An Open Letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines

Dear Mr. Anderson,

I’m quite certain you don’t need/want/desire another letter on a blog about how to run Delta. Well, quite frankly, you wouldn’t have ever gotten one from me until today. I’ve been a loyal Delta customer for 15 years, I put up with the inability of people to understand 2 items, the insane baggage charges and having to beg for water. I’ve bounced between Silver and Gold Medallion for much of the past decade.  Today, six people made me question my loyalty: it’s obvious Delta doesn’t care about the consumer, why should we demonstrate loyalty to your organization?

As you know, New York/New England is in the midst of a post-Christmas blizzard.  Because if the industry standard hub system, and mergers, your airlines 4 of it’s 7 US hubs in winter locations. Logically, this seems disproportionate to an industry which relies on an uncontrollable force to ensure safe travels.  I can live with it: it’s my decision to fly Delta, and fighting through either Detroit, Minneapolis, JFK, or Salt Lake coupled with living in New England can be problematic.  What I cannot stand, and find intolerable is the attitude of your employees in dealing with weather related issues.

Today, I flew from Oklahoma City to Boston (the *only* flight to fly from ATL-BOS on 12/26 operated by Delta).  Having had previously acceptable service when dealing with delays on Delta (including receiving texts while waiting for a part to be fixed on an ATL-Tokyo flight), I felt somewhat assured that my flight to Boston was running on-time to possibly late because of weather.  I hadn’t received a voice mail or text. Fortunately, I tapped into my 3G network and noted an email from Delta at 4:10 am saying my flight had been cancelled and I was to be re-routed to SLC the next day (12/27) and then to Logan on 12/30.

As I was en-route to do some early post-holiday shopping with my sister, she dropped me off at the Will Rogers Airport. I knew there was a 6:52 departure to ATL and a 7:00 am departure to the Twin Cities and hoped to catch an earlier flight to make it home before the blizzard.  I arrived at 6:31 and was told by the counter agent she could not do anything for me since it was after 6:30 am. I realize this maybe your standard but I should have been told, let me ticket you on the 11:42 to the Twin Cities and go back to the gates and see if you can get on the plane. I had to beg for that flight and NOT to fly out to SLC on 12/27 (which, let’s face it, to fly from Oklahoma to get stuck in Utah makes as much sense as flying to Tokyo to connect to Phoenix from Oklahoma).  As the ticket agent was relatively new, her supervisor used this as a “training exercise”. I realize that experiential learning is a key component. I do not understand why a Medallion member, who is trying to beat a blizzard needed to be the object of such an undertaking. By the time I received my boarding passes, I was told both flights had boarded and were ‘closed’.

After clearing TSA, I realized NEITHER flight had boarded and both had seats. Fortunately, the customer service manager had more common sense than anybody else today and was able to get me on the flight to Atlanta with a seat assignment on the 1:oo pm flight to Boston.

At this point, I encountered two of the rudest flight attendants I have ever had to deal with in over 500,000 air miles on commercial flights. I won’t fly Southwest. I don’t like their “cute” flight attendants. Having a no smoking pantomime isn’t funny, isn’t cute: it’s unprofessional. Being told on five (5) different occasions that “these were not Delta’s rules and if we had a problem to contact the FAA” was churlish. My final straw was when the second flight attendant took my pillow OUT of my lap and said “you cannot have this in an exit row.” (Now, I don’t know if it is Delta or the FAA that doesn’t allow this: but I do know that I fly with my pillow, sit in exit rows and this has NEVER happened before.)

Once I arrived at Hartsfield, I discovered all flights to Boston had been cancelled, save the 12:35 departure. I noticed this immediately and was placed on the stand-by list in Terminal E. My name was not pro-actively placed on the list: had I not checked the screen before grabbing coffee, I would not have been on the stand-by list.  Noting there were over 40 names and zero unclaimed seats, I asked to fly into DCA, JFK of LGA as from there, I can take Amtrak to Boston (which terminated service on 12/26 at 5:15pm). I was refused this request because “your ticket says Boston: that is where you have to fly to.” At this point, I realized that the Hartsfield operation of Delta Airlines is in serious need of common sense:

1) If I wanted to fly into an alternate city where there were open seats to then (at my own expense) secure transportation to my end destination, it frees Delta Airlines from having to secure a seat for me on either one of your aircraft or a competitors.

2) Being told “next time fly Air Tran” by your gate agent at A-03 is beyond appalling. Had I known Delta was both unwilling (and possibly incapable) of working with customers, if I ever have to fly to Atlanta, I might fly Air Tran, United, or any of your competitors: they certainly cannot be worse.

3) Yes, there is a massive blizzard pounding New England at the moment: however, Logan was open until 5 pm: meaning all flights from Atlanta could have left until 2pm.  The Atlanta staff saying there was “3 feet of snow on the ground in Boston” in an era of instant communication was memorable. It became more entertaining when the pilot of the flight indicated this was a turnaround and that it had yet to start snowing in Boston when they left.  As we landed on runway 4 in Boston which is an ocean-ocean landing, Logan ground conditions were not near blizzard like.

5) I realize the airline industry has faced many challenges. However, Delta is looking at possibly 3 days of no service between Boston-Atlanta. Passengers were told this was “an act of God” and Delta was not responsible for meal vouchers, hotels or other accommodations. There is a difference between “responsible” and “customer service”.  Individuals remember good service: many people make choices on where not to spend their money based on bad service. Is Delta required by the FAA to provide travellers with meal vouchers? No. Would it set Delta apart? Yes. 

Your flight crews used to say “you have a choice when flying, thank-you for flying Delta and our Sky Team partners.”  Perhaps it’s time to put some meanings behind the words.  Delta has lost my loyalty. I had to act like a hostile customer to get home because “please”, “thank-you” and reasonable requests got me nowhere.  Publically saying that the ineptitude of the airlines towards Medallion customers got me a seat home.  It really is too bad that it has come to that with your airlines. I’d much rather do business with an organzation where I can make a reasonable request that is mutually beneficial than act like an immature adult. 

There is a television show called Undercover Boss.  I’d suggest spending sometime working the front lines and listening to your passengers.  Alternate airports may work and when a passengers asks for that accommodation why not honor it when you are faced with weather or mechanical delays? You free up a seat and create a happy customer.  Unless, of course, the goal of Delta is to be acquired by AirTran. If so, you are well on your way.

Maybe the next time I fly, it will be on Delta. Maybe it won’t. Quite frankly, your organization has earned business for your competitors. I’m happily enjoying the blizzard: only because I didn’t mind throwing a temper tantrum that would have landed my nieces and nephews in time out for life so I could get home. I feel sorry for those travellers who have yet to learn, that is how you have to play the game.

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5 Responses to “An Open Letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines”

  1. Jean Says:

    Love your post! I must say that I like Southwest. The boarding is an ordeal but they seem to be the only airline serving Philadelphia that consistently leaves on time with our bags on the plane with us. My neighbor has flown AirTran a bit. In last years blizzard, Southwest and the other airlines cancelled flights for days but AirTran kept on flying. She got home with no problems right after the blizzard ended. People on Southwest were stuck for days as another storm came along four days later so many of them never got on their rescheduled flights.

    • zebrastravels Says:

      Thanks! I just get annoyed with the singing, etc. It was cute for oh, about 3 years. Then it became annoying. But i DO like their no cash for checked bags.

  2. sandy Says:

    WE HAD EXTRA SEATS IN FIRST CLASS AND THEY WERE OFFERED TO ARE SERVICE PEOPLE AND THEN TO ANY ONE WHO SERVED THANK-YOU SHOWED A GREAT DEAL OF RESPECT. MADE ME FEEL GREAT TO FLY DELTA SANDY

    • zebrastravels Says:

      Sandy,

      Delta has, for many years, had my loyalty for that reason. However, when I was willing to give up a seat, to go into an alternate airport so I get could home and was refused a simple request, lied to by employees, it is indicitive of a culture that needs to be overhauled. I would have zero problem in giving up (and have given up) my seat to people flying on orders OR on connections who were flying home for emergencies. I will not be treated like an animal being lead to slaughter when I politely requested an alternate solution to an exceedingly complex problems. Over 400,000 miles on Delta alone demonstrates *my* loyalty to them. I’ve seen many a pilot give away first class seats to military, police and fire: it’s why I like them. Denying a family of 5 $60 in meal vouchers for an ‘act of god’ is insane: this family waited out 3 flights due to storms, and 2 for mechanical reasons. Because their first flight was because of weather it was “an act of god” and they were not allowed meal vouchers that others received on the flights cancelled because of mechanical failures. Issues like this are either indicitive of a culture of fear among employees or lack of common sense: both of which should be corrected in a competitive market place. While I would never fly Aeroflot, NPR reported all passangers at Moscow’s airports were given food vouchers because of an ice storm. After arriving late because of a typhoon into Japan (where we were given meal vouchers from Delta), the Narita Airport officals provided everybody with 2L of water, a roll of ritz crackers, a sleeping bag and pillow because we were stuck for the night with police to guard our bags. Sometimes, it’s the acts of common sense kindness that go a long way: not telling people what they can’t do: maybe if people looked FOR solutions, people wouldn’t be stuck at airports, trainstations, etc.

  3. mallorca urlaub Says:

    I’ve been following your blog since you started. You have made amazing progress. This site is an inspiration for all pursuing a long transition versus the big chop.

    – Rob

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