I suspect most of us have had pretty bad experiences at the airport. Long lines at security, delayed/cancelled flights, and lost baggage are ubiquitous problems we’ve all encountered even before 9/11.
But my flight home to DC last week from Madison, Wisconsin on Delta Airlines was one of the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever had.
Here’s what happened: after a very nice business trip to the wonderful home of the University of Wisconsin, I checked the status of my 6:30PM return flight and discovered it was delayed by 2 hours. Since I was scheduled to arrive so late in DC anyway (via Detroit), I decided to try and catch an earlier flight in the day even though that meant I would be missing some of my business meeting. I had to make record time to the airport to catch that flight.
Delayed flights are the modus operandi for most airlines (with the exception of Southwest perhaps). But the rest of the story is what really bothered me.
First, because I changed my flight, Delta would not allow me to print my boarding pass remotely. I was going to have to use one of the self-serve kiosks at the airport, which is fine because that’s usually fast and I didn’t have bags to check.
But the two kiosks didn’t work. I was told I had to queue in the long line of travelers waiting to be helped by the two Delta employees at the full service desk. Nervous about missing my flight, I actually followed our company president to the first class check-in (with of course no line).
Surprisingly, I was quickly helped. I received my boarding pass, raced through security, and made it to the gate on time. Really on time.
This flight was delayed too. We actually had another hour before the plane we were to fly on arrived in Madison from wherever it was. (BTW Madison, and most of the country, was having amazing weather that day. I still don’t know why seemingly every flight was delayed that day.)
After an hour, the plane finally arrived at our gate ready to take us home and weary travelers celebrated. As we waited for the plane to unload so we could pile on, we noticed the flight crew was deplaning with the other passengers. One minute later, an announcement was made that our flight was cancelled because the crew had too many hours in the air that day and legally wasn’t able to fly another leg.
Hello? Delta? Didn’t you know that handy piece of information way before you told us? I, along with most of the other passengers were quite miffed. Someone in front of me thoughtfully said, “Let’s light @Delta up on Twitter.” And we did.
There was a steady volley of negative tweets going out from our gate, and I easily found other tweeps nationwide complaining about the airline which I retweeted with my own story. (If you’re wondering, I haven’t received any words of consolation from the Twitter Delta mothership.)
I ended up stranded in Madison an extra night which cost me a day in the office. The fact that Madison is such a great little city and my direct flight home the next day was perfect gives this story an uneventful ending.
Still, this was clearly a Delta #fail: delayed and cancelled flights with no or very little communication; information relayed to passengers very late; not enough staff at the ticket counter; broken ticket kiosks.
I’m sure you have a story also. What’s your worst flying nightmare?