Posts Tagged ‘Delta’

Delta is ready — with more fees

July 17, 2008

It seems superfluous and redundant to rail against escalating add-on fees imposed by airlines, but how can I not?

Another additional fee?

And they're charging for baggage too.

For those of you in the dark (including Delta customer service reps, you’ll later see), Delta, US Airways and American Airlines are going to charge their “valued” award-miles customers money for using their “free” tickets. Delta’s fees start Aug. 15. I’m not sure about the others. For Delta, it’s $25 domestic and $50 other. The stated reason? Fuel surcharges, of course. They’re not charging *all* customers extra, mind you, only the valued ones.

Remember, all you dividend-miles holders, these miles are not “free.” They are what you earned and are part of a huge marketing scheme that has pulled in much revenue for the airlines and its legions of partners.

Something that really put me into a tailspin was some customers’ reactions to the surcharge in this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Delta is based in Atlanta). One called it “a little unfair” and another said, “I don’t like the thought of having to pay it, but it’s part of what’s going on.”

Whatever happened to: We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”?

An interesting thing happened today when I was researching this. To back up, yesterday I sent an email to Delta customer service using their cumbersome process to complain about the new fees.

I got a form email back addressing not the upcoming fees I’d complained about but others I didn’t even know existed. Like, if you reserve less than three weeks out, you pay $100. Nice way to take advantage of valued customers in need of a flight.

Delta plane gets supplies in Salt Lake City

Delta plane during layover in Salt Lake City

Initially, when reading Delta’s email, I thought the new fee structure had changed. When I called customer service to check on it, the rep didn’t know about the Aug. 15 fee at all! She put me on hold twice and finally declared there was no surcharge. She was in Jamaica, so I thought maybe the news hadn’t traveled south. She transferred me to a supervisor, upon my request, who happened to be in Salt Lake City and totally on the ball, but even she didn’t know about the fees starting Aug. 15 — until I told her, that is. So I guess Delta values its poor employees about as much as it does its customers.

Luckily, my favorite consumer travel journalist and blogger Chris Elliott jumped right on Delta and other airlines about new fees, as I expected he would.

So did the always topical Michelle Higgins in this Practical Traveler column in the New York Times. What Michelle presented was particularly illuminating. For people who rack up miles mostly through their credit cards (like I do) she broke down the card fees and how long it takes to amass miles. For folks using their awards for domestic flights, they could potentially lose money. I use miles only for international flights. Deducting the card fees and new airlines surcharges, I’ll likely pay about $200 a ticket. But because I use the miles for flights that cost more than $500, and usually closer to $800-plus (like from North Carolina to Norway this summer), it’s still worth it financially if not spiritually for me to stick with what I have.

You should do your own calculations. As Michelle mentioned, it might save you money to switch to a no-fee card that gives you cash back.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking with my favorite airline — Southwest — whenever possible.

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When Delta dozes (and Wessel doesn’t)

May 8, 2008

Delta sent Wessel and me information via email (they called him also, but not me!) about a change in our flight schedules from Durham, NC, to Oslo, Norway next month.

“We have bolded the affected flights,” it read. Only one flight was in bold, from Atlanta to Newark, and it was only a 10-minute change. We’d booked this trip months in advance, and these kind of changes are quite typical. No biggie. I noted it and went back to work.

Unfortunately, Delta and yours truly were dozing on the job, but wide-eyed Wessel caught another, much bigger change that was not highlighted but should have been.

On the final leg of our journey home in late June, instead of our original flight leaving at 4:50 p.m. from Cincinnati to Durham it was now scheduled to depart at 3 p.m. And guess what time we were arriving into Cincinnati from Paris? At 3 p.m. Argh….

I called Delta for the low-down. Turned out the 4:50 p.m. flight had been scrubbed.

The representative, who then put us on a later flight, was not the least bit apologetic.

Me: “How did this happen?”

Delta: “The automated system put you on it.”

Me: “Well it doesn’t have very good software, then. Isn’t a human being ever involved?”

Delta: “Yes, they manually put it in a queue for review.”

Me: “So the reviewer dropped the ball?”

Delta: “Yes, I guess.”

Me: “And why wasn’t that big change highlighted on our email?”

Delta: “It was just an oversight.”

Me: “A pretty big one, I’d say.”

Delta: (nada)

So …. I guess I should have just come out and said: Can you please just apologize so I’ll feel better? But I didn’t, and she didn’t, and I just don’t get that.

The flip side to that is when I called Verizon or maybe it was American Express recently about a minor issue and they apologized so many times that I finally said, “please stop apologizing, it’s OK.” Of course their response came out of Customer Service Interaction No. 5.247 on page 184 of the manual.

Note to Big Business: We consumers don’t need a string of rehearsed apologies; we just need one or two that are heartfelt.

Meanwhile, I have a message in to Air France media relations about some of their disappointing customer-service policies. More on that coming up.

Right place, wrong time

November 8, 2007

A crazy thing happened before my recent nonstop Delta flight from Durham, NC, to Boston. The flight was scheduled to leave at 4:25 p.m. I got an email at 1:25 p.m. saying “we have just been advised of a time change.” The flight was rescheduled for 5:36 p.m. On the way to the airport, around 4 p.m., I got another email and an automated call to my cell saying there was another time change — to 8:42 p.m. I headed back home.
Around 7 p.m. I checked the status online, only to learn that my plane was on the runway awaiting takeoff! What??!!

I called Delta and was told “we’re sorry for your misunderstanding. You should have gone to the airport at the time your flight was originally scheduled to depart.”

Now that’s just ridiculous.

I had to rebook for the next morning, greatly inconveniencing many people and missing a meeting. Not to mention that the flight was at the crack o’ dawn, a time of day I do my best to avoid.

Later, Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said in an email, “occasionally we are able to recover from the delay more quickly than expected…. In certain situations, and it is not often, customers can find themselves with circumstances where they are unable to make their flight.”

Translation: There was no “misunderstanding.” I did the right thing, which turned out wrong.

For the record, Delta’s policy of alerting passengers about delays and cancellations is much appreciated. I just hope Delta doesn’t steer me to the right place at the wrong time again.