In an Emergency, Does Delta Elite Status Mean Anything?

I consider myself an extremely compassionate person, and while I feel for this Delta million-miler, I’m not really sure what else Delta could have done differently. John Goglia over at Forbes asks How Much Delta Loyalty Can An Elite Traveler Expect In An Emergency? One Flier’s Surprising Story, in which he recounts the story of a colleague and Delta million-miler who needed to get home ASAP from Europe last week after her daughter had emergency surgery and was in the hospital in New York. He notes that the story is “surprising”, but I didn’t find it surprising at all…maybe I’m just jaded?  Unlike the colleague, I wouldn’t have had much faith that Delta’s SkyTeam partners Alitalia and Air France / KLM, would be able to assist a Delta million-miler in making a change to a DL award ticket, regardless of the circumstances…a bit sad I guess. So readers, after completing the full story, what say you?

Monday morning I received a call no parent ever wants to receive, especially thousands of miles from home.  My daughter had to have emergency surgery and was in the hospital.  Of course, I wanted to get back home to New York as soon as possible.  As it happened, I was scheduled to return the next day on a Business class ticket I had purchased with frequent flier miles.  I immediately called Delta to try to advance my return by one day in any seat available.  After more than forty minutes on the phone the best the Elite Service desk could offer me was a flight that morning to Rome. And I could buy a one-way coach ticket for $3500 from Rome to JFK. I took the first part of Delta’s offer because I was running out of time to get to the airport for the flight to Rome where I thought more options would be available. I didn’t believe that with seats available Delta wouldn’t find a way to help out a long-time, loyal Delta passenger.  I was wrong. To make a long story short, after I arrived in Rome at 11:30 in the morning, none of Delta’s Sky Team partners at the airport ticket desks– Alitalia and Air France – could offer any help.  In fact, five of the six ticket agents…

Read the remainder of the story here and then leave your comment below! Also, important to note that Delta’s own direct flight to JFK was discontinued for the season last Monday, I know because I was still in Rome and had to fly FCO-CDG-EWR to get home on Friday! Of course, the two daily Alitalia joint-venture direct flights to JFK continue to operate throughout the winter.

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Comments

  1. I read the whole story (though the link here wasn’t working, I found it online) and I think Delta was disgustingly wrong. You have an emergency situation (involving a child), with an elite customer, who has no history of having done something like this before (and is therefore not trying to game the system), with seats available that wouldn’t have otherwise been occupied, and you’re unable/unwilling to do anything?!? There was nothing unreasonable in what she was asking. This is corporate ugliness, inhumane, and wholly unnecessary. Delta gained nothing, gave stress to a family, and hurt their own reputation. (And their phone system is clearly designed to frustrate, not aid their customers.) These are the moments when corporations show their stripes, and whether they are run by thinking, feeling people, or by an inflexible adherence to a rulebook. I have had experiences with American and jetBlue (neither as dire as this), where they have shown that people are what are important, and they have gained my loyalty.

  2. Let me start out by saying I’ve talked about leaving Delta for 2 years. I haven’t because when I’m most upset they always do something really nice. Like get me home when I over slept and missed my flight and no charges to me.
    This gentleman doesn’t tell us what she was having surgery for. Being in the Medical field many people consider a knee surgery a emergancy. Yes it is serious but not like a cardiac arrest. If it was that serious he probably would have said what it was. Delta had no contol over the Alitalia flight and he was on a FF ticket. So in the end the worst part was having trouble getting a hold of Delta. We all know that’s a problem even in the States. I would have stayed on my scheduled flights and keep in touch with someone at home on how things were progressing. He had all this agitation to get back 2 1/2 hrs. sooner?
    Yes I get frustrated with Delta but then when I fly someone else it usually is worse.

  3. Sorry if my comments sound harsh, but I’ve been on the other end were the Hospital keeps the pt. on life support until family gets there to say their Good Byes. I’m always a little suspicious when the emergancy is not spelled out.

  4. DL status doesn’t mean that much anyway. It was great until about 4 years ago, then it became worth less than the plastic it was printed on.

  5. I am a Delta Platinum and I find this story quite shocking. From my experience Delta has bent over backwards time and time again for me. However, I was always flying on Delta Metal. Code share partners and alliance partners can be tricky and your status on one might not help too much when it comes to partner airlines. That is just the way the system currently works.

    I do not understand why he was not able to reach a Delta Agent. Whenever I have called the elite desk they answer almost right away or within a couple minutes. They can be reached 24/7, 365 days a year. I don’t know why in his case he could not make contact.

    Delta Airlines has great elite reps who are knowledgeable, helpful, and caring. I am surprised by this story and I do not think we have all the facts.

    • This is exactly what I thought. Not having kids, but for my family if I needed to get home immediately I would have no problem cancelling a mileage ticket and paying cash. Obviously she’s trying to save money and/or stay in J, but if being with her daughter wasn’t worth $3500 it probably doesn’t need to be written about.

  6. So odd she didn’t accept buying the one-way ticket from Rome. Or that she doesn’t mention where she is originating.

    For a million miler she should be pretty well versed in how important it is to just get a seat and deal with it later.

  7. Delta was a little weak on this I think but on the other hand they can’t control everything. I think what people fail to understand is that Delta is a US carrier relying on European partners to assist or happen to have a route available.
    I agree with the “emergency” comments. If it was that important why wouldn’t you just ask and then buy a direct ticket on your own buck. Your a million miler surely you’ve had to buy a few tickets on the way.

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