Delta employees, undeterred by up to 30 inches of snow that grounded air travel along the East Coast, rallied Sunday to restart the airline’s operations. Many volunteered on days off and pitched in wherever needed to get customers moving again.
At New York’s JFK International Airport, Delta employees resumed flight operations less than 24 hours after 30.1 inches blanketed the airport. The first flight, to the Dominican Republic, boarded just before 3 p.m. Delta flights also resumed at Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.Even at Washington, D.C., airports, where flights remained grounded Sunday, Delta ramp agents at Dulles International Airport volunteered to come in and clear the ramps of 29 inches of snow for Monday’s anticipated 9 a.m. resumption of operations. Other employees went to work to open the Delta ticket counter on Saturday in case the airport was able to open, said Alpha Toure, Delta’s Station Manager at Dulles.
“It shows the dedication employees have to this company and our customers,” Toure said Sunday. “It’s been an adventure here, but everyone is in good spirits and pulling together. That is what makes this team exceptional.”
Stephanie Baldwin, Director-Airport Services at JFK, said numerous customers took her aside to thank Delta for doing such a nice job of re-accommodating passengers. She herself spent part of the morning helping customers from behind the ticket counter.Several of Delta’s leaders at JFK spent the night at the airport to help speed the airline’s restart today, while de-icing crews worked not only on aircraft but on the frozen ramps. Other employees pitched in wherever they could, Baldwin said. “Employees bought baby clothes and formula for grandparents with an infant grandchild who were traveling from Thailand through JFK to Raleigh-Durham and got delayed over the weekend,” Baldwin said.
By mid-afternoon, Delta anticipated a near-full mainline operation at both JFK and LaGuardia airports, though the Delta Connection regional operation has been canceled through the rest of the day.
In Philadelphia, operations also restarted Sunday afternoon thanks in part to maintenance and ground equipment employees who stayed overnight to start tugs every hour to prevent them from freezing, said Judy McMurtry, Station Manager-Philadelphia. Some even cleaned walkways with snow plows to minimize clean-up for hired contractors who came when snow began to fall.
At Reagan National Airport in Washington, employees spent Sunday preparing for an anticipated restart Monday morning. Employees kept flights running as long as they could Friday night before conditions became unsafe.
“Long after all other airlines had suspended operations, the Delta team managed to turn six flights to get our customers safely on their way,” said Dion Moncur, Station Manager-Reagan National. “I’m very proud of the awesome level of teamwork that was displayed on Friday by customer service, Tech Ops and ground equipment employees to keep the operation and our customers going.”Delta employees gathered in their Philadelphia hotel lobby Sunday morning when a customer approached the group and asked, “I see you guys are getting together…that seems like good news, right?”
McMurtry replied, “Yes, were getting ready to get the operation started up again.” The customer responded, “That’s great!” McMurtry asked, “Oh, are you flying Delta?” and the customer exclaimed, “Of course!”
NOTE: Delta’s winter weather waiver remains in place to allow customers to make one-time changes to their travel plans and be accommodated on flights after the storm passes. Customers are advised to check flight status on Delta.com or through the Fly Delta Mobile App.
Staffers Elizabeth Wolf in New York City and Courtney Williams, Rachel Solomon and Shannon Ledwich in Atlanta contributed to this report.