Did Delta do enough for this delayed passenger?

Heather Stork’s flight from St. Louis to Amsterdam was a mess from start to finish.

Delta compensated her with travel vouchers. Is that enough for the mess that she had to endure?

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That’s the question before us today. Let’s dive right in.

The trip started going sideways when she received a message from Delta enroute to the airport in St. Louis. Her overseas flight, Delta 1834, was delayed, but she could make changes “without penalty,” she says.

“When I arrived at the airport, I asked if I could change flights to the flight departing St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. through Minneapolis and then on to Amsterdam,” she says. A ticket agent advised against it.

“By the time I made it through security and arrived at my gate, the flight was further delayed,” she says.

More delays followed. Delta strongly recommended she revert to her original flights. But when she arrived at Delta’s hub, she was met with disappointment.

“I arrived in Atlanta and ran for my gate to catch my flight to Amsterdam,” she says. “I arrived at the gate at 10:11 p.m. for a 10:25 departure. Although the jet bridge was still extended and connected to the plane, the gate agent told me the flight was closed and that I could not board.”

She was rebooked on another flight a few hours later, but then that flight sat at the gate for another hour because of a “maintenance issue.”

“The pilot finally announced the repair was complete, but several of the crew had timed out, and they were waiting for a manager to determine Plan B,” she says.

Everyone piled out of the plane and rebooked for the next day’s flight.

“We were given hotel vouchers, but no food vouchers, and were told to take a shuttle to the domestic terminal where we could catch a shuttle to the hotel,” she says.

Things just got worse.

The $129 extra she paid for her “comfort” seat was lost when she rebooked. Then she was bumped off the new flight to Amsterdam.

“I called the Delta help line again and was placed back on the correct flight in the correct seat that I had already paid for yet again,” she says.

She arrived in Amsterdam more than a day late. But the odyssey wasn’t over. Her return flight was also delayed, her luggage was misplaced, and there was an incident with a passenger on the last flight to St. Louis involving the police. Certainly not something Delta had any control over, but it made the trip, from start to finish, an unpleasant journey.

Delta responded with an apology and a $300 flight credit. Stork appealed and received the following form response:

I was concerned to read about the problems you had with flight delays and cancellations, missed connections, reservation changes and delayed luggage, especially on such a short trip. I can imagine how frustrating this must have been for you as a seasoned traveler and I certainly understand why you wanted to let us know.

I realize that you feel like the $300 in travel vouchers wasn’t adequate compensation, so we reviewed your request again. Please know that our goodwill gestures aren’t meant to place a value on your experience or equal the cost of a ticket. While we don’t refund flown tickets, we hope you can find good use for the vouchers provided. Respectfully, there’s nothing further we can add. I’m really sorry — I know this isn’t the answer you were hoping for.

Neither Delta’s contract of carriage nor its 12-step customer commitment directly addresses any of the issues that affected her trip, at least in that they would require any cash compensation.

The only glaring misstep was sending Stork to a hotel without a meal voucher, which appears to contradict its section on mechanical delays. (Although, technically, a crew timeout is not a mechanical delay, but the whole thing started with a mechanical delay.)

Did Delta do enough? Stork doesn’t think so. I think Delta looks pretty incompetent. There was more bumping going on than at a rave. And funny money expires after a year. How inclined do you think Stork is to get back on that horse?

Did Delta offer Heather Stork enough compensation?

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27 thoughts on “Did Delta do enough for this delayed passenger?

  1. There was no intent to harm Stork. Things happen and we get up and keep on going. When did every bad series of events in our lives start to require “compensation?”

  2. This whole chain of events was unfortunate, (even the best-run airlines has planes held up due to weather, and even the best-maintained planes break). But except for the missed meal voucher, I don’t see anything that Delta did as unreasonable.

    300 in vouchers sounds about right, unless she really want to pursue a few bucks for that lost meal voucher.

    1. Me, too. I think Mr. Elliot ought to sponsor a contest to rename the voucher–something like, Alternative Non-liquid Undesirable Compensation. The prize would be a voucher for one week’s free viewing of a free website–like the excellent site, elliott.org

      1. but at least Delta’s vouchers are as good as cash on any Delta’s flight. I havent flown AA in a while but i recall they vouchers would be for ‘1 r/t flight in the Continental US’ but would have so many restrictions they’d be tough to use on the flights you want. Further, i think cash is only reasonable if she never took the flight. She still made it safely to Amsterdam and back to St. Louis.

        1. Yep, I once volunteered to be bumped on good ol NWA for a r/t thingy anywhere in the U S of A. When I tried to use it none of the flights i tried would let me. Finally got to use it on a trip where the seats were going for $169 r/t.

  3. Ah, the form-letter stonewall again. Given the series of events described here, this passenger is entitled to a lot more than $300 in funny money. They didn’t even refund the $129 premium seat fee that was not delivered.

    1. She did get her seat:

      “I called the Delta help line again and was placed back on the
      correct flight in the correct seat that I had already paid for yet
      again,” she says.

  4. First I acknowledge that I am a Delta frequent flyer but I do file complaints when service is below par. It is not unusual for me to write a complaint. And I am not an airline apologist.

    But there are a number of things wrong with this posting so it is really difficult to make an educated choice about compensation.
    First Delta 1834 is a domestic flight from St. Louis to Atlanta. It is not an international flight and is usually scheduled to arrive at 906 PM. Second, as a regular traveler on business from Atlanta to Amsterdam I know that the flight she missed is the last flight of the day out of Atlanta to Amsterdam. There is no later flight. And that last flight is usually operated by KLM–I have taken it 3 times this year and it has not been operated by Delta. I book my own air and am very familiar with the flight schedule, so this too seems to be wrong. This flight has been KLM operated for quite a while. (I realize that she was traveling on a DL ticket but these apparent discrepancies make be curious about the entire saga. )
    And what is the reason Delta gave for not changing to the flight through MSP? They must have given a reason that made sense at the time. I think it is important to know that reason.
    At this point I think the compensation is sufficient simply because some of the details are questionable. I do think that Delta should have given food vouchers as well and she should be reimbursed the same amount as the vouchers would have covered, but until the details are cleared up then she is due nothing else.

    1. I agree, FQTVLR, there are many unanswered questions in this story. All of us have had “days like this” while travelling, often turning into nights. It comes with the territory, I think. Delta could have given her a meal, but my take on food has always been that you have to eat dinner no matter where you are or who pays for it. $300 towards a future flight is pretty good I think, given the holes in this story.

  5. “Delta strongly recommended she revert to her original flights.”

    What, exactly, does this indicate? If she had done what Delta recommended, would she not have been delayed by a day?

      1. OK, I see that DL 1834 is STL-ATL. But there’s no indication why Delta recommended that flight, or what sort of connection she would have on the MSP routing. Maybe that one was delayed to?

  6. I guess we’re lucky people that we affect when we are late for our own personal engagements don’t try to make us pay for the inconvenience! I wonder if people would be so quick to ask for compensation for airline delays if suddenly it became normal to pay someone for being late to, say, a meeting. I remember reading recently about someone who got sent a bill for the food for missing their friend’s wedding which caused a huge outcry, yet they were being asked to pay far less than $300! I’m not saying that was correct behavior, just that people need to think a little “wider” when they ask for compensation, think “What if I were the one causing the delay, would I expect to have to pay large sums of money?

    1. Well, that sorta apples and oranges, since Delta already had a bunch of her money and didn’t apparently want to give any of it back, despite the unpleasantness the airline had put her through.

      1. If delta is refunding $300 (even if it is funny money) they likely just gave away all of their profit. So “a bunch of money” is highly misleading. The whole trouble started with uncontrollable weather. Sometimes unfortunate things happen. When there is that much uncertainty, its a crapshoot which alternate plans would work out better. She unfortunately chose wrong. It’s frustrating, wrong, and sad. But Delta made a gesture of goodwill and gave up their profit on her and tried to get her to her destination. There was no grand conspiracy to put her on a bad route. Everyone gave the best info they had at the time. She now wants more. Idk, I feel bad for her, but I just don’t see how Delta owes her more.

  7. There is a certain percentage of times that things go wrong. Although I don’t fly them, it is my understanding that Delta generally runs a pretty good operation. Delta has been made aware of the problems, they made a goodwill gesture, and I think that’s all that is required. If this happened often, they would not be in business.

  8. Do American airlines operating flights from the European Union back to the USA fall un the EC Regulation 261? I heard that they do.

  9. I think Stork did the right thing – she called Delta and asked to be rerouted. Where the mistake may have happened was not sticking with this plan, although it’s a little confusing as to whether she made the change to fly through STL and that flight, too, was delayed, or whether she took the ticket agent’s advice and kept her original route through ATL. I also recommend doing your own research, so that you know which flights have seats and what alternatives there are to get to your final destination before you call customer service.

    1. yup, sounds like she just picked wrong. Unfortunate, but hard to imagine anyone gave her anything other than their best judgement call at the time.

  10. “When I arrived at the airport, I asked if I could change flights to the flight departing St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. through Minneapolis and then on to Amsterdam,” she says. A ticket agent advised against it.”

    When are people going to learn that a “normal” connection is not good enough when you are connecting overseas (or even domestically) ?? They fail to think about any number of things and that could go wrong that will cause a misconnect when you have 1-2 hours between flights. This was her first mistake.
    Her second mistake was to passively agree to the above “advise”. If someone “advised” me against taking a better, workable solution, I would certainly ask why they are not allowing me to do it. Why in the name of all that’s holy do passengers just believe this idiotic “advise”. Question it, ask for a supervisor, push the issue – YOU’VE PAID FOR THE TICKET !!!!!!

  11. She got her money back plus more than $100. I think that’s very nice of Delta. When I was a child my parents taught me two words to say in cases like this, although they seem to have gone out of fashion. Clue – what day is tomorrow?

  12. Given that Delta got her safely to and from her destination I dont think a full refund is in order and i think its reasonable to receive ‘delta dollars’ instead of cold hard cash.

    That said, she notes that she had a confirmed seat for a flight and was then ‘bumped’ off. If she truly was IDB I would assume Delta is violating the law by only offering $300 in credit. I could be wrong but isnt the due compensation $1200 for an international flight??

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