Thursday, March 22, 2012

Delta misses the connection

I don't want you to think I am picking on Delta Airlines, but they have adopted the all-to-common corporate approach of answering the question they want to answer, rather than addressing a customer's concerns and questions.  There are frightening parallels to the experience of patients in many hospitals.

I have outlined the saga of my round-trip flight to New York City.  I was using a frequent flier award coupon and simply wanted to change my return from the 3:30 flight to the 2:30 flight, as I was able to get to LGA a bit early.

When I forwarded the story to the corporate suggestion and complaint website, I first received a semi-computerized reply that indicated they had not read my first note.

The saga continued after I reminded them to read what I had sent.  A pleasant person wrote back with an "explanation."  Here's the back-and-forth:

I appreciate the opportunity to explain our Same Day Confirmed travel program which allows customers to be confirmed on an alternate flight (from and to the same ticketed origin and destination) on the same day as ticketed, within three hours from the scheduled departure time of the requested flight.  Please note the Same Day Confirmed option is only applicable Delta-operated flights including DL Shuttle and DL Connection flights within the 50 United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Further, the Same Day Confirmed option was added to allow customers the opportunity to change their flight on the same day without being charged the normal $150 administrative penalty associated with their non-refundable ticket.  Rather, a $50 fee is charged for the change. Respectfully, the $50 fee assessed was correct and no refund would be due.  While I understand the flight was rather empty, the Same Day Confirmed program is already offering a discount to the administrative fees agreed upon at the time the ticket was purchased

I replied:

Thanks, I was not asking for a confirmed flight change.  In essence, I was asking to fly as a stand-by passenger.  Why there should be any fee for that -- in general -- is not clear to me.  It causes no extra cost for you as an airline, and it offers a convenience for a loyal customer.

The response:

Mr. Levy, thank you for your additional feedback regarding your desire to try and standby for an earlier flight instead of utilize the Same Day Confirmed option.  Regrettably, we do only allow Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members traveling without checked baggage to standby on a flight where they are unable to use the Same Day Confirmed program.  The rules for this option are very restrictive since standby does not guarantee that seats will be available on any portion of the standby request from the origin or connection city. Again, we will not allow a passenger with checked baggage to participate and due to the difficulties with receiving a seat; and we do restrict this option to our Medallion members.

My rejoinder:

Not to beat a dead horse, but frankly your explanation for the rule doesn't make any sense:

I showed up at LGA with no luggage, a confirmed seat on the 3:30 flight, and simply asked to take the 2:30 flight, which was very empty.  Why wouldn't you want to give your gate agent the discretion to allow me to make the switch?

By the way, on the morning flight from BOS to LGA, I was permitted to do exactly that.  I was booked on the 9:30 shuttle but arrived early at Logan. The desk clerk told me to go to the gate and ask to be allowed on the 8:30 flight.  It was done with no fuss, even though that plane was considerably more full than the 2:30.

It is when your rules make no sense that you really leave us as customers at sea.  They imply a lack of trust in me as a passenger.  It is as though you think I was trying to manipulate the use of my award travel to carry out a dastardly deed, to leave LGA an hour earlier!


Anonymous said...

American Airlines has the same rules. We waited 4 hours in Dallas for a 4 pm flight, when there was a 1 pm flight with seats. One of the two flights was booked on miles, which is why they would not let us aboard. We also had carry-on luggage onlyl

Paul Levy said...

A flood of comments from Facebook:

John: But Paul, if they do something for your convenience they might get stuck in a landslide of finding ways to help all their other customers. The disposal bills for all the toxic red tape they'd have to throw away would be staggering! And then there'd be the cost of depressing morale after employees discover that they can really mean it when they say, "I can help you with that."

David: You expect them to be customer friendly??? Be grateful they take your money and treat you like a cow.

Maxine: Oh Dear, I was going to book on them for a trip to my daughters.

Beverly: Wait, you mean you asked for the same thing going and coming back - they allowed it going, but not coming back? This means they inconsistently apply their own policies. What a screwed up bunch.

David: Paul - I rarely fly Delta due to their ridiculous policies and the extreme devaluation of their SkyPeso program, but the last time I flew with them I encountered an even more egregious example of their inflexibility; just like you I was early and asked to stand-by on an earlier flight; the gate agent told me there were plenty of seats but I'd have to pay the $150 fee, which I refused. The next flight, the one I was booked on, was oversold, and they ended up paying volunteers $400 each to give up their seats!!! I asked the gate agent if she saw the irony in this; big sigh, and she responded 'that's just the rules we have to follow; we're not given any flexibility to do what makes sense!'

Vickie: Paul, you are likely to get many posts like the above. I didn't mention that I, too, avoid Delta like the plague. Wait til all the comments are in, then send them on to your "person" at Delta.

Robert said...

You may recall the famous scene in Bob Rafelson's film, "Five Easy Pieces," in which Jack Nicholson attempts to order plain toast that is not on the menu. He says,
"I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee."

The waitress responds, "A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?"

Nicholson's character responds, "Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules."