Delta Sends Private Plane for 79 Students and Teachers When Another Airline Cancelled Flight

Back in June American Airlines stranded a group of students in Oklahoma City. The group of 41 fifth graders and their chaperones weren’t given any options for their trip. American was just going to cancel their tickets and refund their money. So Delta sent a plane to rescue them.

Delta agents heard the story and reached out to management in Atlanta — who brought in an aircraft to fly the group to Richmond. Delayed six and a half hours, they had a flight to themselves — and a non-stop instead of a connection.

Delta got amazing publicity out of this subtweet, and now they’ve gone and done it again.

A group of 79 from the Ocean City High School boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams were flying from Philadelphia to Orlando on Thursday to compete in Saturday’s Disney Cross Country Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Their Frontier flight was cancelled, and Frontier said they wouldn’t be re-accommodated for six days (four days after the race was over). And no airline had enough seats for such a large group.

They thought the trip was off, but they tweeted at Delta — and two Delta agents met them as they were about to leave the airport: Delta would offer them a plane from Phiadelphia to Orlando.

Delta sent an MD-88 up from Atlanta. Frontier endorsed the tickets over to Delta. Since it was 3:30 a.m. before the Delta jet arrived, TSA re-opened a security lane for the teams. Delta provided snacks at the gate.

How’d the race work out? The “boy’s varsity and junior varsity teams won first place out of the 78 competing high schools, and the girl’s varsity team took second place and junior varsity fourth.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A nice story, if not a slightly ham-fisted tweet trying to rope in ‘The Ellen Show’?

    Glad they placed so well, makes Delta’s accomodation even more worthwhile!

  2. I don’t understand how it can be allowed/legal/whatever to say you can’t accomodate someone for 6 days? Anything beyond a day isn’t acceptable except in extreme weather. Even if that means you have to bump other passengers back a day or lease an aircraft or something.

    Something is serious FU when airlines can get away with stuff like this.

  3. @rich, it is indeed very bad. And before you say, “Well, that’s Frontier,” last time Delta stepped in to rescue a group from Oklahoma, it was American who wanted to strand them.

  4. The point is not Frontier or American (although it seems American is almost always involved in a negative way), but what the country has become when it comes to laws that put any accountability on corporations.

    Thanks to republicans for the last 40 years and even more so now with trump.

  5. I remember when on a snowy winter day I was waiting for a short flight (last one of the night at about 6-7pm) out of Marquette MI along with about 20-25 other people. The delta flight we were supposed to leave on had engine difficulty but fortunately delta flew in another aircraft from detroit just to pick us up (we were going to MSP). Not all airlines do this.

  6. No question it was nice gesture
    However after Deltas heroic flight these students can look forward to a one way delta sky pesos flight to Australia for only 475,000 miles one way in Business Class as a reward for their new found loyalty
    Or one million round trip which is most generous on Deltas part for anyone looking to redeem
    Yay for Delta the heroes can’t make this stuff up :)I’d def fly Delta if it wasn’t for the program 🙁

  7. dwondermeant — I totally agree with your criticism of Delta regarding their outrageously high redemptions for business class to Australia, which is why I, a Delta GM, chose to fly United and Air Canada in business class travel to/from Australia. I love Delta, but they are making it difficult for me to continue being loyal to them.

  8. @SadStateOfOurNation:

    Your argument boils down to “many people are too stupid to freely and independently exercise their right to contract, and therefore the government must create rules which assume all Americans operate at that same level of stupidity and must be saved from themselves.”

    There’s a contract of carriage which spells out precisely what is owed by F9 in these situations. People don’t care and don’t read it? Not society’s problem. We remain free to reap the fruits and bear the consequences of our contracts.

  9. @ Rich. It’s not unusual with all the carriers. I am exec plat and just one person and have had to wait as long as three days for a new flight with AA. This spring during the freak April snowstorm in Chicago they were telling me five days. I ended up buying a ticket on UA for $1200 after two days.

    With capacity streamlined to assure full flights, so few carriers now, and the days of carriers moving stranded passengers to other airlines being long over – is making things really difficult, especially during weather. I feel especially bad for families traveling who get stranded for days and struggle with paying for hotels.

    I agree. It is FU’d. The Govt. appears not to care either other than assuring you are not on a plane stuck on the tarmac for over 3 hours.

  10. Kudos to Delta! It speaks to the airline’s employees being empowered to take action and the airline’s operational excellence to make this happen on a short notice, at night. For anyone measuring their loyalty to a particular carrier based on the value of points they receive, this story may be an opening to view loyalty beyond just a “rebate” on your spend. I want to fly an airline that has employees who are empowered to take care of people in what matters in transportation industry the most: getting to your destination! I admire Delta and its core values – and for that reason when I think of the value of my DM status, I know it is not just a “quid pro quo” on my spend.

  11. We’ve always found Delta to be the most compassionate , reliable & best run airline of the U.S. Best ever!

  12. @ Galt

    I’m sure your first name isn’t John, who would never put up with these crony capitalists. Exactly what good is it going to do to read a contract that you cannot negotiate? If I tell the airline I want to change the contract, their response, if any, is take it or leave it. There are no fruits for me to reap.

  13. @dwondermeant and @George XS
    This is a story about Delta taking care of a group of kids who were stranded by another airline. I’m sure none of those kids give two hoots about how many Sky Miles are needed for an award ticket to Australia.

  14. @sadstateofournation

    Obama literally had a filibuster proof majority during his presidency and didn’t enact anything to prevent this… so “Trump and the 40 years of Republican rule” (eye roll emoji) have nothing to do with the laws to prevent this.

    Now I do agree there needs to be accountability on airlines in these situations. I am sure some sort of bipartisan support can be come to here, as no one thinks a 6 day reaccomodation is remotely reasonable.

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