An open letter to Delta Customer Service

Dear Delta,

I'd like to thank two of your people who went considerably out of their way to help me when I was flying from Dayton to Buffalo for Christmas. The first person was a gate agent working in Detroit when I was trying to get to Buffalo on Dec 22nd.  The second person was an attractive young lady working Baggage Services in Detroit on Dec 28th, when I was trying to get home to Dayton.

Unfortunately, most of the other people I dealt with deserve a nice, fat lump of coal in their stocking.  Here's why.

The Dayton-Detroit-Buffalo flight on the 22nd was delayed repeatedly in Detroit, 30 minutes at a time for a total of around 2 hours, due to mechanical problems with our plane which was in Columbus.  No one at the outbound Buffalo gate seemed all that interested in providing any details, so I asked a Delta agent at a different gate to call Columbus and get a mechanic on the line.  She did so, and told me that the plane was cleared and on its way, even though the computer display had not been updated. She gets the first attaboy.

The Buffalo-Detroit-Dayton flight on the 28th had an hour layover: 5:10-6:36 from Buffalo, then 7:36-8:44 to Dayton.  Plenty of time.  Oops, the incoming flight was delayed by 25 minutes.  OK, I have 35 minutes, no sweat.

Here's where things start to go south.  After the connecting flight to Detroit arrived, it was another 5-10 minutes to get the plane docked and ready to go.  Now I have 25 minutes to make my Dayton connection.

Nobody's in any big hurry when we taxi out, and the estimated flight duration was short by 10 minutes.  Now I have 15 minutes to make my connection.  I ask the Flight Attendant if she could call ahead and ask my connection to hold for maybe 10 minutes.  She says don't worry, they'll wait if it's a reasonable delay.

We get to Detroit, and gosh, there doesn't seem to be a gate agent for our arrival.  There's another 5 minutes.  Bummer, the jetway seems to be having some difficulties, so that's 5 minutes.  By the time I'm off the plane, I have to hope my connection was willing to wait 5-10 minutes.

I sprint to the gate.  Gee, they left 5 minutes ago.  Nobody said anything about asking them to hold for a few minutes; it's not an unreasonable request because not much leaves Dayton at that time of night.  There were no other flights until next afternoon at 2pm, and having had my fill of Detroit, I decided to drive.

Here's where the second person gets their attaboy.  The lady in Baggage Services called the handlers to see how busy they were, scanned my luggage tag, and was able to get my bag out of the system and in my hands in under 15 minutes, which is damn good when you consider the size of that airport.

I was a little suspicious when the Avis lady said the distance to Dayton is no more than 75-80 miles.  It's actually 210 miles; maybe she thought I meant Dayton, Michigan.  Oh, well; at least they had a car.

About 90 minutes into the trip, I blew by a Highway Patrol car doing about 75.  I was pulled over, but got off with a warning, so apparently my karma doesn't completely suck.  I got back to Dayton just after midnight, beating my consolation flight by around 14 hours.

Suggestion #1: Delta, next time you're thinking of spending 6 figures on a new ad campaign, may I recommend you use the money for some additional spare parts, a good mechanic, and a gate agent who knows how to be where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there?

Suggestion #2: When you have a late flight with tight connections, how about using that new-fangled radio thing to get everyone off their ass and READY? The arriving gate agent and jetway should have been good to go when the plane pulled up, and all the connecting flights should have gotten a heads-up.  None of this happened, highlighting your complete lack of respect for other people's time, not to mention basic customer service.

Let's review, shall we?

The ticket was $500.  Now add nearly $200 for the rental car when you figure gas and insurance, which you should always get when renting in Detroit, as I nearly got creamed by a panel truck two minutes after leaving the airport.

I had a similar experience with O'Hare (possibly the least competently-run airport on Earth) several years ago, and I purposely haven't flown through there since.  I'll accept a few lost hours, or up to $200 price difference on any trip to make damn sure I never go near that cluster-schtupp.

The same rules will now apply to Delta.  I'll happily change my vacation schedule by a day plus or minus before I'll ever fly with you again. I copied United and AA on this to show them how NOT to do their jobs, since they'll probably be getting more of my business.

Have a scrumptious New Year!

Karl Vogel
Beavercreek, OH

CC: The Consumerist
CC: United Airlines
CC: American Airlines