Hello, this is Jan Lehnardt and you're visiting my blog. Thanks for stopping by.
plok — It reads like a blog, but it sounds harder!
For my US trip in March, I tried flying Delta. On paper they made the best offer regarding price and flight times. I am not a frequent flyer, I do not usually fly in the US and if I should have known to avoid Delta if possible… well, I did not. Also, I have been told that all airlines suck for one reason or another so choosing Delta was not worse than choosing anybody else.
I started searching for flights using Kayak. Their website is simple, the UI is very easy to use and anticipates the user’s input with great success. It is a pleasure to use. From Kayak, I got transferred to the airline for actual booking.
With Delta you have to basically search again with some form fields filled in for you, but their website is confusing, slow and does not help at all. I managed though, in the end, to find the correct flights, entered my booking information, chose my seats (nice touch) and finally proceeded to checkout. It wasn’t the best, but certainly not the worst experience I had. Yet.
Upon completion, I was greeted with an error message. They got my order, but had “problems processing your[my] tickets” and I should call customer support. There was a first minor glitch. I used the German translation of the Delta website, but the error message was in English, except for the sentence, that asked me to call customer support, it began in German and half way through switched to English. Finally it said, my “reference number” is _________ and there was only a blank space.
It was Saturday night in Berlin and of course the European Customer support was out partying. So I was transferred to the US “with no additional fees”. The line was worse than anything I knew from Skype. The support folks, while trying to sound supportive and generally slowing down when I mentioned I called from Germany, did not help a lot.
The first lady checked my flight status and told me I had cancelled it. When I objected, she insisted I did cancel it, probably without realising. I tried to explain that unless “buy now” really means, “cancel”, I am pretty sure I did not cancel the flight myself. Until we got there, I had to give her my entire flight itinerary, four flights in total, over the phone. With the bad line, that call took around ten minutes until she insisted transferring me to “online support”. When I asked what they would do, she told me that they would walk me through the website for another try. I said if I should just try again, I can do that on my own and if there would be any problem, I would call again.
So I went through the procedure once again. With the same result, me calling support over the stupid error message. This time, I asked directly for online support to see what they would be able to do. The lady there was very supportive again, found my two attempts to book quickly and said I cancelled both. I explained, again, I did not cancel them and she was happy to book the flight for me over the phone. She asked me to hold for a few moments while she talked to somebody else for this. Ok. All I got was a click and beep-beep-beep, like being hung up on. Now this could have been an accidental wrong button, or the line dropping; whatever it was, it was very unfortunate because I had the feeling that this person would just book me and be done with it.
I called again, this time it took a while to find my flight info. But the guy was as quick as her predecessor in accepting my order by phone. Only to tell me that the total would be around $4000 for all flights, whereas I was quoted not even $1200 on the website. He said he would transfer me to a person that I could talk to about the fare.
One and a half sentences into my explanation of how I got here, the lady here interrupted me, telling me that there was online support and I should be talking to them. I repeatedly told her that online support just transferred me to her and that I do not want to go back, but she just cut me off and made the transfer.
This morning I called Delta again and got to the European customer support. The person here was the fastest finding my, now three(!), cancelled bookings, and quickly proceeded to take the order on the phone. He even booked then at a little lower fare than the website quoted. That should cover the costs of calling the support hotline but not much more.
I am booked now, but that was a pretty awful experience.
I realise that customer support is hard and I realise that for an airline of Delta’s size it is not possible to have everybody “in the know”. But that just illustrates some of the weaknesses of outsourced customer support. If you call more than once, they don’t know anything about previous conversations. Different parts of the organisation move you hither and forth, only wasting your time. The fact that the individual agent is encouraged to process as many calls as possible by the hour, they do get more money then, leads to some just trying to get rid of you. And finally, the fundamental problem was probably the misdirected error message that was unable to quote my reference number that tied all my problems to a case they would hopefully be able to track in their system. An IT-error caused everybody to lose time, money and patience. Yet IT never heard about it, all I talked to, was customer support geard towards closing sales. I do not feel inclined to file a bug report for their website and if it were not for this report, nobody would ever hear about this. For Delta that means that they keep losing money on unnecessary support incidents and leaving customers.
I now have one experience of how bad an airline can be (and this is booking only, I have not flown yet) and I am sure to avoid Delta in the future. Just to get to know the others and hopefully find one I can live with eventually. But my hopes are not that high.
The positive thing is that the problems happened while booking and not while at the airport or while flying. Last year I was delayed for two whole days(!) and had to spend a night in each Seoul and Tokyo one a single trip.
Btw: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ is the best booking engine and powers quite a few on the net. Just search using the powerful query language, pull up the booking details and send them to your travel agent. Works like a charm.
That seems to be the first one that actually works. Wow, thanks!
On Delta - been on flights four times, no issues ever. I loved how I can book online, select my seat and be done with. Don’t remember if I had service objections - probably not.
Last time I booked LTU/Airberlin - not too much fun either. They gave us new tickets half way and so on.
I just hate how most Delta flights have layovers in Paris. I don’t like that airport. :O
hihi. siehe http://magdeburg.webuni.de/?mod=Diary&user=Ponk&id=25301 war auch delta.
Jan, Delta does suck more than the others though. Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways is all pretty straight forwards :)
I personally fly United. They have a reasonable frequent flyer program, and their "Economy Plus" is awesome, $135 extra for 5" extra leg room from Florida -> Chicago/Washington DC -> London Heathrow is so worth it :)
What I really hate is something that I see a lot across all industries — people who assume they know things you don’t, and are not willing to look at things from your point of view.
Let’s say you did cancel the flight…then why would you have gotten the error message? Or rather, why couldn’t they have just set it all aside and just booked you, using the interface themselves? Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
And the woman who interrupted you? sheesh.
I really hate it when people act like they know more than you. Even when they’re right it’s still off-putting, and certainly not appropriate for customer service….even if they are correct.
Would they rather be right and have no customers?
hehe, my collegue is also travelling Delta to Austin in two weeks. With a closer look at his ticket he found that instead of having 4 hour to change in waschington, his connecting flight departs around 20 hours before his flight arrives… how ever this may happen that the connecting flight is booked for a day before by the automated booking system.