If I book one more SkyMiles award I’m going to…

Honest to God, I think Delta is a great airline. They have a great domestic first class product, they offer more in-flight internet than any other airline, and they have some great employees. But their SkyMiles system is just so broken that I can’t deal with it anymore. It’s not just that their website is useless for booking awards and returns error messages every time. But it’s how beyond incompetent their SkyMiles call center agents are. These folks make the agents at US Airways Dividend Miles look like geniuses (and mind you, half of Dividend Miles agents thing Buenos Aires is in Spain and Hong Kong is in Japan — both things you can use to your advantage, by the way).

Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how frustrated Delta’s call center left me with booking a simple award, and tonight was even worse.

I wanted to make a simple change. I had an award ticket on hold for a client and wanted to switch the return by a day. The routing would stay the same but the flight times were a bit different. I didn’t think it would be *that* hard (and mind you, I do this stuff all day every day). I knew exactly what was available, and if Delta had a halfway decent website I could have done this online.

The call went something like:

Me: “As you can see the return portion of this itinerary is from Rome to Paris to Atlanta to Savannah. I’d like to switch the return by a day please, instead returning on the 12th. The routing will remain the same.”

Agent: “Is the new flight you’re looking at a nonstop from Rome to Savannah?”

That question should have been my sign to hang up…

Me: “No, the routing will remain the same. Can I give you the flight numbers?”

The agent typed for about 10 seconds.

Agent: “It’s not available.”

Me: “What’s not available?”

Agent: “Any flights the next day.”

Me: “And you’re looking at Rome to Paris to Atlanta to Savannah? Which flights are you looking at?”

Agent: “All of them.”

Me: “Delta’s website shows there being low level award space on Air France XYZ and Air France ABC. Can you tell me which of those flights doesn’t have award space in your system?”

Agent: “Hold on, let me place you on hold.”

The agent placed me on hold for over five minutes.

Agent: “Okay, it’s available, it’s 162,500 miles per person.”

Me: “Well for that last segment from Atlanta to Savannah I actually wanted to do coach, since there’s no low level space in first class, which should keep the cost at the 100,000 mile level.”

Agent: “You can’t do that.”

Me: “Why?”

Agent: “Hold on.”

The agent places me on hold for a few minutes.

Agent: “That’s weird, it priced at 100,000 miles. Did you want to use your Delta SkyMiles credit card to pay for this?”

Me: “No, I wanted to keep the ticket on hold.”

Agent: “You can’t do that since we made a change.”

Me: “You can’t just keep the ticket on hold for another day so I can transfer points from Membership Rewards?”

Agent: “Okay, it’s done. Did you need a rental car or hotel from one of our partners?”

Me: “No, thanks for your help.”

And sure enough I go online and no changes had been made to the ticket.

Here’s my question: can I legally record my calls with SkyMiles? Can I do it without telling them, would I have to say “I’m recording this call,” or something else? I’m pretty sure I could crank out at least a couple of golden SkyMiles podcasts a week!

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. Too bad that’s probably illegal, as that would honestly make a great phone call.

    Though it wasn’t Delta, I had a similar experience last week w/ AA. I’m currently on a one-world award, on my 15th and final flight. I wanted to change the date of the flight by one day.

    “Hi I’d like to change the date of my final one-world award flight, from the 18th to the 19th.”

    In the most condescending voice possible, “Sir, are you aware that you’re not allowed to make changes to this ticket once you’ve begun the trip?”

    “Hmmm, okay thanks!”

    Hang up. She must not have noticed the 140 changes I’ve made to the previous 14 flights.

    I called back two minutes later, and the next agent had my flight changed within two minutes and reticketed with no problems.

    There should seriously be a “call center roulette” podcast.


  2. Plan a weekend in Vegas to make some calls. That’s where Crank Yankers went to record. Wait, aren’t you the lawyer here?

  3. You can tell them at the beginning that the call will be recorded, you just have to let them know before you record anything they say.

    Even if you don’t record it, it’d be interesting if there were a change from the possibility(threat) of being recorded.

  4. If I recall correctly, lucky, you’re based in Florida, which is a two-party notification state. This means that you must tell them you’re recording the call, and most call centers (I don’t know specifically about Delta) tell their employees to hang up if they know they’re being recorded.

    If you lived in a one-party notification state (all states except CA, CT, DE, FL, MA, MD, MI, MT, NH, PA, and WA) the fact that you knew the call was being recorded (because you were recording it) would suffice to make it legal.

    I’m not a lawyer, but there’s a mischievous side of me that wonders if telling the Delta IVR robot you’re recording the call would suffice as notification…

  5. I would check with the lawyer before getting too deep into call recording.

    Years ago Colorado only required one party to know the call was being recorded to make the recording legal. What one does with the recording may be another matter.

    Weren’t DL personnel posting on FT over a year ago that the website award engine fix was under way?

  6. I would take their name…then, when the next agent who does help you, give them the other person’s name and tell them what they told you. Heck, ask for a supervisor and give them the name of the bad agent…

  7. Hey Lucky,

    Google Voice has a neat call recording feature that you can use. When you activate the recording feature, an automated prompt comes over the line and says “Call recording on.”

    I dont see why you couldn’t activate the feature when you are listening to the hold music and the other caller’s system says “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes.” Or, when you first start the call with the agent.

  8. I agree with Andy, stop playing roulette and ask to speak with a Supervisor after the first mishap (get the person’s name). Don’t even bother calling back when they give you erroneous information, immediately tell them you’d like to speak with their supervisor…that does two things: 1)gets your problem solved and 2)gets the employee trained (hopefully). This works for me every time, regardless of the call center.

  9. Just search online and found out the law in your state. Pretty easy. you need to know if you are a one party or two party state.

  10. @Purewater – Asking for a supervisor does not help with Delta because their supervisors are usually just as misinformed. And once you get to the “supervisor” level and they agree with the front line agent, you basically have no recourse but to hang up. Unfortunately, by that time there are notes all over your reservation and only the rarest of agents will ever go against something that is written, because it “must” be right.

  11. I’ve actually done it before. I simply say to the agent, “Now, my memory isn’t always the best,and I want to make sure I get it right. So, I just want you to know that I’m recording this call”.

  12. The recording issue is absolutely dependent upon the laws of the state from which you are making the call from. Here in the state of Arizona it is legal to record your phone calls without disclosing the fact to the other party.
    As for Delta’s SkyMiles “broken” system, I think that is a matter of interpretation. It is my contention that in today’s automated world, no large Corporate concern such as Delta Airlines could possibly be this inept and consistently messed up unless it was done so INTENTIONALLY. Why? They do not want you to be able to utilize the miles you earned, bought or transferred efficiently. If they can fool you into using 300,000 points for an itinerary that should be 100,000 – 3X win for them. Or even better, you NEVER can use the miles. Don’t pay attention to Delta’s flowery words – look at their actions over the years. I am sure there are a few FF in Detroit and Minnesota that remember the Northwest Worldperks integration?

  13. The literal side of me wants to know why “This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes” isn’t sufficient permission for *you* to record the call, too.

  14. From a lawyer, dont record the call unless you tell them. Federal law would likely apply and I believe its a felony. They tell us they are recording the calls for that reason. Cheers.

  15. You would need to check the specifics of your states rules for recording telephone calls. Largely I would think as long as you notified the call center agent your call was being recorded for quality assurance purposes and inclusion in your call center humor podcast AND you take out their names and identification qualities…it might make a good podcast.

  16. From now on when you begin a call, say in a slightly joking voice that is call “is being monitored for quality assurance.” Then record the call. Technically, you have notified the other party for those states that require 2 party notification (whereas many states only require 1 which would of course be you.) Remember, they say this all the time to us as their low key way to tell us we are being recorded….

  17. Most states and federal law allow you to record any conversation that you are a party to. However, twelve states (including FL) require both parties consent, so, Bob’s suggestion is probably a good one.

  18. When I call UA, I often here, “this call may be monitored or recorded for training purposes.” If the airlines are free to record and monitor your calls, then why can’t you do so as well. Granted, there is the issue of state laws.

  19. The problem is the way they split up training. A lot of people are taught to just punch it in and let the computer do all the work. You have to wait a bit longer but you could always ask for the reissues desk or international desk.

    They are usually easier to deal with…Also if your client is an Elite, that could help too. I’ve found the elite desk very responsive.

  20. Just start your conversation off stating, my business line records all phone calls.

    Sounds better than stating do you have a problem with me recording this converstaion

  21. Believe it or not, I’ve recorded my calles with UA before. Of course, I do tell them first & they usually don’t care…

  22. I was about to write to you about Delta Skymiles thing – I have been calling them to find some availability and stuff… I recently learned that once you ticket an award ticket using Skymiles – if you cancel it – you loose all the miles, they are forfeited! That is utter nonsense IMHO – they should have some provision to redeposit those miles… any comments / thoughts?

  23. @ Apu — That’s only the case within 72 hours of departure. Up until that point you can cancel and redeposit miles for a fee of $150.

  24. Lucky, its likely that I reached a totally DUMB agent coz that’s what I tried to confirm with her and she repeatedly told me that there is a new rule from Aug 15th – where you lose all miles once if you have to cancel the award ticket – except for within the first 24 hours. Looks like she just created this rule from her !

    Sorry for the false alarm – I just checked the Delta website for the rules and it matches your statement. Thanks!

  25. Who cares about legally allowed? Not like you’re trying to take them to court here (where the recording could be inadmissible). Record the calls, publish online, and publicly shame them. What’s the problem there?

  26. @FM — because recording a telephone call in violation of state law is usually a felony. You could go to jail.

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