Travels With Panama: The Trying to Get to Miami for NABJ's Conference Edition

Illustration for article titled Travels With Panama: The Trying to Get to Miami for NABJ's Conference Edition
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I’m not saying that somebody has it out for me when it comes to air travel, but I’m not saying somebody doesn’t either. I’ve made several trips in the past two months and they’ve all come with their fair share of shenanigans. I wrote about the one that ended my on-again, off-again relationship with American Airlines, but I spared you the story of how I ended up at a Red Roof Inn outside of Baltimore. Mistakes were made. Well, because my middle name is apparently “For Your Entertainment,” I had some more melodrama recently.


A few weeks back yonder, I decided to go to this year’s annual National Association of Black Journalists conference, running from August 7 to 11 in Miami (really Aventura), and copped plane tickets and made hotel accommodations and henceforth and whateva.

Because I don’t do American Airlines anymore—which sucks because of their cheap fares—I booked through my American Express account on Delta, and used some miles and points to upgrade my ticket to Delta Comfort Plus. I was ret’ to go. Conference registration? Check. Plane tickets not on American Airlines and not basic bitch shit so if things go wrong I’m not fucked in the game? Check. Hotel reservation? Check.

I planned to fly down Thursday morning, August 8, and get to the conference around 1 p.m.-ish and do various panels and was even supposed to be part of a panel discussion later on that evening. But as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

I woke up that Thursday at 4:45 a.m. My flight was at 7 and I’m about that CLEAR + TSA PreCheck life, so I wasn’t sweating a thang. At around 5 a.m., I got a notification saying that my flight had been delayed by an hour and was not leaving at 8 a.m. I somehow missed this and headed to the airport anyway and got there around 6 a.m. There were many, many folks in line but I’m not those people; this time, I handled my business properly. As it turns out, I, too, was those people. I attempted to check in at a kiosk and that thang told me that I needed to go holler at an agent. And this is where God began to chuckle.

According to the personnel at the counter, the weather was trippin’. There wasn’t much in the way of specifics but we had trash weather on Wednesday night, so apparently, many flights that evening were canceled and delayed and this caused a ripple effect to Thursday. But I should be good, right? Even though my flight was delayed, Delta graciously informed me of my flight details and my connection in Atlanta was also delayed. According to all of the information Delta provided me via email, I was Safaree levels of straight.


Until I got to the Delta counter. The counter agent, who was somebody in D.C.’s auntie so I won’t put her name out there, was basically like “Yeah, you’re not leaving D.C. today,” which I found insane because I PAID TO LEAVE DC THAT DAY. And the weather was beautiful. What she did tell me, though, was that they could get me to Miami on Friday NIGHT at, like, 7 p.m. which means I would have paid all this money for one day of a conference. That wasn’t going to work for me. In that case, I might as well cancel the whole thing. But I’d lose money on the conference cost and the hotel cost, assuming I got my entire refund back from Delta since it was an involuntary cancellation. Then she was like,maybe we can put you on a flight at 10:30 a.m. and you can hope you can catch a flight out to Miami while in Atlanta.” Almost as soon as she’d said it, she changed course (no pun intended) and was like, “actually that’s not going to work; you’re not leaving D.C. today.”

I made my frustrations clear (which I think wasn’t unfair; I was extremely pleasant and respectful about it) and she told me, in a similarly frustrated manner, that she “can’t control the weather” in that way where even if she could, apparently my displeasure created her displeasure. She basically got mad at me for being mad, even though I was mostly just nonplussed. I imagine she’d been dealing with folks all morning who were similarly frustrated and trying to leave. Let’s just say neither of us wanted to have this conversation.


After literally standing at the counter for 30-plus minutes while she “tried” (this is in quotes for reasons that will become clear) to unsuccessfully find me a flight out from anywhere in the D.C. area, she said she was just going to book me on that Friday night flight and if I wanted my money back I could go call somebody at the 800 number. It was my decision but to her, our interaction was over. I was a man without a flight just trying to get to Miami to see Roland Martin in a tailored Easter-ready dashiki suit.

So I called Delta. Here’s where it gets confusing: When I finally got a person on the phone, she was like, “sure, we can get you to Miami TODAY. We’ll put you on a 10:30 a.m. flight to Atlanta, which is just your delayed flight, and you’ll have a lengthy layover, but you’ll get to Miami late this evening.” I was confused as to why this woman did this immediately but the counter agent was like “There is literally nothing we can do to get you to Miami today, because there are no flights out of D.C. that we can put you on; everything’s booked.”


At this point, I have no idea who was telling the truth or not and why their systems would register different information. But the phone agent booked me on the flight and sent me a new itinerary and was like, “You’re all set.” A point of note here: I’d been receiving updates from Delta either via text or email about the status of the flight I’d been originally booked on. I got a new update aside from the newly rebooked flight. I ain’t saying the lady at the Delta counter was playing with my emotions—in the grand scheme, she was rather nice, considering the frustration levels of so many Delta customers trying to get out of D.C.—but mayhaps our annoyances with one another manifested in her deciding that I just wasn’t going to be leaving that day.

By the time I got off the phone, it was a little after 7 a.m. Thursday morning, so I decided to go home and change clothes. I’d dressed to attend the conference—you know, suited and booted and shit—and since I wasn’t going to get in until late that evening, I figured I should fly comfortably and it’s like 20 minutes from the airport to my house. So I got home, scared the shit out of my wife—she thought somebody was breaking into the house since, ya know, I was supposed to be on a flight—changed clothes and headed back to the airport at, like, 9 a.m. for this 10:30 a.m. flight.


My bag had already been checked so I rolled right up to TSA and breezed through the line with speed. I didn’t look at any of the computerized flight info at any point in the airport because when I left the airport at like 7:15 a.m., I had a flight and a gate to fly out of. I went straight to the gate and noticed something amiss: My flight wasn’t the next flight out. As opposed to a flight to Atlanta, there was a flight to New York. I was confused.

I found a flight tracker and saw that my flight had been canceled. No longer delayed, but canceled. You remember how I said I’d been receiving updates via text or email? Yeah, I got NOTHING. Delta had basically been updating me like their performance review depended on it until it really mattered. I got not one single notification saying my flight had been canceled.


At this point, I was just pissed. They can let me know my flight is delayed but NOT that my flight is canceled? Bruh. And they checked their system and acknowledged no notification had been sent and didn’t know why. So I’m at the airport, without a flight trying to make it in America. I ended up calling customer service while extra pissed and was rebooked on a flight for Friday morning that would get me there at 1 p.m.—not 7 p.m. as I was told by the lady at the counter at the airport. I took the flight and accepted my fate. I ain’t saying she did it on purpose, but Delta counter agent lady got what she wanted after all. To be fair, the folks I spoke to on the phone were very sympathetic in that “We’re sorry for you, but this is all we have kind of way.” Still sucks, but I didn’t hate anybody when it was all over.

Since we’re talking troubles, I called the hotel and they informed me that they couldn’t modify my reservation and if I didn’t show up today (Thursday), they’d list me as a DNA (I assume that means did not arrive) and I’d lose my reservation. I called, who said they’d talked to the hotel who agreed to modify my reservation since my flight was canceled and it wasn’t my fault. I received a whole email confirmation and everything from


Which would have been cool except I got to the hotel and they said they never had that conversation with, even though I had a confirmation from them. But somehow, the hotel CHECKED ME IN EVEN THOUGH I WASN’T THERE. Even though they said they couldn’t do that, I didn’t lose my reservation, they just charged me for three nights though I was only there for two. Pro: I had a reservation, Con: WHO WAS LYING TO ME??

Considering that I was at the hotel to find out that they’d checked me in without my knowledge, that means I did finally make it. And my flight back home went off without a hitch. Will Delta get the boot like American Airlines? No. They didn’t take any more of my money and make me pay for the same flight twice on a technicality. And their customer service was IMMENSELY better than American Airlines even if I have no idea who was making up shit and who wasn’t. Plus, since I gave up American, I’m not sure I can afford to give up Delta, especially as much as I fly back and forth to Atlanta.


All’s well that ends well, they say, I suppose and I’m not out additional money. Until next time.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



In the future, could you text me your flight plans before you go?

I want to make sure I’m not anywhere near one of your cursed flights.