Direct from Delta – Updates on 3 Big Recent Stories

My new role has me interacting quite a bit with our marketing and public relations teams. They recently brought me to a New York PR event where Delta had two of their media relations team members in attendance. I of course took some time (over drinks) to speak with them. I really wanted to watch them try and spin the upcoming SkyMiles “enhancements” but they politely declined.  However, they did have a lot to say about the following three stories (this is the official media relations team responses so take these with a DL corporate skew)…

Michigan Mom’s Mistakenly Voided Ticket – Stranded in Punta Cana – here’s a snippet from the Detroit Free Press article if you’ve forgotten the story:

Karen Smith of Milford was on vacation with her family in the Dominican Republic. On their way home April 12, she printed out her first-class boarding pass and had it scanned by both security and US Airways agents at the Punta Cana boarding gate. Then something went wrong. She was pulled out of the line just as she and her family were about to get on the plane. They took her boarding pass. They said they needed to give her a “flight coupon” back at the counter. They made her stand at the counter so long that the flight took off with her husband and three children aboard and all their luggage. However, the day the family left Detroit, Delta had to make an adjustment to Smith’s ticket at the gate, but — and this is the part that is not supposed to be possible — somehow voided out the entire e-ticket including the US Airways return portion — even though the change did not show up in the US Airways reservations system and the passenger had no way of knowing about the problem. Thus, upon her return from Punta Cana, Smith was able to print out her US Airways first class boarding pass, get it scanned, and nearly board the plane when US Airways agents, noticing for the first time the lack of a valid underlying ticket, pulled her from the line.

Delta wanted us to know that although it was widely reported that they refunded the $1385.30 for Karen’s new ticket home as well as paid her $160 hotel cost, they also offered the family complimentary flights so that they could enjoy a new vacation with confirmed return flights for the entire family.

Delta Landing Aborted After “Joke” from Air Traffic Control – how could you forget this one? Reminder courtesy of the HuffPost:

Back in June, flight 630 was a mere 1,000 feet from the ground over ATL when air traffic control told the pilot to “go around” because he couldn’t land yet. Then, moments later, the controller gave a different instruction: “I’m kidding, Delta 630. After you land, I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right. Delta 630 you’re clear to land on (runway) 27-Left.” It was too late — the plane had already altered course and was forced to climb to roughly 4,000 feet and circle the airport for another 15 minutes, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, while the “joke” was straightened out on the ground.

Delta notes that they continue to fully cooperate with the FAA teams investigating the incident and that behind close doors they consider this a huge safety issue and are doing everything possible to ensure proper corrective action is taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

Farewell to some of the 747s – the early retirement of some of my favorite (and newly renovated) DL jets:

In a startling change of plans, Delta Air Lines today confirmed that it will retire four of its Boeing 747s beginning in September. Employees were notified in a memo penned by Glen Hauenstein the airline’s chief revenue officer. Hauenstein described the decision as way to “reduce Delta’s footprint at Tokyo Narita” and to do less intra-Asia flying. It seems to have taken a lot less time for the airline to do an about face because as recently as two weeks ago cockpit crews were offered opportunities to bid for captain and first officer positions on the jumbo. So they were surprised last week when the offer was rescinded. Regarding the flight crews, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said the company’s plan for them was “still to be communicated.” Boeing 777 and 767s now flying Atlantic routes will be re positioned to the Pacific. The first two 747s will be retired on September 30th and October 1 when the Atlanta -Tokyo and Los Angeles – Tokyo routes are converted to Boeing 777s. Numbers three and four stop flying on October 26 when Detroit – Nagoya will be converted to an Airbus A330 and the Tokyo – Hong Kong and Nagoya – Manila flights will be canceled.

Apparently, many employees are very upset about this announcement and have formed groups to ensure that each 747 is sent off with a special celebration. Celebrations will involve not only the final flight for each jet, but also sporadic flights in the weeks and months leading up to the retirements. No specific details were provided, though the team mentioned that there will be both on-board and gate hosted events. More details to follow…

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