Deborah Glotzer showed up for her recent from Boston to Seattle. Her Delta Air Lines flight crew didn’t.
“Airport staff informed us that the reason for the cancellation was that the Delta Air Lines flight crew did not report for duty,” she says. “They were not reachable through any method of contact.”
This case is definitely one of the stranger reasons we’ve heard for a flight cancellation. Glotzer says after some delay, Delta reached the first officer, but not the pilot. No replacement flight crew could be assigned.
A missing Delta Air Lines flight crew
“After several more delays, the flight was canceled,” she says. “I consider these circumstances a dereliction of duty. Thus Delta’s responsibilities toward booked passengers differ from those in which flights are canceled due to issues related to weather or mechanical difficulty.”
Is she right?
In the explanation of airline passenger rights on its website, the Department of Transportation notes, “Contrary to popular belief, for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.”
Even when your Delta Air Lines flight crew doesn’t show up.
Delta Air Lines contract of carriage
Delta’s contract of carriage, which you agree to when you buy a ticket from the airline, spells it out:
Delta will exercise reasonable efforts to carry passengers and their baggage according to Delta’s published schedules and the schedule reflected on the passenger’s ticket, but published schedules, flight times, aircraft type, seat assignments, and similar details reflected in the ticket or Delta’s published schedules are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Delta may substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, change seat assignments, and alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket at any time. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Except as stated in this rule, Delta will have no liability for making connections, failing to operate any flight according to schedule, changing the schedule for any flight, changing seat assignments or aircraft types, or revising the routings by which Delta carries the passenger from the ticketed origin to destination.
In the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment in accordance with Rule 260 of these conditions of carriage. If the passenger does not request a refund and cancellation of the ticket, Delta will transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased. At Delta’s sole discretion and if acceptable to the passenger, Delta may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier or via ground transportation.
But how does this apply to Glotzer’s situation?
Here’s how the legalese above applies to Glotzer. Delta offered to put her on the “Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased.”
But that reservation wouldn’t get her and her husband to Seattle until the next day. And they’d miss a planned meet-up with family members. So they declined.C
“I informed Delta via email of this decline,” she says. “I was unable to notify them via telephone. The estimated call back times posted on the Delta recorded message was too long. We would already be in transit.”
Then they made arrangements to fly other airlines that would get them to Seattle sooner.
Through the help of our travel agent, we were able to rebook on a combination of United and Alaska flights via San Francisco that allowed us to arrive in Seattle approximately eight hours later than the original plans, and though not ideal, allowed us to coordinate with the family member. The costs for this revised itinerary totaled $3,308 (flights $1,294 X 2, baggage fees $110 X 2, travel agent fees $70 X 2).
I can’t help but wonder why travel agent didn’t have a way to reach Delta’s customer service more quickly. That travel agent should have been able to clarify the situation for the couple.
their Delta’s obligation
But that didn’t happen. And now she’d like the airline to reimburse her for her additional costs. Which, as noted above, it has no legal obligation to do.
Delta did reimburse the frequent flyer miles she used to buy the original tickets. Additionally, the airline gave her 20,000 miles more, refunded the baggage fees and give her about $500 in vouchers. But should Delta have done more as a goodwill gesture?