Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why I'm ranting against Delta Airlines

Knowing your son has moved overseas after a divorce is difficult enough. Visitation becomes expensive and stressful.

But when an opportunity arises to make a trip to see your child, you take it. That means putting your faith in a travel agency to get you there. And spending some hard-earned money.

Enter Delta Airlines.

The itinerary for my girlfriend and myself arranged by AAA required flying from Sioux Falls, SD, to Minneapolis, on to JFK in New York City and then on to Stockholm, Sweden.

Our trip began to sour while flying from Minneapolis on Aug. 28, 2012. Delta representatives told us aboard the flight that we would have to get off the plane in Chicago before continuing on to New York. Why? We were never told whether it might be a medical emergency, etc. --- only that our time at a gate in Chicago would last about an hour.

Fortunately, the redirection didn't throw off our travel schedule. But it was during our stop in Chicago when Delta's ineptness began to hamper our trip.

We arrived at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport around 7:45 a.m. on Aug. 29 after 14 hours in the air. Exhausted, but excited, we moved to get our bags and get started on making our way to our hotel. Bag after bag was spit out on the luggage carousel. Then, the carousel finally stopped and our fellow travelers began to disappear with their belongings. Ours weren't there.

A little panic set in. How did this happen? How could this happen? We would soon come to find out that while in Chicago, somehow our bags had been removed and not returned to the plane. At least, that was the explanation we were given.

We went to get our rental car after setting up a lost\delayed bag account through Delta at the airport. After expressing our dismay about our bags at the desk for Hertz, a woman kindly upgraded our vehicle from a manual to automatic transmission for no additional charge.

That, friends, is customer service.

Our next few days involved time hunting down toothpaste and other toiletries, clothing and making calls where our bags might be and when they might arrive in Stockholm. Time that could have -- and should have -- been spent enjoying our trip. The phone calls to Delta's baggage tracking folks was amusing and frustrating in itself. We were told our bags were in Chicago -- no wait, Paris -- no, Stockholm; our bags would be at our hotel tonight -- no, tomorrow -- we'll let you know.

Luckily, I didn't have any diabetic supplies in my bag. But there was medication in my girlfriend's bag. Less important, but equally aggravating, was her curling iron was in it. Silly on the surface, but we basically limited where we went and what we did because we didn't want to stroll in high-end restaurants or tourist attractions looking like we just rolled out of bed and off the plane.

My bag arrived after two nights. A report from the airport courier showed that my girlfriend's bag had been found. Not mine. Time to make more calls to Delta's baggage trackers to clarify.

My girlfriend got her bag on the fifth night of our weeklong trip -- after spending $400 on emergency clothing. Good thing we had travel insurance. It covered $250 of that amount. Thanks, Delta.

So, the trip ended on a good note. Or, it seemed to. We got our bags to end our trip. But we had to return home.

Our return to the U.S. came through Minneapolis. Clearing customs, we grabbed our bags and placed them together to go onto a conveyor belt for our return to Sioux Falls. Pretty easy.

We arrived in Sioux Falls around 8:30 p.m. Sept. 4. My girlfriend and I made our way to the baggage carousel, hoping to get our bags and get home quickly. My girlfriend had to travel to Pierre the next day for work. Looking her best was important for her meetings.

My bag came out on the carousel. Hers didn't.

Keep in mind there are no agents behind a Delta ticket counter in Sioux Falls at this time of night. We tracked down an agent from Frontier Airlines and a baggage handler who were able to tell us the bag was scheduled to come on the final flight out of Minneapolis that night. That meant an hour wait.

Before heading home, we made contact with a Delta agent on the phone and thought we had scheduled a courier to deliver the bag to our home when it arrived.

An hour passed. No one showed up.

We decided to drive back up to the Sioux Falls airport to see if the bag could be claimed.

It was claimed all right -- sitting alone out in the open behind the Delta counter.

Since the trip, we wrote a letter to Delta describing the disappointment and aggravation suffered because of the airlines sloppiness and disregard for customer service. This past week, we each were offered a $100 credit voucher.

I'll repeat that: A $100 credit voucher. For a trip that we each spent thousands on.

That's why Delta sucks. And that's why I will keep spreading this message until Delta decides to step it up with that thing once known as customer service.

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