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Canceled / Delayed / Overbooked
COMPLAINT: Delta refusing to issue involuntary denied boarding compensation

 
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  #1  
Old Jun 30, 2012, 3:22 AM
phazelton phazelton is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5

Hello fellow forum members,

I'd appreciate your help with a fairly disheartening recent experience I've had with Delta. On June 22nd, I was flying from Maputo, Mozambique to San Francisco, California on a Delta-issued ticket: LAM Airlines from Maputo to Johannesburg, then onwards on Delta to Atlanta and San Francisco. My problems began when I experienced difficulty in checking in for my LAM flight in Maputo. The LAM agents claimed their carrier had no ticketing arrangement with Delta, and therefore could not issue me a boarding pass. I then called Delta International Reservations Support in Salt Lake City and attempted to get a LAM agent to speak with the Delta agent over the phone. However, the LAM agents were all busy, the Delta agent put me on hold, and I hung up the expensive international call to turn my attention back to persuading the LAM agents to issue me a boarding pass. Finally, shortly before departure time, the LAM station agent took pity on me and issued me what he claimed was a non-revenue standby seat on the plane, and I managed to make the flight just in the nick of time.

Unfortunately upon landing on-time in Johannesburg, I was informed by the Delta ground staff that my confirmed seat on the flight to Atlanta had been cancelled less than two hours earlier, and that I had been reissued a new ticket itinerary for the following day. At the same time, the ground staff informed me that the flight to Atlanta that evening was oversold, and there was no way they could add me back on. I later discovered after several hours on the phone with Delta customer care in Cincinnati that night, that the Delta agent in Salt Lake City had mistakenly thought I would not make my flight in Maputo, and had canceled my onward seats, effectively involuntarily denying me boarding on the oversold flight that evening.

While waiting for 24 hours in Johannesburg, I befriended the three fellow passengers who had been "officially" involuntarily denied boarding on the Atlanta flight, but who unlike me, all were offered hotel and food accommodation in Johannesburg, as well as $650 in monetary compensation. Now it's a week later, and after writing numerous messages and placing several calls to Delta corporate customer care in Atlanta, I have succeeded in receiving a $300 travel voucher and reimbursement for my $125 in hotel expenses in Johannesburg. However, after escalating my calls several levels within corporate customer care, I was informed by an agent that the Atlanta flight that evening was "not oversold," there was no involuntary denied boarding compensation issued to anyone on that flight, and therefore none can be issued to me.

I've since reported a complaint to the DOT and to the Better Business Bureau, and sent an email on Wednesday to the CEO's office asking for $1300 in involuntary denied boarding compensation, which is the amount listed in Rule 87 of Delta's international Contract of Carriage, when no qualifying alternative transportation is provided, as was the case for me in being stranded for 24 hours in Johannesburg. I also stated in my email to the CEO that if I don't receive this compensation by July 22d (one month after the incident), that I will file a claim in Small Claims Court to recover the full amount.

Any advice from my savvy fellow Delta travelers? Does this seem worth continuing? I should also note that I have the names for the three fellow passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding, as well as the ticket number and check receipt for one of them, which reads: "Involuntary DBC, Flight #DL 201, Date Jun 12, From JNB to ATL, DL."
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  #2  
Old Jun 30, 2012, 5:40 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 745

I think they will have to go to the phone recording in SLC to find out what was actually said to make the agent think you were canceling your flight. By hanging up, you weren't able to clear up any misunderstandings. If the last thing the Delta agent heard from you is "LAM won't let me on board and I can't make my flight," what would you think or do, especially if the passenger then hung up the call?
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  #3  
Old Jun 30, 2012, 6:08 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Location: Shropshire, England
Posts: 3,197

I would take that to small claims. You have a lot of detail and I suspect you would have a better than even chance of prevailing. I would do it anyway, just tonannoy them and cause them the inconvenience and cost of defending their actions.
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  #4  
Old Jul 1, 2012, 5:57 PM
phazelton phazelton is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5

Thanks for your quick responses Gromit and Jim. Just to clarify, Delta does not dispute that the Salt Lake City agent was in error in canceling the onward confirm seats to Atlanta and San Francisco - hence the $300 travel voucher and Johannesburg hotel reimbursement. What Delta does dispute at this stage is whether or not Delta Flight 201 JNB-ATL on 6/22 was in fact oversold. Delta Corporate Customer Care claims the flight was not oversold, no involuntary denied boarding compensation was issued to any passengers, and therefore none can be issued to me.

However, this assertion directly conflicts with my experience of being told by the Delta ground staff in Johannesburg on 6/22 that, "I'm sorry this flight is oversold, and there's no way we can get you back on." I also waited with my three fellow involuntarily denied boarding passengers as the Delta ground staff attempted (to no avail - all seats taken) that evening to re-book us on a South African Airways flight to JFK. As noted above, I've also shared with Delta Corporate Customer Care the names of the three fellow passengers, as well as the ticket number and $650 Delta-issued check receipt for one of them, which reads: "Involuntary DBC, Flight #DL 201, Date Jun 12, From JNB to ATL, DL."

So, I think the happiest resolution at this point would be to get an additional Delta official to review the Delta 201 flight records for 6/22, as well as the records for involuntary denied boarding compensation issued to my fellow passengers that evening. I do believe that if that research is appropriately conducted, Delta will agree to issue me the compensation that is due. However, if I can't get that to happen, my only option appears to be the unhappy one - for all parties involved - of taking Delta to Small Claims Court.

Any additional thoughts on how to resolve this, say on how to get another Delta official to review the evidence, would be warmly appreciated. I may also need guidance on best practices for initiating the Small Claims process. Thanks again for all your helpful comments - this is proving to be an invaluable forum.
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  #5  
Old Jul 1, 2012, 6:05 PM
phazelton phazelton is offline
 
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Oops - sorry typo on that last post. The check receipt reads: "Involuntary DBC, Flight #DL 201, Date Jun 22, From JNB to ATL, DL."
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  #6  
Old Jul 2, 2012, 4:17 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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Good to have the extra information.
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  #7  
Old Jul 3, 2012, 6:31 PM
phazelton phazelton is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5

Delta's CEO office just called to offer me and I accepted an additional $350 travel voucher and an apology for several Delta phone agents repeatedly failing to alert me of a ticketing problem with my LAM flight from Maputo to Johannesburg on 6/22. According to this representative, Delta issued the ticket on LAM on 6/19, but the LAM system repeatedly rejected the ticket in their system between 6/19 and 6/22, which explains why LAM was unable to see my ticket when I attempted to check-in on 6/22 in Maputo.

Unfortunately, none of the THREE Delta phone agents I spoke to that week - on 6/19, early on 6/22 when I re-confirmed my ticket via a call to Delta Reservations, and on 6/22 in my final emergency call to Salt Lake City from Maputo airport - none of these agents were able to detect that LAM was rejecting Delta's ticketing request, and thereby alert me to the crisis headed my way at the airport. So the Delta CEO representative was willing to offer the additional voucher as further compensation for these failures.

Although I do still believe I could take Delta to Small Claims for being involuntarily denied boarding for the oversold DL 201 flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta on 6/22, at this point I'm more than happy to accept the extra travel voucher and apology from a Delta official who was finally polite and fairly reasonable in her offer of accommodations.

And for me the moral of the story is: 1.) Don't trust small carriers like LAM Mozambican Airlines with e-ticketing arrangements, 2.) Don't trust Delta phone agents to make ticketing arrangements with small carriers like LAM, and 3.) Be firm and persistent with Delta Customer Care. I think by steadily escalating my way up the chain of command, and by finally pressing the legal Contract of Carriage argument for involuntary denied boarding compensation, I was able to get a higher-level official to call me directly on my cell phone and be fairly reasonable in response.
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  #8  
Old Jul 4, 2012, 12:08 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Shropshire, England
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I have to be honest and say that I do not think Delta have been reasonable at all. You have documentary evidence that there was denied boarding on that flight and proof positive that another passenger was issued with compensation for this. How Delta could sustain this position in court is beyond me.

Furthermore, if you were denied boarding, you were entitled to cash compensation. Vouchers are not an appropirate substitute, as they often come with conditions which significantly lessen their value and they expire. Worst of all, they force you to travel on the incompetent airline who put you in this position in the first place.

When there is systematic failure like this... where you spoke to numerous representatives, none of whom resolved the issue and then you were forced to escalate the complaint higher to achieve a second rate resolution.

I would have persisted and had my day in court... of course, I respect the fact that for many this is not a good option and you may feel it was the best offer you were likely to get.

Delta have been allowed to emerge from bankruptcy into a near monopoly in many markets. They behave with the arrogance of an airline that knows that regulators are asleep at the wheel.

Did the DOT do anything?
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  #9  
Old Jul 5, 2012, 7:04 PM
phazelton phazelton is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5

Hi Jim, you're entirely right - Delta's response here was second-rate. There's no question that Delta's customer service policy is to deny everything and only issue compensation when absolutely pushed to the limit. In this case, threatening legal action got me additional travel vouchers, which I agree is not consistent with the DOT law requiring monetary compensation. However, after already losing 24 hours in day-of-travel time due to Delta service incompetence, and then an additional 10 or so unpleasant hours spent on the phone and over email with Delta Customer Care, I've decided I need to move on with other priorities in my life.

Maybe I will reconsider at some point and take Delta to Small Claims for refusing to follow the law. It certainly seems the only way to get this company to do anything in a customer's favor is to pressure them with legal action. In the meantime, I will move all my business trips to Star Alliance carriers, which this year at least, have not let me down. Plus I've found United's MileagePlus program to be infinitely more generous and easy to use than Delta's SkyMiles program.

And no, I've not heard back from the DOT regarding my complaint. Thanks again for your help Jim and Gromit.
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