Delta: We love to give you a hassle and it shows

Alan BelniakGeneral12 Comments


I'm a bit cheesed off...

Remember this commercial?  I recall this back in my youth, and I thought, “Wow – they really care.”  Little did I know about the poisons of advertising… Fast forward to the end of 2008: I traveled to Asia for work.  I flew from Boston to New York to Seoul.  I traveled on a Delta shuttle, and then on Korean Air flight.  Korean Air is an official airline partner of Delta.  I booked my flight through my company’s travel service group, and received e-tickets for my flights.

When I returned, I realized that I could probably rack up a good amount of frequent flyer miles for my trip.  I looked through some paperwork at home, and realized that I didn’t have a Delta frequent flyer mile card of my own.  But, my wife did.  Here’s my train of logic: since we travel together quite a bit, I figured that maybe I could transfer my miles to her card.  After all, even if we accumulate enough miles to earn a free flight, we’re going to need at least one more ticket to travel together (which would be purchased, thus earning Delta more revenue).

I called up the Delta SkyMiles customer service (800-323-2323, and the fax is 404-773-1945) and spoke with an agent.  I explained in plain detail the issue above:  I don’t have a SkyMiles account, but my wife does, can I transfer, etc.  The woman with whom I spoke (I never got her name, and that’s rule numero uno when contacting customer service…  rookie mistake) said that she doesn’t get that request every day, but if I fax over as much information as I had (account name, account number, and the e-tickets/boarding passes/etc.), then it should likely be no problem.  Full disclosure: there was no promise, so I’m not 100% expectant of things working with no issue… but I’m highly expectant.

I didn’t have the boarding passes saved from my trip (my trip: Boston -> New York -> Seoul -> Taiwan -> Shanghai -> Chicago -> Boston, from Monday at 9:00a to Friday at 11:00p).  When I got back, I’m lucky I knew my own name, let alone knowing where my boarding passes were – if I even still had them.  But, I did have the electronic itinerary from my trip from my company’s travel service group.  Plus (and this is the kicker), I traveled on Delta’s airlines.  Can’t they confirm that I indeed flew on their airlines?  Don’t they have software that tracks passenger information?  Why do I need to fax over information that they should already have (good lord, a fax! what’s the backup system, pony express?)?

A few days ago, I received a letter in the mail from Ms. Cindy C. Chesna (“Coordinator” at Delta SkyMiles).  Cindy was “unable to post mileage from the documentation received.”  She indicated that they needed “… a copy of the E-TKT receipt, itinerary, and boarding passes.”  What gives, here?  It’s not like I received an extra crock pot as a wedding gift, and am trying to return it to Macy’s for cash with no receipt.  That’s stealing and lying and all kinds of things.  This is different.  I have the itinerary from my travel service group, and I flew on Delta airlines.  Delta has really expensive software and hardware to track who flies where, and when.   Apparently this is not the first time Ms. Chesna served up less-than-pleasant customer service.

This is what irritates me in business today.  Why can’t people take a moment to stop and think about the situation?  Stop following a flow chart of activity and think.  I’m not trying to game the system here.  If there’s any question, call me!  E-mail me!  I gave all of my contact information on my fax cover sheet.  If they really can’t apply my miles to my wife’s account for whatever inane reason, then OK – I’m willing to accept that – but after you explain it to me – personally.  I am a person, and I am a customer.  In Delta’s feel-good video above, isn’t that what Delta cares about?  People?  A form letter doesn’t explain that to me, and it’s done 100% the opposite – it’s incensed me.

Companies like Delta are preciously aware of their customer service – why aren’t they going the extra step?  Actions like these are the ones that make me second-guess the next time I fly.  No, this isn’t one of those empty ultimatums when someone says “I’ll take my business elsewhere!”  Not yet anyway.   But I just don’t get it.

I called Delta back a few days after I received the letter.  Take a moment and bookmark this site if you haven’t:  Also, I should point out that I love Google.  I enter Cindy Chesna Delta in the search bar, and wham – first hit.  I see her number (404.715.9431) and call her up.  Mind you, before anyone answers, I’m prepared to use complete composure and kindness.  After all, that’s what I’m asking for; I should deliver the same.  I’ll spare you the frame-by-frame remake, but it went down something like this.

Ms. Chesna’s assistant answered the phone, and Ms. Chesna was not available.  I asked to leave a message, but was instead asked if the assistant could help.  I briefly recapped the story.  The assistant said she couldn’t help because she didn’t have the letter or fax or information.  I indicated that Ms. Chesna wrote it.  It was apparently “authored at one of our offshore facilities.”  I’m not against off-shoring, but Ms. Chesna’s name is getting stamped on letters that she’s not writing, and savvy customers like me who call up are reasonably expectant that she knows what she signed.

I explain in painful detail that I’m trying to put miles on my wife’s card.  Uh-oh, stop the presses – I can’t do that. I said that I was told that I probably could, but there was no guarantee.  I said that I’m calling to verbally explain my case (the parts that are in italics above), since I know at the outset that this is not a traditional approach.  The assistant asks for a copy of the itinerary and that’s when I re-stated that I’ve already faxed it, and apparently Ms. Chesna reviewed it and denied the claim.  I was re-reminded of the fact that Ms. Chesna never read anything I sent over.  The assistant (Kathy) did, though (to her credit) offer to review what I sent originally and see what she could do.  I graciously thanked her, and re-faxed the items directly to her fax number (404.773.7012). On this cover page, I also took time to note the stuff in italics above to help state my case.


Denied, and  denied in spades.  I was sent a form e-mail from Kathy that contained most of the same text of the letter that Ms. Chesna’s offshore operation wrote for her.  This form letter included a .tiff scan of my fax that omitted the last page, which had all of my flight information.  So, they never reviewed it, or never received it.  The fact that they have e-fax technology made me question why I had to fax it in the first place – couldn’t I just scan it and e-mail it somewhere?  So, all of my work was for naught.

I’m not looking for a hand out.  Sure, I’ll be honest – it would be nice if they could transfer the miles.  Or how about something human?  How about a phone call back, with an explanation?  Or, how about a “No, sorry we can’t do that, but we created a SkyMiles account for you, and put half of those miles to get you going.”  Something.  Anything. Nope.  Again, I’ll reiterate: I’m married, so I often travel together with my wife.  If we get one free ticket, we’ll need another!  Why can’t businesses that say they cater to humans every day actually practice what they preach?

If anyone from Delta monitors the blogosphere, please contact me in the comments section.  I’d love to resolve this, and then post about the positive resolution.

update: I alerted my Twitter followers of this post.  Within the hour, @deltasucks started to follow me.  On @deltasucks’ Twitter bio, it reads:Relevant news about Delta, the good, the bad, the ugly. Plus, a Delta customer rep told me social media has no value or impact on their biz.”

Note that this is @deltasucks’ opinion and statement, not mine.  It is certainly interesting.  If this post and @deltasucks start to generate a lot of linked traffic, then these postings will rnak higher in a Google search.  So when someone searches ‘Delta’, they will see this, effectively [a] proving that social media does have a value and impact; and [b] force (well, it should) Delta to respond.

Hey Delta: how ’bout it?