Air Fair?

by Rob Waldeck | January 3, 2010

Delta Air Lines 767-332(ER) N194DN
Image by caribb via Flickr

I feel like I am a reasonable customer. While I really appreciate great customer service I am quick to forgive less-than-stellar performances by any one person. You never know what they may be dealing with . . . a death in the family, a divorce, an illness, or maybe the cable guy hasn’t shown up. What I don’t have patience for is corporate incompetence. When large businesses run by smart and incredibly highly compensated individuals can’t get the message to the minions about what needs to be done to provide a simple and pleasant buying experience for their customers.

Is it obvious? I just hung up with Delta Airlines.

To prove I am not a total prick, let me say that I had a less-than-stellar interaction with the guy at the returns desk at Best Buy in Burlington, MA, and I wasn’t motivated to write a blog post. Delta motivated me.

Last night I tried to book a flight online and after going through the whole routine I received an error message: “Fare No Longer Available.”

I tried again, assuming some kind of user error or maybe a momentary glitch in the system: “Fare No Longer Available.”

It was late and I was tired, so I tabled it.

Almost 24 hours later I tried again and had the same result. I tried different computers and different web browsers.

No luck: “Fare No Longer Available.”

So I called. “No problem, Mr. Waldeck.” Except the fare was $20 more than the online fare.

“Would you waive the $20 fee?” I ask. “I’m having trouble online,” and I recount my whole story.

“Nope,” she says, “there are no reported issues online.”

“Manager?” I ask.

“Nope,” she says, but she can connect me to some internet something or other group.

Guess what? The internet guy confirms they have been working on the site all weekend and they are having problems. He can book my flight for me if I can hold a few minutes — but it appears the cost will be $4 more than what I was shown online. “Sorry,” he says, “but we’re struggling with our rates this weekend as well.”

This is a long story. Here is the short version.

At the highest level of the Delta organization, they authorized and planned for website and fare updates to take place this weekend. What they did not do, apparently, was two important things that would have made my experience acceptable:

1) Let Delta’s front-line phone folks know that the website is being tinkered with and there may be problems;
2) Empower the same folks to book flights over the phone and wave the extra fees.

I stepped off a Delta flight a few days ago. As we landed, I am fairly certain I heard them say “that they know that I have a choice when it comes to air travel and that they appreciate that I chose Delta.”

I’m not sure appreciation is sufficient.

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