The Pinnacle Of An Epic Fail…

We (Noah and me) are still in Detroit.  We arrived here at 11 AM yesterday via a Delta flight and were supposed to fly to Syracuse via Delta’s partner – Pinnacle Airlines.  It seems that Pinnacle Airlines decided to switch over to a new computer system yesterday – a system that manages things such as routes, logistics, etc. Allow me to offer my opinion on Pinnacle’s new system – EPIC FAIL.

After delays, gate changes, and a series of “please bear with us as we attempt to address this issue” – the flight finally officially cancelled at around 5 PM.  Then we waited for about two hours in a customer service line (that was manned by only two agents) for hotel and meal vouchers.  We were the lucky ones.  Others in the line had much longer waits.

I called Delta after being in line for about an hour and watching the line and tired travelers’ frustration grow.  I urged them to get more agents to the customer service area to assist customers.  Regretfully, they did not send any additional help.  To their credit, the two women who were working skipped their lunches and soldiered through the line with no help.  The hotels in Detroit near the airport were filled to the brim last night with tired, disgruntled Delta passengers.  In all, Pinnacle Airlines cancelled 194 flights yesterday.

We were rebooked to fly out this morning at 7:30 AM.  As soon as I saw the writing on the wall (long before official cancellation), I called Delta and arranged for a backup flight.  That helped us to get ahead of the re-booking onslaught.  I insisted that they pull our luggage so that we could take it with us (Noah was not pleased with having to wait for the luggage, but there was no way I was leaving that airport without my luggage – I know better). We finally arrived at our hotel at about 9:30 at night.  Mind you, we left Fargo at 5:20 AM.

I woke up at 4 AM to ensure that I would get out of the hotel and to the airport on time.  Shortly after rising I received a call from the Delta system advising me that our 7:30 AM flight had been cancelled.  The sysytem automatically rebooked our tickets to the next available flight – tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM.  So far today, Pinnacle Airlines has canceled 69 flights.

After an extended conversation with a Delta representative and a matter-of-fact statement that I expected Delta to book us on another carrier if need be, we got confirmed on a Delta flight (not operated by Pinnacle Airlines) into Philadelphia where we will have to scramble (due to a short layover) to catch a US Airways flight to Syracuse.  With any luck, we will arrive in Syracuse approximately 24 hours later than originally planned (close to 4 PM).  Not ideal, but we’ll take it.

We will head to the airport with a couple of hour buffer today, something tells me we should err on the side of extreme prudence until we escape Detroit.  Hopefully, Delta will better triage the situation today than they did yesterday.  There are so many folks that wave been waylaid by Pinnacle’s new computer system.

The good news is that I have a great new example for my business continuity class.  This one is right up there with the intentional airport slowdown in Toronto that airport employees staged in protest of compensation issues wherein thousands of travelers missed flights and airlines and airports all over the world felt the impact.  I was lucky in that situation as well as I made my flight out of Toronto by a hair even after waiting a few hours longer than I should have to get through security.

I sometimes wonder why I am so fortunate to experience these type of events, but then I remember that folks who travel a bit likewise have stories about airline travel gone wrong.  It all comes with the territory.   This is just another story for the traveler’s war chest and fodder for class disection.  I can tell you this much, if one of my students was in charge of business continuity efforts at Pinnacle Airline this debacle would not have gone down like this.  This was poor planning, compounded by poor crisis management, and abysmal reputation management.  It was the pinnacle of an epic fail.

One thousand one hundred and twenty-three of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

4 Responses

  1. Barbara

    I wonder how many other inconvenienced fliers approached this situation as just another problem in need of an solution–and then actually put their brain to work on that (as opposed to ranting, whining, swearing, etc.). Sorry to hear of the glitch in your plans and hoping the rest goes better. 🙂

  2. Glenn Muske

    Hope you are well on your way. Everyone who travels has a story to tell and we all have our most unfavorite airlines and airports. But as you listen, often the airlines and the airports are not the same one. They all seem to have their bad days. I don’t think there is a major U.S. carrier that hasn’t provided less than stellar service at some point in my life. Carry on.

  3. Mark

    I was on a Knoxville to La Guardia flight set for a 6:36 am departure. Fortunately, I had stayed up the entire night before packing, so I was asleep and had no idea what was going on. So even though I was supposed to be off the plane by 8:30ish, the fact that I walked off at 10:25 didn’t bother me nearly as much as if I’d been alert the entire time.
    My nonstop flight ended up being double length, but at least my final destination was NYC. Anyone that flew after that initial wave of delays was truly screwed.

  4. John Mueller

    I was on a Pinnacle flight to Buffalo friday night that was canceled due to crew hours. Four total strangers got together to drive and we made the run to Buffalo by 0600 Saturday. My luggage didn’t make it until 2300 Saturday. I was surprised Delta/Pinnacle didnt have more people on hand to handle the cancelations/re-routes and lost luggage. I think I am switching my business to United or Souwest.

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