"I Was on the 30-Hour Flight from Hell That Landed in JFK. Here's What Really Happened."

You have all sorts of worst-case scenario horror stories from traveling. Flights get delayed, you miss a connection, you get put up in a sleazy hotel "nearby." It happens. It's a fact of life. 

This week's horror story out of JFK takes the cake in the never-ending quest for the true champion of ineptitude: A four-hour flight from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic turned into 30 hours of hell for passengers aboard Delta Flight 944. 

The wildly inconvenient weather, replete with a perfect, this-actually-might-kill-you combination of snow, sleet, and obnoxious wind, caused headaches for everyone trying to get in and out of JFK on Monday, none more so than this flight that gave new meaning to the idea of taking the long way. 

The flight left Punta Cana at 2:15 p.m., was ready to land at JFK around 6 p.m., but couldn't do so because of heavy welcome-to-New-York-it's-been-waiting-for-you traffic on the ground. 

Oh, and it gets worse. 

Not only could they not land, they were running low on fuel. Where does an aircraft low on fuel go to fill up in a moment's notice? New Hampshire. 

No, New Hampshire's not nearly as bad as it gets, but to tell that story truthfully; to fully capture the true horror and despair of those thirty hours, we spoke to a passenger aboard, Jeffery Ginzburg. 

His story, though, is not one of simple gratitude to the captain for hanging in there (read: doing your job). 

It's not thanking God for an experienced pilot, or kissing the ground once your feet touch it. It was, simply, exposing the triumph of their return for what it was: fundamental ineptitude.


"The true colors of a business are apparent in how difficult situations are handled," he told us. "Delta was horrible." This is Jeff's story as he lived it.

After a lengthy delay waiting for the traffic to disperse (something the crew knew before they ever took off from DR), the plane turned to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to refuel. Things did not go as planned. Ginzburg noted that they waited on the tarmac there for more than three hours. 

"Nobody ate since before takeoff, and you can tell by the crying kids how much fun this was," he said. "I thought there were rules set in place in 2009 about letting passengers off any time a flight is sitting on the tarmac for three hours." 

christopherwong212 #flight #jfk #deltaairlines

Hey, Jeff! You're right. Still, though. It gets worse. Even after landing.  

"Then the plane drove around multiple gates before saying we'll be off of the ground soon because they are coming to de-ice the plane. That never happened. Instead, they told all passengers to deplane using some icy ladder that took over 45 minutes to get to us after the newest announcement."

"Passengers were told to exit 20 at a time, grab their luggage and kids, and walk through the heavy snow and wind to a small side airport entrance. That took over an hour and the Delta crew was nowhere to be seen. Only one stewardess remained in the front of the plane." 

"The only help we received was from fellow passengers since nobody from Delta or the airport was there for us."

"They did not cater to women and crying kids who should have left first. They did not provide blankets (I had to grab one from some floor corner so a kid could have a scarf of some sort). Some people were in flip flops and shorts." 

"Airport crews stood at the door and watched as families struggled to walk from the plane to the airport entrance. I saw one kid slip down the stairs while his parents held onto the icy staircase trying not to drop their luggage at the same time. 

"They could have at least shoveled the staircase they gave us." No, Jeff. We checked. They did the very, very least they could do. 

"The only help we received was from fellow passengers since nobody from Delta or the airport was there for us."

The nightmare was far from over. 


Fast-forward past the ineptitude involved in making overnight accommodations for these stranded passengers; past "11:44 p.m., groups of passengers were told to wait outside roughly 150 feet away from the warmer airport for tiny shuttles to pick them up and take them to assigned hotels and motels."

Fast-forward past the part where tiny shuttles came in small shifts to transport these people out of the cold, past the part where Jeff noticed the warmest person was a reporter recording the story from indoors. 

Yes, fast-forward past the part where they're told to get on a flight at 11 a.m. that turns into a flight at noon that can't actually leave until 1:30 p.m. because the plane still needed to de-ice after there were already people onboard. 

This is the part where they fly to JFK for a second time. The truly awful stuff. 

"We flew to JFK through what seems like a total flight-mare. Everyone was being thrown in their seat due to heavy turbulence-- the worst I've ever experienced." 

"People were throwing up, babies were crying, oxygen was being passed around, arguments were heard, and then the pilot told us we need to turn around and head to Boston since weather conditions (60 mph winds) didn't allow us to land." 


"You would imagine that Delta should have known that was going to happen on a flight that lands only 30 minutes away." 

Yeah, Jeff. You would think so. But no; not with Delta. When you fly with Delta, you fly by the seat of your pants. 

"It was loud and felt like a blender," he said. 

They make it to Boston only to spend a few more hours on the ground. They were not fed anything, and were told to "buy food in the airport if we were hungry."

Of course, third time's a charm, right? 

Is that an official marketing slogan for Delta? We can see it now, "Fly Delta! Where the third time's a charm!" or "Delta: We're going places, just not the ones we meant to!" or "Delta: We'll get you there... if you're lucky." 

Somebody call Don Draper. He always wanted an airline. 

delta To the 80,000 Delta employees worldwide, thank you for your unwavering commitment to help us keep climbing every day. #DELTAPROUD

This last flight was nothing worth writing home about, but Jeff wrote to us about it, and we're grateful that there are certain aspects of humanity that'll never change: rudeness. 

"The only standout from that final flight was when someone in first class yelled at a girl for talking loudly on her phone before takeoff. She was talking to her mom about how she was so scared and her mom was nervous. Apparently that moment of sensitivity was too much for some people."

As to why he reached out to us? Transparency. Truthiness. Journalistic integrity, even. 

"So many news articles sugar-coat the experience and make Delta look like they had the best crew ever," Jeff said. "I would argue that."

Lesson here? What moral can the story of absolute helplessness teach us? The story where nothing goes as planned and the people charged with the task of adapting to those struggles is bereft of decency, competence, and courtesy?

None. The story of hellish flight-mares has no lesson, only the reassurance that this-- this is the absolute worst they could do, and it can only be better... right?

Check out The Photographer Who Takes the Most Beautiful Pictures of NYC in the Snow. 

[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram] 

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