Privacy rules, well-intended though they may be, sometimes result in silliness.
My cousin, a lady of a certain age, flew to Atlanta from San Francisco for my daughter’s wedding. Back in the day Betty was well-travelled. She thought I’d meet her in the waiting area at her landing gate. That’s how well-mannered folks used to greet incoming passengers.
She sat for an hour while I stood at the designated greeting area at the top of the escalators between the north and south baggage claim areas at Hartsfield-Jackson. Her San Francisco cell phone didn’t mesh with the Georgia towers and our calls to each other rang no bells.
About the time she asked the Delta agent at her gate for advice and learned that arrivals are now met at the top of the escalators, a Delta agent at the airport entrance advised me that, though Delta could not, due to privacy rules, tell me whether my cousin had made the flight, I could get a special pass to go the the gate area. “I’m pretty sure you’ll find her there,” the agent said, seemingly conveying inside information.
I removed my shoes and passed through the Homeland Security x-ray and rode the tram to gate Z-5000, or so it seemed, where another Delta agent again explained that the privacy rules prevented him revealing whether my cousin had actually made the flight or not.
I asked the agent if privacy rules would permit him to page my cousin without presuming that his call meant he believed her to be in the Atlanta airport. Her name was called. Later another agent called her again. I heard the calls. Being a lady of a certain age, my cousin heard nothing.
An hour later, a fourth agent sensed my growing desperation and risked fines and jail time by showing me a computer screen which indicated the time cousin Betty left San Francisco, the moment she touched down in Atlanta, and the fact that her emergency contact person was me.
Three and one-half hours after her landing, cousin Betty made contact with another family member who called me to advise her location. We were weary when we found each other, and relieved, and four hours older. But thanks to Delta and the law, our privacy was intact.
It’s not Delta’s fault, I suppose. Betty hasn’t flown in a while. I haven’t been to the Atlanta airport in twenty years. In my four hours at Hartsfield-Jackson I observed that thousands of travellers flow with ease coming from everywhere and going everywhere. And after we met, my cousin and I moved quickly, effortlessly, to the parking area and onto I-85.
Still, I’d be willing to give up some efficiency for a couple of concerned Delta agents invading my privacy.