- A law professor at the University of Notre Dame found himself stranded at airports in Manila and Seoul on New Year’s Day.
- About 56,000 passengers were affected by a massive shutdown of flights in Manila on Sunday.
- Diane Desierto told an insider she had no choice but to be stranded in Seoul in the fallout.
For a Notre Dame law professor, 2023 kicked off with a 24-hour travel nightmare.
It all started in the Philippines. She took a flight to visit her family during her vacation.
Diane Desierto had booked a trip from Manila to Washington DC and was due to return to the US on Sunday. Her first connecting flight was from Manila to Seoul.
On Sunday morning, she arrived at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and checked in, she told Insider.
But it all started to unravel from there, and power outages forced authorities to close the country’s airspace. 56,000 passengers were affected on 280 flights.
“There was a commotion because all other flights were canceled or grounded. Free WiFi cuts off after three hours, so no one knew what was going on,” she said, referring to local number.
Due to the lengthy delay, she sought a Delta ticketing agent to rebook her connecting flight from Seoul to Washington, DC, but found no one. Also, with limited internet and calling options, Ms. Desierto had no way of contacting Delta’s customer service.
She considered leaving the airport to find a WiFi connection, but the staff said they would not release her or her luggage.
“That was my point with the ground staff,” Desierto said. “They insisted that we were not allowed to leave the airport. When I tried to leave, they stopped me because I did not have the proper immigration stamp or permission to leave the airport itself. ”
Instead, airport and Korean Air staff told Desierto to board a flight to Seoul when operations resumed, even though he missed his connecting flight to the United States.
The staff told her she could find a Delta ticketing agent once she landed.
With no other choice, Desierto boarded the plane almost eight hours late.
But when Desierto and other Delta passengers arrived in Seoul, the promised ticketing agent was nowhere to be found.
She tried to approach Korean Air staff to rebook her flight, but they confirmed she was a Delta customer and told her to contact Delta instead.
It was 10 p.m. Seoul time, and with the airport restaurants and shops closed, Desierto and his fellow passengers had no food, no place to sleep, and no way to get out of Seoul.
Stranded in Incheon
Many of those stranded in Desierto were also Delta customers trying to return to the U.S., such as Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago or Detroit, she said. It was said that it was full of Americans who missed the flight from Seoul.
“Everyone had to fend for themselves. Many families with children were on the same plane. Babies and young children were forced to sleep at the airport,” she said. said.
Ms. Desierto had an even greater sense of urgency. She needed access to her own medication, some of which was packed in her check-in luggage.
Desierto finally got in touch with Delta representatives at 1:00 am, more than 12 hours after the first flight was first delayed in Manila.
After a two-hour round trip between Delta and Korean Air, she finds a new flight the next afternoon to the United States, but to Seattle instead of Washington, DC.
“That was one bright spot. When I finally hooked up with Delta, they never hung up and stayed with me,” she said.
When she woke up the next morning, other passengers were still frantically calling Delta.
On Monday, Desierto boarded a flight to Seattle, 26 hours after his flight from Manila was initially delayed.
She has already missed several meetings in Washington, D.C., and told Insider that she will instead return straight to South Bend, home to the University of Notre Dame campus.
Desierto has yet to decide whether to file a formal complaint regarding his ordeal.
“I go home first and reflect,” she said.
“56,000 passengers were affected,” she added. “And hundreds, if not thousands, of people will be forced to spend New Year’s Day without food or water under a lot of uncertainty and a lot of stress.”
Korean Air and Ninoy Aquino International Airport did not immediately respond to insider requests for comment.
In response to an insider’s question about Desierto’s flight status, Delta said it encouraged the law professor to contact the airline directly to “hear more” about her experience.
A Delta spokesperson said in a statement, “Delta does not instruct customers to refrain from leaving an airport against their will.