Sunday, December 20, 2009

Delta Sucks

This photo pretty much sums up my opinion of Delta (and their level of competence):

We arrived 7 hours early for our LAX-JFK flight. It was canceled. When we asked what we should do, the first agent we spoke to very brusquely said: "go home!" (a) Home is 350 miles away, and (b) we're not flying Christmas week for no particular reason, we paid several hundred dollars to go to NY and we damn well plan to get there. Then she told us we wouldn't be able to get on a flight until the 24th or 25th.

We waited from 10AM until about 6PM on a "special services" line. During the wait, we tried: (a) calling Delta, but the number was busy, (b) using the Delta website to change our flight to another NY flight, but that functionality was turned-off, (c) using the in-airport computerized kiosks to reschedule, but those displayed "you must see an agent", and (d) telephoning Hotwire (whom we bought the tickets through), who took Anu's cell number and said they'd call us back. Hotwire called back after five hours and rebooked us on the 11PM flight, tonight, the same night.

So we waited for eight hours to do something we'd tried several ways to do initially, and in the end it wasn't even Delta who helped us. It was Hotwire. All Delta did when we got to the agent was confirm what Hotwire did, and check our bags. Some passengers who had waited on line with us spent upwards of two hours at the agent's desk trying to get rebooked. Others were helped quickly once they got to the agent, but no attempt was made by Delta to sort people by relative difficulty of rescheduling them or to open the half dozen closed positions and put more staff on the case to cut down the wait. A line that could have been worked through in a couple hours if they'd staffed-up and organized it properly would up taking four times that, and during that time many people missed multiple flights to their destinations.

Also during the wait, Delta called the Police on a passenger who was yelling at an agent. He kept his hands at his sides, made neither verbal threats nor threatening gestures. Six Police responded. Had Delta merely summoned six more gate agents, rather than trying to get LAPD to handle their disgruntled customers for them, yelling might not have been necessary in the first place.

The most obnoxious thing they did was to open a shorter line right in front of those of us who had been waiting for hours. How this failed to lead to a riot, I am not sure, but it was not because of any attempt by Delta agents to rectify this insulting travesty.

I've flow both Air France and Aeroflot (while Aeroflot was still run by the Soviet government, which at the time was in the process of collapsing), and this experience with Delta is far and away the worst. The agents weren't quite as horrendous as Air France employees (who are such jerks that even other ornery French people find them intolerable), the one at the desk was almost nice to us once we waited nearly eight hours to see him. And the delay wasn't quite as bad as Soviet-run Aeroflot (eight hours instead of twelve, though it was slightly longer if you count the time from when we arrived rather than from when the flight was scheduled to leave). But the combination of factors made for a less pleasant experience than either terrible airline (both of which, by the way, are now Delta code-share partners in some kind of symbiotic, anti-customer alliance of the world's worst airlines).

I have a hard time imagining ever flying Delta again. Here's hoping they follow Northwest into bankruptcy (a company they purchased after NWA went bankrupt, perhaps coincidentally but hopefully not, following a similar Holiday season customer service debacle), and are subsequently bought-out by some company that knows how to provide actual customer service.