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Delta Surprises Me With Award Availability So I Can Surprise My Family


I have not been easy on Delta.  Their online award redemption system has been broken for some time, even as their IT team rolls out innovative new features like their bid for bumps and first class up programs.  All their IT work is going towards revenue enhancement, with nothing to satisfy their frequent travelers who, god forbid, might want to redeem a plausible amount of miles for an award ticket.  The result has been the frequent flier community ridiculing their program’s devaluation by referring to their declining currency as SkyPesos.


So imagine my surprise last Friday when I took a look at redeeming an award ticket from Denver to Atlanta for the weekend. I found not one, but two tickets in the “low” category that matched my itinerary.  I snagged one with my remaining SkyMiles balance and a second with my Hawaiian Airlines miles. I have never flown Hawaiian or even been to Hawaii, I got those miles in one of my first churning efforts when years ago my wife and I got their credit card merely for the miles.  Hawaiian is one of the few airlines that allows family members to move miles between accounts free of charge, so we had 25,000 miles between us to make this work.

Nothing On Delta Is Ever That Easy

So after coming through for me in terms of a last minute redemption, I knew this was still Delta, and I was not out of the woods yet.   I had to call them to get seat assignments together for myself and my three year old daughter traveling on separate tickets.  My first attempt ended with them putting me on hold for 10 minutes before disconnecting me.

Attempt number two was astonishing.  I explained that I was traveling with my three year old daughter and that we had to sit together. Lets just say the representative I spoke to was not someone who I would ever want to have to rely on to solve problems.  First she told me that the plane was nearly full and that there  not two seats together.  She suggested that I worry about it later and I could probably get someone to switch seats. I explained to her that I was aware that Delta did not assign all seats in advance, and that there were some seats that are assigned later for reasons such as this. She said that there was nothing she could do, so I asked her to transfer me to someone who could help.  According to her, there was NO ONE who could assign those seats.  “Wow, NO ONE?” I repeated in my most sarcastic tone.

I then had to explain to her that it would probably be considered child abuse to tell my three year old that she has to sit with strangers for the 4 hour flight, and asked her again what she thinks I should do.

It was at that point that she may have realized that I wasn’t just going to hang up and go away.  I wasn’t going to accept her laughable explanation that there is no one in the world who can assign us seats together. I actually expected her to contact someone who would help me. What a crazy customer I turned out to be.

After putting me on hold, I am sure she was shocked to learn that indeed there was someone at Delta who could assure that a three year old and her father would not be sitting on opposite ends of the airplane. Surprises never cease.

Throughout the entire experience, she was friendly, but that is not the same thing as being helpful.  This is why Delta is now sending it’s agents to charm school.   This was an unexpected, last minute trip, so there was not way to know how prescient these words would be when I wrote them just a few days earlier:

The part I liked best about what I read was “Lessons boil down to finding ways to assist customers rather than shunt them aside…”.   That is my biggest complaint with most airlines, that they are just trying to tell you anything to make you go away.

Someone at Delta learned last Friday that I will not just go away.


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