Delta Air Lines Bankruptcy Emergence, Part 11: I Will Miss Delta Air Lines Flight 9998!?!

Note: Nine years ago yesterday, Delta Air Lines formally emerged from bankruptcy protection; and this article is the eleventh of a series of articles which I first wrote nine years ago today.

 t is bad enough when factors beyond my control force me to miss a flight. During my 19 years of frequent travel, I may have missed five flights, all of which was not really an issue because there was always a later flight for me to catch.

However, there was a good chance that I was going to miss Delta Air Lines flight 9998 on Tuesday morning, May 1. Everybody had to be at a special check-in area on the lower level of the airport in Atlanta by 0915 hours. Flight 9998 was scheduled to depart from gate A19 at 1000 hours. If this flight was delayed for any reason, it could have a domino effect on the events associated with ship 638 in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Besides, they certainly would not hold the flight just for me.

A car service was arranged to pick me up at my house at 0815 hours, which is plenty of time for me to get to the airport, even with some traffic. I was ready and packed by 0815 hours. At 0817 hours, i was already wondering where the car was located. Nobody called me about the car being tardy. Perhaps it was stuck in traffic? I am excited and did not want to miss this opportunity, so perhaps I was being a little hasty in judging the car service.

0820 hours comes and goes. 0825 hours come and goes. At 0830 hours, I called the car service company, who assured me that the car should be there at any time. I could not wait any more if I wanted to catch that flight. I have gone to the airport countless times, and I have the route and traffic patterns down to a science. Not knowing how fast or knowledgeable the driver would be, I could not take a chance. I drove to the airport myself.

Of course, I encountered rush-hour traffic, which slowed to a crawl before stopping. Fortunately, I took a back way which is much faster than taking the Interstate highways. I also knew how to maneuver around that traffic, regardless of the annoyingly slow motorists that believe that they own the left lane.

I finally reached the airport in Atlanta at approximately 0930 hours, and the daily parking lots are full. I park my car at an off-airport parking lot. I get a shuttle bus operator who leisurely decided to wait for a few more customers before departing for the airport terminals.

The shuttle bus finally arrives at the Delta Air Lines terminal. I sprint off the bus and immediately head downstairs to the special check-in area, which was sealed shut. Nobody was there. A sinking feeling began to develop inside my stomach. I immediately ran upstairs and approached the first Delta Air Lines employee I can find.

“I am trying to make a flight that does not exist!”, I exclaimed. Of course, she was confused. “It is a charter flight scheduled to depart from gate A19 from Salt Lake City, and I need to let them know I am here!” Still confused, she brought me to a check-in counter where there were two agents.

I explained my situation to the agent, who was also confused and asked the other agent for advice. I tired to tell them several times that the flight does not exist in their reservations system, but to no avail. This situation was fairly difficult to impart, as it certainly was not normal operations. It was 0941 hours, and I still have to get through security and take the train. I am running out of whatever time I might possibly have left.

Interestingly, during that time, I glanced up and noticed that the new Delta Air Lines logo was all over the lobby and check-in areas of the airport in Atlanta. I later found out that people worked past 3:00 earlier that morning transforming the airport lobby and check-in areas to be ready for the bankruptcy emergence events for later that day.

Finally, they understood that I was taking a special charter flight and was issued a gate pass. I was escorted to the security line, where I was instructed to cut in front of a pilot! This was exacerbated further by the fact that while I was normally prepared to pass through security under normal circumstances, I forgot to remove my belt, watch and keys from my person and frantically did so, tearing my bag in the process. All of this delayed my entry through the security checkpoint. I apologized profusely to the pilot, who simply rolled his eyes at me and my situation. I must have looked like a complete moron, and if I were standing behind me, I would be impatient and annoyed as well.

I finally successfully passed through the security checkpoint.

Running down the escalator was not an option, as crowds blocked all three escalators to the train station below. I boarded the train in such a way that I would be the first to depart from the train, and I knew from exactly which car to depart so that I may be the first up the escalator. I also knew that gate A19 was immediately adjacent to the escalators. I do not even know what time it was as I ran up the escalator to Terminal A. It was do or die at this point.

I rounded the corner, wondering if I indeed miss Delta Air Lines Flight 9998 — and the answer was…

Brian Cohen was a passenger on this airplane which operated as Delta Air Lines flight 9998 on Monday, April 30, 2007 — but will he once again be a passenger on it on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 for a trip across the United States? Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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