Here’s what happens when an airline can’t get its story straight. It ends up with a passenger like John Campagna, who nearly forced to abandon his “babies” in Honolulu.
Campagna is an Army physician who was transferring duty stations from Hawaii to San Antonio. His airline of choice is Delta. He and his wife have two chinchillas, which are small, rodent-like mammals (photo above).
When Campagna moved to Hawaii, he brought his babies with him in the cabin. But, knowing that some pet policies had changed in the recent past, he asked his travel agent if chinchillas were still allowed. Yes, he was told. Just to be safe, he called Delta’s 800-number.
Initially, the agent was unsure and transferred me to the military desk. The employees at the military desk researched it and decided that, yes, I could bring my chinchillas with me. They also told me that there was no fee for military at this time.
Campagna called back twice to verify the answer. Both times, Delta said yes — Chinchillas are fine. Then he checked in for his flight.
The agent said chinchillas were not allowed. I told them I had been approved for them by the 1-800 agents. I also told them that I had brought one of them to Hawaii through their airline. I was flat-out told that I was either lying or that I had lied at that time because chinchillas were never allowed.
That didn’t go over well with Campagna and his wife. Now they were faced with two choices: Not flying or abandoning their pets.
At this point, my wife and I had no idea what to do. I mean, these are our babies, and three hours before we had to move we were expected to find some way on our own to send them to Texas. My wife started crying, and I guess the manager felt bad. She decided that yes we could send them, but now we had to check them in and pay a $200 fee as well as a new kennel that was $46. We really had no other alternative.
After the flight, he made further inquiries, and was awarded 5,000 SkyMiles for his inconvenience. Unhappy, he phoned Delta.
I spoke with perhaps the rudest supervisor ever, who basically called me a whiner and agreed with the initial response from the e-mail. After about 30 minutes discussing the case — two hours total of my time from holding and speaking with the representative who gave me that number — I was told that I had just wasted the supervisor’s time and that we were done. He refused to give me the e-mail or address of anyone higher or look into the matter further.
But Campagna wasn’t done. Flying Chinchillas may not seem like a big deal, but if Delta really cares about customer service, it wouldn’t be telling him that it wasted his time or sending him a form apology with a few frequent flier miles. It would address his problem.
(And if it really cared about customer service, this wouldn’t have become a problem in the first place.) He contacted a few key executives at Delta, asking them to reconsider his case.
That is where your website came in, and I was able to see the e-mail address of the director of customer service. I e-mailed her with this same story. Her representative looked into it and Delta decided that I was correct — there were absolutely no restrictions on animals leaving Hawaii (only on entering) and that it was unfortunate that I had been forced to pay for fees and a new kennel. Delta refunded my money for the fees and the kennel.
A happy ending for Campagna and his Chinchillas. And a lesson for the rest of us: If you’re right, don’t take “no” for an answer. Keep appealing until you get the resolution you deserve.
(Photo: mike hazelden/Flickr Creative Commons)