My parents were in wheelchairs from the moment they checked-in in at Newark Airport to their eventual arrival in Sarasota, about 12 hours later, because they can't handle walking the long distances from check-in to the gates or baggage claim areas.
After parking my car curbside and dashing in to get my parents wheelchairs in Newark Terminal B, a Delta agent -- a distance from the check-in counter -- checked my parents in and didn't even charge them for their two bags.
My parents trip was off to a great start.
We'd all seen horror stories on TV after the Christmas storm of people getting stranded at airports for days on end.
But, with all of their anxiety about getting stuck at the airport in Atlanta, their ultimate nightmare almost happened.
While they were flying from Newark to Atlanta, I got notified by Delta via my mobile phone that my parents' connecting flight to Sarasota was cancelled.
So, were a bunch of other Delta flights from Atlanta to Sarasota that evening, Jan. 11. With icy conditions in Atlanta, Delta was running a light schedule.
When I started searching Delta.com, there was no availability shown for any Atlanta-Sarasota flights that evening.
Nothing for any other airlines, either.
It looked like my parents were going to get stuck in Atlanta for the evening, and would have to figure out how to gather up their luggage and look for a hotel.
They would have been totally stressed out.
They had originally booked their flights on Delta.com and had no travel agent to get them out of this mess.
But, I called a travel agent friend, Bonnie Salt of Planet Travel in Newburyport, Mass., and she suggested I try to rebook as fast as possible on Delta.com and to phone Delta and hang on the phone for as long as it takes.
I called a couple of times and just got a recording. Another time I called and was promised by Delta that someone would call me back in around 20 minutes.
Fortunately, Salt provided me another phone number, Delta's agency number, and I reached Tricia Maris, a Delta customer service rep in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Maris sprung into action right away and got my parents on an Atlanta-Sarasota flight, slated to depart at around 8:55 p.m., about four and a half hours after they arrived in Atlanta.
It didn't matter -- at least they wouldn't have to spend the night at the airport and would be heading home, if the Delta flight didn't get cancelled in the interim.
Maris seeminly pulled some strings, got my parents seat assignments, 24B and 38B, explained to me what to do if their baggage didn't make it onto the connecting flight, and really brought me some "good news," as she put it.
Maris had provided me with the phone number for the baggage claim area in Sarasota because I was concerned that my parents' luggage, with all of their medicine, wouldn't make the connecting flight.
In Sarasota, I reached Drucilla Russell, the baggage claim floor supervisor, who was very kind and advised me that if my parents' bags didn't appear, then they should fill out a lost baggage claim form that night at the airport, regardless how late they arrived, because then Delta would ensure that the bags would get sent to their home the next day at the airline's expense.
Well, my parents' flight from Atlanta to Sarasota took off a few minutes late, but everything went smoothly. The gate agent had managed to place them next to one another in the first row of coach.
None of the Delta staff members gave my parents any special treatment because I write about travel. They had no idea I have this blog and am North America editor of Tnooz.
It was a really long day for my parents, a travel marathon for them, but when they arrived in Sarasota, they were happy and their bags were there.
Two Delta staff members handling their wheelchairs retrieved their luggage at baggage claim in Sarasota, wheeled them out to a taxi -- and loaded their luggage into the taxi.
The cab driver obviously didn't work for Delta, but even he (maybe it was a she) pitched in, carrying my parents luggage into their condo.
People who work for airlines take a lot of crap, often deservedly, but the Delta people whom my parents and I came in contact with on Tuesday acted so admirably and with such kindness, that they all deserve this blog post.
Nice work, Delta.