Friends do not let friends fly Delta

by Alek Davis

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit here. Like many domestic airlines, Delta sucks, but if the price is right, take your chances. However, here is an advice:

Never purchase a ticket for a trip originating outside of the U.S.A. online.

I mean: NEVER! Let me explain why. Actually, let me tell you a short story.

About a month ago I was shopping for a ticket for my mother who was planning to fly from Moscow, Russia, to San Francisco, California. A one-stop Delta flight (with transition in New York) came out one of the cheapest at all search engines I tried (Bing, Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity, etc). The round-trip ticket price on all search engine sites was the same: $1,282 (U.S. dollars, including all taxes and fees). It was not the cheapest ticket, but transition time was good and I liked that it involved a single carrier, so I decided to go with Delta. I first wanted to order the ticket at Orbitz, but then thought: why not buy it directly from Delta?

When I switched to Delta online reservations, I was surprised to see the ticket price quoted in Euros. Puzzled, I called Delta reservations, asked for a quote for the same trip (I specified the same dates and flight numbers), and got the same price as the search engines showed: $1,282. I did not want to pay the phone booking surcharge, so I expressed my concerns about the online booking and this is is what the representative told me.

  • Since the flight originated in Europe, the price appeared in Euros.
  • The online ticket price (expressed in Euros) should be the same as the price the representative quoted.
  • Because my credit card billing address was in the U.S., the charge would be in U.S. dollars.

It made sense, but just to make sure, the reservations agent transferred me to the online support representative, who verified all these points with her manager, so I proceeded with booking the ticket online.

To my surprise, a few days later, I noticed a credit card charge from Delta Airlines in the amount of $1,354.45 ($72.45 higher than I had expected). I called Delta and the representative started bullshitting me. She said that the price I expected was for different flights (???), that the price must have changed between the time I got a phone quote and the time when I submitted the order (5-10 minutes), etc. In short, she refused to make an adjustment and was quite rude. I then submitted a request for the best fare guarantee. Even though, the price hardly changed (it went up by $10 on all search engines), I got denied the price adjustment because I had missed the 24-hour window. I also submitted a charge dispute to my credit card, but the investigation concluded that this was a gray-area case which did not qualify for a charge-back. Finally, I complained to Better Business Bureau, but luckily, one of the connection flights of the trip was rescheduled, and I was able to return the ticket for a promised full refund, so I closed the complaint.

One would expect this to be the end of the hassle, but alas, instead of the $1,354.45 refund, I received $1,294.33. So, I submitted another complaint to the credit card and it looks like I got the $60 adjustment.

One question that still puzzles me is:

Why does the Delta online reservation system forces transactions in foreign currency on U.S. customers?

As far as I know, no other reservation system uses this arcane logic. If Delta wants to be “smarter” than the rest of the industry, it should at least allow the customers to pick the currency. Anyway, I booked the trip via Orbitz and for a fee of $10 avoided any problems.

So the moral of the story: if you or your family or friends were to fly Delta, be careful with online reservations and do not trust the representatives. Also, be aware that only one check-in bag is allowed for free on Delta’s transatlantic flights, so if you expect more luggage consider the fee for additional luggage (current fee for extra check-in bag is $50). Happy flying! (I’m kidding about “happy” of course.)

P.S. A funny thing in this story was the message I got from Delta with denial of the price adjustment, which contained the following:

“I realize this is a disappointment, and trust you will understand our position. We hope you will continue to make Delta your airline of choice.

Yeah, right! We’re flying Aeroflot.

UPDATE: I got a letter from the credit card company explaining that the  ~$60 discrepancy between the original charge and the refund was due to the currency conversion rates and related fees. Lucky me, the credit card reimbursed me as a “one-time” courtesy gesture (which was nice). So it looks like the whole problem was caused by the fact that Delta charged me in Euros.

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