February 21, 2010 5 Comments
I am sitting writing this in the Seattle Tacoma airport, as I am still on the ground waiting for a 10:25 PM flight. My original booked flight was at 1:10 PM, but apparently Delta, unlike every other airline, closes the gate early. They then have someone sitting at the gate that cannot help you with anything while the gate agent helps prep the plane. Not only does she not help you, she has no intent on even being friendly. Unfortunately, I did not take her picture, as I did not start thinking of needed any evidence until it was too late and I had a 9 hour stay at SEATAC.
The story starts early this week, as I prepared for the MVP Summit. My wife informed me there was a father-daughter dance. I told her I would try to arrange an early flight to try to get back in time for the dance.
While in Seattle, I looked up earlier flights on various airlines and the cheapest were running about $150 + fees, or $171.40. I then called Delta to try to switch. The flight last night was about half full to Minneapolis and then a third full into Nashville. The flight I was scheduled to take showed no seats. This does not mean it did not have preferred seats still available, only no seats for me, but it was a fuller flight.
Bob, which is probably not his real name (due to the accent) informed me that I would have to pay $200 to change the flight, as I had a no refund ticket. I told him I could buy a ticket for $171.40 and he suggested that was a less expensive option. At this time, I am looking at switching to an empty flight and either buying a second ticket of paying more for the “convenience” of switching.
First suggestion to Delta: Either allow you employees the ability to be empowered to make a decision or instruct them to connect the person with someone who can make a decision, or offer the conversion on a non-refundable, when the flight being switched to is fairly empty, at a reasonable rate (hint: paying more to switch than buy a new ticket is NOT reasonable.
I get to the airport in plenty of time today and go to the terminal. I then run into someone and have a conversation a few gates down from the gate I am flying out of. Not with eyesight, but I figure I can get to the gate at about 10 minutes before the flight and be fine.
Now the nightmare begins: I get there at around 1 PM and the gate is closed. The woman behind the counter states she cannot help me (although she is doing NOTHING) and I have to wait for the gate agent to help me. The gate agent comes out about 5 minutes BEFORE the flight is supposed to take off and tells me I am too late to get on the plane. I tell him the plane is supposed to depart at 1:10 PM and he tells me that is the depart time, but I have to be on the plane 10 minutes before the flight. I tell him I have been here waiting for you to come out for quite some time. He then says there is nothing I can do but go on a later flight and takes a few minutes to get me booked. (I later find my flight was “released” at 1:07 PM, more on that later).
It takes a bit to find my ticket, as it is consider an American Airlines ticket. I booked on Travelocity, but my leg out is American, so that is the reason. There was no evidence of this on anything I received from travelocity, nor is there any evidence on this voucher, printed from DELTA.COM. Yes, I printed from Delta (see at the top). This becomes important as William (whom I met later) says they have a policy of closing the gate about 10 minutes before the flight and that it is clearly stated:
The gate agent also informs me I was supposed to check in at the gate, although I don’t see that anywhere on the pass I printed from delta.com. It is printed on the pass I got from the gate agent that he stapled to my new ticket.
So, I guess I am supposed to be psychic here? That is a new one on me.
It took the gate agent 3-4 minutes to issue me a new ticket and then I walked over and snapped this shot:
There is my flight, just pulled out from the gate. Note that it has JUST pulled back from the gate at 1:10 PM, the time on my ticket. Here is the timestamp from the picture (note that the unit is set to another time zone. When I look on the unit, it says 1:10 PM instead
Okay, you may be saying “It says 9:10 PM” so this cannot be your flight. The timestamp is UTC, so it is –8 hours currently on the west coast. On the device it is 1:10 PM, as the device translates from UTC to local.
Let’s put this together”
- Ticket time = 1:10 PM departure
- Picture time = 1:10 PM backing from gate
- Conclusion: With a ticket agent taking a few minutes to book a new flight, ticket being released at 1:07 PM, and a few minutes with some lady who stated she was unable to help me, I can easily establish I was there in plenty of time before the flight and long before it backed away from the gate.
NOTE: I wish I took a picture of the woman lounging, as that would have been worth the timestamp as evidence of how screwed up this is.
I then spent quite some time attempting to find someone who could help me. There is no kiosk out at the S gates in Seattle, so that was impossible. I also cannot find a Delta person anywhere inside the terminal, so I had to go out to talk to the ticket agents.
When I first approached the Delta ticket counter, I was greeted by two people trying to help passengers with the check-in kiosks. Not quite true as there are no customers for them to help around 2 PM, but I talked to them none-the-less. They asked me to sit down and wait to talk to a lead. William came out.
William was very nice and very soft spoken. I have nothing personally against him. I told him both about my phone experience and my gate experience. It was obvious William did not believe me. He reiterated Delta’s policy of closing the gate long before departure time and informed me it is clearly stated on the site. I told him I had printed my original ticket (above) on the site and it is not stated anywhere on there.
William talked to me for a few minutes and then went to the computer to find out if he could find me a better flight. He could not. He gave me two dinner vouchers for my inconvenience and then stated I should go to delta.com and write them from there. He stated they used to have a customer number, but it was no longer given out as it got too busy (with complaints?). He essentially told me, without stating it directly, that he was not going to pass anything I had to say along and he was giving me two dinner vouchers and asking me to leave.
He also stated that my ticket was released at 1:07 PM. I did not put 2 and 2 together at that time, but of course it was released around 1:07 PM, as the ticket agent was booking me on another flight. The flight then pulled away from the gate 3 minutes later. I wish they would have just told me it was overbooked, but if so they would probably have to compensate me with something other than a dinner voucher. Do you think?
So, here is my letter to Delta, which I will attached on Delta.com so they know I would rather be ignored publicly than privately (if they surprise me with a personal response, I will follow up here). In just a small amount of evidence gathering, I already have proof my plane did not pull away until the time it was supposed to and there is evidence I was there to take the picture after getting my ticket.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: This would not tick me off as much if the guy I was with, who also had a 1:10 PM flight a bit down the concourse, had missed his flight. I sat around the concourse noticing when the gate closes on flights. In most flights if the person at the desk says "everybody is on", they close the gate. If not, they continue to make calls until just before the flight time. I saw a lady get on a plane 2 minutes before the flight departure time (should have taken a picture?) and they had been calling her for 10 minutes. Apparently, the same courtesy is not afforded for all, as there were no "last call for" calls when I was finishing up my conversation. I have truly never had an experience like this on any airline. My first and last Delta flight in years.
When I initially ordered my tickets, I ordered from delta.com. I finished everything and entered my credit card and was informed that the last seat a that rate had been booked. This is how I got a mixed flight (AA out, Delta back) from Travelocity. I did not want to pay an extra $150 for the flight out. I guess I would hvae been wise to take it as a sign that Delta had problems. Never thought it would be like this, however.
Peace and Grace,