Delta Airlines - Story about history airline travel from seasoned business traveller - and a Delta flying experience

Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2002 at 12:00am CDT by 86fa41ad

Company: Delta Airlines

Category: Travel, Vacations

Flying, is for the birds While most business professionals remember the quasi-wonderful days of air travel from years gone by, we have seen a marked turn down in the friendly skies. My business has, at times, required me to travel as much as 4 to 5 times a month. I often ran into other frequent travelers who shared their stories over coke in a lounge waiting on a delayed flight, the weather, or just a long layover. The stories have changed somewhat over the years. In the early 80's, air travel seemed to be an up and coming thing. Airports were expanding as fast as they could and travel agents all had a friendly, yet posed expression. We could tell they were trying to be nice, and some actually were. There were almost never any horror stories about customer service, and when they did come up, people listened in shock.

As the 90's wore on, travelers started voicing more and more concern over the lack of customer service. Even though airlines were making money hand-over-fist, they seemed to be curtailing the one true bargaining chip they had over their competitors, customer loyalty. I remember in the early 90's several customers who swore by Delta, United, or even American. They vowed never to fly on another carrier if they could help it. Customer loyalty soon lost out to who had the most business class upgrade gimmicks. I admit, I enjoyed getting my seat moved up to business or first class, but I did notice that desk agents weren't smiling anymore. The shock and horror of September 11th has all us frequent flyers reeling.

Security procedures have turned normal day to day travel into a circus depending upon where you are. Some procedures are so lacks we could walk through un-challenged, others so tight we couldn't fight through with an army. The lack of standard security practices and procedures makes flying on a plane about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. It’s not what he's going to do, but what he might do that creates anxiety. This anxiety has greatly soured the spirit of travelers today. I understand that airlines are at the mercy of Government regulations, but there could still be someone who would walk us through it, a friend to let us know they were on our side. This is where airlines are blowing it. Airlines, by refusing to offer good customer service in a time when air-travel is the most chaotic, are shooting themselves in the foot. An example of this is a recent experience with my wife. As I mentioned, I have traveled a lot, a whole lot.

I have more frequent flyer miles on more carriers than I can keep track of. My preference has always been Delta. Most of my traveling companions agreed as well. It seemed that, while all airlines were loosing focus on customer service, Delta still had something to offer. My experience begins with trying to use frequent flyer miles to get my wife and daughter back to the US. I am in the military and we are stationed in Italy. All my frequent flyer miles to date have been gathering dust because we were forbidden to use them. A recent change has allowed us in the military to use our business accumulated miles for personal travel. I first tried to book my wife and daughters trip in May. The ONLY day they could travel was July 13, 2002. Not any day in May, June or even August, July 13th was it.

The routing was rather peculiar as well. They could not take a simple flight; they had to fly via a partner Italian airlines to Rome, then Cincinnati, then Atlanta and finally to Montgomery Al. I knew flying Delta I would end up in Atlanta, but this route was a bit obscure, especially being booked two months in advance with complete fly-any-day flexibility. The clerk even stated that I should feel lucky that I found that flight at all! How fortunate it is sir that you can even redeem all those hard earned miles you have. The day of the flight proved to be no less than chaotic.

Venice had just recently opened its new airport without any announcement to let travelers know. As we reached the ticket counter the sad faced clerk took my wife and daughters tickets and proceeded to mark the luggage for Rome. I told him they were going to Montgomery and he said, ‘you must pick up luggage in Rome. You can not book through, you are going domestic to international. End of discussion. I could not get him to see reason for anything. I of course could not escort my ticket carrying wife and daughter to the gate so we said our goodbyes at the checkpoint and they left. I drove home and then called about the time I thought they would be waiting on the Rome departure flight.

She was panicked and crying. They had lost the luggage, she had only 25 minutes to get to the connection and she still hadn't been able to check in at Delta. While this was usual for me, and I had heard many stories of this nature in my lounge time, the fact that it was happening to my wife and daughter made me realize how much of a pain it is. One of my colleagues just happened to be on the same flight (I mentioned we travel a lot?) and gave her some pointers on how to deal with it. By the time the luggage arrived my wife had missed the connection.

Delta simply said, we have a flight for you tomorrow.Again, I am used to this but my wife is not, she wanted, no expected, to get to Montgomery the day she left. When she asked about a hotel for herself and my daughter the answer was & talk to Alitalia.Basically, we didn't make the mess so we aren't going to deal with it. Even though I booked through Delta using Delta skymiles on a Delta skypartner, Delta wasn't responsible.

Alitalia is, like any other non-US based air carrier, customer un-friendly. I have flown a bunch of foreign carriers and none of them hold a candle next to US based carriers, not one. So Alitalia says & we got you to Rome, that was our part. Find your own room to stay in for the night.Again, end of discussion. Finding a room in Rome in the summer is next to impossible, unless you are willing to spend $500 a night. This long story brings me to my point, seasoned travelers who are used to grief, are shunning air travel because it has become so intolerant, so inhospitable. Airlines are screaming because they can't get back the only people who would put up with this junk, business traveler who have no choice.

Business travelers are saying & We have a choice. Vacation travelers have long since voiced their concerns and voted off air travel. My position, like many other business travelers I hear, is let the airlines prove themselves worthy of my time. The companies may spend the money to let us travel but it is the traveler who has to spend the time.

The companies still have the money to spend; it is the business traveler who is choosing to spend their time in other ways to get the same job done. The gauntlet has been laid down, if airlines want us back then make us feel welcome. Work with security implementers, not just policy makers, to get standard practices and procedures in place. When you screw up, own up to it.

Help the customer get to their destination, don't just hide behind a wall of excuses. Bottom line, do the job we expect you to do, not the one you have become accustomed to doing. If it costs more money our companies will pay. If it costs us more headaches, heartaches and scars, we will just make do with a phone call. I hear the communications sector is hurting, video conference anyone?


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