Monday, May 25, 2009

Nastygram: Delta & Atlantic Southeast Airlines

I don't know why Jeremy and I always seem to have problems with airlines and flying.

There was the time Delta lost our suitcases when we flew into Idaho Falls the night before Jeremy's sister's wedding. They told us to buy what we needed and they'd reimburse us, so we did. After the wedding was over, they found our suitcases and delivered them to us. Then they didn't want to reimburse us.

There was the time Jordan almost didn't let us leave the country because of their mistake on Miriam and my visas.

Then there was the OTHER time Jordan almost didn't let us leave the country. That time, they let us go after extorting $800 from us. (You can read that whole story - and it's a good one, with a special bonus featuring a left-behind carry-on suitcase - here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

This newest nastygram results from something that happened over a year ago. Jeremy traveled to Wisconsin to present at a linguistics conference, and volunteered to be bumped from his returning flight to Tucson. It meant he'd be away from Miriam and pregnant me for an additional night, but in return, he'd receive a $400 Delta Airlines flight voucher. Flight vouchers are like gold when you live as far away from family as we do, so he jumped at the chance.

Last month, I took that flight voucher to the airport to redeem it for a ticket, and was told that it wasn't a voucher at all, but a receipt. For a check. A check worth $400. A check, most importantly, that we hadn't received.

The Delta employees at the airport tried to tell me that we had received a check, and so that was the end of it. I countered with the fact that when someone gives you a $400 check, you remember it, and cash it, and we had done neither. The employees admitted I was right, and kept my documentation so they could hash it out with Atlantic Southeast Airlines, who had (supposedly) issued the check, on my behalf.

Two weeks later, Delta called and told me they just didn't have time to pursue the matter for me, so could I please do it myself? I was happy to do so - though I wish they would have told me that in the first place so that we hadn't all wasted two weeks. Also, they still had all my documentation, and I really didn't want to drive back to the airport to get it.

So it was with great skepticism of success (and also with kids climbing all over my lap) that I wrote a nastygram to Atlantic Southeast Airlines explaining the situation and asking for our $400. Here's the text of the letter, though it's neither very interesting nor very indignant, so I won't feel bad if you skip over it:

My husband was bumped from a Delta flight last April. I am seeking the issue or re-issue of a $400 check that should have been given to my husband at that time, but wasn’t.

Jeremy Palmer was scheduled to fly out of Madison on 27 April 2008, on ticket number [###]. Delta gate staff asked for volunteers to give up their seats on the flight in exchange for a $400 flight voucher. Jeremy volunteered, and the staff re-organized his itinerary (final destination TUS) and issued him with what we thought was a $400 Delta travel voucher (the number referenced on the papers was [###]). When he arrived home in Tucson on his new itinerary, on 28 April 2008, we tucked the voucher away in our files until such time as we decided to use it.

That time came last Monday, 27 April 2009. I gathered the documents Jeremy had received from Delta in Madison the previous April and took them to the airport in Tucson to purchase a ticket. At that time, I was informed by airport Delta staff that the documents I had were not a $400 travel voucher at all, but a receipt for a $400 check that had been issued. However, Jeremy never received a check.

The Tucson Delta staff also told me that the $400 check appeared to have been issued for an involuntary seat loss, not a voluntary one as was actually the case.

Due to the discrepancies in our situation, Tucson Delta staff kept most of the voucher documentation that I had and said they would try to contact Atlantic Southeast to determine the status of the check that was supposedly issued to Jeremy in Madison in April 2008, but which he never received. They left me with one document, a passenger receipt, which I have included in this fax. It is the only piece of information I have about this situation, as the rest of the documentation remains with Tucson airport Delta staff. The staff there have since told me that I need to pursue my problem with you, which I am hoping to do without having to drive all the way back out to the airport to retrieve the documents they kept.

Can you please track down the $400 check that was supposedly issued to my husband in April 2008? If it was issued, he never received it, it was never cashed, and we would like a replacement check. If it was not issued, we would like to have it issued and sent to us as soon as possible.

Again, the originating ticket number where Jeremy volunteered to be bumped from the flight is [###]. The number on the voucher I have is [###]. Jeremy’s SkyMiles number is [###].

I was positive I would have to pursue the manner with multiple follow-up, highly adversarial phone calls and photocopies of documents and bank statements.

Instead, what I got was an email telling me essentially, "You were right. We're sending you $400."

Awesome. I just love it when people - even people in the refunds department - have common sense and aren't afraid to make restitution to a wronged customer. Bravo, Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

So maybe this isn't a nastygram after all. I did write a nastygram, but since it achieved its desired result with no further effort on my part, what does that make it? I'm not sure. I'm just glad it worked out.


The Ensign's said...

I have bad luck with this kind of stuff too. Most of the time it's cell phone companies. Or the time I had to pay for my anesthesiologist because he wasn't covered by my plan It wasn't my fault that the on call anesthesiologist wasn't on my plan, yet I had to pay. What was I suppose to do call all the hospitals before hand to see who might be on call the day of my surgery.
Soooo I'm with you on this bad luck stuff.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

A happy ending! Glad you didn't have to endure 5 months of "Mendoza" & another 3 months of faceless people at RJ (who did eventually pay up, thanks RJ!).

Kristen said...

That is not a nastygram in any sense of the word. Your matter-of-fact writing may well have played a role in your prompt, positive response from the company too.

Liz Johnson said...

I'm so glad that this ended the way it did!! Delta is on my "good company" list, so I'm glad that I didn't have to take them off.

FYI, I still laugh at the "Mendoza" thing. Our SUPER LOUD air conditioning unit in South Bend often comes on at random times (interrupting whatever we're saying/doing at the time), and I have renamed it "Mendoza," so that I can yell at it and shake my fist when it interrupts me. Ha! I love it.

sarah said...

heehee! awesome. If I ever have a situation like that with an airline, I'm asking you for help! :)

Katie said...

That's great that it was finally resolved. I would write a very nice thank you note to the person who finally resolved it for you. They probably have to read nastygram's all day long, and chances are that they are never the person who makes the mistake in the first place.


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