Looking at America's 'meanest' airline

Ha! So, you thought that since I went two weeks without writing a column, my dribble must have been stopped. Not so fast, folks, because I am back.

Actually, in all seriousness, I've just had a very full plate lately, and I had to put my column on the backburner for a bit.

But, fortunately, I have a topic to focus on as I come back. "U.S. News and World Report" recently named Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines the "meanest" major airline in America.

They cited baggage fees (which are basically the same as other major airlines), a low airline quality rating, and a high number of delays and consumer complaints, as the reason for their decision to hang this title on the local airline.

United Airlines was named the second "meanest" airline, followed Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and U.S. Airways.

On the plus side, the magazine named AirTran Airways, which has a hub in Atlanta, as the second-best airline in America, behind only Hawaiian Airlines.

I don't know about the "meanest" airline thing for Delta, though. I've flown on its planes a few times over the last couple of years, and I have not had major complaints with the airline. I did get stuck on one of their planes, on the side of the tarmac at JFK International Airport for four hours in 2009, because of bad weather in Atlanta –– but I slept through most of that.

They also sent me a $150 voucher to use on the purchase of a plane ticket, as a way of apologizing for that incident.

Earlier this year, I had some trouble checking in for my flight to Italy, because the flight departure time, and flight number, had changed. I had received an e-mail, notifying me of the changes, the morning I was scheduled to depart for Italy.

I got to the airport a couple of hours before my new departure time, and couldn't do self-check-in. So, I went to the desk, and the attendant was like: "Oh, your flight is leaving in five minutes. I don't think you're going to make it." I then whipped out a printout of the e-mail I received, and it was all quickly cleared up.

I just assumed it was due to the fact that the flight was originally given a Northwest Airlines flight number when I bought the ticket. The Northwest name had been dropped just before my trip, as the airline finished its merger with Delta.

It was not a big deal, because it was just a minor inconvenience. I still made it to the departure gate long before boarding began for the flight.

Really, Delta is not as bad as its new label suggests. I have certainly had much worse experiences on airplanes. There is one airline I've flown with that misplaced a piece of my luggage for two months, charged high prices for underwhelming food, had AIG advertisements on the overhead baggage compartments, and sold lottery tickets mid-flight (Hello, Ryanair!).

Is Delta perfect? No, but then again, what airline is? Will I fly with them again in the future? Absolutely. They are still the gold standard for air travel, in my eyes.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5.