DELTA AIR LINES

Does Delta really care about you? Read this before you answer

“You share, we care” the tagline on Delia Valley’s email signature reads. It concludes what, to the untrained eye, looks like a genuine and thoughtful response to a question from a customer.

That customer, Lowell Booth, has a concern about Delta Air Lines’ plans to pump fragrance into the cabins of its planes.
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Yes, loyalty programs are rigged — but what are you going to do about it?

Remember how easy it used to be to earn frequent flier miles? You’d book a flight on a major airline, go on that trip, and earn miles based on the distance flown — usually one award mile for each flight mile.

It’s not that simple any more.

First, airlines added a class-of-fare bonus so that a purchased first class ticket would earn double miles. Then they started offering their own branded credit cards so you’d earn miles when you purchased your airline ticket on the card, one mile per dollar spent on a ticket on their flights. And then they upped the ante to two miles per airline ticket dollar (their airline, of course) and one mile for every other dollar charged on the card.
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How dumb does Delta think you are?

Frequent flyer points are like a drug. There, I said it. We are all addicted.

Ask anyone who travels if they don’t, in some way, collect their “drug” of choice. For me, my fix has always been Delta SkyMiles. I know the program inside and out and better than most of the people who work for the airline in any capacity or position.
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I can’t walk, so how can I fly?

Catherine Brubaker won’t be able to fly from Wichita, Kan., to Fort Myers, Fla., after breaking her ankle. Her ticket is nonrefundable and the airline wants to charge a change fee and fare differential to use the ticket next year. Isn’t there a better way?
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What to do when your airline offends you

1-Screen Shot 2013-12-014Nothing could have prepared Jeff White for the shock he got after printing his boarding pass for a recent Delta Air Lines flight from Pensacola, Fla., to Albany, N.Y., by way of Atlanta. Right there, next to his name, was a confirmation code that proclaimed: “H8GAYS.”

“At first I didn’t think I read it right,” says White, a student at the University of West Florida. “I was worried that another customer might think I somehow picked that code. If I were a gay male, I might have thought that a Delta worker purposely gave me that code, and that would have made me extremely uncomfortable.”

Every day, in ways big and small, airlines offend their customers. Most of these transgressions are fairly minor, from serving the wrong meal to addressing a guest by the incorrect name. But taken together, the incidents raise a larger question: How should companies respond, and what kind of compensation, if any, are travelers entitled to?
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How did 550,000 Hilton points become 55,000 Delta miles? And can you undo it, please?

Serg64/Shutterstock
Serg64/Shutterstock
When Gale Flake tries to convert his Hilton points to Delta SkyMiles, something gets lost in the translation. Can the conversion be undone?

Question: I recently read your story about how persistence pays and it inspired me to write to you about my problem with Delta and Hilton HHonors. I’m a gold member of HHonors, Hilton’s loyalty program, and have saved for many years to plan a trip to Paris. I have accrued 550,000 points, and wanted to redeem them for a flight.

I called Hilton and they suggested that I contact Delta to handle the transaction. I did. At the end of the transaction, I learned that I’d been reduced to 55,000 Delta miles.
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What’s the correct compensation for this Delta flight delay?

Eugene Berman / Shutterstock.com
Eugene Berman / Shutterstock.com
John Esser’s recent return flight north “headed south,” so to speak. He’d like the airline to make things right.

But what’s right?

Esser was flying from Los Angeles to Detroit on Delta flight 1806 on Sept. 18.

“This flight was specifically chosen due to an obligation I had that evening at my son’s school at 7 p.m.,” he says.

Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

Although the flight was scheduled to leave at 9:30 a.m., a series of mechanical delays kept the plane waiting at the gate several hours before it was finally canceled.
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Bumped, but where’s my voucher?

Senohrabek / Shutterstock.com
Senohrabek / Shutterstock.com
Delta promises Shirin Vakharia a flight voucher if she volunteers to take another flight. She does — but where’s the scrip?

Question: My sister and I recently had a confirmed flight on Delta Air Lines from San Francisco to Dayton, Ohio. The itinerary included a scheduled one-hour, 30 minute stopover in Atlanta.

When I arrived in San Francisco and checked in at the kiosk, I was asked if I would be willing to volunteer my seat. I indicated yes, checked my bag through Dayton and arrived at the gate.

While waiting at the gate at San Francisco, I was called to the desk. The gate agent notified me that she could put me on a flight to Detroit, and then continue to Dayton. I agreed to be rebooked and asked if my sister, who was on the same flight but a separate reservation, could also be rebooked with me.
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Help, my travel agency is pocketing my airfare refund!

Tashatuvango/Shutterstock
Tashatuvango/Shutterstock
Question: I recently had to have jaw surgery, and my doctor recommended that I cancel a planned flight on Delta Air Lines. I submitted a request through my travel agency, but it refused to refund the ticket because it had a policy that tickets are nonrefundable, except in cases of illness or death.

So I contacted Delta directly. It processed my refund, but told me they had sent the money back to my travel agency. I contacted the agency and asked it for the refund, but they refused, citing their refund policy.
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The next bubble? Travel loyalty programs

Lexarts/Shutterstock
Lexarts/Shutterstock

Did anyone pay attention when Robert Shiller warned about the real estate bubble or Nouriel Roubini sounded the alarm bells about the impending global economic crisis? Probably not as much as they should have. So feel free to ignore this one, too: travel loyalty programs — and particularly airline programs — are a bubble. And it may be about to pop.

All the signs are there. Delta Air Lines’ recent, precipitous devaluation of its loyalty program is just the latest. Your hard-earned frequent flier miles now die with you, and can’t be inherited by your next of kin. (Yes, Delta can do that.) This follows a wholesale downgrade of its SkyMiles program. Several hotel chains, including Marriott and Hilton, have also decimated their programs in the last few weeks.
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Two letters on my ticket cost $300 — are you serious?

SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com
SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com
Question: I recently booked two tickets through an online travel agency for my husband and I to fly to the Philippines. When I got his ticket, I noticed that “Jr” was missing from his name. I went back to the site and discovered that there was no “space” provided where I can put a “Jr”.

I called the agency and a representative told me it was “not a big deal” and that I should not worry about it. They suggested I call Delta Air Lines, the airline I was flying on, to give them a “heads-up.”

This weekend, I called Delta and asked them about the name issue. Delta told me that the name on the ticket should match the one on the passport. Delta said that my husband may not have a problem checking in with the airline but that he may have some problems with security, immigration, and even entry and exit to the country we are visiting.
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