The following is a real letter I sent to Delta Airlines through their website–under the categories “complaint” and “customer care,” because I am a customer who cares.
I recently hired you to take me from Springfield, Missouri, to Sydney, Australia, and back again. The trip from Springfield to Memphis to Los Angeles to Sydney was just fine–as good as a long, long flight can be on an airline, which even you have to admit, is mediocre to average at best. That’s based on the fact that a quick Google search of your customer ratings revealed that you average 2-3 out of five stars. But those ratings don’t influence my opinion of you, Delta; I have no complaints about the flight to Australia.
Five weeks later, when I tried to fly home, is a different story, unfortunately.
I flew out of Sydney to Los Angeles, and thirteen hours later, you got me to America at a time earlier than when I left Sydney. Impressive, Delta. But then things started to go downhill.
A nice little layover was scheduled before I was set to fly to Atlanta–Atlanta would connect to Springfield, and I would be home before 9:00PM. I was so confident I would be able to eat a late lunch in Atlanta, I decided to save money in LAX by eating a bunch of Australian cookies (or “biscuits,” they call ’em! Crazy!), which I had with me, for breakfast, like the fat white trash person I’m normally not. I eagerly boarded the plane at around 9:00AM, LA time.
We were set to take off by around 10:30, I believe, but that didn’t happen. Right as we were about to take off, we didn’t, and we continued to not take off. The pilot, politely as can be, informed us that one of the wings wasn’t working. I’m no pilot, I’ve never worked at an airport, I’ve never flown anything, really, and in fact I can barely jump, but I think when one is supposed to leave the ground for four straight hours, he or she should make sure the device ensuring a safe flight is working before a few seconds before takeoff. Various troubleshooting procedures took place, and various maintenance workers worked. The pilot then informed us, after over an hour and a half of sitting on the runway, we had to leave the plane so the wing’s broken flap could be thoroughly repaired.
Back in LAX we were informed that we would be delayed about two hours, so in contrast to my earlier hopes and against my will, but in accordance to my growing hunger, I ate airport McDonald’s, shoving the food into my hanging head, eating my problems like an overweight high school girl.
Then I called one of your agents to see if I was going to miss my connecting flight to Springfield, because after nearly 24 hours of “traveling,” and five weeks of not sleeping in a real bed, there was nothing I wanted more than to be in my own home that night. She was well aware of the delayed flight situation and sweetly told me there was “no way in Hades” I was making it to Springfield tonight. I could either spend the night in LA, Memphis, or Atlanta, depending on how I wanted to fly at some point later that day. I said I’d just wait for the plane to be fixed and stay in Atlanta, afraid I’d lose my checked luggage if I threw you a curveball. Also: I think it’s really cute you’ve hired someone who still believes in Greek mythology.
Hours later I was on a flight, headed to Atlanta. We were scheduled to land just after midnight, Atlanta time. I printed off a hotel voucher for the Quality Inn, a memorable hotel in my mind because one time comedians Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter complained about having to stay there while I was driving them around in Springfield, and printed off two six-dollar food vouchers. I had no idea twelve dollars worth of food made up for depriving me of my time and my bed, but I’m no mathematician. (I focused on the opposite discipline actually–English. I’m a high school English teacher. And it’s good to know that if I ever make my students complete a huge assignment and then I just refuse to grade it, or if I assign them a book to read and then test them over something else entirely, robbing them of a grade they prepared for, I can make it up to them with a “food-IOU” printed on receipt paper.)
I waited for a shuttle to take me to the “Inn of Quality” with about sixty other disgruntled people for a while. Probably 35 minutes or so. Shuttles for Holiday Inn, Marriott, Days Inn, Super 8, and a slew of other hotels came and went. No Quality Inn shuttles. A shuttle driver for another hotel informed us that there was no room at the Inn, and Quality was having the Clarion Hotel take us instead.
Delta, you booked us at an already over-booked hotel. This just seems like sloppy work on your part. At this point I stopped being concerned about my own problems, which in hindsight weren’t that big a deal, and I began to worry about you. This wasn’t the Delta Airlines I knew five weeks ago. Or two years ago when you flew me to Johannesburg and back. Something’s happened to you.
I got almost three hours of sleep, paid for breakfast with one of your pieces of paper, and returned to the Atlanta airport. I used another piece of paper to get the biggest coffee airport Starbucks had to offer and found my gate, which was D38, or something close to that. But that gate said it was boarding for Panama City Beach, FL. I asked one of your employees about that and she told me the gate had been changed to D26. So I went there. Well D26 seemed to be boarding for somewhere in Arkansas and left several potential Springfield-flyers confused. Oh, it had been changed to D22. So we went there. Oops, your representatives told us, it had been changed again to gate C50, which is a terminal so far away, we all took an in-airport subway train to get there.
Delta, what was this crap? Were you having trouble concentrating, keeping organized, or remembering details? Is that why you moved us around so much? Were you just being restless? Did you not care at all–did you stop caring about making your customers happy? You used to love to keep me at one gate, the correct gate, and flying me home on time.
Delta, you are showing the signs of clinical depression.
Delta, is everything OK?
While you were finally flying me home, out of gate C50, all I could do was worry about you. Did Delta go through a rough breakup? Has Delta lost its sense of purpose? Did I do something to hurt you?–not that it’s about me, it isn’t!
If you need space, or someone to talk to, or therapy–just let me know. Seek help. There are thousands of airlines experiencing what you experience every day. But until you get the help you need to stay safe and organized and helpful and faithful to the expensive and carefully calculated plans you make with your customers, you should probably take some time off from being an airline. It’s just embarrassing. And I say that as your friend.