Help, I’ve “exceeded the maximum number of active sessions” on Delta.com!

Sarah Kolo and her mother love to go airfare shopping. But is there such a thing as too much airfare shopping?

Apparently, Delta Air Lines thinks so, because it basically kicked them off its site when they were looking for inexpensive airline tickets from Minneapolis to Washington recently.

Kolo and her mother were busy searching for flights on Delta.com when the site curtly informed them they were done. An error message with a code #100527R popped up on their screen.

“You have exceeded the maximum number of active sessions,” it warned.

Huh?

“It wouldn’t let her search anymore,” explains Kolo. “The message persisted even the next day.”

I’m not surprised. A year ago, Delta started to restrict queries to its fare database, but it seemed those limits only applied to big travel sites.

Kolo’s next step: to ask Delta why she and her mom couldn’t shop online anymore. Here’s the non-answer:

Thank you for your email to Delta Air Lines experiencing difficulty while searching the flight on our website. I truly regret the inconvenience caused to you.

I appreciate receiving your suggestions. Many customers share their feedback with us, and these observations often form the basis for improvements in our service. We will be sharing your suggestion with the responsible Delta.com leadership team. If they require additional information, we will be in touch with you.

Mrs. Kolo, thank you for writing. I appreciate your interest and loyalty as a SkyMiles member

That didn’t sit well with Kolo, who was eager to continue shopping. So she asked again. And here’s the second response:

Thank you for your email describing the problem you experienced while booking a reservation online. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you experienced while navigating on delta.com.

I’m sorry to hear navigating delta.com was a challenge and that you did not have the seamless customer experience we aim for. We appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us and assure you that we will share them with the appropriate leadership team to be reviewed.

For your information, Delta will no longer collect the direct and international ticketing charge worldwide, in both Reservation and FTO/CTO locations for reservation ticketed on and after April 14, 2016. In addition, reservation Groups will no longer collect this fee for reservation ticketed after April 14, 2016.

Please accept our apology for the unfavorable impression you received in this instance. We appreciate your selection of Delta and will always consider it a privilege to be of service.

That’s a strange answer. I have no idea what FTO/CTO locations are or what the response means. Then again, I’m not an airline guy, nor do I ever want to be one.

“It’s unclear to me whether the limits on searches will persist,” says a baffled Kolo.

Yeah, that makes two of us.

I circled back with Delta to see if it could offer any clarification. She’s heard nothing yet.

Here’s what I’m left to conclude: Delta wants you to look and book — quickly. It doesn’t like companies that help you find cheaper fares, or even passengers who try to find cheaper fares.

The company is entitled to do whatever it wants on its website, of course.

For example, there are several websites that are blocked from linking to this site. When they do, they’ll get an error message. You can probably guess their names. I don’t want their traffic and I have the technology to stop them.

But I’m also open about what this site is — and isn’t. This is an advocacy organization, and we aren’t here to debate the virtues of the free market or to provide a platform for someone’s free speech fantasies. We’re here to help, and traffic from credit card shills and loyalty program apologists just distracts us from our mission.

Delta, on the other hand, is a publicly traded company that has set different standards for itself. Its Washington lobbyists are continually celebrating the highly “competitive” nature of the airline business. Turning a customer away after a few web searches seems incompatible with those values.

Should Delta limit web searches?

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