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Why You Should Not Fly Delta Airlines

  1. Jul 18, 2010 #1

    Char. Limit

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    I want to tell a story about an encounter with Delta Airlines that my parents and I experienced recently. We had scheduled three tickets to San Diego a long time ago. Those who were to fly were my sister, my mother, and my brother. However, my brother found unexpected plans that forbid him to fly, and so my father chose me to go instead. Indeed, on the return flight, he placed tickets for me, my sister, and my mother. Note: the ticket on the outgoing flight was registered to my brother, and the ticket on the return flight was registered to me. After that, it was a simple matter to call Delta and ask for a simple first name change so that I could fly. Right?

    Wrong. After calling Delta and speaking for 35 minutes with two supervisors, they have told us that we cannot change the ticket from my brother to me. They did not give a clear reason, instead essentially saying "no, we can't do it. Have a nice day."

    Now, they will also not refund the ticket. However, they will get to sell the empty seat that my brother would have filled for an extra $500 dollars, the amount it would cost to get me a replacement ticket. So, they get double the money for the seat, and our family gets shafted.

    What's more, with college looming for me, we do not have the spare cash to simply pay an extra $500 dollars. There was no explanation of why they cannot transfer the ticket, and no options left for our family. We tried to file a complaint: nothing. We don't have a lawyer who is willing to sue Delta Airlines. In short, I have no option to fix our problem. And so, I want to tell people of this idiocy, this insanity.

    Now some of you may say "what they did was perfectly legal!" If this is so, then why is the law this way? I would change it, but I don't have that power.

    I only have one option: to spread my experience around as much as possible, and tell people why I will never fly Delta Airlines, nor will I ever recommend Delta Airlines to anyone. I hope that the fine people of PhysicsForums will help me out in this. After all, if this happened to you, would you continue to fly with them?

    Also, this is not a chain letter. This is my personal story, and Physics Forums is where I chose to share it, hoping to spread my message as far as possible. If there are any other options, I would appreciate knowing them.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2010 #2
    I've had some miserable personal and heard of similar issues from my cousin. I don't know what is going on with Delta lately, but they seem to have cut the customer service out of the equation.
  4. Jul 18, 2010 #3
    Sorry to hear.

    For that I can only say that if they allow this, people will buy tickets on their family member names during periods when prices are low and then sell to other people while making profit. Otherwise, these kind of policies have nothing to do with law. Some companies are very aggressive about how they implement their policies such that it is not in the hands of customer care.
  5. Jul 18, 2010 #4


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    You bought a restricted ticket.
    You made a deal with the airline that in return for being limited to that person, on that flight - you paid a lot less than the official full fare.

    If you buy a full fare ticket (which nobody except the government and a few large corporations ever does) then you can not turn up for the flight, change to another flight, or change the traveller or route - all for no cost.
    That's why airlines are allowed and do overbook flights - because a number of business passengers can and will decide to fly on another flight, after booking that one.

    It's standard for all airlines - there are many reasons not to fly delta (company motto = not quite the worse) but this isn't one of them.
  6. Jul 18, 2010 #5
    Are customers in a position to recognize what restricted tickets are? (I haven't flown in two decades, since I was a kid, so I don't know how this works.)
  7. Jul 18, 2010 #6


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    Unless you walk up to the check-in desk an hour before the flight and demand a ticket, or you are a corporate travel agent - you will never see a full fare ticket.
    For the others - read the small print.

    Some discount airlines - like south western offer lots of flexibility on even their cheap tickets, thats part of their selling point.
  8. Jul 18, 2010 #7


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  9. Jul 18, 2010 #8


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    I've no problem with charging for meals, checked bags etc. at least it gives you a choice.

    I'm a bit annoyed when you see $500 to London, then it adds $700 in fees and taxes - if they are going to do that why not just advertise $1 fares with $1200 in fees.

    If you really want decent airlines then let the market decide. Open up flights to anyone who wants to run them. If you could fly Virgin or Singapore Airlines from, LA to Washington how long would Delta be in business?
  10. Jul 18, 2010 #9
    I'm glad I have a relatively short term memory for flying problems like this. If I could clearly remember which airlines were responsible for each of my issues, I would hold grudges against all major airlines and would not be able to fly at all.

    Just one week ago, my flight was canceled due to a 1 hour thunderstorm in the Washington DC area. This one minor storm caused various delays, and my flight was canceled even though (I'm convinced) the flight could have taken off later. I say this because many other flights went off later. The annoying thing is that no one at the airlines had the courtesy to announce the cancelation. We waited at the gate for 1.5 hours and around this time the gate attendant slithered away without a word. When I got home I found an email, with a time stamp 7 minutes after the flight was scheduled to leave, saying that the flight was canceled, yet the gate posted (delayed, not canceled) time was updated several times after this. It's clear that the airline didn't want a bunch of people demanding to be put on other airlines. Instead, they let us wait until it was too late (11:00 PM) at night. They randomly scheduled all passengers on various flights for the following day without consultation with any passengers. To top it off, they refused to pay for a hotel because the delay was due to weather. I called the airline's 800 number and found out that I had been scheduled for a 6:00 AM flight the next day. So, with no baggage and little time to find a hotel, I decided to sleep on a cold airport floor.

    Now, clearly this is a relatively minor issue compared to the OPs problem and other airline horror stories. The thing is, I would have had no problem with the situation if the airline had shown just a little concern and courtesy. An apology and an explanation goes a long way; and, the customer should be given options and critical information in a timely fashion. The treatment we received was so brazen that they didn't even have the decency to try and hide their tactics. This is quite insulting, if you think about it.

    I won't mention the name of the major airlines, but it wasn't Delta. I've had issues on all major airlines and the problems seem to be getting worse in recent years. It's clear that all airlines have cut back on customer service. It's almost as if they feel that, if they all screw us equally, they can maintain a customer base. The random switches we all make out of frustration will cancel out and the airline business will not be hurt by our dissatisfaction. Or, at least that is their theory. Perhaps, what they don't count on is that boats, trains and cars are starting to look like a lot more attractive options now. Personally, I will now go from from my hometown to Washington by train. The cost is similar and the total time comitment is only slightly longer when security and delays are considered. On longer trips, I have less options and will have to accept the poor treatment.

    This last point is the only response I can give to the OP about what options we have. Boycott planes when you can, and take them only when you have to. When the airlines see the resulting marketing information about the choices people make for travel, perhaps they will get the message that customer service & satisfaction are always important, no matter what the business and no matter what the situation.
  11. Jul 18, 2010 #10
    I laughed, and totally agree with mgb_physics.

    Clearly, that $500 can be put to better use. I say this because spending it on your education seems nothing but a waste. Have a nice day sir.
  12. Jul 18, 2010 #11


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    If you buy tickets some x time in advance, the price will diminish as you hold them, so when you go to "change" your ticket, you actually buy:

    (the price of the new ticket) - (value of your old ticket)

    So if your old ticket diminishes to $80 (because they fill up the flight and they don't care if you go or not because they're already making bank) and the price of the new flight you want to "change" to is $580, then your "change" fee will be:

    580-80 = 500

    Don't ever change tickets nowadays.

    By the way, when I had this experience, just a month ago, it was:

    $880-80 = $800

    The nice lady (Alaska Airlines) explained it to me. I refused the "change".
  13. Jul 18, 2010 #12
    Seconding mgb_phys. (Or thirding, I think.) All airline tickets have the provision that they are non-transferable. Full stop. You can cancel/re-book -- paying the appropriate penalty -- or, if it's a super-sale ticket, you can't make any changes to it at all. All airlines do that. When you print your ticket it says right on it, not even in fine print, "this ticket is non-transferable".

    Editing because Pythagorean commented: The calculation for flight changes may be specific to airlines or maybe even countries. Air Canada, for example, allows you to change your flight for I think around $75.00. That's without flight insurance. (You used to have to buy flight insurance to make any changes. Now the insurance only covers complete cancellations.)
  14. Jul 18, 2010 #13
    I had the misfortune of trying to fly with Tiger Airways (the cheapest airline operating in Oz). If there is any way in the letter of their internal policies for them to justify screwing the customer, they relish doing so.

    My mistake was failing to arrive sufficiently early (albeit by only about one minute), which was particularly bitter since I had travelled to the airport completely without haste (being unaware of this requirement). The e-tickets do warn that "baggage check-in" closes at that particular time (but as most of their tickets do not cover baggage I had none to check in), and their staff even agreed this phrasing was confusing. (My miss-impression was reinforced by the motto they were advertising at the time, along the lines of "just pay and go", apparently only intended to mean you do not additionally need to reconfirm your ticket purchase 24hrs before the flight). It turns out, they do require everyone to check-in (even for domestic flights) and their check-in closes the exact second their computer's clock hits their deadline, after which their front desk is entirely unstaffed. I proceeded (passing their unattended reception) through security with ID and printed ticket, and presented these to their manager at the boarding gate (still with plenty of time before boarding). He refused (on the grounds that the pilot already had a printed passenger manifest, and that he would not go and uncross my name), and asked for me to go downstairs to wait until after the plane leaves for him to come down and discuss the issue further. It turned out there were about 10-15 people in the exact same situation, frustrated but waiting peacefully as instructed. After our plane had left without us, before following through with his offer of discussion, he peremptorily called the police on us all (and in an airport, security is obviously pretty aggressive, especially with the unnecessary sarcasm and intimidation from one of the burly well-armed officers, who seemed to presume these families grouped only by their misfortune were actually engaging in some kind of organised subversion). When the manager finally did come down to finish his computer work, he only reiterated that he thought himself justified in the way he was treating us since it was within company policy (for example, despite his various discretionary powers, he would only help us find a later flight if we paid another full ticket price at the vastly higher last-minute rate in addition to a customer service surcharge), and that our only recourse for any complaint would be to write to head office overseas in Singapore (he gave us a phone number, but the automatic answering service on that number was broken and always just hanged up on callers regardless of which option you dialled). So nowadays I'm pleased to always ensure the flights I'm involved in are booked with a different service (such as Qantas who still include meals, or Jetstar or virgin blue..) even if the advertised price isn't quite the lowest.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  15. Jul 18, 2010 #14


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    All airlines suck.
    Mostly this is their fault, they have tried to maintain the upper class luxury travel image while basically running a bus service.
    A few airlines, notebly soutwestern + westjet have realized this and are at least a bit more realistic in their aim.s
    A few long haul carriers are very good, Singapore/Virgin/a few of the arabic vanity airlines spring to mind, but they aren't cheap.

    This is the biggest complaint with airlines - the total lack of information.
    Sometimes it's understandable. The flight, if it was a regional jet is operated by a small company with two planes under contract to Delta/united/etc - the only link with Delta/united is the name on the ticket, similarly the checkin and gate staff may work either for the airport or some ground handling agent, they know nothing about your flight.
    The decision to cancel your flight was made by an airline planner in an office 6 states away.

    The airline may not be able to get the plane to you because it's somewhere else, or it's needed on a more profitable route later and skipping your flight puts them back on schedule. Or to be charitable, they might really want to get to you but plane might not be able to get a slot at it's current location, or the delay would put their crew outside operating hours at the destination.

    One 'customer service' feature that annoys me is the airlines that beleive you want be as angry if you are gradually told bad news. So the delay is 10min, then 20....upt 59 mins and stays at 59 mins. Even when the plane hasn't left the last airport 2hours flight away.

    You can find this out by talking to the gate dispatcher - these are the only people at an airport that have any idea what is happening - you can spot them because they have at least 3 walky-talkies, several cigs and 2 cups of coffee and the harassed look of a mother of triplets with colic. If you ever meet one buy them a coffee - tripple expresso is their normal choice.

    Unless you have a full fare ticket, they aren't going to put you on another airline.
    If you have "premium super gold unobtanium admiral class" frequent flyers they will - that's why if you have top end frequent flyers you just call the number on your card - ignore the minions at the passenger face.

    Only the huddled masses, the ones who pay to fly regularly have been taken care of.
    Quick question, all the people crowding around the gate demanding answers - did any of them have expensive suits or gold frequent flyer cards?

    A lot of the rules about compensation are terrible and unsurprisingly the more rules - the worse it gets. The eu introduced a rule offering compensation if your flight was delayed by more than 3hours. The result of this is that if you are sitting on a plane with an on-time departure and another plane is 2:55 late - you will be bounced off your plane to allow the other passengers to escape under the limit. You will be allowed out when you are 2:55 late!
    Less scrupulous airlines <cough> Ryan </cough> simply cancel the flight, refund your cheap bought-off-the-web $10 ticket and leave you stranded with the only option to buy a full price walk-up $100 ticket the next day.

    For that you can blame the laywers, if the poor airline apologized (or even wavered slightly in its total assumption of rigthness) you would sue them out of existance - or at least that's what they believe.

    Sadly true, the airlines make their money on business travellers and on long haul in first and business class. Those of us at the back of the plane with tickets we bought on kayak are basically ballast.

    True competition does work.
    There were, 10-20years ago, a dozen major flag carrying airlines between London and the US - all were equally overpriced, terrible service and arrogant.
    Virgin had to be better to compete with the household names - and were.

    Similarly, flying to Asia. Singapore airlines couldn't rely on a large home market of customers flying the flag and so had to compete on legendary customer service.

    If these guys are allowed to fly internal flights in the US things would change - or possibly they would become just like Delta!
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  16. Jul 18, 2010 #15
    It might be standard, but it looks like blatant "rent-seeking" (and probably also price-manipulation).
    So they won't even transfer it for an inflated administrative fee? Do they even check ID for domestic flights?
    Family resemblances almost suggest an option that involves overnight-mailing of your brother's ID..
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  17. Jul 18, 2010 #16


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    that's how Alaska Airlines used to be :(
  18. Jul 18, 2010 #17


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    It is - airlines are perfect examples of economics, and they have the advantage of giving you lots of time to think about it - while waiting for them.

    Their problem is that they are moving you from A-B, there isn't anything they can reasonably do to adjust this for different prices. They can't make 1st class passengers get their faster for instance, or have a safer flight!

    So they try and think of price additions.
    Would you pay more for bigger seats, nicer food or more attentive attendents? Then buy business class tickets
    Would you pay more to be able to change your flight at the last minute? (or pay less if you couldn't, in economics these are the same) - then they sell full or restricted tickets.

    The trouble is they have now run out of reasonable factors - so we are down to paying more to get on first, or to choose our seat in advance, or have a blanket!
  19. Jul 19, 2010 #18


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    I'm surprised that they refused to make this change, since it was only a first name change. In fact, you could probably have just made up some story like "the person who bought the ticket booked it in the name I used everyday 'John Smith', but the actual name on my ID is 'James Smith'.." or some other story like that.

    Still, I agree with the others: the ticket you bought is nonrefundable and nontransferable, so it's not too surprising that they stuck to the letter of the law.
  20. Jul 19, 2010 #19
    Luckily, I never had any major issues with any airline, in fact, delta was the best I ever flew with. Then again, my expectations for any airline are really, really low... I wonder why you are surprised though: It most likely stated something like that in the terms of agreement which you agreed on when you bought the tickets. But I can understand your anger.

    It reminds me of this one case, where my girlfriend booked a flight, and they rescheduled it. The new itinerary didn't work for her, and she asked her travel agency to fix it. They guy on the phone treated her like she was a child and insisted that he couldn't do anything for her. She hung up, but I urged her to try again. She got another person on the phone, and 45 minutes later the problem was solved. Apparently this wasn't trivial, or it wouldn't have taken so long, so my guess is that the first person was simply too lazy to help her out.
  21. Jul 19, 2010 #20


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    Sorry to hear about this Char. Limit. I have to join in with mgb_phys though. Unfortunately the reality is that you have to read and understand the fine print. I have flown a good amount and wouldn't even consider that the airline would let me use a relative's ticket. Whenever I purchase a ticket, I make sure that I understand exactly what the cancellation policy is for the ticket. In the airlines eyes, that is what you were trying to do - cancel your brother's ticket and purchase one for yourself.

    The airlines have always had lots of issues with people changing, canceling, rebooking, etc. The business travellers are probably the worst. They will buy a ticket that lets them change it at the last minute in case their meeting gets cancelled, they have to go to another city, their last meeting of the day runs long, etc. Because of this, the airlines typically will sell 5 - 10% more seats than the plane holds so that it won't go off with empty seats. What you see as a minor change is actually a big headache for them.
  22. Jul 19, 2010 #21


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    This has been policy with just about all airlines for years.

    In fact, soon after my daughter was married, I bought her a plane ticket using her maiden name and realized my mistake just minutes after I purchased the ticket. No way to change the name once the purchase was made, but, in my case, the solution was for the daughter to bring some form of ID that still had her maiden name.

    In fact, at least as late as 2006, there was an alternative solution. I wouldn't vouch for this method now, as surely airport security has closed this loophole four years later, haven't they?

    My favorite extra fee is buying a plane ticket for the flight, and then having to pay an extra fee for take-off and landing. In other words, a flight with several legs not only is longer because you have to wait in airports between legs, but it's more expensive because of the extra take-offs and landings. Plus, the fee just sounds outrageous. If you don't pay the landing fee, do they push you out of the plane just before landing?

    My recurring dream is for the flight attendants to run out of change when charging the passengers for drinks and/or snacks. I envision myself taking their $20 bill and giving them $18 in change in return (a $2 transaction fee, dontcha know). And when they protest and want their $20 bill back, take the $18 back and then inform them that they're $4 short (that transaction fee is charged for each transaction and is non-refundable, dontcha know). And when they refuse to give you $4 more dollars, give them $16 back (I'm taking that $2 transaction fee, no matter what, dontcha know). Unfortunately, my recurring dream always ends with me being pushed out of the plane just before landing by an irate flight attendant.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  23. Jul 19, 2010 #22


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    Can you (or mgb_phys, who apparently understands it) explain this point to me? I don't see the rent-seeking. (It may be obvious.)
  24. Jul 19, 2010 #23


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    My understanding of rent-seeking is when you rig the market to allow something that a reasonable person wouldn't think was fair. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking

    So an unlimited internet/cellphone plan that secretly imposes an unmentioned limit - if there is legislation that says this is OK.
    Or in software/DVD where you don't own the software/DVD you bought and can't transfer it to new machines or sell it.

    In airlines, it would be allowing them to quote a fare X and not tell you that you are actually paying X+Y because of extra unmentioned fees.
    In the US you are only allowed to leave out taxes on the advertised price - so there is a lot of legal maneuvering to make the profit margin look like taxes or legitimate fees, then it doesn't have to be quoted in the ads.
    One airline got caught claiming that the cost of paying it's pilots was a tax - since the pilots were regulated by the FAA they were a government mandated cost, therefore a tax, therefore they didn't have to include that portion of the ticket cost in the ad!

    Another trick is to sell the ticket through an intermediary eg "Delta booking services Inc", who take a 100% commission, so they can advertise a ticket for half the cost you will pay.
  25. Jul 19, 2010 #24


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    You're describing false advertising or fraud, not rent-seeking.
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