So how was your Delta week? I’m sorry I had to leave you post-less on Friday, but I had just arrived bleary-eyed in Florida for the wedding of two good friends. I’ll have that trip report some time this week, but I thought I’d stick with the Delta theme for now. This time, it’s an excellent customer service story that earns Delta the coveted (by someone, probably) gold star.
The soon-to-be sister in law of the bride and groom (also a good friend of mine) currently lives in Paris. She’s not able to miss work, so to make the wedding, she had planned a VERY short trip. She bought a ticket on Delta to go Friday night on the late night Air France codeshare flight from Paris to New York/JFK, spend a few hours at a shady hotel nearby, and then hop the early morning Delta flight to Tampa arriving at noon. Then it would be an hour drive south to Longboat Key where she would be doing a reading in the wedding at 6p. She was turning right back around on Sunday to go back home.
Friday night, most of us, including her fiance, were enjoying dinner on the water when we received a message that she was back in Paris.
Back in Paris?
Oh yeah. After a long weather delay, they had departed only to find they had a non-functioning de-icer (that’s what the captain said, at least), and they would have to go back. They circled for awhile to shed some weight and finally landed after midnight. Now, our friend was stuck in a long line waiting for one of the two Air France employees on duty to help her.
Knowing she was on a Delta ticket, we sprung into action and started making calls. In the end, the Air France people did nothing. They put her on a flight that had her arriving into Tampa at 7p because everything else was “completely full.” She would miss the wedding and her reading. Fortunately, the Delta reservations folks were fantastic. The two people we spoke with on Friday night confirmed that there were better ways to get there and despite the claims of the Air France personnel, the earlier flights were not full. They booked her on a flight arriving Tampa at 444p, and all we could do was hope for the best.
On Saturday, she arrived early into Atlanta (her new connecting point), and shot us a text message. Realizing that this might make an earlier flight possible, we got on the phone with Delta again. For the third time in a row, I had help from an excellent Delta customer service rep. She confirmed that there was in fact an earlier Tampa flight, but it only had one seat left. She should run to the gate and see what she could do. She did mention that there was a flight to Sarasota that was wide open (and also much closer to the wedding location), so she could try for that one with no additional charge since the problems the night before were in no way our friend’s fault. The agent made a note in the reservation explaining the situation and encouraging the gate agents to put her on the plane to Sarasota.
Our friend sprinted through the airport and less than 45 minutes after her Paris flight landed, she arrived at the gate with only 5 minutes to spare before the flight to Sarasota departed. After a lot of typing, they shot out a boarding pass without asking any questions and put her on the plane as they shut the door. She arrived just before 3p at Sarasota airport as you can see on the right. This airport is awesome. While I waited to pick her up, I sat on some benches in the shade that they have just outside on the terminal on a small grassy hill. What a great place for spotters.
In the end, she made the wedding with the added bonus of having time to shower. (That was much appreciated by all.) Nice work, Delta. I think about how impossible this would have been on an airline like United. I can only imagine the torture that we would have faced speaking with inflexible and unhelpful reservation agents in India. It never would have happened.
I haven’t been a Delta fan in awhile, and I only fly them when it’s absolutely necessary, but this story might influence me to give them another shot. What a great example of excellent customer service!
Another possible gold star candidate: United.
This is probably more an example of an airline doing what they should have been doing all along instead of going above and beyond, but United has done away with the $100 flight change fee on some high-traffic business routes. Instead, they’re allowing passengers to change their reservation at the airport on the day of travel for $25 (how generous). It’s part of the “Business 1” campaign, which I stumbled upon yesterday while trying to get on an earlier flight from DCA-ORD.
I guess you could also call it “Standby Plus”. At least it’s a step in the right direction.