Delta, Iota, Epsilon….Delta

Best Experienced With:    Noah and the Whale;    L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N

(Please right click on the link below to open the suggested background music to this morning’s examination of how to not handle poor customer experiences)


Below is the letter I sent to Delta Airlines this morning in response to their form email asking for feedback on my “delayed” flight from Memphis to Minneapolis on June 23, 2011.

Dear Daniel C,We are very sorry that your flight was delayed on June 23, 2011. Your feedback on this experience is important to us. We ask that you please provide feedback on your experience using the survey at the link below. The survey is between 4 and 12 questions, targeting your specific circumstances, and should only take a couple of minutes to complete. We thank you in advance for your feedback and again offer our deepest apologies for this inconvenience.

Dear Delta:

You just sent me another survey saying:  “We are very sorry that your flight was delayed on June 23, 2011. Your feedback on this experience is important to us”.  Thanks for asking how my flight 2275 from Memphis to Minnesota went last week!    Saying my flight was simply “delayed” is like saying the Cleveland Cavaliers “didn’t have a great season” last year.    Both descriptors vastly understate the awfulness that was last year’s Cleveland hoop team or my extra time spent in Minneapolis last Thursday.

“Delayed” would mean I got home Thursday night as planned and did not have to reschedule and miss several Friday meetings.  My trip back to San Diego was “really, really, really, really really, super delayed” because instead of walking into my house at 7:45 p.m. Thursday evening, I walked into my house at 3:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon.    To put this in perspective, that’s the expected life of a Mayfly.

In a perfect world, my flight would have gone like this:

Flight: Delta 2275
Departs: 1:50 pm from Memphis, Tennessee
Arrives: 3:56 pm at Minneapolis – St Paul, Minnesota
Seats: 03C
Meals: Refreshments
Gate: See Airport Monitors
Flight: Delta 1787
Departs: 5:05 pm from Minneapolis – St Paul, Minnesota
Arrives: 6:52 pm at San Diego, California
Meals: View menu options
Gate: See Airport Monitors

Instead, it went precisely like this:

11:30 a.m.:  I arrive at Memphis airport and check my bag.   I always check my bag because you have these wonderful, large baggage storage areas under the place where I sit every day.   Furthermore, I believe in a fast boarding process and those with carryon luggage tend to slow down the throughput.    Finally, I check a bag because I am often gone for four or five nights and I bring along several suits.   I have a lot of suits and enjoy wearing all of them, wrinkle free.   Those tiny carryon bags will mess your suit up if you wear a size 50 suit.   FYI.

12:40 p.m.:    Flight shows that it will now leave Memphis at 2:25 p.m. instead of 1:50

12:42 p.m.:    Noticing there are several flights from Memphis to Detroit, Salt Lake City, and Cincinnati available, I ask the gate agent if she really believes we will leave at 2:25.   My connect was one hour with the 1:50 departure.    Gate agent assures me I will have plenty of time to connect in Minneapolis.    I ask what the load looks like on the 9:55 p.m. from Minneapolis to SAN and she says “over sold”.     I ask again if, since we have other opportunities to get me home, perhaps we should reroute me.   Also explained that I would willingly give up my upgrade and sit in a middle seat on a rerouted flight because I had been travelling all week, each week, for the previous month and very much wanted to get home Thursday night.    She assures me that we will be fully boarded and taxiing at 2:26.

Looking at the group in the boarding lobby, I pointed out the group of fifty or so high schoolers and bet her twenty dollars that we would not be boarded until 2:45 and there was no way I would make my 5:05.   Once again I requested to go a different route home.   She said that she could not put me on a different flight because the Memphis to Minneapolis one still showed that I could make my connection.

2:10 p.m.:  We begin boarding

2:45 p.m.:  We finish boarding (kids slowed us down significantly)

2:55 p.m.:  We take off

4:52 p.m.:  We land

5:03 p.m.:  I walk off plane to see that I have missed my 5:05 p.m. flight home.

5:10 p.m.:  I head to Sky Club and discuss my options with a very nice woman working the front desk there.    She explains that there is no way I will get on the 9:55 p.m. flight home and that she will put me on standby for both the 9:20 a.m. and 11:18 a.m. on Friday.   Further, she calls immediately and puts a note in the record to pull my bag.   She suggests I wait for an hour and then go pick up my bag.   She also gives me a bag of toiletries in the event anything goes awry.     As I leave she assures me that since my flight landed only ten minutes ago, Delta would be able to get my bag to me on baggage carousel six.

6:20 p.m.    My bag is not on baggage carrousel six or anywhere near the baggage area. After a twenty minute wait in line at baggage services near baggage carrousel six, I get to the front of the line.   Below is the exchange:

Me:  “Hello, the woman up at the Sky Club requested my bag get pulled because do to your flight being late from ATL to MEM, I missed my 5:05 flight from MIN to SAN.”

Her:  “Your bag is not down here”

Me:  “That is very clear to me.   Were my bag here, I’d be in a taxi heading to a hotel instead of having this wonderful conversation with you.   I waited in line specifically to ask you if perhaps you could find where my bag is and when it might get to here.”

Her:  (sighs) “I guess I can call someone”.   Calls.   Talks for a bit.   Asks what the other person’s last name is, then asks how the other person’s mother is.   They have a nice conversation for a few minutes while I wait.   None of the conversation has anything remotely to do with the two of them solving my bag challenge.

Her: “They say they it will probably be here in 20 minutes, so you should wait 20 minutes”

Me:  “Wait 20 minutes and then get back in the 15 minute line…or wait 5 minutes and then get in the 15 minute line…or stay right here in front of you for the next 20 minutes?   Can you please be more precise?”

Her:   “Well, I’m getting off work right now so you will have to wait in line again”

Me:  “What are the odds they are going to get my bag to me?”

Her:  “What do you mean?  I can’t tell you if they can find your bag”

Me:  “In other word, if you have 100 people in this exact same situation, of that 100 people, how many folks would actually have a bag show up here at baggage carosell six?”

Her:  “Ten”

Me:  “OK, so in the future, if you get that same question, the answer is ‘the odds are 10% that you will get your bag.’   Or, you could say ‘one in ten’”   Both would be an accurate answer to my question ‘what are the odds’.   Does that make sense to you?”

Her:  “Sir, I have to leave”

Me:  “Not yet.    May I please have the name and number of the person you called so that I can call them after you leave and see if they found my bag?   Otherwise, I will just get in a cab right now and leave.”

Her:  “Sir, you can give me your number and I will call them.   I cannot give you that number.”

Me:  “But you’re leaving”

Her:  “Someone else will call and then call you.”

Me:  “Here’s my card.   Now, please walk me through the process and how it is going to unfold.    Who will be calling who in how many minutes and then when will they call my cell?   Please bring that person to me so that I can meet them and get verification that they are going to call me when you leave.    Want to make sure we are all on the same page.

Her: “Let me get my supervisor”

She goes and gets her supervisor.     I once again explain what the woman in the Sky Club told me to do and ask if perhaps I can leave, go to a hotel, and they can bring me my bag so that I do not have to sit in the airport any longer.

Supervisor:  “We only deliver bags that we lose to homes or hotels.”

Me:  “Well, clearly you have lost my bag”

Supervisor:  “Sir, your bag is not lost.”

Me:  “Oh, good!   Well, please tell me precisely where it is, I will go get it and then I can change out of this suit when I get to the hotel.   I’ve been in this suit for twelve hours and would like to throw on some shorts.   This is great news.   My bag is not lost!”

Supervisor:  “Sir, you know that is not what I meant.    I will personally call you in twenty minutes and see what we can do.”

Me:  “Well, it’s been twenty minutes already, so how about you call right now?”

Supervisor:  “Please go wait over there, there is a line behind you.”

Me:  “You’re going to call that person and then call me in twenty minutes?

Supervisor:  “Yes, Mr. Mulligan”

Me:  “Thank you”

7:20 p.m.    Supervisor and first woman to whom I spoke disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

At 7:30 p.m., realizing my bag was never showing up, I left and found a cab.  Had the cab take me to a Walgreen’s where I bought a blue three dollar tee shirt, a brush and some hair product.   I did not buy toothpaste because I thought there would be toothpaste in the little bag that your folks gave me.    Then, at 11:00 p.m., I was standing there in my blue Walgreen’s tee shirt looking at the toothpasteless bag of toiletries wondering why the heck Delta would enclose a small plastic bag of clothes detergent, yet no toothpaste.

If you miss a flight, you have between eight and ten hours to sleep and such before heading back to the airport.    How can you possibly hand wash and dry something in a hotel sink in that time period?   Is there some sort of quick dry material that I am unaware of?  If so, please email me a link to this material because I will wear a suit, socks, shirt, and underwear of that quick dry material the next time I fly and avail myself of your small plastic bag of laundry detergent when you get me stuck somewhere again.

Back to the toothpaste.   Or lack thereof.    If you recall, I was standing at the sink in my blue Walgreen’s three dollar tee shirt looking down at my dry Delta toothbrush.    In case you want the full visual there is a script “Minnesota!” on the front, underlined across the entire word.   My suit and blue dress shirt were in the bathroom where I had steamed them somewhat to remove the travel scents.     Thus, they were somewhat moist.   I threw the suit and shirts back on, put on my dress shoes and walked down to the front desk of the hotel to get some toothpaste.

Given that I have flown over 100,000 miles on Delta virtually every year for the past eighteen, figured you would want to get a very precise answer to your question “how did we take care of you when we made you miss your connection in Minneapolis and then could not get you on the next flight that evening”?    None of multiple choice answers on the emailed survey truly captured the twenty wasted hours of my life.

Most of us that have challenges flying each week forget about them when we get back home.    It’s like childbirth, I would imagine, although I never procreated.   My sisters all have children, though, as do most of my friends.

You should fire the genius who thought it was a good idea to send an email two days later reminding us of the awful experience we had.    The only reason I am sending you this is an email popped into my box asking “how did we do”.    How about you take me off of that “how did we do” email push when you mess up my travel?   I’d rather forget about it and think about next week’s adventures.   Attached to this letter you will find the other twenty-six surveys I have received since January 1, 2011 asking me to explain how my experience was after a “delayed” flight.     That’s one per week, on average.

Finally, through June 24th this year, you have gotten me home late half of the weeks I have flown.   Half.    While that type of batting average might get you into Cooperstown, it’s not a strong average for getting me home after a long week.    That’s how my experience was.

How was your week?

Best Regards,

Dan Mulligan

Diamond Medallion by August, 2011 (at 113,000 miles for 2011 through today)

Million Miler

PS:  That gate agent in Memphis owes me twenty bucks


Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “Delta, Iota, Epsilon….Delta

  1. Anne

    Brilliant! I would be curious about their reply. 🙂

  2. Your Older Sister

    That was awesome! Do you think they will give me (your sister) some free flights??? Have a great day sir!

  3. Sat on the tarmac in DTW last week for a few hours on a 6 PM American flight on a puddle jumper back to ORD. The pilot and attendant did a great job updating us… but just like some of the world’s supercomputers, they couldn’t do much with garbage in. Two hours into our tarmac tango, the pilot would come on and say, “I just spoke with air traffic control about our flight to Chicago. They promised us that in 20 minutes, they would contact us again with the wrong information.” Needless to say, not even the American crew got a spot in the hotel that night, and our rescheduled 6 AM flight left the next day at 2 PM. I get the Mother Nature factor; what I don’t get is the poor customer service.

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