In today's posting I want to share a travel experience I had with Delta Airlines this week.
On Monday of this week I had to travel to a company located in Youngstown, Ohio to perform and operational assessment. In doing so, I had to fly into Pittsburgh where I met up with a fellow employee and then we drove to our destination. The assessment was to take two days, so on Wednesday I was to fly back home. Because I live near Atlanta, Georgia, I was very concerned about the weather on my return flight. The week prior, as most of you know from television accounts, Atlanta doesn't handle snow and ice well at all....but that's another story. The weather forecast called for snow and freezing rain for my return home flight, so I was expecting flight cancellations and mine was likely to be one of them. We did the operation's assessment on Tuesday and Wednesday, as scheduled which went very well according to the company executives.
On Tuesday night, my fellow employee received notification from American Airlines that his flight was cancelled, but I received nothing from Delta. My fellow employee was connecting in Charlotte, NC and the weather projections there, were the same as Atlanta. I contacted Delta, just to make sure I hadn't missed a flight cancellation notice, but they assured me that my flight was still on schedule. On Wednesday morning I checked again as I did throughout the day and again, no cancellation notice was disseminated. Finally at around 4:00 PM, I received my notice of cancellation. Since my flight was scheduled for 7:00PM, it didn't leave me much time to make hotel accommodations. Since my fellow employee had been notified on Tuesday, he did have ample time to make arrangements.
Since my original return flight was a non-stop flight, I expected the same on the way home. But what I actually received was the following. On Thursday, I was to board a flight from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati around noon. From Cincinnati, I was to fly to Baltimore, Maryland and then catch a flight to Atlanta, I immediately saw a problem with this travel itinerary because the storm was heading up the East coast, so the probability of another flight cancellation in Baltimore was quite high. I called Delta and explained my situation and the agent was very accommodating. He scheduled me for a direct flight at 7:00 PM which was scheduled to land in Atlanta around 9:00PM which was the same time as my Baltimore flight was to land. So my first thought was, if there were seats on the Pittsburgh to Atlanta flight, why would Delta schedule me for Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Atlanta? I thought to myself, this is not a company that has my best interests in mind. It was apparent that Delta's primary goal was to just get me on a flight, any flight, so that my time waiting for a flight would be minimized. After all, if we just get Bob on a flight at noon, he would be happier than if he had to wait until 7:00PM for a direct flight. I assume that was Delta's thinking, but it certainly wasn't mine!!
I decided to go to the airport early to talk to an agent face-to-face. I got there around 11:30AM on Thursday and discussed my dilemma with a gate agent. Immediately she told me that she was going to put me on stand-by for the 1:00PM and the 3:30PM flights. I wondered to myself, "Why didn't anyone from Delta tell me to do this in the first place?" The good news is, because of my medallion status on Delta, I was able to fly home on the 1:00PM flight and land around 3:00PM. Now why am I writing about this saga on my blog? The answer is, it's very relevant! If companies are truly concerned about customer satisfaction, then they must put the interests of the customer first!! Did Delta do that with me? Absolutely not! I don't blame Delta for the cancellation, but I do blame them for the series of events which took place as a result of the cancellation.
First, it was very clear that, because of the weather forecast, there was almost a 100% probability of a flight cancellation. If the probability was that high, why did Delta wait until only three hours before the scheduled flight to notify me of the cancellation. If they were customer focused, this would have happened on Tuesday like American Airlines did for my fellow worker. I had to scramble to get a hotel room and to notify my rental car agency that I needed the car for an extra day. Because I had to wait until the last minute to get a hotel room, the price of the room jumped from $88/night (my fellow employee's rate) to $145/night!
Second, it was also very clear to me that again, because of the weather forecast, the scheduled flight from Cincinnati to Baltimore was ridiculous! Why in the world would Delta fly me into the path of an on-coming winter storm when they had to know that the Baltimore flight would be canceled, which by the way, it was? In addition, maybe I should have known to come to the airport early for a stand-by flight, but the fact is, if Delta was truly focused on their customers, they would have immediately placed me on stand-by status for earlier flights and instructed me to be at the airport in time to potentially catch an earlier flight.
My intention was not to single out Delta for their apparent lack of customer focus, but rather to point out to companies how important it is to put the customer first. It matters not whether it's an airline or a manufacturing company, companies must put themselves in the shoes of the customer. If, for example, a manufacturing company knows that an order is going to be late, they shouldn't wait until the last minute to notify the customer that their order won't be arriving on time so that the customer can make other arrangements. Customers have earned the right to be treated fairly.....haven't they?