Why won’t Delta compensate me for a missed tour?

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By Christopher Elliott

Holley Locher’s problem is all too common, but a solution eludes her — and me. At the heart of the issue, which is in today’s “case dismissed” file, is a double standard Delta airline sets for its passengers, and for itself.

The airline in question is Delta, and the destination is Peru, a place she highly recommends.

The airline? Not so much.

Her routing was a bit circuitous and to some of my careful editors, it looked like an award booking: Minneapolis to Boston to Atlanta to Lima on Delta, and then Lima to Cusco the following day on Star Peru. Yeah, that’s a haul.

“The trip got off to a pretty horrible start,” she recalls.

The costly consequences of Delta’s missed promises

Her Delta flight out of Boston was delayed for mechanical reasons, so she missed her connecting flights. They worked with a Delta agent to rebook them to their final destination, but arrived in Cusco 24 hours late as a result of Delta’s breakdown.

“The Delta agents that we spoke with in both Boston and Atlanta indicated that they had purchased and confirmed us new flights from Lima to Cusco with LAN airlines,” she adds. “They gave us the paperwork showing that we had flights confirmed. When we showed up to the Lima airport for that flight, though, LAN had no record of our ticket. We had to purchase new tickets totaling about $584.”

She wants two refunds from Delta: One for the $584 she had to spend on the new ticket, and the other to compensate her $700 for part of the tour she missed.

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I’ll let her describe what happened next

I sent all the relevant paperwork and receipts to Delta requesting reimbursement for the $584 LAN tickets and the $700 missed tour fee.

Delta just called me back and indicated that they refuse to reimburse any of it.

The person with whom I spoke, who claimed to be a manager, indicated that the ticket agents in both Boston and Atlanta should never have promised to have gotten us new tickets with LAN and that Delta agents are not allowed to do so.

I indicated that I was not aware of their internal corporate policies, that I was told there would be tickets for us, and that I want (at the very least) the airline tickets reimbursed.

I indicated that this was unacceptable and that I wanted to speak with someone else. He said there is no one else, this is a final decision.

Then he mentioned that he had emailed me two $300 flight vouchers, but I told him that I never again plan to fly Delta so the vouchers are worthless to me.

He said that I am welcome to throw them away and that I am free to take them to small claims court. He said that he is sorry for the flight delay and that he hopes I have a nice day.

Then he hung up on me.

Let’s just say this did not go well.

Really? Hanging up on a customer is no way to “keep climbing,” if you ask me. Inviting a customer to sue in small-claims court? C. E. Woolman is spinning in his grave.

I agree with Locher: if Delta promised it would rebook her to Cusco, it should have done so, no questions asked.

But on the $700 tour, I don’t think she has much of a chance of recovering her lost money. And therein lies one of the most irritating double-standards in the airline biz. (Here’s how to get a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket.)

Delta, like other airlines, demands that passengers compensate it for missed opportunity costs. Every time you pay a change fee, you are essentially agreeing to cover the theoretical expense of not being able to sell a ticket to someone else.

In other words, if the roles were reversed — if somehow Locher had caused Delta to lose $700 in business — it wouldn’t hesitate to collect the money. And under its rules, it could.

I just don’t think that’s right. In Europe, consumer protection laws hold airlines accountable for delays and cancellations. The longer I do this job, and see hundreds, if not thousands of passengers with missed work time, missed vacations, missed weddings and funerals, and with airlines able to simply shrug and walk away from it all, the more I think: This is a double standard, and it’s wrong.

So reluctantly, I’m dismissing Locher’s case.

But I’m not happy about it.

Should Delta have compensated Holley Locher?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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