Delta delayed our flight and the stress almost made my wife miscarry our baby


Darren Johnson and his wife were forced to cut short their trip to St. Thomas in order to return to Salt Lake City to be with their daughter, who needed major surgery. On the way home, Johnson and his wife found themselves stuck in the Atlanta airport during the infamous Delta computer outage of August 2016.

In their quest to find another flight to Salt Lake City, Johnson says his wife, who was 21 weeks pregnant, was forced to run across the Atlanta airport twice. Several days after arriving at their destination her water broke, and she was confined to bedrest.

Seven months later, thankfully, everyone is healthy, the Johnsons have a new baby girl, and now Johnson wants to revisit Delta’s conduct. He thinks it is responsible for his wife’s health issue and wants us to help him recover $25,000 from the airline.

Johnson told us he and his wife were flying back from St. Thomas to be with their daughter when their flight was canceled:

Upon arrival at Atlanta from St. Thomas, we were told that our flight was still going to be taking off at the normal time. Then 15 minutes before the flight boarding time, they delayed our flight a couple hours (taking us deep into the night, 12:00ish).

Johnson said he talked to every gate agent he could find, telling them about his daughter, and one of them finally rebooked the couple on a flight that was leaving from “the other side of the airport.” They were forced to run in order to make the flight, but when they arrived at the gate they learned that it had also been delayed “a few hours.”

Delta eventually announced it couldn’t find a crew for the flight and canceled it, as well. Johnson was told that he and his wife would not be able to fly to their destination until later that evening. So he left his wife on “that side of the airport” and ran back to the original area where their first flight was scheduled to board:

I ran across the airport searching for any flights going across the country to try and get us out of Atlanta and into an airport closer to Salt Lake City. I found a flight that was leaving to Hawaii, and had a layover in Salt Lake, and when I asked them if I could jump on, they told me if I ran and got my wife we could possibly get on. So hours after canceling our morning flight, I ran across the huge Atlanta airport again, grabbed my wife and RAN across the airport to barely make the flight to Salt Lake.

At some point Delta offered Johnson and his wife $200 vouchers for the trouble. A week after he returned home, he called Delta, and it issued his voucher, but not his wife’s.

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Johnson didn’t follow up with Delta because his wife started having problems with her pregnancy:

My wife’s backaches prompted a visit from her healthcare professional who mentioned she needed to rest and not go to work. Soon after, her water broke at 21 weeks. One of the doctors came to us and told us that the chances of survival were so low, that if we wanted to have an abortion he would schedule one. We chose instead to take the chance, and she was put on bed rest for the next four and a half months, stopping her job. Luckily and most importantly, our daughter was born healthy and strong a few months ago.

Seven months later, after all the publicity surrounding the bad behavior of airline and security personnel, Johnson called Delta to try to get resolution on the compensation the airline promised his wife but never issued. Delta offered to issue the original $200 voucher it failed to issue, plus a $200 “prepaid card.”

Johnson didn’t think this offer was sufficient. He could have reached out to the contacts we list on our website for Delta Air Lines, but instead he wrote to us and asked us to help him recover $25,000:

I thought this was ridiculous, especially considering the circumstances of my wife’s monetary losses AND how much they will pay someone for an overbooked flight. I don’t want a huge settlement, but I want something for her that will at least be somewhat reasonable from Delta.

There are several problems with his request. First and foremost, he’s waited seven months to make his claim. I understand that life gets in the way, especially when you have a daughter recovering from surgery and a wife who is bedridden, but a simple call to Delta or an email to the contacts we list likely would have resolved the missing voucher quickly and easily.

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Waiting more than half a year to make the claim and asking for substantially more than the original voucher that the couple accepted — immediately after high-profile cases that are likely paying big settlements — makes his claim appear to be one of the many cases we get from people jumping on the bandwagon of airline payouts. He even references the huge settlements paid to passengers for overbooked flights. Perhaps he heard Delta’s announcement that it has empowered its staff to increase compensation up to $10,000 in order to resolve overbooking issues prior to boarding. But this isn’t an overbooking issue, and we’re not sitting at the airport waiting to board a flight.

Did Delta mishandle this case? Absolutely. Whether the computer outage was the fault of the airline or outside forces isn’t clear, but it definitely failed in resolving the issues created by the outage in a timely manner. But Delta doesn’t actually have to get anyone to their destination on time. A quick look at its contract of carriage shows:

Schedules and operations:
Delta will use its best efforts to carry the passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch. Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Delta may without notice substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Delta is not responsible or liable for making connections, or for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule or any flight.

But Delta does not have free rein to simply choose not to get passengers to their destinations or to delay their arrival indefinitely without consequences. It is required to either cancel and refund the remainder of the ticket, at the request of the passenger, or get them to their destination:

…Delta will transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased. At Delta’s sole discretion and if acceptable to the passenger, Delta may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier or via ground transportation.

Johnson could have requested the airline sign over his ticket to another airline or cancel the remainder of his ticket and purchase a ticket on another airline. If the delay had been weather-related this wouldn’t have been possible, but this delay was apparently related to Delta’s computer outage, and other airlines were operating on schedule during that time.

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Johnson also blames Delta for the stress his wife experienced, which he believes resulted in the problems with her pregnancy. Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta offers both medical assistance and guest relations assistance for passengers with disabilities. While I’m certainly not implying that pregnancy is a disability, I do think either of these offices could have assisted the couple. Johnson also could have requested wheelchair assistance for the long trips across the airport.

We are also not a team of lawyers — we are consumer advocates. We’re here to help you resolve issues with companies when they are dishonest, unfair, or disrespectful. But we also ask consumers to abide by a few “rules” as well:

Honesty means customers should never take advantage of a company, even when the business is unethical or avaricious. They have an obligation to educate themselves to the best of their ability before they buy.

Fairness means giving the system a chance before complaining. We believe that by working within the system, responsible consumers can ask for and receive a just and fair resolution to any service problem.

I think Johnson is trying to take advantage of the bad publicity all three legacy carriers have received in recent weeks, and $25,000 isn’t a “just and fair resolution” of this issue. If the couple wants Delta to give them $25,000 for a case that happened last year, they need to contact a Delta executive or an attorney, not a consumer advocate — and they will need much more documentation than Johnson’s assumption that the stress experienced specifically in the airport and at Delta’s hand caused his wife’s medical condition.

Delta should have immediately issued Johnson’s wife’s voucher when it issued his. It is now offering to do so, and is also offering Johnson an additional “$200 gift card” in recognition of the fact that the airline didn’t do what it said it would do, when it said it would do it. Our advocates believe this is fair and Johnson should accept Delta’s offer.


Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans.

  • Kristiana Lee

    There was stress from the trip as well as the from the daughter needing major surgery. How do you determine if the premature labor resulted from all of this? and if it did which one contributed more? I was lucky enough to receive top notch prenatal care, live-in help during bed rest (thanks Mom!), and still delivered my kids 8 and 11 weeks early. Sometimes things just happen for no good reason.

  • Altosk

    Yeaahhh…no. This guy wants to sue deep pockets, he needs to find a lawyer, not this site. Also, good luck proving the “stress” of the Atlanta airport caused the wife’s medical problems.

  • finance_tony

    Nobody is forcing you to run. If you can’t make a flight, you can’t make it. Suck it up and take responsibility for your own health.

  • Travelnut

    If the wife was suffering stress from the running around the airport, I think she could probably have qualified to ride the electric cart – possibly arranged through the customer assistance or disability assistance offices mentioned in the post. I feel for them, and at the same time I think they are being kind of greedy for a case that is kind of weak.

  • Rinacres

    I would also like to point out that there is a tram train that runs from one end of the ‘huge Atlanta airport’ to the other, so there was no reason for him or his wife to run, and in fact they would have made better time if they had in fact taken the train. Trains arrive every 20 seconds. I have also had no problem having one gate agent call to another gate for me, and he could have had the gate agent call to the gate with the flight to alert them to their arrival, and most likely would have discovered the delay at that point as well with no need to run. I feel he is looking for a payout.

  • greg watson

    Way too much to deal with here. I know that stress, disappointment & frustration can be difficult to deal with, but, in the end, we do have choices (usually) in how we deal with them. As John Lennon said,
    ‘ life is what happens……..while you are busy making other plans’ This OP went ‘over the top’ as regards this situation. Hopefully his wife & daughter are doing well.

  • FQTVLR

    Like several others I am perplexed at running across the airport in Atlanta. I live in the Atlanta area and frequently fly out of there. I also have back and leg problems which slow me down. I use the “plane train” between terminals. Frequent and speedy. There are plenty of the electric carts there–just have a gate agent call one for you. Wheelchairs are abandoned all over the different concourses . Grab one and use it. You simply do not run across the airport. Based on the airport design that is almost impossible–except if you arrive on a international flight at concourse E and have to hoof it to F–the international concourse which has passport control for those ending their international travels in Atlanta.

  • Lindabator

    what BS – just another cash grab case – these folks are really getting ridiculous

  • Alan Gore

    Why couldn’t the pregnant wife have been hustled across the airport in a wheelchair? Did LW try this option?

  • Rebecca

    I was looking for the right way to call out the OP for making such a ridiculous accusation. But I think you nailed it. It’s just plain bs.

  • Mel65

    Good.Grief.

  • polexia_rogue

    They will need a lawyer and a viral news story. Viral videos seem to work the best but there would be no way to make a video unless the guy happened to be a youtube vlogger.

  • PsyGuy

    There was an infamous computer outage in 2016, first time I’m hearing of it, but I don’t travel to Atlanta, so, maybe it was infamous there.

    They lost me when they said they wanted $25,000 which is in the same category as I put two system wide first class tickets to anywhere”.

    Honestly, if your wife is that sensitive to stress and late term in her pregnancy you either should be staying home or renting a private plane.

  • PsyGuy

    Sometimes there just isn’t a recent good or bad.

  • PsyGuy

    I absolutely think she would have qualified, but I also don’t know how busy there where. My experience with events of this type is it’s a lot of unhappy people standing and milling around an airport isn’t generally a good place to be.

  • PsyGuy

    True but the whole airport was probably in disarray at least delta would have been.

  • PsyGuy

    I run across airports, have to get my steps in.

  • PsyGuy

    AND brazzen.

  • Carchar

    For that kind of money, I agree that an attorney should be hired, but I have my doubts about their winning.

  • Altosk

    Looks like they’re trying to get the viral news story here, but ain’t no one buying. I’m not even bothering to put this one on reddit.

  • Byron Cooper

    I would be very surprised if the OP’s obstetrician attributed the broken bag of waters to the flight delay. If she were having a complicated pregnancy and there were restrictions place by her OB that is another matter, but she should have adhered to the advice from the OB. In either case, I don’t think this is the airline responsibility.

  • Daddydo

    suspect that if I say “insurance” one more time, that the monitor will blow up. Instant gratitude would have been achieved with insurance, they could have purchased any airline’s ticket home from Atlanta. Not an airline in the world have been better under their circumstances; it takes a person that cares. I really would never have ever taken a trip with a pregnant wife without insurance.

  • FQTVLR

    But Atlanta is almost impossible without elevators, escalators etc. You can run through a concourse but the airport itself is another story. Next time I see a runner in Atlanta I will stop and see if it is you!

  • FQTVLR

    it was leading on national news for 2 days last August. Just a fiasco.

  • Fishplate

    Trains run every two minutes between terminals. And they don’t go from one end of a terminal to the other, which can be a half-mile walk.

  • joycexyz

    Wouldn’t have been lucrative.

  • Attention All Passengers

    “Johnson could have requested the airline sign over his ticket to another airline or cancel the remainder of his ticket and purchase a ticket on another airline. If the delay had been weather-related this wouldn’t have been possible, but this delay was apparently related to Delta’s computer outage, and other airlines were operating on schedule during that time.”

    Though I don’t agree that Delta should pay this guy $25,000 – why do you suggest that the passenger COULD HAVED REQUESTED THE AIRLINE TO SIGN HIS TICKET OVER TO ANOTHER AIRLINE……..Are there not any airline staff left on this earth that can think out of the box and make this offer on their own – the passenger has to figure it out in the heat of battle ? Do people have to beg for assistance and come up with ideas that they have no knowledge of as an option ? Customer service is called caring and using common sense – 99% of problems could be solved this way.

  • PsyGuy

    Was in Kyoto visiting my fiance’s family (we live in Tokyo).

  • PsyGuy

    I have only flown through ATL once maybe twice (and the first time I was a toddler I believe).

  • jsn55

    As astonishing example of the increasing tendency to blame someone else for your problems.

  • jsn55

    This is one of the more astonishing cases I’ve ever read on Elliott. But you gotta give the guy points for trying … some lawyer will probably take it on at 50% contingency.

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