gate check in for this flight and would do all she could to get my mom in a seat up front on the flight to ATL. With her back and legs in the condition they were in this was a very, very nice offer. At the gate, she called me to the podium and handed me two boarding passes. 6F and 6G. Not only had she gotten mom up front but she got me a seat beside her and I was on a $900 el cheapo L fare. Not only were we on the same plane in very comfortable seats but we were even side by side. At this point I was literally in tears. I wanted to hug her but held back. I am very, very thankful to Delta Airlines as I sit here and type this.

We got into Atlanta on Tuesday about 2 hours before my dad in law and sons arrived from Prague. Mom had pain medication she was taking so she felt pretty good on the flight. We met the 3 when they came through security and then we got Mom home and put her to bed. She slept for 12 hours. I and my boys finally got home late on Tuesday night to see my wife and two other children.

Mom is sore but nothing is broken. She is moving slow, will have some rehab for a good while still but should be fine in time.

I wrote on my blog recently about how Lufthansa Airlines had lost my business forever as a result of a major screw up they did not own up and properly respond to. Though their schedule and interline agreements are much more comfy than Delta's between ATL and OVB, I determined to give all of my family's business to Delta on this route. This return trip was the first trip after making that decision. So far I have been very, very, very pleased with that decision.

For the listening ears, access to a station manager, waiving of fees, allowance of extra baggage, and just a sympathetic stance in a very stressful situation for me, I am more than ever a fan of and allegiant to Delta Air Lines.

"The Family" might be making a comeback after all...



Blogger Kimberly said...

Wow. What a story. Bless your hearts. And so sweet of Tim to come out. And, oh, the plane ticket fee. Yikes. Now a "pass" person? They fly for free??? Once or always? I'm so glad your mom is okay and that everyone is home safe. =)
Go Delta!! You know, back in the 80's my dad flew Delta weekly, and I was a member of their kids' club. =) I am actually a charter member.

2:36 PM

Anonymous Agi said...

It is a double WOW. My head was spinning as I was reading all of this. It appears that a whole army of guardian angels were looking out for all of you guys (and Coleman, for sure). God is AWESOME; praise to Him. I am so very glad that Nancy is all right. Please send me her email or cell Rob so I can call her. Love you guys.

9:58 AM

Blogger Kimberly said...

I am impressed with how much of the States you've seen- only 4 to go! =)
And I would love to see Costa Rica. I heard it's just beautiful. And is it them that boast the best rain forests?

2:25 PM

Anonymous Heather Hodges said...

Welcome home. I was in tears as I read your story. I'm so sorry to hear about all the troubles you had and we are praying for Nancy. Please give her my love.

3:04 PM

Anonymous prudog said...

say hello to mama browne... and by the way, i never charged for the haircuts i gave phil, and your mom said it was the best he's ever had. so come on down to longview for a free haircut. how's that for customer service, huh?
now... about being the father of a little girl, get ready to fall in love again. by the way, we're due on december 28, and hoping for a little man this time, but we'll see. we'll actually find out this time (early september).
our summer travelling is done with also... it's good to be back home for a long time.

12:16 PM


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