|by Jason Steele|
Late last year, Delta Airlines offered a huge bonus for partner activity, including credit cards. I wrote about it excitedly here and here. In response to the promotion, my wife and I obtained American Express Delta SkyMiles personal and business cards. Later, Delta canceled the promotion saying that it was never intended to be released, yet they would honor it’s terms for those who had registered while the promotion was visible on their web site. To this day, their explanation remains on their website here:
“The SkyMiles® multi-partner threshold promotion was in the development phase and not yet formally announced or launched when it was inadvertently published online. The landing page should not have been live and the content was subsequently removed.
However, Delta Air Lines will honor the bonus miles promotion for SkyMiles members who have already enrolled.”
Delta stayed true to it’s word and honored the promotion. Flush with SkyMiles, I booked a trip for my family to Israel this winter.
I made the booking this winter, and then really didn’t think about for some time. In July, someone asked me what dates I was going to travel, and I logged into my SkyMiles account to double check. To my surprise, there was a note in red by my itinerary saying that my flights had changed. My outbound trip from Denver to Atlanta had moved up, eliminating most of the time I had on a planned stopover there. A quick call to Delta cleared this up, but I was still wondering why I was never notified of the change.
Last week, I again looked at my itinerary online, and again there was a change. This time, my flight from Tel Aviv to Atlanta had a change of planes in JFK. As any traveler knows, it is a good idea to avoid JFK at all costs, especially in the winter. I also had no interest in making two changes of planes on an already long trip. Furthermore, it was really starting to concern me that Delta was changing my plans over and over again without notifying me.
I called Delta and found out that the daily non-stop Tel-Aviv – Atlanta flight had changed to four times weekly, eliminating my flight on that day. I had to choose to extend my trip a day or cut it short a day. I agreed to cut my trip short a day, but I had one simple request. In light of all of the changes that Delta had been making to our itinerary without notifying us, I thought it would be appropriate for us to be able to make a slight change to one of our flights.
Since we made the original reservation, we found out that we would have a large amount of our extended family visiting Atlanta on the day we were traveling through, Christmas Day. We merely hoped to have our Denver to Atlanta flight changed from afternoon to morning so that we could visit with family on Christmas. Normally when an airline makes a significant schedule change, passengers have the right to cancel the flight at no penalty, or to make further changes without charge.
Unfortunately, the agent I spoke with would only agree to waive the change fees on my ticket, since at that time, the schedule change only affected my flight. My wife an daughter were returning on a separate flight, and the earlier change had affected them, but not this change.
I asked to speak with a supervisor, who was very blunt in explaining that it was Delta’s “right”to change our schedule as often as it pleases, yet any change on our part would incur a change fee of $250 per person! I tried to explain that Delta had been changing our tickets multiple times, without notifying us, and that the right thing to do would be to allow us this one small change as a courtesy. Unfortunately, courtesy and customer service were concepts that this person seemed unable or unwilling to utilize.
In the courts, you case can be thrown out, but you can always appeal. In a large company, the only avenue you have is to communicate directly with their executives, a method known as the “executive email carpet bomb” or EECB. Simply put, this is a polite letter that explains your case to someone who has the unquestionable authority to grant your request. Such a person can hopefully see the big picture of satisfying customers over the minutia of corporate policy. The core of my argument was that just because Delta may have the right do enforce it’s rules to the letter, that does not make it the right thing to do in this situation. I did mention that I would be blogging about this event. I am not exactly the most well read blogger on the internet, but I thought whichever way they decided, I wanted them to know that I would be sharing their response with their current and future potential customers.
As you can tell by the title, Delta finally did the right thing in granting this minor change to our schedule on Christmas morning, a time when aircraft fly mostly empty anyways. They explained that they were doing so as a one time courtesy, exactly what I had originally asked of the representatives on the phone.
Lesson One, when flying Delta, make sure to sign up for schedule change notifications. In their response, they also pointed out that Delta has a separate place on their web site to sign up for flight change notifications. I have flown hundreds of thousands of miles on Delta in my lifetime, but frankly, I was not aware that I had to register separately for notifications of schedule changes.
Lesson Two, when dealing with a large company such as an airline, or your credit card company, don’t give up. Always ask to speak to a supervisor. If you don’t get the service you are entitled to, don’t be afraid to write to the executives of the company. Always be brief and polite, but let them know that their decision will have consequences. You can start a blog, or write letters to other bloggers and journalists who fight for consumers. In this case, I let Delta know that I would be writing an article about this subject, and for whatever reason, they ultimately chose to do the “right thing”.
In the end, that is all that matters.