Delta Airlines / Never fly with them
Our Delta experience of 13 february 2010.
We would fly out of Brussels to Manaus over Atlanta. Flights in and out of Atlanta were affected by a snow storm. Atlanta was already overcrowded and those people travelling to Atlanta with connections that were already cancelled were kept in Brussels. I hope only in case no alternatives were found. Our connection to Manaus was OK so we left for Atlanta.
We arrived around 2PM and our connection to manaus was only around 11PM so we had plenty of time in Atlanta to eat, drink, be bored and eat & drink again. We knew this upfront so this is certainly no complaint to Delta.
At around 10PM we headed for our gate. Crew and pilot were there as well as the plane (we saw them enter the plane while we were waiting). Flight was still shown as on time. 10 to 15 minutes later, when we were ready to board, our flight was cancelled and the ground personnel behind the desk ran away. Few minutes later she came back and made the announcement that the flight was cancelled because there were lots of planes waiting for de-icing and the wait time was estimated to be 5 hours.
We were directed to a desk to be rebooked to another flight. From this desk we were sent to another desk and finally once more to another desk as yet again we were sent to a wrong 'customer service' location. We ended up in an enormous queue and finally made it to the service responsible at 1AM. (3 hours later) All they could tell us was that we were booked standby on next days flight. 'Flight was full but we had a good chance to get on this flight as there were probably more flights to be cancelled tomorrow and so some people wouldn't make it to this flight.'
We tried the self-service kiosks that were present but these told us to speak to an agent. Just rebooking us as standby on next day flights could just as easily be done automatically and it may have shortened the queue.
The situation was everything from pleasant. The people behind the desk were definitely making overtime and getting tired and grumpy. People that had been waiting in line for several hours were also hoping for a better alternative than the one proposed as that gave absolutely no guaranties about when they would make it to Manaus. If Saturday's flight was full the next flight was only on Wednesday. (4 days later) We had a cruise leaving Manaus on Sunday so if we wouldn't be on the next flight we would miss our cruise and would need to try to catch up in another city. It was an Amazon cruise and the next ports didn't have airports so we would lose one week.
We tried to work together with the customer service to find other alternatives but we got no collaboration at all. All they could offer was to put us standby for tomorrow. We also got no hotel or compensation as this was related to the weather, an act of god. I doubt this was the true reason as they did tell us before that they did not want to wait 5 hours for de-icing. At this point it is their decision not to fly although it would have been possible. We heard planes leaving all evening & night so the airport has not been closed.
Even when it truly would have been an act of god it is still very disappointing to not get any service or compensation as a customer. Not even a minor form of empathy. We had a similar problem with United last year and United did offer us compensation when they were not obliged to do so. Underpromise but overdeliver. This gives you a wow feeling as a customer.
Next Day, Saturday we also spoke with several of Delta's customer service agents to explain our situation and see for possibilities that would help us to be on time for the departure of our cruise. Doing the same story to different people we finally had one agent, the third one, that showed some empathy for our situation. That was at least 3 hours later again. She put us up in the standby list so our chances were a bit bigger.
Then we got a phone call from our travel agent (we stayed 3 more hours up Friday night so we could call our travel agency as soon as it was 9AM in Belgium) that she managed to buy 2 new tickets on today's flight to Manaus. We originally had booked U-class tickets, the new tickets were B-class. At first Delta was not willing to rebook our original tickets to these new tickets but another intervention from our travel agent finally made them change their minds. As such we got confirmed seats on Saterday's flight to Manaus after several stressful hours.
Off course I was happy to have this seats but I was surprised to discover that Delta is still selling tickets on a flight that has a lot of people already on standby. The right thing to do from a customer service point of view is to get your customers to their destination asap and not to make profit by selling more expensive tickets to new customers. Again I was very disappointed to see how Delta takes care of his customers.
Our travel agent told us she was yelled at when she called them for the second time on this issue because she was interfering with their customer service. I cannot verify if it's true but I tend to believe her.
If you think this is the end of our story you're wrong. ..
We carefully monitored our flight for the remainder of the day, hoping it would not be cancelled. When it was time to start boarding everything went normal and all people with confirmed seats got on the plane. We had about 10 or 11 more seats and standby people were called to get on the plane. We waited for some minutes, it looked like hours. We wanted nothing more than to leave Atlanta. Finally a public announcement was made in the plane : 'We were overweight for about 5000 pound and all the standby people would need to disembark the plane again'. Some of them were also on our cruise and of course they didn't want to get of the plane again. You get a seat and then again they take it away from you. It took the crew a while to get all standby people of again. At this point we were very happy to have confirmed seats!
We were still waiting and then suddenly we saw 3 people coming back on. Apparently they did a miscalculation and they were not that much overweight at all. All standby people could have gone with our flight but some of them directly left the gate after disembarking the plane and they did no effort to page them to come back. Another announcement was made about the miscalculation and the fact that just unloading the luggage of the standby people was enough and we were ready to go. People that were on the standby list would get their luggage with a next flight. We had another reason to be happy, we were flying and at least we had our luggage. If we would have been standby we would be travelling without luggage.
When we arrived in Manaus there was another surprise for us. Our plane did not take any luggage at all. From nobody! Our flight had taken cargo instead and suddenly off course it was clear why we could be overweight.
This is just a slap in your face as a customer. The company you're flying with prefers to take cargo of somebody else instead of your luggage. [censored] you customer, I'm not interested in you at all. By taking this cargo I have a lot more profit. You can wait for your bags.
Our cruise left the same evening so no way we would get our bags. Delta, taking care as always, would sent them to Manaus but would not send them to Santarem. (the port we would arrive three days later) Luckily Princess Cruises took care of our luggage and offered us compensation and formal clothing so we could still enjoy these first three days of our cruise. Thumbs up for Princess Cruises that showed how you can make the difference.
Not one good word about Delta. I know they can't manage the weather but there're lot's of things that they could have done better. And a flight that leaves with cargo instead of luggage. Who does something like that !
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