Airlines are really getting carried away with these luggage fees.
At least they could be consistent with their luggage rules. But that didn’t happen to Peter Zapalo’s mother when she flew from Pittsburgh to Paris on Air France … I mean, Delta Air Lines. Actually, you’ll see why I’m confused in a minute.
My siblings and I paid for my mother to travel with me to Paris for her 60th birthday and it was important to me that she pay nothing for this trip. I am an experienced traveler and consider myself Internet-savvy. I ticketed her online directly through Air France’s Web site, and only learned after the fact (perhaps through my own inattention, although I’m not sure this information was obvious at the time of purchase) that this flight was a codeshare with Delta.
No big deal, right?
Well, my mom called Air France a couple of days before traveling to see if there was a charge for checking a second bag, explaining she’d rather take two smaller, manageable bags than one larger one (but she certainly had the option to do that if there was an extra charge). Air France told her to call Delta, which she did. She was on hold with Delta for quite some time but then was told “it shouldn’t be a problem.”
It was a problem. Delta charged Mom $50 for her second bag. “To add insult to injury,” adds Zapalo, “the check-in supervisor at Pittsburgh was rather rude and said, ‘This is Delta, not Air France’.”
So, to recap: Passenger buys ticket on Air France, which allows a second checked bag at no extra cost, but ends up on a “codeshare” flight with an American airline that does charge a second-bag fee.
If I purchase a ticket through a certain carrier’s site, shouldn’t I be entitled to the policies of the airline ticketing me (Air France) and not whichever Joe Blow they codeshare me with?
And if you don’t follow that argument, how about Delta’s phone agent telling my mom “It shouldn’t be a problem” and then it clearly was?
I think Delta is a perfectly fine airline, but I had many options that were roughly equivalent in price when I bought my mom’s ticket, and chose Air France based on my past good experiences with them. Now I feel let down by both airlines. It has been weeks and despite the email sent while she was still in France and a follow-up phone call, we have heard NOTHING from Delta for a month now. You can guess which airline is crossed off my list of considerations for my next European adventure.
I suggested a brief, polite letter to Delta, explaining the problem. But here’s what Zapalo received:
Thank you for your e-mail to Delta Air Lines.
We sincerely regret your disappointment. Excellent customer service is key and your comments and observations are helpful in ensuring we maintain our goal of providing this level of service. We will make every effort to prevent anything similar from happening again. Please accept our apology for the poor impression, and we welcome further opportunities to be of service.
For customers traveling between the U.S. and Europe for tickets purchased on or after May 23, 2009 for travel beginning July 1, 2009 customers in economy class will be charged $50 US (or the local equivalent currency) each way for the second checked bag.
Again, thank you for writing. We appreciate your selection of Delta and will always welcome the opportunity to be of service.
Huh? Delta obviously didn’t take the time to read beyond the subject line of his email before sending a vanilla form letter. Very disappointing.
I recommended an appeal to a Delta executive.
And here’s where it gets really interesting. Zapalo got two responses.
The first one was another form letter, denying any responsibility for the overcharge, but saying that since the gate agent was impolite to Mom, they would offer a $50 voucher. ” I was pretty disappointed, particularly since my mom doesn’t travel on Delta or any other carrier all that often,” says Zapalo.
And then came this one:
We are concerned you encountered problems with baggage policies while traveling with one of our codeshare partners.
The checked and carry-on luggage allowance and any fees involved are subject to the rules of the marketing carrier, or the airline on which you are ticketed. The operating carrier may apply their carry-on baggage policies due to operational or safety constraints, resulting in the need for a Delta passenger to check his or her carry-on luggage.
This should not result in an excess baggage fee.
You should have received a thorough explanation, and we regret any misunderstanding. With that being said, please provide me with the number beginning with 006 next to the charge on her account and I will be happy to refund her baggage fees.
What’s going on here? Zapaolo believes it’s “a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.” And I agree.
Beyond that, I think this underscores the need for luggage fees to be standardized and clearly disclosed as part of the purchase price.
Instead of tricking passengers into believing they’re paying a lower price and then adding surprise luggage fees, airlines should do it the other way around: They should display a price that includes one checked bag for domestic flights or two bags for international flights, and then allow customers to opt out of the bags to save money.
(Photo: Contando Estrelas/Flickr Creative Commons)