My Rough Delta Travel Day

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from flying hundreds of thousands of miles per year it’s to not let the little stuff get to me. The things that annoy most people — delayed flights, mechanicals, cancellations, etc. — don’t really bother me. Those inconveniences are an acceptable, and for the most part excusable, aspect of the travel experience. After all, it’s a miracle planes can operate as safely and efficiently as they do, and while operational issues can be frustrating, they don’t really faze me.

What does bother me, however, is something actually within the airline’s control — crap customer service. I have very little tolerance for agents that make up rules, are rude to passengers, or don’t apply logic to situations. Don’t get me wrong, I still try to be overly nice to them since I figure I’ll get further that way, but it really irks me. Yesterday was a terrific example of how poor customer service can ruin a travel day, so I thought I’d give y’all the play by play:

  • We were supposed to fly from New York to Atlanta to Detroit to Sao Paulo, a fairly easy travel day for this mileage run.
  • As a reminder, we’re on paid business class tickets.
  • Admittedly, they were really cheap business class tickets, but at no point was the ticket cost brought up as a reason for why things happened the way they did.


Amazing service from New York to Atlanta

The day wasn’t all bad. On our flight from New York to Atlanta we had one of the most spectacular flight attendants I’ve ever had. Her name was Julie, and she was incredibly hilarious, attentive, and constantly smiling. She was Minneapolis based, and dare I say it, actually kinda makes me want to move there if everyone else is even half as friendly as she was.

Atlanta to Detroit flight goes mechanical

We were supposed to have an hour connection in Atlanta, followed by an hour connection in Detroit. Upon arriving in Atlanta we got to our scheduled departure gate right around boarding time, only to find there was a gate change. No problem, these things happen. We went straight to the new gate, though there wasn’t actually a plane there.

The plane arrived about 30 minutes later, though we were then informed of a mechanical problem with the aircraft and that they were trying to decide whether they could fix the plane, or if they would have to find us a new plane. After a while they decided on a new plane, and the departure was rescheduled for 6PM. Again, no big deal, and these things happen. If you travel often enough you probably have an idea as to how these things will shake out, and know that you have to be proactive when schedule adjustments happen.

Our connection from Detroit to Sao Paulo was scheduled to leave at 8PM, so a 6PM departure meant it was highly unlikely we’d make that connection. And it was critical we fly to Sao Paulo that evening, since we had another flight from Sao Paulo back to the US the following day.

Off to the SkyClub for unacceptable alternatives

The line at the gate was long, so we headed to the SkyClub hoping to be rebooked. This is a basic tenet for frequent flyers, as the agents in the lounges are nearly universally more helpful (and less rushed) than individual gate agents. As we walked we checked flight loads and evaluated our options – Delta had no space in business class on their flight from Atlanta to Sao Paulo, and there’s no way they could get us to New York in time for the Delta flight to Sao Paulo.

Given that, the only reasonable alternative seemed to be on Delta to New York and then American to Sao Paulo, since American’s flight leaves over two hours later than the Delta flight. Knowing what the options are can typically speed up the rebooking process, and most of the time agents are happy when you’ve done your research, at least in my experience. So Ernestina in the A17 SkyClub tried to “help” us, though couldn’t have been more unhelpful. After typing for a long time and making a phone call she didn’t even address our idea of rerouting through New York, and instead suggested booking us on a Delta flight to Brasilia and then a GOL flight to Sao Paulo. The Delta flight would have been in business class on a 757 (which is a totally different product with recliner seats), while the connection to Sao Paulo would be in coach on GOL, and we would arrive four hours later.

We again suggested the routing on American instead, which would get us there in the cabin we booked, around the same time, and in a similar product. Ernestina was nonplussed.

“No, we can’t do that here, call the Medallion line.”

“Ma’am, I’m not a Medallion, how would I call the Medallion line?”

“Oh, you can call them anyway.”

Typically, you can always get more done by dealing with an agent in person than over the phone, especially when it’s time sensitive. At this point the flight we were wanting to take to New York was leaving in 45 minutes. Since she was being utterly unhelpful, I politely asked if she could call a supervisor.

No supervisor for you!

“Sir, we don’t call supervisors to the SkyClub.”

“Sorry, what do you mean?”

“Oh we just don’t call them here, we only call them in the terminal.”

“Okay, it seems strange that you wouldn’t call a supervisor to a lounge for your premium passengers, but if you can only call a supervisor to the terminal, can you do that and I’ll meet them wherever they are?”

“Oh no, I can’t do that. We don’t call supervisors from the SkyClub!”

I’d been fine with the entire situation up until this point – things happen when you travel, and I spend enough time calling airlines to know that not every agent is equally trained (hence my asking for a supervisor). When agents start making up rules, however, rather than just admitting they don’t know and asking for help – that’s the point where I start to get irritated, and deep inside a bit angry.

So basically I’m being told:

  • Ernestina is the highest up person I’m allowed to talk to at Delta.
  • Of all the places that they’d call a supervisor to, you’d think the SkyClub would be at the top of the list since that’s where (theoretically) “valuable” customers would be.
  • But no, they’ll only call them to the terminal, but not, apparently, for me.

At this point my friend got on the phone with Delta’s international reissue desk, and I decided to talk to another agent. I approached him and asked for clarification about whether they really can’t call a supervisor to a SkyClub. He said that wasn’t the case, but suggested he try and help me instead. And he did try.

In the meantime, my friend continued to work the the phone agent at the international reissue desk, and within 20 minutes they had rebooked us in first class on Delta to New York, and business class on American down to Sao Paulo. Exactly as we’d suggested to Ernestina nearly 45 minutes prior.

We then ran towards the departure gate, getting there just shortly after pre-boarding had commenced, and asked the gate agent for our boarding passes.

Our first class seats have been given away and it’s our fault, damnit!

“Wait a minute, you in first class? We don’t have any seats in first class.”

When we were rebooked (about 20 minutes prior to our arrival at the gate) there were still three first class seats for sale, so clearly they had just processed upgrades. After doing a bit of typing she asked her colleague who the last two people to get upgraded were, indicating to me that they were willing to downgrade them.

Now I don’t care that much about first class on a two hour flight, but what pissed me off is the attitude the gate agent gave us from this point forward. She decided she didn’t have time to rescind two upgrades, which is fair enough. But she also started reprimanding us for even being booked on this flight — “you shoulda never booked yourself on this flight so close to departure, we don’t have time for this.”

I mean, by that logic they should’ve never had a mechanical because it’s not like we wanted to be rebooked. If the gate agent had said “I’m sorry, there was a lag in the system and we weren’t looking to see if anyone else booked onto the flight” I would’ve been fine with that, but blaming the customer for being rebooked on a flight because of a mechanical is pathetic.

“They didn’t reissue your tickets properly.”

At this point she continued bitching about how our tickets weren’t reissued properly, and basically slapping our wrists for being rebooked on the flight. The tickets were reissued properly, the issue is that when she downgraded us from a first class fare bucket to an economy class fare bucket the ticket had to be reissued once again, which of course she hadn’t done. Eventually she just told us to board in seats 32B and 33A and noted we wouldn’t get boarding passes.

“You’re going to have to gate check your bags”

Mind you we’d been at the gate since boarding started, but due to the screw up with our first class seats and subsequent reissue, we would now be the last people to board. The gate agent told us we’d have to gate check our bags.

Oh hell no.

We reminded her we’re connecting to another airline with a fairly short connection at JFK, and she acknowledges it and says “okay.”

So we went down the jet bridge, and the gate agent there tagging bags again tells us we’re going to have to gate check our bags. We nicely reminded her we’d been at the gate since boarding started, had been downgraded, and were now connecting to a non-partner airline at JFK two hours later. Her response?

“You have two hours, that’s plenty of time. Your bag will make it.”

In three million miles of travel, I don’t think I’ve ever gate checked a bag before, and really didn’t want to start with this flight. If the bags didn’t make our connection to American in New York we’d be screwed, given that we were turning back around to the US the following day (and the bag would still go to Brazil on the next flight, at which point we’d be back in the US again).

I asked if she’d at least let me try to squeeze it into an overhead bin, as I’ve never seen a plane that truly had full overhead bins (people are just bad overhead bin stuffers). She said no, and that we needed to board now, “or else.”

She took our bags, we got on the plane, and of course the closet was not only wide open (I even asked the flight attendant if she’d be willing to store a bag in the closet and she said of course — go figure it was too late at this point), but there’s also plenty of stuff that could have been arranged more efficiently in the overhead bins, with plenty of open gaps.

Guess what? Our bags didn’t make it

Not f*&#&^@ surprisingly, we waited at the carousel at Sao Paulo Airport this morning, only to find out our bags hadn’t made it and were still in fact sitting in New York.

So now we’re in Brazil without even a change of clothes (since those were in our carry-ons), and these might be the most difficult bags to ever track down given that they’re likely heading in the opposite direction of us.

Bottom line

I just want to be clear. What pisses me off aren’t delays, mechanicals, lost bags, or even for that matter the unwillingness of an agent to accommodate us on another carrier, but rather:

  • Agents that make up the most ridiculous, illogical policies ever (“we can’t call a supervisor to a SkyClub”)
  • Rude gate agents that blame operational issues on passengers (“well you shouldn’t have rebooked yourself on this flight,”)
  • Gate agents that are unwilling to apply logic to situations (when changing from T3 to T8 at JFK it’s highly unlikely any bags will make it in two hours, especially given the two airlines don’t even have a partnership, so interlined bags may only be picked up every couple of hours, at most)

At the end of the day, operational issues crop up at every airline, and it’s how the front-line agents react and respond to them that sets an airline apart. I started this trip completely blown away by Delta’s service, and impressed with their product. I even went so far as to claim that while “Delta may not know how to run a loyalty program, they sure to know how to run an airline.”

So, don’t get me wrong, while this could happen at any US airline, it simply confirms to me that Delta is no different than the rest. If I want to be blamed for something out of my control and treated like crap I can fly any US airline, so I’ll be sticking to those that at least offer decent loyalty programs!

Filed Under: Delta, Travel
  1. I’ve given up dealing with airport agents and just deal with the phone on any airline. Doesn’t excuse bad behavior on the ground, but have seen enough to avoid it altogether.

    The Brasilia option wasn’t unreasonable. In fact, it’s all the Contract of Carriage stipulates they are required to do.

    You were fortunate they were able to get the AA flight for you. Not so fortunate you went through the airport agent first to get there and the disaster ensued.

    ” If the passenger does not request a refund and cancellation of the ticket, Delta will transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased. At Delta’s sole discretion and if acceptable to the passenger, Delta may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier or via ground transportation. “

  2. And why on earth didn’t you just do LGA-DTW when you originally booked? Seriously, trying to milk an extra 750 miles out of this?? Wasn’t biz class for less than coach enough? Like your reporting, but had to laugh when I read this. Kind of set up for a fail.

  3. @ Greg — Worked well for the first three trips. 😉

    As far as contract of carriage goes, flight on GOL was in coach — doesn’t seem like the same class of service to me.

  4. Lol. I find it amusing that some extol how great one domestic airline is over another. Yet the same chit happens whatever airline you fly.

    Reminds of the definition of a Republican – a Democrat who’s been mugged.

  5. Was there economy space on the flight from ATL to GRU? If so, in retrospect, wouldn’t that have been the best choice rather than chasing First & Business seats?

  6. The “Delta is dead to me” club? Because this never happens on other airlines?

    It’s the people – not the airline.

    I switched to Delta this year because of work stuff – after being 1K on United for a few years, and then Exec Plat on AA for 2 years. And I’ve had far fewer issues this year on DL than on the others.

    On Thanksgiving, I was flying from LGA to IAD – it was the flight that would get me to Platinum, not that that really matters. It went mechanical, they kept delaying it, and finally after 3 delays, I asked one of the SkyClub agents about alternatives. My sister lives between IAD and RIC, so DCA wasn’t a good option, and the RIC fight was leaving in 20 minutes. She called the gate as she was changing my ticket, and got me the last seat in first. Or maybe it was business on that tiny plane. She saved me three hours, and I made it to Thanksgiving on time.

    As far as the downgrading people, I saw them open the door back up, pull someone out of First and put a Diamond into that seat on a flight from ORD to LGA.

    Net, as we all know, the gate agents and the club agents can all do whatever they want – you just gott find the one who wants to.

    Finally, on Delta, ask for a red coat if something isn’t going right. Because they can REALLY solve everything.

  7. I’m sorry, but you are more to blame in this situation. Delta gave you a reasonable option with the BSB flight, and the BSB-GRU flight is only 1.5 hours (and in the end you probably would have earned more miles out of if). You also booked extremely tight connections. I always do 1.5- 2 hours because at least half the time these things come up.

    You wanted JFK-GRU simply for the new aa seats. You got greedy.

  8. can you clarify? you gate checked the bags ATL-JFK. you then need to retrieve the bags on the jetbridge, transit to T8 and check the bags via AA. you can’t gate check in ATL and then expect an interline clear through to GRU. was this in fact the case?

  9. Lucky, just out of curiosity, did the ATL agent offer to gate check the bags or check them through?

    My impression of the story is that she gate checked them, meaning that you’d have to wait for them in the jetway upon arriving at JFK, versus checking them all the way through to GRU.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, and I think it still sounds like DL was less than stellar, but I think this is an important distinction to make.

  10. Move to Minneapolis? Well, the people here are rather nice, but then there’s things such as the weather… Then there’s the fact Delta holds the lions share of flights out of here. Heck, AA doesn’t even fly to JFK or LAX nonstop from MSP.

    Look fwd to your trip report soon.

  11. Don’t you have an Amex Plat? If so the baggage delay bit of travel insurance should have helped 🙂 Also as others mentioned, don’t gate checked bags only make it one sector normally, especially when changing between alliances?

  12. For people who said that the BSB flight is a reasonable alternative. it is simply not a reasonable rerouting. GOL is a low cost Brazilian airline that flies a mono class cabin in a tightly configured 737s. It is not an acceptable alternative for a PAID business class ticket. I just don’t understand why people keep on saying that the BSB flight is acceptable. If I paid F or J, I am not flying GOL. If DL offers a J flight from BSB to GRU on TAM, it is okay. Then Lucky can’t really complaint even he will get a recline style J seat (still international style) because he has a business class seat all the way to GRU. However flying a low cost airline in a PAID first and business class ticket is not acceptable. The agent offered it because that is what the computer told her to do, and she had no idea what GOL is or knew how far BSB is from GRU. In the end, Delta’s international desk is able to reissue his ticket, which indicates that Delta Sky Club agent had the ability to do so, but chose not to do it. To give the international desk credit, they possibly have a better geographical grasp of South America and GOL is a LCC that no one with that knowledge will agree upon.

    All US airlines have issues but the top airline will shine when incidents like this occurs, and how they recover. Thankfully I don’t have to encounter much of these situations with US airlines a lot. The last time was a delayed JFK to NRT (24 hours delay) and the DL agent was able to put me on a KLM flight from JFK to BKK via AMS, instead of NRT. I was not even Diamond yet, but was on a paid J ticket. However Delta failed miserably today, and I am a feeling that someone will contact you soon. But sometimes elite status helps and I have a hunch that if you two are diamond, the gate agent will immediately downgrade two people on your JFK bound flight. The Sky Club agent will not play games with you.

    But Lucky, I am surprised that you do not insist on picking up your bags in JFK. The agent should just tag your bag to JFK, and it will be much easier to pick up bags there. If the connection time is closed, your companion can always wait for the bags, while you check in with AA first. As an EXP, I can’t imagine there is a long line in the priority check in area at JFK. You can use the priority security line too.

    Please keep us posted on your baggage situation and if Delta contacts you soon!


  13. @Lucky – – just so you know, you weren’t the ONLY person going bonkers yesterday from horrific customer service.

    Most people don’t know (and 99% of United Agents don’t know) but Philly and Connecticut’s Amtrak Stations have Airport codes and through a partnership with Amtrak, you can have your first “flight” (usually UA 66XX) from Philly or CT to EWR, then you connect to wherever.

    This is a vestige of Continental Service, but a ZFV–>EWR–>NRT flight can be HUNDREDS of dollars cheaper than just the EWR–> NRT flight, since United is trying to get the Philly peeps up to NJ, etc.

    Anyway, so I’m all cozy at home and go to check-in and print out my boarding pass and because I have a new passport there’s an error saying you have to show it to a gate agent. Well, there is no F*in gate agent at the Amtrak Station. So, I’m on the phone with one person who tells me that I am confused because United is an airline and not a train line (thanks!) and then more people who have no idea what I’m talking about. After hours on the phone trying to “check-in” I’m told to go to the ticket-counter at the Station, and Amtrak can probably issue it for me, but not on the Calendar day before the flight, so I’ll have to go to the ticket office in the morning….which is closed from 10pm-6am…. and my train (aka UA6663 “flight”) is at 5:15 in the morning.

    I even tried to split the reservation in half but UA said they couldn’t do that. Oh, I wanted to pound my head against the wall.

    Anyway, all I’m gonna say is that I want the 7 hours I spent talking to inept people back, and I’m sorry you had to go through it, but if it helps, we were simultaneously suffering.


  14. Not a Delta problem. A person/worker problem. Still stinks for sure. I can say I’ve never had a bad experience in skyckubs. Have had them in united clubs but only once. If the agent(s) don’t love or at least like their job (airline aside) the club of choice is irrelevant for changes.

  15. This will probably offend some, but I would say sounds more like an Atlanta issue than a Delta issue. (Though perhaps the two cannot be separated.)

    Sort of like blaming bad CS at Newark on United…..

  16. Sorry to hear about your poor experience! I understand what you mean about getting upset when agents/representatives seem to make things up – we all know the system well enough to know when it’s happening. And as unfortunate as the bag issue is, I agree – I would have ensured it was being checked only to JFK. When DL gate checks bag, standard protocol is to print a bag tag at the gate (using your boarding pass so it registers on your PNR), allowing it to be tracked electronically (through the app, etc). Only in the last minute scenario do they write up a manual bag tag. I wonder if you were able to see on the bag tag if they had tagged it to JFK, or all the way through to GRU. Regardless, a disappointing situation all around!

  17. You should read Ann Coulter’s tweets from today (@AnnCoulter). She’s not happy with Delta either 🙂

  18. I had a similar and horrible situation with Delta in 2011. The lounge staff were rude, the gate agents treated me like I made it rain and delayed the flight, and didn’t listen to me about my bag situation. I wound up going almost my whole trip in Egypt without a suitcase.

  19. That really sucks, but also reminds us that you’re a real person too! 😉 Wait, I hope all the changes were worth it in regards to the mileage run. Will you still be able to get MVP Gold on Alaska even though you were rerouted to JFK, etc.? Please keep us in the loop in regards to how Delta/AA handle your missing bags. Safe travels.

  20. Geez. And here I was a little hacked off because I didn’t clear into F at the window to SJU as PM later this week. Sorry you had a hard day. It is extremely frustrating, and no traveler or airline is immune to it. It’s happened less on Delta to me than with anyone else…but it does happen.

  21. Too much flying in F with non US mostly aspirational products has made you oblivious to the true situation in domestic flights! The service you received was terrible but am sorry to say it’s not unusual. Now, do we get a review on how to buy clothes suddenly in Sao Paolo?!

  22. Pretty obvious where the problems were: lazy or new/inexperienced ATL SC agent and a none to unfamiliar lazy GA with attitude – you know exactly the type. I would let DL know, since you obviously know both names.

    However, you should have taken the BSB flight given your crazy schedule and I think you forgot to wait in the jetway for your gate checked bags. Some of the blame lies with you unfortunately.

  23. Except on regionals where you don’t really gate check your bag, every case I’ve ever seen, “gate check” means all the way through to the final destination, just as if you checked it at the checkin counter.

  24. Hey Lucky; will you be flying out of GRU tomorrow (Monday)? I am flying on AA with the family out of Terminal 2 at 11:55pm. Happy to say hello if you are around!

  25. I would be furious too. Arrogance and incompetence combined with authority gives you Obamacare… 🙂 Seriously, this is a very bad combo and as a result, you are bagless in Sao Paolo.
    I would email DL CS and express my dismay.
    Despite my handle, my last three international flights on DL were uneventful and even sprinkled with positive events.

  26. Hey Ben – I was scheduled to fly on that same Atlanta to Detroit flight last night! The nonsense began even before the (first) gate change. Apparently there was an A321 at the original gate that was bound for Detroit but it was flying empty except for the pilots (something about a mechanical from the am and then the plane was needed in Detroit so it flew there with no FAs or passengers). I get that. Maybe there were very few open gates and no where else the incoming flight could go (giving Delta the benefit of the doubt there). Eventually it was replaced by an inbound 737-800 that went mechanical (no explanation for that) so we had to wait. Again, okay. But most of the agents that came and went during this process seemed very flustered that passengers dared to ask what was going on or asked questions about their connections in DTW. Then we were told to go to a new gate just across the hallway where we were told our replacement plane would arrive. After more waiting we were told of yet another gate change and all the passengers had to bolt from the end of the A concourse to the plane train. From there we all had to schlep over to a gate at the very end of the E concourse. Like you I was clearly going to miss my connection in DTW after this nonsense (though I was repeatedly told that making my connection would be “no problem”). Knowing this would be impossible I asked to be protected on the next flight to my final destination. At first I was told it would done, but when I checked again with another agent, she told me that she could not get me a seat on the next DTW flight to my final destination because it was not on Delta “but another airline” and I would have to deal with the problem in DTW. That really ticked me off because — while Chatauqua is Delta Connection carrier — the agent acted like I was flying some completely unrelated airline and had screwed up by splitting my reservation. Really? I wanted to argue but was just too tired at that point (I ultimately solved the problem by calling the number on one of those red “Need Help” cards Delta has around their gates). I agree that it’s not the delays or mechanicals that are most irritating. After all it was a busy holiday travel weekend. But what is very irritating is obviously lazy agents or agents blaming things on passengers when it clearly is the airline’s fault. Does not make much of an impression to a public that already holds most airlines in low regard. Hope the rest of your mileage run is uneventful! 🙂

  27. I’ve had very similar experiences with Delta and their Skycubs. Completely “useless” is the word I use to describe them. I do have to say, as much as United has issues they have always dealt with operational issues amazingly, unlike my experiences with Deta.

  28. @ Portnoy @ Taylor — When you gate check bags on a non-regional jet they’re checked through to your final destination. There was no option to retrieve them planeside. In theory I guess we could have asked that they short check them to JFK and we pick them up at baggage claim there, but we may have missed our connection if we did that.

  29. @ Joey — It’s fewer miles, but I should still be pretty close to qualifying for MVP Gold 75K, fortunately.

  30. My question about gate-checking is the same as above. I’ve been on lots of flights where they gate check bags and then ask folks who gate-checked to wait on the jetbridge for their bags to be returned.

  31. Do us all a favor and write a letter (not an email or a call) to Delta…use pen and paper and a stamp. Name “Ernestina” from the particular club and walk through what happened. You were a revenue business class pax and they went mechanical – there should be none of this garbage.

    At a minimum, she will get a discussion…and, importantly, it will reduce the risk of such behavior from her in the future for others.

    Delta Air Lines
    PO Box 20980
    Atlanta, GA 30320

  32. I think you misinterpreted what “gate check” means. It means you need to wait at the bridge to get your bags.

  33. @ OberBoberGrober @ karung99 — This isn’t true on mainline aircraft. I was even given a claim tag which confirms the bag was checked through to GRU on AA.

  34. That is how everyone is in Minneapolis, but it is super cold here! You’d hate that part.

    Also, you have pretty much summed up all of the good and bad parts of flying Delta. Some outstanding service and then some of the worst customer service you can imagine.

  35. Your experience is precisely why I do all I cap’n to avoid Delta as well as the other legacy US carriers. The FF program is but one small piece of the equation, and becomes highly devalued if the people throughout the rest of the airline stink to high heaven.

    Atlanta can boast being the biggest, busiest airport in the world, but in my experiences traveling through there, it has not ever once translated into a pleasant experience. Quite the opposite, and the DL employees clearly rest in the laurels that since it’s ATL, the traveler has few other options.

    The US legacies will either figure it out, or lose to their int’l counterparts who know how to deliver genuinely great service. Or you could fly more on Alaska or Hawaiian, both of which know how to deliver great service on the phone, on the web, on the ground, at the airport and in the air.

  36. Fwiw, i have short checked a bag at the gate before on UA, another instance where there was plenty of room on the aircraft, but crew just too lazy. I agree with the consensus that i would actually rather call than deal with the ground staff.

    Also if it makes you feel any better, i got downgraded by UA yesterday when NRT-HNL cancelled. Another one of the pitfalls of a W fare on UA is that even when the upgrade clears as mine did months ago, if the flight gets cancelled, you’re screwed.

    But the UA ground staff at NRT was very proactive and got me out on the first JAL flight and I was just amazed. JAL ground staff and flight crews were incredible. Boarding was smooth, fast, and crew super helpful, no gate check crap with them, they make it happen. Granted only a 7 hour flight, but i would fly them again in coach on a long haul in a heartbeat. And this was a tired 767 that had seen its best days!

    Now we’ll see if UA gives me original routing credit like they said they would 🙂

  37. I am of two minds about this story…

    Because on the one hand, I have actually had very similar experiences in ATL–rebooked from First (on an award ticket, but still, a full booked-in-first ticket) to Coach due to irrops without anyone thinking to fix that, and unhelpful SkyClub agents who claim they can’t do things I’ve seen done at other SkyClub locations (oddly I’ve only ever had problems in ATL).

    But on the other hand, you do have something of a skewed perspective. I have known of plenty of firsthand and secondhand sassiness from AA, similar to things you describe above. If you were a DL Diamond, things probably would have gone differently, because you would have had access to better phone agents (and a Twitter presence who is on a first-name basis with you), and could have put the useless SkyClub agent behind you quickly. That doesn’t mean DL’s behavior was acceptable, but it does mean that you don’t experience these situations on AA in the same way. (At least in terms of getting rebooked; the difficult gate agent you probably would have been stuck with even as a Diamond).

    That doesn’t mean that the US airlines are correct in their approach–a lot of foreign carriers will let you claim “I’m a premium class traveler” in the phone line and get theoretically better support. But the US carriers, perhaps foolishly, give better support to elites than to paid premium class customers.

  38. Sorry Ben but this was all your fault!!! 🙂 Why in the hell did you decide to fly Delta? I feel your pain almost every week and am sitting here on my almost 1MM useless Skypesos. Delta is the worst!!! BTW, if you decide to move to Minneapolis you are very welcome. I live here and love this place. Yes, it is cold but if it wasn’t there would be 10 million people living here. 🙂

  39. Dude you are going for MVP gold on Alaska? Why? Everyone knows Delta sucks. Then on top of that you go from NY to ATL to DTW then bitch when shit goes wrong? This was ALL you buddy. The concept of mileage runs is dead. Here’s a news flash ALL US airlines sucks. Your wasting time trying to obtain status for what? To get a free cocktail and a crappy meal?

    Now if this was for PPS on SQ I might understand. However it’s not. How many times can you sit in F only to leave 24 hours later? I mean you don’t even enjoy where you go have the time. Anyway Delta owes you nothing. ATL is the worst airport to connect with but you never got that memo.

  40. Well Lucky, welcome to the Delta screw-up club. My partner and I go thru this grief every trip we take from Peoria. First off, Peoria flights are on Delta Connection, so they are all CRJ. Having status is useless as there isn’t a First class on the this type of plane. My partner is FO on Delta, doesn’t even help with irops. Every time there has been a weather problem, he either cancels his trip or flys back on American. On our last trip, there were delayed flights and Delta rescheduled us to the next morning. I called the number on the text, and had us rescheduled to fly out of Bloomington, IL. Which is 40 miles from Peoria. We had a family event to go to, the next day in PHL and had to be there. On our way home, we again had delays, and almost missed our connections. We had 2.5 to 3 hour connections. 2 screw-ups, one trip! I’m done with Delta! So, it isn’t you Lucky, it is Delta! They have become so high and mighty! They only care about Platinums and Diamonds, everyone else is worthless to Delta!

  41. it was the similar story i have told you that I changed my plan from Brazil to Chiang Mai in NY Andaz.
    LOL, anyway, wish you have a safe trip

  42. Do most of my flights with UA on weekends, and if something goes mechanical, I almost always tell them to cancel the trip and get me back to home base; which they do. When you only have 2 nights somewhere, losing one is like having no trip at all.

  43. IME as a Diamond on Delta, this is par for the course in Atlanta. I find most of Delta’s CS agents to be the best in the business, and many in Atlanta to be the absolute worst.

  44. I think that it is quite churlish when you and other bloggers cite the names of relatively low-level airline employees whom you believe deliver below-average or worse customer service. I understand reasons for highlighting the exceptional performance of excellent employees, but to do the opposite in such a public forum is rather base. While it may be reasonable to try to publicly shame a CEO or high-ranking and visible airline professional, this just seems low.

  45. @lucky:

    “…and there’s no way they could get us to New York in time for the Delta flight to Sao Paulo.”

    I think you may have accidentally flipped that around?

  46. I’m enjoying all the “blaming the victim” attitude. It seems like the problem wasn’t that Lucky was asking for too much – it’s that the agents didn’t care enough to do more than the minimum.

    Why couldn’t they entertain his request for a routing he already outlined for them? And why the attitude at the gate?

    I’m not in customer service because I know I’d be the first to tell an annoyed passenger to go f themselves. But these people are. If they can’t be better, they should do something else. We shouldn’t have to accept horrible service because they met the minimum requirements of their job.

  47. FWIW, I’ve never seen a Red Coat in a SkyClub and they’ve always been the agents who’ve helped me out the most (at least, agents in the airport). Otherwise, Medallion phone agents, but you didn’t have access to them.

    I rarely connect through ATL as ATL is usually an origin/destination for me, and surprisingly the check-in employees are always top-notch (always thank me for being Medallion, etc, much better than LAX).

    This is definitely something Delta needs to work on.

  48. Whats with all the haters? Yes, technically Lucky may not have been in this predicament had he not booked the extra connection, but since when does that excuse crap service?!

    Lets ignore the fact that he came from NYC and focus on the issue. He was booked from ATL-DTW-GRU and ATL-DTW went mechanical. Certain DL employees really dropped the ball here, especially since he was in paid business.

  49. Would you be eligible for DL MQM’s on the AA flight to Brazil if you were rebooked? I know that in reality you’re going for AS qualifying points, and that both AA and DL can credit toward AS, but I’m curious as to how that would play out if you were doing a DL mileage run?

  50. @ Nick — If that were the case I could have requested original routing credit on Delta. But since I’m crediting to Alaska it’s a moot point.

  51. Multiple choice:

    a) Your bag was transferred to Royal Jordanian. They said they’ll take good care of.

    b) There is someone in Thailand wearing your new sweater (and shirt, pants, boxers…) and this time they didn’t have to pay.

    c) You bag is in a Porsche between an A380 flight and Lufthansa’s first class terminal.

    d) As a Delta apology, when returned, your luggage will contain a rimowa travel kit, rubber ducks, hello kitty swag and 3 pretzel rolls.

    Time to head home and relax on your couch for a few days. Good luck! 😉

  52. This generated a lot of comments. I’m going to throw my hat in the ring too.

    1) The story is frustrating all the way through, but the one thing that *really* stands out to me is the gate agent reprimanding you for being rebooked. I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to retain my composure at that.
    2) Glad you concluded that DL is no different from the rest. I had several consecutive bad experiences with DL, which caused me to avoid them for a while, but now I just avoid them because SkyMiles are worthless.
    3) I would’ve been unhappy with the Brasilia/GOL option too, especially because of the 757. Can’t blame you for pushing back on that one.

  53. @Brendan – You’ve got it all wrong – even lower level employees are representatives of the company. And BTW, people in question were not low level – they are in high profile public positions and need to held accountable like anyone else. They are the “face” of the company. Let’s stop telling everyone that crappy service is something people should be happy with.

  54. Lucky – sorry for your pain, that sounds very frustrating but you handled it well.

    Question for you, how were you able to get Delta to rebook you on an American flight if it is a non-partner? I had a similar situation with Delta and they wouldnt re-book (and pay) for any alternative flight that was non-Delta. Thanks!

  55. @ Matt C — When it comes to delays within the airline’s control and there are no reasonable alternative, it’s not unusual for them to book you on another airline that they don’t partner with. It can take a bit of convincing, but is definitely possible.

  56. @ Carfield – There are no business class flights within Brazil. TAM doesn´t offer BSB – GRU on J or any other carrier. The only internal flight in Brazil offered in J is GRU-MAO as part of the continuing flight to MIA which is basically a transcon.

    TAM offers seats with extra space ( espaco conforto ) on the first row and emergency exits.

    Azul offers more leg room on the first 5 rows and emergency exits for 25 BRL each way which is a no brainer to me.

    Priority boarding is according to status only.

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