At The Moment I Don’t Like Delta

This should be a good time story of easy transit, but it’s not and Delta you’re about to get a piece of my mind.

As mentioned earlier Helaine and Stef spent the weekend in Milwaukee. It was a busy few days which included seeing my niece’s brand new baby boy, Judah. Both Stef and Helaine had early morning flights from General Billy Mitchell International. Stef left on Midwest, Helaine on Delta.

This should be a good time story of easy transit, but it’s not and Delta you’re about to get a piece of my mind.

Helaine’s carry-on bag is smallish–perfect for the overhead bin. She rolled it through the terminal and to the Delta gate.

Since this was a smaller plane the gate agent asked nicely and Helaine agreed to “gate check” her bag. She did this even though there was jewelry, electronics and camera equipment inside and, as it turns out, room in the cabin to stow it.

Gate checking is much safer and easier than checking your bags at the counter. In most airports you actually see your bag 100% of the way to the plane and it’s pulled out and waiting for you as you step off at your destination.

Even though Helaine’s bag was stuffed with things the airline claims no responsibility for gate checking is fine. Well, it was until Sunday!

When the plane landed in Cincinnati (OK–Covington, KY. Whatever.) and the baggage handler brought it off the gate agent noticed its pink TSA sticker was missing. Of the thirty or so on the flight Helaine’s was the only one so blessed. It would have to be re-screened and converted to checked baggage!

Here’s Delta’s advice on this subject:

If I pack my camera in a suitcase, will it be covered under Delta’s liability?

Unfortunately, we cannot assume liability for jewelry, cash, camera equipment, or other similar valuable items contained in checked or unchecked baggage on domestic flights

Helaine asked if she could remove her valuables? “No.” Could she accompany the bag to screening? “No.” Could she speak to someone from TSA? “No.” How about a Delta supervisor? “No.”

The only way she could get her bag was if Delta sent it to the Cincinnati baggage claim as if this were her final destination. Then Helaine and the bag would have to be re-screened… Oh, and she would miss her flight to Connecticut.

I was on the phone as the gate agent told her not to worry because Delta was responsible. The agent was poorly trained, incompetent or lying. I’m leaning toward the latter, but have no proof. This seems to be something a gate agent should absolutely know.

It was only after the bag had been spirited away that the agent began to add conditions and provisos to Delta’s responsibility. When I read Helaine, and Helaine read the agent, Delta’s own words the story changed again!

This was truly a case of no good deed goes unpunished, because Helaine could have said no to the original gate check. Instead she cooperated.

On the other hand it was during Delta’s supervision that the bag and its sticker became separated. “No responsibility” seems to have replaced “ready when you are.” If they love to fly it no longer shows!

My wife, who was pre-frazzled after virtually no sleep, anguished over this bag as she ran to her gate across the terminal then flew CVG-BDL. It was a bumpy flight overloaded with anxiety. She needed rest, but that wasn’t going to happen.

In the end the bag did arrive and its contents were intact. That’s not the point. Any place in this story the not particularly busy Delta agent could have tried to fashion a solution for his customer. Maybe a little compassion would have helped my daughter’s mother on Mother’s Day.

I’m trying to remember the last time I said, “That’s not my job,” at work.

5 thoughts on “At The Moment I Don’t Like Delta”

    1. No Lou. There was no cash loss for us so I disagree. I think an apology is in order and some employee retraining, but I’m not holding my breath. Airlines have become so commoditized they understand cash and convenience are the only things they need worry about. In their eyes customer service costs not pays.

  1. You forgot to mention other possible reasons for such terrible treatment.

    Union people (often) do not care about their customers, after all their jobs are protected. With that job protection, those gate agents have limited/no incentive to truly assit ANYONE.

    The continued merger of airlines – ala Delta/Northwest, UAL/Continental et al means that the customer has fewer airline choices. I am guessing that Delta/Northwest was Helaine’s only practical airline choice? If I am unhappy with Channel 8, it is still easy to change the channel. Not so with airlines.

    I doubt Helaine would have ever experienced a similar experience with Southwest ??


  2. I think you should stick with Southwest! (Though I’m sure Helaine and Stef would have if SW had flown to those cities). It always seems Southwest employees have a head on their shoulders and are empowered to actually make decisions and solve problems for their customers.

    1. I will respond to Dave and Jim’s comments together. The reason for that is Southwest is a heavily unionized airline–87% according to Wikipedia. Their customer service is the gold standard of US domestic airlines. Again, nearly 9 in 10 SWA employees belong to a union.

      You’re correct Jim. However, SWA service from Milwaukee is just getting started and didn’t have the options either needed.

      I am a union member and have been for about 35 years. I can only speak from personal experience, but I have never seen an employee not act in the best interest of the product. People organize because they are unhappy with management that acts arbitrarily. Union contracts are negotiated. Both sides give to get.

      When you see bad customer service it is, in my opinion, usually because a company signals their employees they don’t care. That’s certainly the case at the airlines where companies started outsourcing customer contact jobs, like phone agents, and cut back on the number of employees that had customer contact. Then they began adding customer fees and conditions that brought passenger anger directly to the front line employees.

      You reap what you sow. Some companies don’t give a crap because the short term rewards for management are not aligned with the long term goals of employees nor any need of their customers.

      Alas, company loyalty has become something employees have toward companies, not the other way around.

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