My Onboarding (and offboarding) Experience with Delta Airlines

Five Planes from San Diego to Tampa

Delta boarding pass on Twitpic

As you may already know, I attended the 2010 SHRM Global Conference earlier this week.   I flew out to San Diego on Saturday June 26th, and planned to return home on June 30th, which was the last day of the conference.   The trip out on Delta Airlines was seamless and smooth.   The return trip was one of the worst  experiences I have had in more than a decade as a business traveler.

Here is the timeline version of what happened:

  • Conference ends:  1:15 PM PT
  • Arrive airport and head to the Delta Sky Club:   6:00 PM
  • Head to Gate 40 to await boarding at 10:00 PM
  • Delta announces flight crew for our flight stuck on runway, and that if we can’t depart by 11:30 PM, flight will be cancelled due to to curfew in effect at San Diego airport.
  • Flight attendants arrive at 11:00, flight was scheduled to depart to ATL at 10:55 PM
  • After much discussion, we board plane around 11:40 PM, told we are okayed to fly.  There is a loud roar from the crowd, and a mad rush for the seats.
  • at about 12:05 AM, we are de-planed by Delta and told our flight is cancelled until 6:45 AM
  • I get a hotel voucher at 12:45 AM, and a recommendation to return at 5 AM to be ready for 6:45 AM departure. (no transportation and no meal vouchers offered)
  • $8 shuttle ride to Sheraton to sleep at 1:30 AM, 4:50 wake-up call
  • Arrive at airport to find flight rescheduled to 7:45 AM, with actual departure taking place around 8:45 AM
  • Missed connection in ATL, Issued $6 (!) meal voucher,and run to try to catch a connection to Tampa scheduled to depart in 20 minutes.  Back-up plan if I miss this flight?  Fly me to DFW and then put me on an American Airlines flight to Tampa, getting me home around 11:45 PM

From there, the comedy of errors just goes on and on.   After boarding the plane, the cargo door won’t shut and the plane for flight 67 to Tampa at 4:20 PM ET is taken out of service for maintenance issues.  We are de-planed again.  A secondary plane is found.  I lose an upgrade to First Class on the new flight to a line jumper “who really needs a drink”.  As if I don’t? WTF?

A very kind Delta employee finds me a seat, probably by displacing a non-revenue flyer, and we finally get headed to Tampa at 7ish PM.   We land in a lightning storm, and my wife picks me up.  Home about 8:45 PM.  Just about 24 hours from start to finish, with 3 hours sleep, a sandwich that cost me an extra $5 bucks to buy despite the voucher, and some peanuts.

Customer Service?

Not so much.   Lots of apologizing, and responsibility ducking.  No effort to go the extra mile, except by one Delta employee, who got me into a First Class seat after I bitched a lot.

I know Delta is a monolithic airline.  I realize they have high costs, low margins, and tight schedules, but c’mon!  Would it have been so much to ask for a bagel and a coffee after three hours sleep?  How about a discount voucher for future travel? Some extra frequent flyermiles?  I have held Elite status withNWA, and now Delta for almost a decade.

I don’t expect much.   I just want to get from point A to point B with minimal difficulty. I understand that your system breaks down every now and then,and things don’t work.  That is part of the deal.   But you could try a hell of a lot harder to make people more comfortable during a crappy experience than you did.  That should be part of your deal.  I even tried getting help on Twitter from @DeltaAssist, but no response so far.

I tweeted as much of this I could with a purpose in mind.   I wanted my colleagues and travel buddies and colleagues in SHRM travelling from our Global conference to see my bad experience, Delta.  I am not an asshole. I am just a loyal customer for a decade who had a really bad experience, and you didn’t do anything beyond the minimum to make it right. I expect more.  I deserve more.

You weren’t listening during my exhausting trip. The remaining question is, are you listening at all now?  Please don’t make me shop with my feet.

PS: Oh yeah, I signed up for a month of service for your GoGoinflight wireless before I left for San Diego so I could do some work.   Your service wasn’t working on the flight out to LAX.  That kind of sucked as well!

Enhanced by Zemanta
Be Sociable, Share!

42 thoughts on “My Onboarding (and offboarding) Experience with Delta Airlines

  1. We just flew Delta this week. Our trip wasn\’t nearly as bad as yours, but it wasn\’t great. Our first flight of the day was late, leaving us inadequate time to navigate customs, immigration and the Atlanta airport itself to get to our second flight. We literally sprinted the last 400 yards and got to the gate just as they were closing the doors. Whew. After we stopped congratulating ourselves, we realized it was now afternoon and the mad dash thru the airport meant we hadn\’t had time to grab lunch.Then we realized we were hot & sweaty from running and there was no A/C. Why was there no A/C? Well, apparently, the pilots were MIA so we sat on the tarmac for an hour, with the doors closed and no air and no lunch, waiting for them. I was so stanky I felt sorry for my seatmate. When we finally got off the ground, I learned that they wouldn\’t be selling food, even snacks, because of the short flight duration. So we were hot, tired and hungry and on top of that, the airline lost one of our three bags (how do you do that??) so we had to deal with that upon our arrival. Good luck with your customer service quest!

  2. sorry for the nightmare. this is why social media is (and can be) so strong. keep singing your disgust…it will make a difference in buying decisions down the road. glad you’re home safe and sound!

    1. @Charlie – thanks for the comment. I don’t think I will change anything, but it would nice if they would acknowledge and fix the issue. Delta emailed me and I answered their survey questions, and sent them a link to my blog post. No response thus far though.

  3. I have said this several times since the NWA/Delta merger: I will never call them “Northworst” again. Delta sucks. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    1. @Joan – I really miss Northwest now that it has been pretty much absorbed into Delta, even though many of the current Delta leaders are from NWA. I guess the economy and the fact that airlines are quietly returning to being a monopoly industry are destroying what once was a pretty good service. Not so much anymore.

    1. @MikeVanDervort Amazing about our travel experiences! What an awful business to be in!

Comments are closed.