Ugh, Delta Airlines has awful service

So, because I work directly with customers all day long, I’m probably more interested than most about how other businesses try to make their customers happy.

After my experience this morning, I’m forced to conclude that Delta Airlines doesn’t try.

Mackenzie, my four month old baby girl, and I woke up at 4:30 am to get all loaded into the car and drive to the airport in time for our 6 am flight. Our local airport, CMH, is fairly small and never all that busy, and I didn’t want to be waiting for an hour juggling a sleepy, hungry, Mackenzie with all our stuff. So I planned to arrive about 40 minutes prior to departure. Well, we ended up getting dropped off at the wrong end of the ticketing area, and after getting me all loaded up with Mackenzie, diaper bag, suitcase, etc. and making our way to the farthest counter… it was getting closer to 5:30. I pulled up to a kiosk, put everything but my baby down, swiped my credit card, and started punching in flight information. Four or five punches later, I was informed that I was 30 seconds too late to check a bag on my flight.

Apparently Delta has a hard-and-fast rule about checking bags 30 minutes prior to departure that I was unaware of. I had booked through Expedia and later looked everywhere I could think to look on their site and saw no mention of this rule.

I’m not a rebel. I’m not a rule-breaker. I’m just a young mom trying to get everything together to take her first cross-country trip with a baby. Also, I’m a bit sleep-deprived, but I don’t think that should count against me. ;)

Ok, so Delta has a hard-and-fast rule. Bummer, right? Sorta, but here’s the biggest bummer of all:

They were downright rude to me. They treated me like I was an idiot for punching in the buttons at the kiosk 30 seconds too slowly, or taking an extra 30 seconds to extricate my sleepy baby from her car seat at the airport. As I stood there, nearly in tears, holding my baby at 5:31 am, not one person said they were sorry or even gave me a friendly glance.

I exaggerate. The other customers standing nearby gave me very sympathetic glances and a few (bless them) even shot the Delta agents dirty looks.

However, nobody from Delta appeared to be the least bit sorry for my trouble. In fact, after I waited in a line to see a rebooking agent, she smiled when she told me it was going to cost me $50 to get on another flight. No, I could not get on the plane and send my one suitcase with a later flight (security reasons, duh). No, I could not just hurry to the gate (there was no line at security) and promise never to be 30 seconds later again. No I could not get to CA that day without a 3 hour layover in Atlanta. No they couldn’t get me out of Columbus any sooner than 7 hours later. No they couldn’t treat me with respect. I was late! Yeesh, didn’t I know that being late came with a get-out-of-being-decent card?

So Mackenzie and I left. Me, holding back tears and $50 poorer for the experience, Mackenzie just beginning to realize she had been pulled out of bed much too early.

When I got home, I called Delta. I wanted to speak with someone who could restore my faith in humanity, or at least confirm to me that I had just encountered a few bad nuts and that the company as a whole wasn’t rude and uncaring. I got through to a supervisor in Atlanta named Hilda who informed me in no uncertain terms that this whole thing was my fault because I had been late. No joke. Here is almost word-for-word a particularly unbelievable part of our lengthy conversation:

Hilda: Ma’am, if this were our fault, maybe there would be something I could do. But it’s your fault because you were late.

Me: It’s my fault that your agents were downright rude to me?

Hilda: Ma’am, you were late for your flight. You can’t check bags 30 minutes prior to departure.

Me: I’m not asking you to refund my flight, I just want to let Delta know I was ill-treated by their employees.

Hilda: Ma’am, you really need to arrive for your flight at least an hour to an hour and a half prior to departure.

She may as well have said “You were late, Lady. All bets are off.” I asked her if she cared that I had been treated poorly by Delta employees, and she said if I wanted someone to care, I should write to “corporate” and they were required by law to respond to me in 30 days or less.

Thank you, Hilda, for making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks, Delta, for taking my $300 for flights, $50 for a change fee, and leaving me with a conviction to never ever use your “service” again. I’ll write to “corporate” and I’ll be sure to update you in 29 days or so on whether anyone there seems to care.

My experience this morning helped me realize just how much I value good customer service. Scott and I determined that it’s more important to us to use an airline that is always friendly and polite, even when situations aren’t going to work out the way that we would’ve liked, than it is to get the absolute cheapest price. I don’t think that we’re unique in this regard, and the customer responses that I get at work support this idea. I’m grateful to work for a company that has a habit of bending over backwards to make customers happy, and to know that my interactions with customers will never result in them shedding tears of frustration. In my book, that’s a very good thing.

P.S. Anyone had consistently great service from an airline? As it turns out, we’re looking for a new carrier.

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About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to two beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Life as we know it, Tough Days, Trips. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Ugh, Delta Airlines has awful service

  1. Liz says:

    Ugh – I just heard about this from your Mom. I’m so sorry. :( Hang in there!

  2. Pingback: SmugBlog: Don MacAskill » Blog Archive » Delta Airlines has terrible customer service

  3. Jeremy Hall says:

    Sincere sympathy coming your way from another family that hates traveling with kids. This weekend we booked a flight on Delta to send my 9-yr old son unaccompanied to visit Grandparents in Mtn. View. After Heather booked the flight we discovered a little inclusion in the end of their terms (after a heads up from my brother) that there is a $100 charge (each way!) for unaccompanied minors. This was not charged during booking, this was a surprise to be had at the counter when dropping off your kid.

    Needless to say we canceled the ticket and booked with SouthWest instead who charges no extra fee for unaccompanied minors. It’s not the money in this case, I would even understand some fee, but $100 for just making sure they get on and off at appropriate times? Another hallmark of a business that is losing sight of what made them successful in the first place.

  4. Kristin says:

    I’m so sorry for you and Mackenzie. What a total nightmare! If it’s any consolation, I’m impressed that you acted respectfully despite Delta’s inability to do so. Grrrr to Delta.

  5. Andy says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Kinda ironic that we work for a company that is just the polar opposite in terms of service. I’m sure this whole experience shook you to your very soul.

    Hang in there Anne, and stay tough. Find an airline that would treat you the way SmugMug would treat a customer that was 30seconds too late!

  6. Trip says:

    It took me a few clicks, but I did find their hard and fast rule for no 29 minute 30 second check-ins (http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/itineraries_checkin/requirements/index.jsp). Sorry you received such unprofessional service.

    This happened to me at LAX with United. They have a 45 minute cut off but I was there exactly 60 minutes before. I used the kiosk to check-in (a line for an agent looked 30 minutes or more) and got the message, “Please wait for an agent to assist you.” I think what the agents were reading on the other side of the kiosk was “SUCKER”. Waited a bit, tried again, same message. Now approaching 45 minutes, I finally got an agent (her first name began with C, ended with t) who said she could not help me because I was late and had missed the check in time. And off she walked away.

    Frantically, I apologized to the people in the long line and cut. Not an easy feat in LA, but I am sure they were in that line because they knew what I was up against. The agent checked me in and tagged the bags “LATE” to eshew any liability.

    When the flight attenedant boarding the plane asked me how my day was going, I told him the above tale of woe. They flight attendants made up for it on the flight and my bags even made it.

  7. paulie walnuts says:

    after reading your post, i just emailed delta and made them aware that your story was out there…and that people like me were disturbed by the type of service you were given. thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Steve says:

    You were late, you made a mistake. Guess what, we’re all human and all make mistakes now and again.

    Any normal person would see you have a baby with you and try to help you out rather than mistreat you.

    The way you were treated by Delta is inexcusable. I came across your post via your brothers post. I think there should be an interesting media firestorm tomorrow once this hits the news.

    I would hope that Delta contacts you to make up for their horrid customer service. I will certainly think twice before using their service in future.

  9. cabbey says:

    wow. That’s just amazing. Today I happened to fly Frontier for the first time… it was almost the diametric opposite of your experience. Hopefully tomorrow will go better.

    Once upon a time I woulda said that SunCountry was top notch. Then I hit them at a different airport than I was used to dealing with them at. As far as I can tell it’s a hit and miss affair. Some airlines at some airports are going to be great, others bad…. seems to just depend on the quality of the local staff and leadership to not allow them to destroy their customers like that. The same seems to go for just about everything these days that’s a giant corporate megalyth. No wonder folks like dealing with small family run companies. It’s just too bad there aren’t any in certain areas…. like airlines. :(

  10. Jeannette Bowen says:

    I would by far recommend Southwest. I have traveled many, many times with the kids alone and they are always the friendliest, most helpful, etc. They are great. They don’t have as many direct flights, but they also are good about pretty short layovers. I’ve gone on most other airlines and really enjoy Southwest the most. They also still have pillows and blankets on the flights, which is so nice when holding a sleeping baby.

  11. Maya says:

    I’m sorry about that :-( I think Delta is the one my mom doesn’t fly anymore b/c the flight attendants walked down the aisles yelling “who gets the diabetic meal? who gets the diabetic meal?” even though they knew my sister was the one. Then, the meal wasn’t actually fit for a Type 1 diabetic and they were really rude about it. Hope your rescheduled flight goes much smoother! :-)

  12. manwaringfam says:

    You poor thing.

    You know, we always fly Southwest. They herd you in like cattle, all you get is a shot glass size drink, but they are cheap, reliable, and as nice as an airline can be.

  13. Meghan says:

    Kudos to you Anne for not sitting back and taking this! I probably would have felt so embarrassed for being late that I would have simply blamed myself for the whole thing and not given their rudeness a second thought. But really-late or not- airlines have no right to treat their customers that way! I hate flying in general, but lately I have been using Delta simply because Southwest does not have direct flights from San Jose to Salt Lake City. And when you have a child on a flight-the shorter the flight the better. But I think I am boycotting Delta now after your experience.

  14. Ohhhh….I feel your pain! I’ve traveled with my kids many times and it seems to be getting more and more difficult….American won’t even let you pre-board with kids b/c, I was told, “it is rude to the other passengers”….not quite as rude as getting hit in the head with a car seat as I try to make my way to the back of the plane with 2 kids, bags, car seat, etc…yuck! Good for you for calling Delta!

  15. Melanie says:

    Just wanted to pass along an understanding hug from another family with a little one… (I’m just a random SmugMug customer and followed through Don’s blog.) We just arrived home from a flight on American Airlines. Our departing experience was awful. My 11 month old is already a frequent flyer, but 6 hours in an airport is a long time for anyone. I won’t go into everything because this is your story, not mine. The last good airline experience we had was on Sun Country. It was round trip from LAX to MSP. EVERYONE treated us with respect and kindness. Plus they didn’t lose any of our luggage! It was so nice. Good luck in the future!

  16. lisa (lost pezhead) says:

    we’ve usually been happy w/ Southwest….Delta has also been jerks to me about me and my kids on the plane. yes, i traveled alone with evan when he was 10 months and i was connecting in DC and it was the airlines fault we were late…i RAN through the airport and when i got to the counter I COULD SEE THE PLANE, but they had just closed the door and wouldn’t let me and my 10 month old on. so i got to sit in the DC airport for 4 hrs waiting for the next flight!!!

  17. You ought to offer Delta Airlines customer service training. They could learn a thing or two from the SmugMug support heroes!

  18. Red Diviner says:

    Hi,
    I saw the video on this website (Your family at the hospital for the delivery) and its so clear and so well taken. Am going to have babies soon and I was hoping to know which camcorder did you use? And what was the settings?. (There was hardly any noise in the picture)

    Thanks

  19. beanland says:

    @ Red: My dad uses a Sony XDCam EX. Here’s a link: http://www.engadget.com/2007/04/16/sony-announces-xdcam-ex-prosumer-camcorder/

    Hope that helps!

  20. Gala says:

    The TSA has a 30 minute cut off rule for checking bags and any variation from the TSA rule can result in the airlines being hit with fines. And the fine isn’t just a $50.00 fine like the same day confirmed fee, it’s thousands of bucks. I feel badly that you feel you were treated badly, there is no excuse for rudeness. I live 7 miles from my local airport and travel often with children. Even on a good day something can happen and I would never consider arriving at the airport 40 minutes prior to a flight. I have and always will shoot for an hour. If I get there early, then whoo, I find a place to sit, rearrange our bags so the kids can easily reach the things they need, etc. If something slows me down, I have some leeway. Listen, don’t put all the blame on Delta. You need to accept responsibility and just because you have a baby in your arms does not give you immunity from the rules. Your situation could have easily happened with any airline (including Southwest-who by the way has my vote as the worst for smartass employees),train, ferry, etc.

  21. Anne says:

    @Gala: Thanks for stopping by!

    I hope I didn’t imply that none of the mess was my fault!

    From my post:

    “Ok, so Delta has a hard-and-fast rule. Bummer, right? Sorta, but here’s the biggest bummer of all:

    They were downright rude to me. “

  22. Justin says:

    Delta has done worse to me…. It is a long story but I hate to say it, they are awful. I also use CMH a lot, but Delta has many flights out of the there. I now use Southwest and have never been happier. They have no stupid fees.

  23. Sam says:

    I just want to know if they will pay me $50 when THEY are running late. Because if they will, THAT IS A GREAT DEAL!!!

  24. Arthur says:

    Just happened to me this morning. We had to give an excuse to “why we were late.” Oh, also you may wonder why Delta claims “We are having a hard time making money.” Possibly they should drop the b.s rule and stop giving out $150.00 waivers.

    I live in a city with a REGIONAL airport AKA there is NO ONE flying at 6:20 AM. It was silent when we walked in.

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