Emirates Flight Delayed 6 Hours Because Delta Wouldn’t Sell Them a $300 Part

This is only one side of the story because reportedly Delta did not comment.

Emirates says their flight EK228 from Seattle to Dubai on February 2 went mechanical and they were “unable to obtain a $300 spare part from Delta.”

Apparently “the [hydraulic component] was sourced from Delta’s local engineering office and installed on the plane, a senior manager at the U.S. carrier’s Atlanta base later ordered that it be removed.” (Emphasis mine.)

“It is sad, in our view, that any airline would deny such standard technical assistance to another carrier based on orders from headquarters that had nothing to do with maintenance or cost, but seem clearly to have been intended to inflict harm on the airline and its customers,” Emirates said in an e-mail.

Emirates Boeing 777

The incident came a week after Emirates announced Newark – Athens service, precisely the kind of flight Delta doesn’t want the US government to allow.

Hopefully the behavior that Emirates reports from Delta won’t become industry standard practice. I’d hate to see a Delta plane delayed in an another airline’s hub because they couldn’t buy the parts they needed.

Delta already broke industry tradition by demanding higher than standard rates of reimbursement for another airline placing distressed passengers in their empty seats. American and Delta no longer interline because American wouldn’t pay. United went along. Delta’s claim was they’re so reliable they don’t need the help, so other airlines should make it worth their while to participate in what was once expected.

Of course Delta has since had multiple IT meltdowns that left their own passengers stranded — and unable to be re-accommodated on American.

We may need a new category of delay added to airline computer systems, go to along with weather, mechanical, and crew availability: spite.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Obviously, if this story is true, and there’s not more to it, Delta owes Emirates an apology. This obviously isn’t the way anyone should conduct business.

    That said, I’d guess there’s a lot more to this story. There almost always is.

  2. Gary it costs airlines money to stock, replenish and maintain inventory at MX touch points across the system. It likely wasn’t a consensual and mutually beneficial exchange for DL so they passed. Do
    you understand this concept? Are you familiar with the concept of just-in time fulfillment?

    You just like EK because you can fly an F suite to DXB, drink expensive booze, and stay in cheap Starwood and Hyatt properties in a concrete jungle few people ever desire visiting.

  3. Gary for all you know DL didn’t stock the part for the 777 in SEA as it’s a fairly small tech ops operation compared to ATL/TOC, BOS, etc

  4. Josh G,
    Not to start an online argument (serious business!) but I wouldn’t call a place that attracted well over 14 million visitors in 2015 a location “few people ever desire visiting”.

  5. @Josh G – I wonder if you read the post. The concern isn’t about Emirates as such, I express the same concern about breakdown in aviation norms over the elimination of the AA-DL interline. But like in most of your posts you don’t engage the argument, you attack me instead.

  6. I hope Emirates told everyone on that flight that Delta was responsible for their delay. And then everyone of them tweeted about it, put it on their Facebook page, and texted all of their friends about it as well. Because the saying: “There is no such thing as bad publicity” is simply not true.

  7. Again you don’t work in the industry, have never worked for an airline but feel as an astute passenger and effective self-promoter you know how it works. Even if you worked for one of the parties involved, it’s only a small handful of people who are party to the discussions and know what actually transpired.

  8. Who really cares here? Many businesses don’t like each other and don’t interact. I’m curious if Boeing had the part just up the road…

  9. @Josh G

    I actually worked for an airline for a couple of years, and there is (er, was) a bit of a gentleman’s agreement that you have each other’s back during day-of-operation disruptions. This is particularly true at the station level, where management among all of the airlines know each other, and may even be friends to some extent.

    For “HQ” to intervene is significant.

  10. @Josh you write “it’s only a small handful of people who are party to the discussions and know what actually transpired” but comment above as though you know what happened. Just like in your comment a couple of days ago where you talked about the reason for the lack of award space in the very same comment where you were claiming there was no such lack because of standard or rule-buster style awards. Of course you usually disappear once the inanity of yours claims are pointed out, or you simply revert to name calling instead of substantive argument. As they say, “SAD!”

  11. I disagree with Delta’s action but, FWIW, they claim to have an explanation:

    Delta shares parts with other airlines whenever possible through an industry agreement and doesn’t withhold them from any particular carrier, Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said. The item in question was the last spare of its kind in Delta’s Seattle inventory, and company policy requires that it keep the last one on hand in case Delta needs it, Thomas said.

    P.S. It turns out, Alaska ended up providing a spare part to Emirates.

  12. Glad Alaska was able to help out eventually. Good guys (mostly) to the rescue! Still bites on the massive award deval though, not upset about that one at all..

    The fact that the local DL folks let the part be installed, and then called it back on HQ instructions, makes the DL story about it being the last one on hand pretty suspicious from a lay point of view.

  13. Although, the Boeing factory is less than an hour drive from SEA, so a bit weird they didn’t source it there

  14. Logistics folks. You don’t make your customers wait one hour going and one hour coming back when it is in the next bay 5 minutes away. Cooperate and graduate is the Army motto. Delta should know that or have they forgotten everything the boys from Benning have taught them?

  15. Either………….

    – There was a SOP where Delta wouldn’t let this part go to any airline
    -There was a spiteful decision to screw over Emirates

    For Emirates to say it was out of spite would be tantamount to saying it was done on purpose. One would think Seattle would be the best place on the planet to be stranded without a part for a Boeing plane.

  16. @Dan — Right. It’s crazy not to provide other airlines with spare parts because someday you’re going to need parts as well. Nobody in the industry does business that way. You don’t compete by “hoarding” parts.

    I see that DL has provided a “justification,” but it does sound a little weak. As other commenters have noted, getting Boeing parts in SEA wouldn’t seem too hard. It also doesn’t make sense that they’d call for the part back once it was already installed. The protocol — if they truly have an inflexible policy that requires them to keep one item in inventory for their own use — would logically have been invoked BEFORE the part was given to Emirates.

    It does also seem odd that Emirates would need 6 hours to get the part from Alaska (um, wouldn’t they be the FIRST airline you’d call in SEA, assuming it wasn’t a widebody-specific part?), but that’s another story.

  17. Just another example of Delta forcing American protectionism on gulf carriers. If they improved their product and were actually civil to customers, they might not need protection. I wish them all the bad publicity they truly deserve. They have a poor product at a high price. In the meantime let Delta’s leaders kiss Mr. T’s butt a little harder.

  18. I see we are back to our regularly scheduled programming of bashing the big 3 and Trump. Yawn.

    Good for Delta. Goodwill is extended only to those who deserve it and reciprocate.

  19. Lots of political hate on this thread for an article that’s supposed to be about parts availability.

    1) Delta is entitled to do what they deemed to be in their own best interests. If a kid bullied you at school and then one day asked you for help because he/she dropped their books on the ground – would you do it?

    2) Delta is also entitled to live with the long term consequences of the decisions they made in the “short term”. This includes lack of interline agreements with AA when they have their own IROPS, bad publicity for giving and then taking back, etc.

    3) They also get to enjoy the spoils of having less interline passengers, though higher reimbursement rates per passenger.

    Everything is a double edged sword. How you choose to view it depends on your perspective.

  20. My flight from Paris to Atlanta was delayed by 2 hours today. I was to connect in Atlanta to New Orleans. Delta informed me they could not guarantee me a seat until Saturday. When I pushed them a seat miraculously opened up for Friday morning. This is my first time flying Delta in 10 years. Puts a bad taste in ones mouth……

  21. It’s not hard to see how this dragged out to 6.5 hours. If EK had already gotten the part and had it installed by the Delta maintenance folks, they would have thought everything was resolved. But uninstalling it would have pushed that delay out quite a bit. By the time they realized what was happening, they called up Boeing to try and get the part from them.

    But if it were a 777 part, they’d presumably need to bring it all the way down from Everett. The drive from the plant down to SEA is about an hour on average, unless there was a traffic issue in which case it could be twice that much. Either way, if Boeing is really on their game they might have the thing ready to drive in an hour…

    I’d say a 6.5 hour delay reflects very luckily being in Seattle where, yes, they could get the part pretty quickly. At least they didn’t need to wait for an Antonov to fly them a new engine like that Swissair plane!

    Not surprised to see this from Delta, they’ve been burning bridges all over for a while. For example, the actual line employees at Alaska and Delta I’ve spoken with really enjoyed their partnership over the years, and expressed their dismay (on both sides) over the years as the situation soured into frenemies and worse between corporate HQs as Delta became more aggressive. I can only imagine the embarrassing interactions between the EK and DL mechanics at SEA when it became clear what had just been imposed from Atlanta.

    It’s sad. Doesn’t have to be this way, and doesn’t help anyone in this market. At least it provides entertainment for the haters.

  22. I don’t understand how Alaska Airlines would even have that part…They have no 777’s in there fleet…..parts are expensive….doesn’t make sense….more to story….

  23. If the part in question was the last spare of its kind in Delta’s Seattle inventory, their decision needs no justification at all. If it was not but Delta decided that my enemy is my enemy and there will be no truce to sing Xmas carols, so be it but being a bully and a little bastard to the other kids on the block usually carries a high cost. Delta may wait some time to find out what that price is, but you can be sure they will eventually pay a heavy price. S Wood has it though. Why would Alaska have had any inventory of a part for a plane they do not fly; Alaska Airlines has an all-Boeing 737 fleet. Is the part in question also used in 737s? Do they have a service agreement at Seattle with any airlines that do have 777s in their fleet? What is the true story here?

  24. At least this was an aircraft hydraulic part which you can’t just pick up in any supermarket like the toilet paper BA ran out of and which reportedly cost them a $365,000 bill in passenger compensation, although I would love to see how that figure was arrived at.

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