Monday, July 30, 2007

How Delta lost a loyal customer

In the summer of 2000, I was returning from Los Angeles to Knoxville Tennessee changing planes in Atlanta. I experienced such horrible customer service I decided to write Delta about my experience. After seven years of ignored letters and phone calls I decided to create this blog. Here is my story

So, we finally take off, three hours late. Our flight was making its final approach into Atlanta when we were informed that, because we were getting in so late (it was nearly midnight by this time) none of us would make our connecting flights. We were also informed that the gate agents would have hotel and food vouchers for us when we got off the plane. What followed was a lapse in customer service of epic proportions. First we were told to line up at the gate counter where the agent told us that there were, and I quote, “no hotel rooms left in Atlanta”. I and another passenger got on our phones and immediately got the Marriott at the airport who informed us that they had plenty of rooms available. When we told the gate agent this, she began screaming at us to “get off our phones before she had to call security”. When asked why she told us there were no hotel rooms in Atlanta she began screaming again “I never said that! I never said that!” When challenged (after all she had just said it not thirty seconds before) she begins yelling yet again! “We have run out of hotel vouchers okay? Okay? How is that for an answer?” Two more gate agents appeared and said that all we were getting were food vouchers. A lady with a small child came up and asked them why we were told we would be put up in a hotel, then told there were no hotel rooms in Atlanta when it was obvious that wasn’t the case. The large gentleman with the moustache yelled at her to “shut up or you won’t get anything’ which woke up her child who started to cry.

Since we were tired and hungry we lined up for the food vouchers and were told to go to the main terminal food court where “everything was open 24 hours a day” and we could get something to eat. While I was getting my things together for the trip to the food court, I noticed the lady with the young child asking the two gate agents if there was anything they could do since having to spend the night in an airport with a young child was inconvenient and also a little bit dangerous. The larger of the two said he would be back in a second. He reappeared with a transportation voucher and a hotel voucher for the lady. I thought this was a kind gesture since she was the only one stranded with a small child-more on this later.

The stranded passengers began pressing the gate agents about our options since they really were vague about what was going on. They told us that were booked on the first flight out in the morning, they told us the gate and time, and then they told us the Delta Crown Room opened at 5:00 am and that they would make arrangements for us to get in free so we could get “some snacks and sleep on a comfortable couch”.

So myself, my co-worker and a couple of other stranded people make the trek to the food court. What we find when we get there is a sight to behold. All of the restaurants are closed. Nothing is open. It suddenly dawns on us that the food vouchers were just a ruse to get us out of their hair.

Angry, hungry and tired, we make our way back to the gate and wait for the Delta Crown Room to open. After about an hour of talking and getting to know each other, the lady with the small child returns and she is in tears. It turns out that the hotel voucher they gave her was expired (a year old!) and the hotel no longer accepted Delta vouchers. We managed to calm her down and agreed to take turns watching her child while she got some much-needed rest.

5:00 am finally arrives and we make our way to the Delta Crown Room eager to get a snack and lay down on something other than a hard airport chair. You can probably guess what happened next. The lady at the door has no idea who we are, no one informed her of the situation and she “sure as hell isn’t letting us in for free”. After pleading with her she calls a manager. This manager proceeds to give us the third degree, checks our tickets (twice!). Leaves and comes back, leaves and comes back again and finally after half an hour says, “well, since you all aren’t going away I guess I will let you in”.

After a couple of hours of sleep and a snack I make my way to the gate and show the agent my ticket. She informs me that I should have been on the flight last night. I inform her that the plane was late, I missed my connection and Delta said I was on the first flight out in the morning. After being accused of “trying to run a scam” and talking to two managers, I manage to get home a day late.

But wait-it doesn’t end there. I try to make Delta aware of the horrible experience myself and the other passengers went through. I start by calling customer service. The first call had the service rep hang up on me. The second call had the service rep tell me I had nothing to complain about. The third call ended up with me holding for a manager for an hour until I finally hung up.

Since the phone was not effective, I decided to write a letter detailing my experience. Months go by with no reply. I write another letter. Months go by. Again, no reply. I have been sending Delta a letter about this incident every year for the past six years and I have never received so much as an I’m sorry.

So that’s the story of how Delta lost a loyal customer. I still travel quite extensively, just not on Delta. I find it sad that an airline that had such high standards of customer service fell so far in such a short period of time. No wonder they had to file for bankruptcy.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%

I really wanted to like Delta, as I love flying Continental and would love to be able to get Continental miles while travelling to additional destinations.
But Delta is a bad airline. I fly a lot. Many airlines are decent. A few are really good. Some are horrendous. Delta is just bad. It's not the bottom of the barrel. But it's not an airline I'll come back to so easily if I can avoid it.
I've flown with them several times and none of my experiences was good.
Last time I flew was the worse.
I flew both on one of their smaller planes and on one of their larger planes and the experience was similar.
They have older airplanes, with lots of seats and very minimal leg room. The chair barely goes back. It was one of the most uncomfortable rides. At a time when all airlines are competing for business, it seems Delta prefers to get as many people onboard with little concern for comfort.
The second flight was delayed by over an hour, and talking to the Delta people, it seemed like they're used to delays.
I had to take to flights, with a connection in Utah. The first plane was a small plane, so I couldn't take carry on, onboard. When I arrived in Utah, much to my horror I discovered that my carry on's wheels were torn. I asked the Delta people to help me locate the wheels, as It was totally uncomfortable to carry a carry on in my hand, and not be able to wheel it around.
It's a new very small carry on and I was extremely angry about their mishandling of it.
When I complained at the Delta counter they told me Delta doesn't cover broken wheels. I told them, they didn't break my wheels- the whole bottom of the carry on was torn, and the wheels were missing.
The woman there was uncurtious and unhelpful and told me, it happens, but that Delta isn't responsible for things that stick out of the luggage.
I looked at her in awe, as I didn't understand what that means, except that Delta seems not to want to take responsibility for their mishandling of luggage.

Food on the plane was minimal. One could either get a granola bar, or 6 crackers. In todays world, where there are 99 cent stores that make a profit selling so much snacks. An airline being so cheap is annoying.

Their website is also not easy to deal with. They need to hire someone to make it much more user friendly.

There's a lot of competition out there, and if Delta feels that customers come last, they've lost me as a customer.

Anonymous said...

On a Delta Flight from JFK to Nashville one piece of my luggage was "lost". I reported this to Delta. Even though the luggage was bar coded, it had not been scanned. Every time I called Delta about my bag I got someone in India who looked on the internet to see my bag status. I could do the same. I tried to call JFK, Nashville, and Atlanta, but always got India.

One month later, I received a phone call on my cell phone from Ghana which I did not answer. Immediately after that I got a text from a very friendly person who portrayed himself as a good samaritan who had accidentally received my luggage with his fiancee's.

Long story, short, after several emails, text message, and phone calls, I sent $350 to have my luggage shipped back to me. Didn't happen. When I didn't want him to add several ounces of a "gold substance" to my luggage and help him set up business contacts in the USA, they became less friendly. Then, they wanted $50 more. I stopped everything and blocked their email. (When I say "they", I'm referring to the original recipient of the luggage and the shipping company, "safefreight".)

Back to Delta. How did my luggage end up in Ghana? The person in Ghana (the scamster) could describe the contents of my bag with more detail than I gave Delta.
Delta said my bag probably lost its tags. Not likely, since the scam artist contacted me with the info on my tag.

Anonymous said...

I think Delta is basically letting the Northwest side of the business die. Took a flight out of Detroit to Japan, it was stopped over night in Minneapolis on mechanical difficulty - was able to get a hotel and out the next day OK. The planes (both) looked 30 years old literally, did not have any of the newer features that every other plane has to Japan. It is clear they are not spending on upgrade and maintience of the legacy Northwest planes, I don't feel safe flying on them, never know if you get a maintained Delta plane or crappy old Northwest plane - just a huge accident waiting to happen.