To Whom It May Concern:
I’ve been flying Delta since I was small child, and I was excited for my eight year-old niece, Sariah, to take her first flight with Delta as well. But my goodness, what an ordeal it became.
On Monday, August 1, 2011, she was scheduled for flight #1986 from Atlanta to New York (LaGuardia) to visit me. Her flight was canceled for unexplained reasons, and she was diverted to Cincinnati and then eventually to New York, where she arrived almost nine hours after her scheduled arrival time.
On Sariah’s return trip from New York (LaGuardia) to Atlanta on Saturday, August 6th, I called Delta before leaving the house to make sure her flight, #947, was on time. I didn’t want a repeat of the earlier airport experience. The customer service rep I spoke with assured me that the flight was on schedule. By the time Sariah and I arrived at the airport twenty-five minutes later, the flight was canceled. We stood in line for an hour to try to get on another flight out that evening, but to no avail. Sariah was automatically rebooked for the 6am flight the following morning, August 7th, a Sunday.
Sunday morning at 4am, Sariah and I arrived again at LaGuardia. I thought two hours would be plenty of time to get her checked-in. Apparently not. By the time I got to the ticketing agent, it was 5:03am. (I looked at my phone in disbelief at the long wait.)
The ticketing agent huffily alerted me that it was too late for Sariah to make the 6am flight because it takes longer to check in unaccompanied minors. She said Sariah would have to take the 7am flight. But since she and the other agents were in a hurry to check-in other 6am ticket holders, she asked me to step aside so that she could check in other people. I had to get to the back of the line all over again. I was furious. The line was long and disorganized, and one of the roaming ticketing agents had to come over to disrupt an argument that threatened to turn physical.
Forty-five minutes later, Sariah and I reached the front of the line again. I explained to the new ticketing agent all that had happened, and she checked the computer for the 7am flight. She told me that it was fully booked already. This confused me because the first agent said Sariah would be pushed back to the 7am flight. The new agent checked all the upcoming flights that morning, and she told me everything was booked. The next flight Sariah could make would be the 3pm.
I was instantly confused. We’d been at the airport for almost two hours by then. It was our second trip to the airport in as many days. And now we’d have to sit there another nine hours. The agent said she’d put Sariah on the standby list as a “high priority.” She thought our chances of squeezing onto an earlier flight were pretty good. Sariah and I were frustrated and tired, but optimistic.
At the gate for the 7am flight, Sariah’s name was first one the standby list. As the plane boarded, we hung around the gate’s counter hoping her name would be called. Instead, after the final boarding call, the gate agents started calling other people’s names that weren’t on the standby list at all. I inquired about this, and the gate agent said it was because those people’s flights had been canceled. But Sariah’s flight had been canceled too. I didn’t get it. The gate agent asked me to step aside. She said Sariah’s name would roll over the 8am standby list.
We walked over the gate for the 8am flight, and sure enough, Sariah’s name was first. We waited for the plane to board, and just like before, we stood near the counter in case Sariah’s name was called. But also just like before, the gate agent called a bunch of other names that were not on the standby list. After the flight closed out, I asked the gate agent what was going on. His name was Marcus Benjamin.
Mr. Benjamin looked at my niece’s record and wondered why the ticketing agent didn’t just rebook Sariah for the 7am flight to begin with; or better yet, put her on the 6am flight that we’d shown up two hours early for. He called the gate counter for the 9am flight to Atlanta, #1747, and gave them a head’s up that Sariah and I were headed over to pick up a seat assignment. Just that simply, he was able to get her a seat.
I was so thankful to Mr. Benjamin for his help, but I was astounded that no one before then — especially at the ticketing counter — was as helpful as he was.
I’ve written this (very) long message because I want you to understand how incomprehensibly bad the customer service was at your airline. Everyone before Mr. Benjamin either gave me conflicting information, ushered me aside, or told me to wait in another line. It was dehumanizing, and it is not the kind of treatment I expect from a company I’m paying to do business with.
You all need to do a much better job with your customers. Otherwise you’re going to keep losing them.