“This is a very clear breach of contract by Delta”

Phillip Deutschler’s case should have been fixable — if not at the time Delta Air Lines canceled his flight, then when he asked the airline to cover the ticket he had to book.

But it isn’t, at least not in the court of public opinion. To do that, he’s going to have to go to an actual court, and we can only wish him the best. But there are many lessons to be learned along the way; that’s why we’re writing about this “case dismissed” file.

But first things first. Deutschler was flying from Atlanta to Vancouver when his flight was delayed. That meant he would miss his connection.

“A ticket agent couldn’t find a suitable replacement flight,” he explains. “So I found a flight on Aeroméxico, a partner airline.”

He says that the agent told him to purchase the ticket at a cost of $6,000 and agreed to reimburse him. But when he asked the airline to do what it agreed to, it only offered $3,000, plus 50,000 frequent flier miles.

“I refuse to accept this,” he says. “It isn’t nearly enough.”

Here’s why we decided to take his case: It doesn’t really matter what an airline contract says — or doesn’t say. If a representative agrees to cover the cost of a new ticket, that’s what should happen. Full stop.

We had a look at the correspondence. In it, Deutschler insists that Delta honor its verbal commitment, at times rather stridently. Every time, Delta returns with a better offer, but short of what he wants.

This paragraph jumped out at us:

This is a very clear breach of contract by Delta. Delta’s representative instructed me to purchase a ticket on Aeroméxico and told me that the fare would be fully refunded. Based on the representative’s’ instructions, I purchased the ticket. This is all noted in my file under my case number. I also have copies of Delta’s case notes, time stamps from all my interactions, and recordings of my calls.

If this is unfortunately forced to court for resolution, which I think I’ve demonstrated I plan to do, it will be dramatically more expensive for Delta to resolve. I hope Delta is prudent and honors the commitment of its agent. Delta’s actions and attempts to avoid honoring its agreement are causing me substantial financial burden and harm.

The mention of taking Delta to court gave our advocacy team pause. Normally, when a case is referred to the legal department, it’s out of our control. I should note that although Deutschler cites statutes and laws in his complaint, he is not a lawyer, according to his professional profile. I only mention that because at some point, the legal department has to determine if this is a real threat, or if he’s just bluffing.

It should never have come to this. Delta should have done what it promised instead of making this passenger spin his wheels. This is just good customer service.

We reached out to Delta on his behalf. In response, the airline said this case was under “active litigation” — a detail Deutschler had failed to mention when he contacted us. And that means it’s really out of our hands.

What are the lessons here? There are plenty. Get a promise to cover a $6,000 airfare in writing, obviously. And before you sue, don’t forget the intermediate steps like contacting an outside advocate or filing a credit card dispute.

I wish I could help Deutschler, but now it looks like he’ll have his day in court.

Should Delta have refunded Deutschler's fare?

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