Delta Airlines, Frequent Flyers and Lost Reservations

Go figure. Wouldn't you expect an airline like Delta to have a reliable Reservations System and to treat customers well? Well, not apparently.

Back in February, I used some Frequent Flyer miles to get to a Mississippi conference on quality in Gulfport. I booked with a live Delta person, went back to the conference people to confirm the times, and then went back onto the system to confirm. The calling menu offered the electronic confirmation system, so I used that instead of waiting on hold. It told me everything was all right.

Right before leaving for the conference, I called and discovered that "they" had no record of it ever being confirmed. I explained. The good news is that they had seats available and I got the flights I needed (there were some time / commitment deadlines that were a problem for me and Gulfport is small enough to not have frequent service so any deviation would have been a real problem!).

Now, in early June, we decide to use up more of those Frequent Flyer Miles and book the family's vacation to Glacier National Park, committing to a bed and breakfast, a hotel, a car rental company, a guide service for a fishing trip, and all that stuff based on the scheduled arrivals for the four of us. There were connections in Atlanta and Salt Lake City with arrival in Missoula.

Joan had until the 4th of July to confirm, but she confirmed (and told me that she did so) in mid-June. What she did not say was that she used "the electronic confirmation system." If she had, I would have re-confirmed. But she didn't and you can guess at what happened.

The morning of the flight, I suggested that she check seat assignment, since she could not remember if she did. She didn't mention that she had not received confirmation because they were e-tickets and she didn't think she needed to get it.

On calling a person at the 800 number, she was informed that no such reservation existed. I got on the phone at that time and listened. Joan explained that she used the electronic system and that it confirmed the flights and the flight numbers and times and informed her that it was deducting 120,000 miles from our FF account. It also used a couple of code initials that she happened to write down but would have no way of knowing if she hadn't talked to "the Machine."

Anyway, the guy on the phone finds no record of it, nor any deduction of FF mileage. He later tells her that there will be a "$75 priority fee" or some such charge for making these arrangements without the normal waiting period (!). At this point, I jump in and explain the facts, that we DID book and that Joan had gotten confirmation or she wouldn't have the details she did.

I said to go ahead and charge the $75 but it would not be the end of it. I then let Joan handle the rest of the conversation because my state of mind wasn't too positive and he probably would not like what I had to say. I immediately took some notes for these writings. Joan was then on hold for 20 minutes as he tried to correct the problem and also get these "rebooking" charges eliminated.

I'm thinking about the deposits we made and the costs of cancellation and all that.

Delta, of course, blamed us for not confirming and put us on the defensive. The good news is that we did get the four seats on the same flights, although not together. I also asked for the name of Delta's president (somehow that was not given to us in retrospect).

They did "waive" the $75 fee, also. But no apology for any system screw-ups.

So, I call Lynn, my travel agent and tell her the story. Funny, but one of her best clients and a resident of Greenville was headed with his wife, first class FF to LA later this day. She had booked the flight and, that morning, when checking, found that the system also dropped them. No record!

Now, in almost 10 years of working with Lynn, she'd not ever made a mistake with any of my reservations and was always on top of stuff. But the airline made the assumption that she screwed up also. Luckily, she made it transparent to her customer!!

Later, on one of the flights, I was talking to a flight attendant who said she used to work in reservations as a problem fixer. She didn't like it and transferred out. They did not give her much room to deal with customer problems (like in our case) and said they were fairly common.

One of the things she mentioned was that on one particular day when she worked there, the system crashed and Delta LOST an entire day's transaction records. Gone Completely.

She also mentioned that there have been a number of website handoff problems that were similar to these.

(note: there is no substantiation to this story. Judge for yourself if it is possible and if Delta might have done what she said they would do. This was NOT stated as a complaint, just an occurrance as she related it!)

Instead of owning up to the mistake, people were told to simply report that they could not find a record of those reservations in their system. Calling customers was not possible, since notes of who booked were not available. One would hole that they informed the travel agents, but I do not know and Lynn had never mentioned this in our conversation (I would add more here but Lynn is on vacation for another week).

To find out, Customers would have to call in while confirming and then rebook, if space were still available. A mention in the newspaper would probably have been informative -- but most embarrassing, so until I am informed otherwise, I will assume Delta didn't do anything to prevent these problems.

I can think of the problems that would cause me, if I was on a tight schedule to Asia and had speaking commitments and all the seats on a flight were sold out. Uggg. Vacations ruined. All that stuff. And with no acknowledgement by Delta that the problem was at their end.

Delta will get a letter from me, as will the FAA, about this problem. I'll refer them to this webpage if they need more detail.

Oh, we got the confirming "Ticket by Mail" and our travel agenda with a postmark of June 20, 1999 in the stack of mail we received while we were gone. We left on June 20. Good to know that this particular part of the system was working smoothly...

If you are booking with Delta, by all means CONFIRM WITH A PERSON and maybe even more than once. Have your tickets in hand unless you trust e-ticketing. Call the morning of the flight to check. Trust No One (sounds like international espionage but it is just precautionary airline behavior).

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