Delta stopped flying to Barbados — is our vacation ruined?

Laurie Glynne and her family planned to fly to Barbados for the holidays. But then Delta Air Lines stopped flying to the Caribbean island. Can this vacation be saved?

Question: My family and I made plans to fly to Barbados on Delta Air Lines to celebrate the new year. Unfortunately, several months after we booked this trip, the airline notified us that it no longer will fly to the Caribbean island.

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I’ve been offered a refund, but I would prefer Delta give us tickets to an alternate Caribbean destination, so that we can still take our planned vacation. Delta offered to reroute us to Turks and Caicos, but at an increased cost of $3,600. That’s outside our budget.

I have spoken to Delta twice regarding this matter. I also filed a formal complaint on the airline’s website but have not received a copy of it yet. Also, my travel agent, American Express, spoke to Delta about this issue as well. Delta won’t budge. Thank you in advance for any assistance you may be able to provide. — Laurie Glynne, Wilmington, N.C.

Answer: Delta owes you a full and immediate refund of your ticket to Barbados. You can find the details in its contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the company. See Rule 240 B for details.

But does the airline owe you more? Technically, no. But as a practical matter, it made you a promise — to fly you to Barbados — and then broke it. In its own customer commitment, Delta suggests that it will try to help passengers whose flights have been canceled (see section 12). And, although that paragraph is a little fuzzy, it certainly could leave the average passenger with the impression that the airline would do more in a situation like yours.

But Delta did not do more. Instead, it told everyone down the line, including your travel agent, that a refund was your only choice. Hardly what you’d expect from a company that claims to be the world’s most trusted airline.

In a situation like this, you could appeal to a customer-service executive by email. I list the names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer-advocacy site. I noticed that a lot of your communication with the airline was by phone. I would advise you to stick to writing; it creates a paper trail that can be used during an appeal — or a lawsuit.

Bear in mind that Delta doesn’t have to do anything. By refunding your airfare, it has fulfilled your contract. It might not seem that way to you or to me, but in a legal sense, Delta has done all that is required. So any request for a make-good vacation has to be made carefully and politely.

I contacted Delta on your behalf. On the same day, Delta contacted you and agreed to fly you to Turks and Caicos at no additional cost. But, like the nebulous legalese in the airline’s contract, it’s not entirely clear why Delta reversed course. An airline representative insisted it wasn’t because of my intervention. I would like to believe Delta did the right thing on its own.

28 thoughts on “Delta stopped flying to Barbados — is our vacation ruined?

  1. Were their tickets available to Barbados on other airlines for a comparable price? Why look for (or accept) a re-route when there are alternatives to work with (either self-booked or arranged by Delta.) JetBlue and American both fly to Barbados.

    I do agree that the initial offered solution (“We’ll fly you somewhere similar for more money!”) was stupid.

    1. I wondered exactly this – when airlines do this, they often offer to re-route on another carrier. Did Delta not even offer this?

      1. They usually do this when there’s a problem such as a maintenance issue or pilot unavailability. I believe there are typically agreements in place that are premised on a quid pro quo scheme. However, if they’re discontinuing the service completely that might complicate such attempts.

        1. Depends on the airline.

          Take the example of BA, when they cancelled their Chengdu route

          Passengers were offered:
          – Full refund
          – Move flights to a date before route cancellation
          – Move flights to another BA destination in mainland China
          – Reroute to connecting flights via Hong Kong / Beijing / Seoul / Abu Dhabi

          This seems far, far more reasonable than what DL have done here

          1. but they do not offer a whole lot of exotic Caribbean – that is American country – which is another reason I HIGHLY recommend booking with your (ahem) agent – I always advise a client when an airline does not offer a lot of service to an area, or it is a new route — if no longer profitable, they will drop it – sometimes a few dollars mor offers far more peace of mind

          2. I guess as a TA you would then also know that BA currently only serves two other mainland China destinations (Shanghai and Beijing)? The nearest of these to Chengdu is Shanghai, ~1000 miles away. That’s further than Chicago > Houston, and probably gives them a thinner China network than your DL / Caribbean point.

            BA offered connecting flights on non-alliance partners to make sure that people were able to get to their booked destination.

            It seems very, very cheap of Delta to not try to re-accommodate passengers on other airlines.

          1. they cancelled the route to Barbados as it was NOT profitable — Turks ar a bit more useful to them seasonally, but higher cost genrally

      2. I am willing to bet that the pricing on other airlines was higher now for tickets to Barbados than what she paid by purchasing months ago.

        And what if she flies Delta regularly and needed the miles to maintain Medalliion status?

        Glad Delta relented but good luck in Turks- it’s a beautiful island but everything is so much more expensive than Barbados.

        1. I guess my point of view here is “that’s interesting that the prices are higher on other airlines, but that’s Delta’s problem, not the customer’s”

          Other airlines (ref my BA example above) will offer to re-accommodate passengers on other airlines where a route is cancelled. It seems very poor of Delta not to do this.

          As for points – you can claim Original Routing Credit when re-routed on another carrier. Plenty of discussion on Flyer Talk.

          1. yea, if Delta books it for you. But if they just refund it and you go out and buy a JetBlue ticket independently, you are out of luck. More than likely, time has passed so other options are more expensive now. Glad Delta did the right thing (not just the required thing).

    2. but DL and AA no longer partner, and the Caribbean is American country, so may have been the problem. She could have taken the refund and looked elsewhere, but glad it worked out

      1. Caribbean is now JetBlue land 🙂
        AA has been shrinking for years as JetBlue and Spirit (and perhaps Southwest soon) begin to encroach. But yea, AA much larger than DL to the islands. Sort of surprising though that DL cant make a 1x from ATL work, you’d think with so many different a/c sizes and hub banks surely there is some profitable combination.

  2. What exactly do they expect? That Delta should fly the route just for them, or buy TX on another airline, at what is essentially going to be a much higher cost, because otherwise why wouldn’t the LW just take the refund and buy TX on another airline. The LW is asking Delta to not only make them whole but to warranty the cost of the purchase.

    Chris can do anything. If Delta was going to do the right thing on its own it would have done it before the intervention. Chris flashed the ‘CONSUMER ADVOCATE” badge and they complied.

    1. To be more specific, the LW was asking Delta to provide them with conveyance to the destination that they had a confirmed ticket for.

      Time and time again we see stories of people with nonrefundable tickets being (rightly) refused refunds if their plans change. Seems grossly unfair for the airlines to not hold up their side of the bargain.

      1. The airline wasn’t denying them a refund, they weren’t saying we don’t fly there anymore and we’re keeping your money.

        1. Yep. So the airline basically said “We changed our mind, we don’t want to fly you on that day, have your money back”

          What would happen if the passenger said “We changed our mind, we don’t want to fly with you on that day?”

          1. it can happen – when they lose thousands per flight, it just makes no sense to continue the route, when they can trad for a more lucrative one for themselves.

          2. Not exactly, the airline said “we don’t want to fly there anymore at all”.

            If that was true you would call your bank card issuer and claim the purchase for TX was fraud, assuming you never want to fly with that airline again.

      2. As a passenger, you have two choices:

        1. Buy a refundable ticket, for which either you or the airline can decide not to fly, and get your money back.
        2. Get a big discount by buying a nonrefundable ticket, and give up the option to get your money back if you decide not to fly.

    2. not necessarily – takes a while to get an answer, but does not mean they are not working on — as an agent, they contact me in advance and let me know they will email the resolution, but they do not always do so for a client – and a bit of patience when you want them to break the rules works pretty well. ESPECIALLY with Delta, which is the easiest airline to work with, generally

      1. Not according to the article, Delta’s position all the way down was nothing but a refund, Chris made the resolution happen, because Chris is Chris.

  3. The closer the date of travel, the more unfair a “refund” is. This is because fares go up as the date of travel approaches. It is inherently unfair to the ticketed customer to have the airline change the contract close to the date of travel because other options are almost always going to be more expensive. This is where the balance of power is hugely in favor of the big airline over the consumer, and frankly, the government should come up with a remedy.

  4. “But, like the nebulous legalese in the airline’s contract, it’s not entirely clear why Delta reversed course. ”

    Because in a case like this involving a system carrier, a passenger is owed a reroute to the contracted destination as a first choice, even if it means interlining. Delta was hoping that LW would just shut up and go away.

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