The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Delta Melts Down and Acts Like Delta
In the early hours of a summer Monday morning, Delta Air Lines suffered an internal power failure at its Atlanta hub. Delta immediately swung into action. It lied about the problem, blaming Georgia Power, the local utility, delayed and cancelled thousands of flights and kept tens of thousands of travelers on-hold for hours. It doled out travel waivers in a niggling way so that flyers couldn't plan alternate arrangements. And, finally, as the situation began to improve on Wednesday afternoon, it scrubbed its publicity operation of the earlier misleading claims and assertions. In other words, an arrogant airline doing what it does best. Here's how we covered the situation. As usual, the latest item is on top, so read up from the bottom for context.

8/11/16, 2PM ET, THURSDAY
WHEN AIRLINES GO BAD ...

What did we learn this week on the road? Airlines in crisis react exactly as they do when things are running like clockwork. Delta Air Lines melts down, lies about the reason, then tells customers this isn't Delta's style. When it melted down last month, Southwest Airlines took the blame immediately, profusely apologized and showered travelers with discounts. Via my Seat 2B column for BizJournals.com, here are seven other lessons we learned from the disruptions.

8/10/16, 4PM ET, WEDNESDAY
DELTA DOES WHAT DELTA DOES BEST: ACT LIKE ASSHATS

After lying about the initial cause, refusing to extend its travel waiver for more than a day at a time and being startlingly slow to rebound from a six-hour outage more than 48 hours ago, Delta today did what it does best: It acted like an asshat. Its so-called News Hub scrubbed the archives of misleading statements it has made during the early hours of the meltdown. Meanwhile, it continues to operate dreadfully. FlightStats.com says it has cancelled more than 275 flights and delayed more than 1,000 more today.

8/10/16, 10AM ET, WEDNESDAY
DELTA WAS TERRIBLE ON TUESDAY

Delta has a terrible Tuesday, which shouldn't surprise anyone after the computer-power outage in the early hours of Monday. The airline itself says it cancelled about another 1,000 flights on Tuesday. FlightStats.com says the mainline part of the carrier operated at about 52 percent on-time. The delays on about 30 percent of those flights exceeded 45 minutes, the Transportation Department standard for "excessive" tardiness. However, the airline did extend its travel waiver for another day.

8/9/16, 10AM ET, TUESDAY
DELTA WIPED OUT ON MONDAY

Delta was almost a total wipeout on Monday. According to FlightStats.com, the mainline operation ran just 27 percent on-time. Sixty percent of the schedule operated 45 minutes or more behind time. The 45-minute mark, of course, is the point where the Transportation Department calls delays "excessive." Meanwhile, more than 750 flights, or 22 percent of mainline operations, were cancelled. None of this includes Delta's commuter operations, which represent about half of its daily schedule of around 6,000 flights.

Want a sense of how delays and cancellations affect a networked carrier such as Delta? Consider this from a JoeSentMe member. He Emailed me shortly after Delta's Atlanta-Johannesburg flight departed late Monday night. The flight itself departed only a few minutes late, he explained, and he was surprised that it seemed half-empty. A flight attendant told him that 89 passengers scheduled to be on the ATL-JNB flight missed their connections to Atlanta.

8/8/16, 10PM ET, MONDAY
DELTA HAS BEEN A TOTAL MESS TODAY. TOMORROW WILL BE AWFUL, TOO.

A quick update on the Delta Air Lines situation, which is throwing lots of shade on the airline's claim that it is operationally better than its competitors.

Delta says it had cancelled 700 flights by 7:30pm this evening. There have been thousands of delays, some lasting five hours or more, throughout its 6,000 or so schedule of daily flights.

The airline said this evening it would give a $200 travel voucher to any customers who suffered a cancellation or a delay of longer than three hours. It says it will contact you if it has your e-mail. If not, go to http:// www.delta.com/wecare My suggestion: Don't wait for Delta, go to the site and fill out the form. Hold on to any documentation you may have.

Delta has finally extended its travel waiver to flights scheduled to operate tomorrow. It made sense, given the long hold times and unreliable site, to delay tomorrow's extension earlier today. In fairness, Delta was trying to get today's passengers rebooked and it didn't want a flood of calls for tomorrow's operations. But to wait so long this evening is a real disservice to customers because, frankly, there are going to be many delays and cancellations tomorrow, too. Here's the current verbiage: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/advisories/system-outage.html

For the record, Delta lied--or, more precisely, knowingly fudged--about the cause of its meltdown. It claimed it was a "power failure," which made it sound like a problem created by the utility company in Delta's hometown of Atlanta. Georgia Power, the utility firm, would have none of it, however. It made clear by mid-day that Delta's own internal equipment had failed and pointed to the obvious fact that no one else in Georgia experienced a power failure.

Now, as for the human toll. There are several stories about how Delta pilots bought pizza for passengers stuck on aircraft. And there are more than a few bits on social media praising front-line Delta employees. But neither can paper over two things: Delta has been swamped all day today and lots of misinformation was put out today.

From the misinformation department: One JoeSentMe member kept me informed about his wife's scheduled flight from Detroit to Orlando. His first note said his wife found no lines for her noon flight, things were quiet at the DTW Delta Club and her flight was scheduled to leave on-time. Just before noon, he contacted me again and said he wife was now being told that "they don't know where planes are going and when." A bit later, he said her flight was cancelled and she'd been rebooked on a replacement at around 5 pm. At nearly 6pm, he emailed again to say she was finally taxiing out. And that's how an on-time departure becomes a six-hour delay with the airline tap-dancing the entire time.

As for the former, well, this from another member at about 7:30pm: "Atlanta is in meltdown. Line for customer service six football fields [long]. Line to get in club three football fields long."

8/8/16, 9:30AM ET, MONDAY
DELTA AIR LINES GROUNDS TO A HALT

A Delta Air Lines system crash has caused massive delays and cancellation since about dawn this morning.

As you may already know, Delta suffered a near complete breakdown of its computer systems after a power failure in Atlanta. A subsequent ground stop naturally caused a near-total grounding of Delta worldwide. That ground stop has now been lifted and at least a few flights are moving.

The problem with gauging the size of the outage is that Delta's computers aren't returning accurate information. For example, FlightAware.com is showing only 24 cancellations and about 350 delays and FlightStats.com shows just five cancellations and about 600 delays. The outage has affected everything: check-in kiosks, the Delta.com site and even flight-information boards at the airport.

Needless to say, if you are scheduled to fly Delta today or tomorrow, expect real problems. Delta has issued a travel waiver for TODAY ONLY. It allows you to change flights for departures until August 12. Trying to call Delta is, of course, a mission impossible. Hold times are extending past two hours. The verbiage is here: http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/advisories/system-outage.html.

A silver lining? Fewer business travelers are on the road this week. But a lot of leisure travelers are flying and they are less experienced and more easily frazzled. Of course, it's hard not to be. All of Delta's major hubs in the East--Atlanta, New York LGA/JFK, Detroit--are a mess. Things are bad in Minneapolis, too. It's early enough in Seattle and Los Angeles that things aren't quite as bad there. Delta's Europe stations, where departures for the United States should have been under way for hours, are also chaotic.

Obviously, this will take hours--in fact, days--to clean up because hundreds of Delta flights and flight crews are already out of position. So buckle up, make alternative plans if you have to travel today and consider booking any carrier but Delta if you are scheduled to fly this week.

This column is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.