We have been loyal customers of Delta for many, many years and several times in the past used their skymiles program to take trips. We have found in the past the airline to be responsive and the customer service representatives to be helpful. However that does not appear to be the case any longer. I wanted to put out a warning to anyone who might be considering flying Delta or using their credit cards for the frequent flyer miles. Their customer service, along with their other services, has been rapidly declining. Our recent experience with several customer service representatives and the Delta website left us frustrated, angry and flightless.
My daughter has been working hard for years to graduate from high school with a college associates degree, several scholarships and as a member of the top ballroom dance team in the US. Needless to say this doesn't give her a lot of time to relax. As proud parents, and in appreciation for the scholarships she earned, we are using her graduation, not to mention the money we will be saving on tuition, as an excuse to start planning a big graduation trip. We love to travel and will use any excuse we can find and giving her some time to relax after years of hard work seemed like a good excuse to me.
We have saved Delta frequent flyer miles for years, flying with Delta and using their frequent flyer credit card faithfully to save miles in anticipation of a big trip. We have used these miles in the past and while it took some work and compromise to get flights, we found the customer service people were very helpful and we ended up getting flights that worked for us. We expected to have the same experience this time and had no trepidation about getting flights as we were starting our search many months ahead of time.
The first step to get these (not anywhere near) free flights was transferring miles from various accounts (mine, brothers) into my husbands account to have enough miles in the same account for the international flights we wanted. Now 1 cent per mile, plus a $30 fee doesn't seem like that much when you read it, but it sure adds up. To transfer 30, 000 miles that ends up being $330. Of course you can only transfer 30, 000 miles at a time so there are more fees if you transfer more. Fortunately for us we didn't need to transfer more than 30, 000 from any one account, but we still ended up paying around $760 for the transfers. We thought in the end it would be worth it considering the costs of international flights and the fact that we need 3 tickets. Of course if you get international flights with frequent flyer miles it will cost you around $200 in additional fees to reserve the flights, so the costs would end up being around $1360. Pretty good for 3 international tickets, though we have to do a lot of work and not get our first, second, tenth, twelfth choice of times and places to fly, but certainly not â��freeâ�� and certainly not a good deal if you can't get any flights.
Now all the miles are in the right place it's time to start to try to reserve our flights. The website is, to put it simply, terrible. I'm fairly savvy at working around these difficult websites having reserved many flights before. However I found this one beyond frustrating and was unable to reserve a flight. The calendar changed constantly (even between steps of a single session) I later learned from the developer's blog that it was essentially because it was too computer intensive to show all of the flights on the calendar. Their technical workaround? Essentially to show random (and apparently also some nonexistent and/or fully booked) flights, since they couldn't show them all. When I managed to wrestle a flight I wanted into existence, I would invariably get 'There is a problem' or 'please try your request again' or â��this flight was just fully bookedâ�� when I tried to book them. This same thing would happen again, and again, and again.
After several days of trying to work with the website I had some time so I called the number provided, figuring I'd go ahead and spend the extra money and see if they could help me. After all they had been helpful before when I was trying to reserve flights. I was on hold until, as the sun was sinking in the sky, I had to hang up. 2 days later after unsuccessfully trying to use the website again, I called and waited on hold again until finally I got a live, though snippy, person. I was told that I couldn't make reservations because it was my husbands account. Ok, that's understandable. I'll keep trying to use the website, I thought, and if I can't get a reservation my husband can call when he has timel.
My husband called 2 nights later. By now I had been trying to reserve flights for around 2 weeks with no success, mainly because of the website who's programmers appear to be as competent as our current crop of politicians. My husband put the phone on speaker during the interminable wait on hold, so I heard the whole conversation. It went something like this:
Husband: I'd like to reserve an international flight with my frequent flyer miles, we need to have skysaver flights as we don't have enough miles...
CSR (interrupting): What cities?
Husband: Ideally we'd like to fly from ___ to ____ around May 25th, returning around June 10th, but we are flexible.
CSR: I'm only showing Skychoice (expensive in miles) flights for those cities around that date
Husband: We have found another flight that would work, but we've been unable to get it reserved online. Your website seems to be having some problems. Are you able reserve these other flights for us?
CSR: I CAN'T DO ANYTHING FOR YOU THAT YOU CAN'T DO ON THE WEBSITE. I HAVE THE SAME INFORMATION YOU SEE THERE. YOUR FLIGHTS ARE FAR ENOUGH IN THE FUTURE THAT IF YOU WAIT AND KEEP CHECKING BETTER FLIGHTS FOR YOU WILL LIKELY BECOME AVAILABLE.
Husband: so you recommend we wait?
CSR: yes sir, your flights are far enough out that I recommend you wait and keep checking on the website to get the flights you want.
Husband: but we are having trouble with the website. It won't let us reserve the flights that we want. We're found flights to ------- instead of ------- that we'd be ok with but we can't seem to reserve them online.
CSR: sir, I can't do anything for you that you can't do yourself on the website, and really your flights are far enough out there is no hurry.
Husband: so I should keep checking and trying to reserve on the online?
CSR: Yes sir
Upshot of the conversation : Your call is important to us, please don't bother calling again. We don't have the time, energy, desire or ability to help you.
I kept trying online for flights. There are 3 airports we are willing to fly out of and 10 we are willing to fly into and our range is about 5 days on either end and still it's difficult to find flights and when I do find flights that we could work with the website continues to tell me it's having problems, try again. It gives the number to call, but we've been told that will not do us any good, as well as costing more, so we don't call. Many flights suddenly start being â��just fully bookedâ�� when I want them, interestingly on different days, different places, different times and all â��just fully bookedâ�� within minutes of each other, as well as the same old â��We are having a problem â��.
A fews days later when I hop on the site for my daily try at getting flights low and behold the cost of the least mileage flights in miles has gone up ...10, 000 miles Per Person !!! That's 30, 000 miles that we don't have. ARGH...I'm so frustrated. Why didn't the CSR warn us that prices on all flights were going up? Instead he encouraged us to wait. This is what we get for following delta's advice and being patient with them. I start to wonder if the CSRs were coached to have people put off booking their flights until the price raise was in place and this is why the CSR was so unhelpful. That seems like a definite possibility. I wonder a little too about the website not allowing me to book for weeks prior to the price raise, but I don't want to get too conspiratorial.
My husband is home so we call customer service, on speaker phone, to talk to one unhelpful and uncompassionate CSR and are passed on to her equally unhelpful and uncaring supervisor. We are told that A) they aren't responsible if their website doesn't work B) they aren't responsible for what their customer service people say and C) This is the first complaint they have ever gotten about their website. Well that last is a demonstrable falsehood...or in other words a lie...see http://blog.delta.com/2008/07/31/the-award-ticket-calendar/#comments for just one source of complaints. It's not hard to find others if you look around online a bit. She tells us we should have continued to call instead of trying to use the website and that they did not force us to not call. Well maybe we should have, but it didn't help the times we did call and we were told, by a Delta representative, that it would be a pointless waste of our time to call. We were also told, by a Delta representative that there was no hurry to reserve. If they aren't responsible for their website or their customer service, just what are they responsible for? Hopefully at least for their airplane maintenance. We got no apology or helpful suggestion from these people. Not one scintilla of compassion for our situation, just rudeness. The CSR manager said that she didn't know what the other CSR had told us, in other words she thought we were lying. I offered to give her the CSRs name and the time we called so they could see if they have a recording or at least talk to him, but she wasn't interested in actually finding out what he had said, just in accusing us of not being truthful.
To summarize Delta appears to have, at the least a website run by incompetent programmers that they do not take any responsibility for. They have CSRs who are not their responsibility either and are not only unhelpful, but flat out liars. It appears to me they had been told to encourage people to put off reserving frequent flyer mile flights until Delta could get their new mileage requirements in place. At worst they even sabotaged their own website so that people would not be able to reserve flights before the rate change. No way we can get 30, 000 more skymiles in time to get any flights no matter how flexible we are or what difficulties we are willing to go through to get them. Looks like, thanks to Delta's great customer service and concern for their customers, my daughter won't be getting her trip after all.