“Your group’s suggested course of escalation actions worked wonders”

By | December 22nd, 2016

After an outstanding tour of Yellowstone National Park, Gordon Heisler is all set to get his grandchildren back home in time for their leading roles in a play. But their return flight is canceled and rescheduled for a day later. If he wants to get them home in time, it’s going to cost him.

Question: I need your help in obtaining a refund from Delta Air Lines for four one-way tickets that I had to purchase when my original flight was canceled. We were scheduled to return home from Bozeman, Mont., to LaGuardia Airport on Saturday, July 2. We received a text message that morning that our flight was canceled, and that we were rebooked on a flight for the following day.

I checked with our hotel right away to see if it had any rooms available. It did not — the hotels in the area were booked, since it was the weekend of July 4. I contacted Delta by phone and the recorded message said the wait time for customer service would be about two hours. I searched for available flights online and found one on Delta that would be departing the same day as my original flight on July 2. It would land in Philadelphia International Airport, instead of LaGuardia. I again tried calling Delta, but received the same message about the excessive wait time.

This flight was scheduled to depart shortly, so I booked the tickets. I paid $2,550 for four one-way tickets and an additional amount for premium seats, since those were the ones available. My original airfare was $2,000 for four round-trip tickets.

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Since we were flying into Philadelphia instead of LaGuardia, we had added costs for transportation to our home in New Jersey and then back to LaGuardia to pick up our car.

When I returned, I was finally able to get through to Delta, and it offered to refund me only 50 percent of the original round trip ticket price equating to $1,000. I told Delta that was unacceptable, because I paid $2,550 more due to a flight that it had canceled.

I do not think this is a fair settlement. Had I been able to speak to a representative of Delta, I would have negotiated the airfare before booking the tickets. But I was unable to get through. I am willing to accept the refund in the form of air miles, cash, or a voucher. I will even waive the additional amount I had to spend for premium seats and transportation costs to get back home. ― Gordon Heisler, Washington Crossing, N.J.

Answer: I agree with you ― and I think you are being generous in offering to waive the added cost of premium seats and transportation to get you back home from an alternate airport.

Since Delta canceled the flight and rescheduled it for the following day, that would normally force passengers to incur added expenses such as another night at a hotel, food, and transportation costs. Many airlines, including Delta, will reimburse passengers for these expenses if the reason for cancellation falls within its policy guidelines. In your situation, there were no hotel rooms, so you would have been stuck sleeping in an airport. Not a pleasant thought.

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Delta’s Legal Notices states:

If the change is due to circumstances within our control, then we will transport you to your destination on our next available flight (or substitute alternative transportation at our discretion) and, depending upon the circumstances, you may be entitled to a partial refund and/or we may provide you with meals, lodging and/or ground transportation to accommodate you during the delay.

Delta provides an out by adding that if the cancellation is due to circumstances that are not under its control, then no compensation will be offered.

You are justified in asking Delta for reimbursement of the full $2,550. You attempted to contact Delta, but the excessive hold time forced you to book your new flight online or miss the opportunity to get home on July 2. It was a wise decision on your part to book the new flight on Delta, rather than on another airline. That will work in your favor when negotiating later with the airline.

You demonstrated what a terrific grandfather you are by paying $2,550 more in order to get your grandchildren home for a play the following day. That is truly commendable. It is unfortunate that Delta only offered to reimburse you 50 percent of your original ticket price, when the cancellation was out of your control.

Our advocates suggested you post your case in our help forums, so our representatives could assist you in resolving the matter quickly. Per their recommendation, you escalated your complaint to Delta’s executives by using our contact list, including names, numbers, and email addresses provided in our company contacts section.

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You later shared with us your feeling that “Your group’s suggested course of escalation actions worked wonders as long as I was diligent with the follow-ups.”

Through your perseverance and the guidance of our advocates, you received favorable results. I’m pleased that this matter was resolved to your satisfaction. And thank you for your glowing recommendation.

Other consumers will benefit from reading about your case. Together, we were able to reach a successful resolution with Delta — you received a refund of $1,685 and $800 in gift cards.

  • Jeff W.

    It isn’t clear if the cancellation was due to weather or mechanical, which alters Delta’s responsibilities. However, even if it was mechanical, Delta may have had a hard time accommodating the extra day of lodging given the holiday.

    As for the alternate flight, it is good that they stuck with Delta. Makes the resolution easier. The computer system could not have known that PHL could be an alternate to LGA. Maybe one of the other NYC airports, but that could be a stretch. A two-hour wait time is certainly excessive, which does imply a weather event at some hub in the system. But do you know where there would not be such a wait time? At the airport. The ticket agent probably could have done this.

    But in the end, Delta did come through and offer a refund plus some. So good job all around.

  • Lindabator

    and usually if you go online, you can change when they have such a drastic change for no cost – button pops up at top right hand corner

  • Dutchess

    Wow, it’s great to hear a story of consumer self-empowerment! Looks like the LW knows how to make the system work for him!

  • Dutchess

    Likely price or connections! It’s very expensive to fly into Montana in the summer. I live in Portland and have family in Montana. It’s nothing to have a $500-$600 RT airfare from Portland to fly into Montana. I’ve paid less to fly to Europe! Also, there probably aren’t as many direct flights to Montana from Philly as there are NYC.

  • PsyGuy

    First, what was the resolution? Did he get everything he asked for and in what form?

    Second, kids plays are not life or death, and don’t even rank near the top half of an airline’s priority list. Everyone thinks their thing is important, but the reality is many of them are just inconveniences.

  • PsyGuy

    Agree this may have been handled online through Delta’s website much faster.

  • greg watson

    Did I miss something ? Wasn’t the concern over a cancelled flight ??

  • Skeptic

    “We are experiencing unusual [sic] hold times . . .”

    At what point will companies like Delta admit that their hold times have been and always will be excessive?

  • LeeAnneClark

    While the OP seems satisfied with the resolution, I personally wouldn’t be happy with receiving $800 of it in gift cards. That just seems – odd. But at least the total amount of compensation ($2,485) is nearly what he paid out. I would have held out for the full $2550, but it’s certainly better than what he was offered initially!

    The fact that they were trying to get home for a play is immaterial to the story…although it does explain why he was willing to do what was necessary to get them home in time for that. The REAL important part of this story is that they cancelled the flight with no options until the next day, leaving them in a city that had no hotel rooms available! And apparently Delta did nothing to provide accommodations for them. That is completely unacceptable. I’m glad Delta finally came through with reimbursement.

    While the article refers to the passengers as the OP’s grandchildren, it doesn’t indicate whether they are minors or not. Since it sounds as if they were traveling alone, then we can assume they were not…or at least, not all of them. But if any of them WERE minors, that would make the situation even more inappropriate. To leave minors stranded in an airport with no accommodations?

    I realize that some people in this forum do not consider children to be worthy or deserving of additional support or accommodation, but the law does not agree. They are. Fortunately that does not appear to be an issue here, as I’m sure the article would have mentioned if they were unaccompanied minors. And it would have raised all kinds of questions with respect to the airline’s responsibilities for unaccompanied minors.

  • BubbaJoe123

    When there’s some massive event (like storms that shut down a major hub), all airlines get slammed, since there’s no possible way they can staff for something like that.

    Delta has something like 15,000 flights per day. On an average day, about 50 get cancelled. Assuming about 150 people per plane, that’s around 7,500 rebooking calls. That’s actually a bit high, since a lot of rebookings don’t require a call, and a lot of calls are for more than one passenger, but it’s a decent benchmark.

    A storm last January that hit Atlanta caused 100+ Delta cancellations from Atlanta alone, over 300 across their system. That’s a 6-7x increase in call volume. It would be insane for Delta to have 80%+ of their call center reps sitting idle 362 days of the year, to have enough to handle the three days when demand soars.

  • Skeptic

    My point was that I can’t remember the last time I DIDN’T hear an “unusual call volume” excuse while on hold. Time to normalize “unusual.”

    Plus, as many of us know, call centers are frequently staffed by part time workers who aren’t given their schedules until the last minute. Unlike the situation with pilots and FAs, who have to be paid while on standby status, it’s possible for airlines to quickly staff up and down at call centers when there’s been unusual weather etc. Of course, the airlines also cut every corner they can in terms of their higher-paid staff (pilots), which explains why it can take so long to get replacements if your crew times out before you reach your destination. (DH is an ALPA member — I could write volumes about this issue.)

  • Rebecca

    I am really liking the fact that he seems like a very reasonable, genuinely nice guy. There’s no cards played, no extraneous complaining, a concise account of the facts, a willingness to accept the best he could get and still be grateful.

    If every OP was like this guy, the world would be such a better place. I’m so glad it worked out for him.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I can’t recall having to wait more than five minutes with an airline in the last year, except for one day when all the NYC airports were shut down or nearly so by weather.

    Call centers can staff up or down to a degree, but maybe +50%, at very most. Still not going to help AA if weather shuts down DFW, or UA if ORD goes offline.

  • jim6555

    It could be that his grandchildren live closer to LaGuardia than to Philadelphia.

  • Don Spilky

    Maybe Delta bought the gift cards from one of those online sites… I hope they have value on them! ;)

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