Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Delta Airlines Horror!

I am spending time writing this letter to express and highlight how Delta missed an opportunity to commit on several of its brand promises to two Platinum Medallion members.  My goal is not to be cause trouble, but rather communicate how an experience could have been handled differently so that customers continually feel that Delta delivers on its promise.  Delivery on the brand promise is what motivates and compels members to stay loyal. Otherwise, customers will abandon the brand and those once brand ambassadors can become brand disruptors.   A recent Delta campaign mentioned that “loyalty is a two-way street and when one side gives, the other has to give back.  Every ounce of dedication shown by one party should be met by the same dedication by the other.”

“…When delta people encounter situations, they use their values and professionalism, along with training and experience to guide their actions and decisions.  Each of us has the opportunity every day to be a leader in how we represent delta, how we handle difficult and unpredictable situations, how we use delta’s resources and how we take care of our customers….” – Richard Anderson, Rules of the Road.

Let me say that I LOVE Delta. I have moved out of the Atlanta area, but still connect in inconvenient airports to fly Delta.  I have maintained Delta Platinum status for two years and am trending to Diamond status this year.  At least this was my plan until the trip from hell sponsored in part by the customer service representatives who answer the Platinum customer service line.

We planned a trip to London to attend Wimbledon on June 26th and 27th for my husband's 40th birthday and to fulfill a bucket list item.  Unbeknownst to us, we were not going to see Wimbledon; at least not on Wednesday We set out to leave Tuesday, June 25th out of DCA.  Total monetary loss:  $3,380 for two tickets on center court to see Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Wimbledon doesn't give refunds and we were to close to event time to re-sale our tickets. $360 for the flat rented. Dream 40th birthday gift to my husband – priceless.

I must also mention that this was a surprise so my husband missed his friends waiting for him in London Heathrow’s Terminal 4. They went on to celebrate without him.

Strike 1
Tuesday, June 25th, we received a note en route to the airport that our flight to JFK that would connect us to London Heathrow had been cancelled.  It would have been logical to provide an alternative schedule that aligned with our connection, but that algorithm doesn't seem to be in place.  I was scheduled on a 7:30 flight out of DCA that would ensure I missed my 8:55 pm flight out of JFK. I called the Delta customer service line and was placed on an earlier flight to LGA.  However, the customer service representative (CSR) failed to indicate that the cancellation was due to ground delays so any flight to NYC was at risk.  I felt her role was to get me off the line as quickly as possible.  Rude!  It was 3:30 pm so we could have still got out of the US in time.

Strike 2
We boarded the flight and sat on the runway for 2+ hours; it was after 6:00 pm when we deplaned post a barrage of complaints from passengers.  Meanwhile, I was on the phone with a CSR who told me if I could get to Air Canada in 5 minutes, I could make it to London by Wednesday morning.  We obviously could not make that flight given we were still deplaning in an entirely different terminal.

Strike 3
I went to the Delta Sky Club and learned most flights to NYC were cancelled for the day.  I called the customer service line again.  This time, I was told that I could make it to London on a direct flight from IAD on American Airlines.  I was even given a confirmation number. Elated, we rushed off in a taxi (no offer of a voucher for a taxi). While en route, I contacted American Airlines (AA) to confirm my reservation and learned, we were not booked on AA at all, but rather British Airlines.  Forty five minutes later (7:20 pm) and $85, I arrived at the counter of British Airlines excited I would be boarding soon.  To my utter surprise, I learned, we had not been booked and they did not even have our names.  Bummer! I contacted customer service again to learn that we were not confirmed; the system had kicked back the reservation.  At no time during our 45-minute taxi ride, did anyone from Delta think to call and alert us of this change and subsequently help us rebook.  Embarrassing and unacceptable...  “Lines” campaign, Delta specifies that, “The 80k employees must predict the unpredictable and anticipate the unexpected….” 

I'm out of strikes so, I'll continue with scenes.

Scene 1
I went to the Delta counter at IAD, where I encountered the most, compassionate, helpful, professional and helpful Delta employees.  The one gentleman’s name was Tam Eatley and he deserves recognition. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve forgotten the name of the second woman who is also deserving of praise.  They tried to connect us on every airline, trying every route, literally.   Finally they found us a flight on Brussels Air that would get us to London by 3 pm.  At least we could have a shot at seeing the evening game I thought.  Elated, we went to the ticket counter to check-in just a few counters down.  Déjàvu... We were not on the list and were unconfirmed.  We were offered standby. 

Scene 2
Back to the Delta counter, I informed the Delta counter agents of the bad news.  Defeated, we all agreed the only alternative was to leave Wednesday, June 26th and arrive in London on Thursday, June 27th.  We missed Wimbledon, our friends, the car service, our money and the experience that cannot be recovered. 

Scene 3
The Delta ticket agent at IAD encouraged me to call customer service again to see what Delta could do given we were missing so much.  I reluctantly agreed.  After holding the line for 24 minutes, I was told by the customer service representative that it was too bad and not Delta's fault.  "We don't compensate when there is a ground delay and we definitely won't pay for your lost tickets."  While this may be factual, the CSR failed to acknowledge that we have been loyal and valuable Delta Platinum members.  He lacked empathy, compassion and tact in handling this situation. 

Scene 4
Upon returning to the US, we connected again in JFK to go to DCA.  The flight was delayed two hours and then cancelled due to weather.  It was happening all over again. This time, we were helped by a ticket agent at the Delta counter and routed to LGA where we caught the last flight back to DCA.  We were offered a ride.

I will acknowledge that we both received an apology email along with 25k bonus miles.  Not MQM's but bonus miles, this is the equivalent of $250, which frankly could not even purchase another domestic roundtrip ticket.  While, I appreciate the gesture, this does not come close to compensating for the horrific experience and treatment we received on Delta. We lost a day on our trip. We lost a day at Wimbledon. We lost time with our friends.  We lost flat rental expenses. Most of all, we missed the experience of a lifetime.

As a type this, we have 6 booked tickets on Delta and will be booking two more for next week.  I travel on Delta almost weekly.  I am appalled by this experience and know that this is not Delta's best.  I welcome the opportunity to be contacted by a senior and seasoned person from the corporate customer service team to help explain how Delta will remedy this situation and maintain our loyalty to the brand. Otherwise, we will be forced to transition our status and continued travel services to an airline that is much more appreciative and accommodating to frequent flyers.

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