Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't Let Delta Dick You Over: Ways To Approach Reservations and Customer Support

If Delta has changed your international flight reservation and sent you a worse itinerary, this might help:

So last August on the way home from the Baltics I had a layover in Atlanta, GA. It was the last Delta flight to Orlando that night, and the plane was overbooked. They offered a night's stay in a hotel, a $400 voucher, and a seat on any flight home the next day. I took the voucher and just recently redeemed it for a ticket to Oslo. I booked the flight almost a year ahead of time to score the cheapest fare, and in the end, after cashing in the voucher, I paid an additional $86. Fucking Score!

Problem is, a few months later I get this e-mail from Delta saying that they added an additional stop to my itinerary.

The original itinerary looked like this: Newark - Amsterdam - Oslo / Oslo - Paris - New York City

Out of nowhere, Delta reschedules with and squeezes in a connecting flight to Detroit? Detroit? Suck it. I'm not going to Detroit. The new itinerary looked like this:

Newark - Detroit - Amsterdam - Oslo / Oslo - Paris - JFK

Of course, I could live with this and just go on the extra flight, but there were two issues. 1) I was bringing my lady. 2) We were flying on a separate ticket from Florida to get to Newark and out of JFK.

Our original flight was supposed to land in Oslo at noon, and the new reservation had us landing after 4 pm. On the new reservation was a note that said the following:

I tried to change the flight using their website, but website said I needed to contact a reservation office. So I called them on a Monday afternoon, and I explained that we were already flying on a separate ticket to Newark, and the Detroit flight now makes four flights to get to Oslo. I then asked the woman on the phone if we could either just fly out of Detroit and save ourselves time and Delta would have two extra seats for the Newark to Detroit flight. She tells me I can't do this because she would have to rebook the entire ticket and then charge me a $300 change fee for each ticket and any additional price difference in the fare price. Discouraged, I thanked her and hung up. And, she said that because I booked my flight on a voucher that I might not be able to change my ticket, on my girlfriend's. 

I sat around for a few days thinking about how much this would suck. We are meeting someone in Oslo, and now we will be getting there four hours later. I then searched the web on this problem, and a number of sites said to simply call back and ask for them to change it again and see what they say. Apparently, you can just try again and again and maybe get lucky. 

I then went back to the website and read the green text that I posted above. I looked at "conditions apply" and discovered that I was indeed entitled to a no-fee, no fare-difference rescheduling of my itinerary. See here: 

Considering that Delta had delayed my arrival by four hours and ADDED a flight to the itinerary, I figured it was worth calling them back. Also, I looked for an alternate flight to Oslo from Newark, and there were dozens going through Paris and Amsterdam. It doesn't matter where the flight stops in the middle of the itinerary, only where it begins and ends. 

I then called Delta on a Friday night, and I explained that Delta changed my itinerary so that I was landing four hours later and also going through an additional city. I then pointed out the green text and explained what it said and what the conditions were. 

Right away, the guy says, "Well, if they changed your itinerary and ADDED another flight, I think I can reschedule and rebook that flight at no charge." 

What a difference! He and I searched for flights leaving Newark, spotted one that fit my schedule and booked it on the spot. So now, we are going from Newark - Paris - Oslo / Oslo - Paris - NYC. Best part is, the guy was nice.

He sent me a rescheduled flight confirmation for both of our tickets while still on the phone. 

By this point you might be thinking, "Well, duh, the website says you can do that." But what I find funny is that the first person I spoke with immediately blew me off. She didn't inquire about any language or options on the website that allowed me to change my ticket. Right away she scared me off with the mention of $300 change fees to even begin and then additional differences in fare prices. 

This reflects a couple of issues. For one, the first person I spoke to was quick to make the airline money and leave a customer convinced that these were simply the rules. Secondly, she proved that she adheres to some rather black and white thinking in regards to doing her job. She wanted to get through my call and onto the next. I also think that by mentioning that I was already going to have to fly up to New York from Florida on a separate ticket revealed to her that I was a "rational, savvy, budget flyer looking to save my money" as opposed to some Platinum status Corporate airline dickstroker. For her, I think it was either a "make money for Delta or fuck off" diagnosis for my call because of the information I revealed about my flight. And, I also don't think she wanted to think about it or ask anyone else what my possibilities were. 

Also, I didn't go into the call prepared. After hanging up from the first call annoyed and pissed off at what they did, I rethought my approach. When I called a second time, I VERY NICELY explained that I had booked a ticket that Delta later changed and "green writing on the web page said that I could..." 

So, the lesson here is tell Delta, or any airline for that matter, what THEY DID to fuck up. POLITELY give them as little info as you have to about your plans, your trip, your reasons. Just put the ball in their court. And if one person says no, try again a few days later. Also, think about how many people aren't calling Delta at 9 pm on a Friday night and talking to those folks like they are stupid pieces of dog shit. That guy was in a far less hurried mood than the lady on Monday. He was also eager to help and sounded a little unsurprised that Delta had changed my itinerary. 

Now, one last thing, there is a chance that Delta chose to reschedule the original itinerary because I scored a trans-Atlantic flight to Norway for very, very cheap, AND with a voucher. So Delta is making no money on my flight. They aren't even getting all the taxes they need to pay on that ticket by charging me $86. It might have helped that I bought a ticket of the same price at full fare for my girlfriend when I had to change the ticket, but I have a feeling like voucher redemption had something to do with giving me the shittiest rescheduled itinerary in the first place.