My letter to Delta

Here’s the letter that earned Delta a customer for life.

If your criticism of my letter contains the words “dramatic” or “over-the-top”, I ask you to keep in mind the following:

1) who slept on a nearly lie-flat seat for 13 hours? and

2) who got a $400 voucher for future travel?

3) what’s got two thumbs?

That’s right. This guy.

This email was sent to the following email addresses:

richard.anderson@delta.com (CEO),

lee.macenczak@delta.com (head of flight operations?),

daiquiri.gleaves@delta.com (Customer relations),

customer-care@delta.com

Click through to see the letter!

Letter:

Dear Delta,

I have always hated flying.

I’m not sure if it’s a fear, or if it’s a frustration.  I’ve been a flier for years – my first trip to Paris happened when I was 2 years old.  It’s never been the best experience for me, and I’ve tried to avoid it as much as possible.  I really only stick it out when it comes to important flights.

I am in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, and until two days ago I hadn’t seen her for 7 months.  Her Visa had expired – she was forced to leave the States, and go back to her home country of South Korea.  Naturally, I needed to schedule a flight to see her, in order to see her and (equally importantly, if not more) meet her family.

So I found an excellent deal on Delta: Flight 91 Newark – Atlanta – Incheon, for only $950 round trip (departing 29 December at 10:45 AM).  The flight was a long one, so I had a little bit of trepidation, but I knew it had to be done.  I also looked for outlets for my fear.

After booking my ticket, I called Delta to confirm something I’d read on SeatGuru.com – every seat on the Boeing 777 supposedly had Empower ports, so I could plug my laptop in and distract myself from my irrational fear.  A woman on the customer service line (whose name escapes me – this was nearly 5 months ago) informed me that yes, the flight I was taking had an Empower plug at my seat, so I could use my laptop.  She cautioned me that it wouldn’t charge my laptop, but that was unimportant – I just needed enough power to use it.

She further informed me that every seat had its own entertainment system, which could be used to watch movies, TV shows, play video games, and even see where the plane was at any point in time.  I felt relieved – I would have SOMETHING to do for 15 hours.

I boarded the plane at Atlanta and pulled up the screen (as I had seat 44G, an exit-row seat, I needed to pull it out of the armrests).  The screen didn’t have anything on it, and I was surprised – every other screen had advertisements changing every few minutes.  I knew that something was afoot.

A few minutes after takeoff, one of the flight attendants came to me, and said “Listen, I’m going to nip this in the bud very early.  Your screen is the only one that doesn’t work.  I’m really really sorry about this – it broke on the way from our previous destination, and we didn’t have time to fix it”.  Her kindness (and offer of free cocktails) defused my frustration – I did my best to sleep for the first part of the flight.  When I was awake, I would look on other passengers’ screens to see where the plane was.

Partway through, I decided that I wanted to watch a movie from my computer.  I unbuckled, got up, opened the overhead bin, and pulled out my computer and Empower cable.  I set my computer up and turned it on, then went searching for the Empower plug on my seat.  One 10-minute fruitless search later, I approached the same attendant and asked her if she knew where to find it.  She gave me a blank stare, and then showed me where the USB port was, but had no idea what I was talking about otherwise.  She asked “Did someone at Delta tell you this?”, to which I replied “Yes…”.  She then launched into a small tirade about Delta’s inefficiency – apparently she calls customer service to find out flight information (not telling them she’s an attendant) and it takes them 20 minutes to answer simple questions like “what airport does flight XXX land at”.  (Your corporation may feel that this sort of conversation would be inappropriate, but I was refreshed by her frankness.)

Needless to say, the rest of the flight was pretty boring:
– I tried to use my laptop, but it died about halfway through the first film.
– I did my best to read – but as the entertainment system controls the personal light and the cabin lights were dimmed for most of the flight, I couldn’t turn it on.
– I tried to sleep, but the roar of the engines kept me awake.

It was a grueling flight.  I felt like I was in the 1970s.  Here I was on one of the most advanced airplanes that mankind has ever produced, and I was dead in the water in terms of technology.

I would normally wait until I was back in the US to send this letter, but I am flying back from Korea in about a week (Delta Flight 92, Thursday 8 January, 6:05PM Korean time), and wanted to make sure of a few things:

1. The seat that I am flying back on has a working entertainment system.  I have the exact same seat (44G) on the exact same airplane (Boeing 777) and would be livid if the screen hadn’t been fixed in 10 days.
2. The “Empower” ports are either present on all aircraft, or a note is circulated to customer service saying that not all planes have said ports.  For road warriors who wish to get some work done on international flights, these ports are a must.
3. Your customer service situation should be looked at.  I won’t say I was “lied to”, but I was at least under false impressions.  Additionally, anytime customer service prompts an employee to complain, there is clearly a problem of quality.

I pray there is something you can do about this situation.  I will be flying to South Korea in the future, and would love the chance to have some consistency in those travels.  I am having a great time here, and I know that my girlfriend and I will continue to see one another (as her family appears to like me).

The one upshot of this trip?

Being forced to sit for 15 hours, with almost nothing to do, has basically destroyed my fear of flying.

I look forward to your timely response.

5 Comments

  1. […] up early, and headed to the airport. As I said, my complaint letter to Delta got me a free BusinessElite upgrade. A very nice touch for the 13 hour Incheon-Atlanta leg. Sonia […]

  2. Stephanie says:

    You are the man…

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  4. […] it’s not as violent as it sounds.  Anytime you want to send a complaint letter, like my Delta letter, my Budget letter (which I’ll post eventually), or any of my other letters (apartment […]

  5. amen! says:

    Amen my friend. I flew from Ireland -> Atlanta which wasn’t nearly as long, and I know this is 3 years later so it’s even more disappointing for me. About 9 hours thanks to turbulence. I had the ONE entertainment system that was 100% shorted because someone stuck something in the headphone jack and toyed with the console. No other seat for me to sit in, when I asked for a beer to at least calm my nerves I got to wait 25 minutes for them to actually hit my section. I have crippling anxiety when I’m wedged between a grumpy sister-in-law and a teenager who is sleeping restlessly the whole time rocking back and forth. Sure, I had an iPod with plenty of music but I simply wished to zone out. I had a laptop with no movies on it but at least I could play solitaire for a couple hours, right? Times like these I realize how slaved we are to technology especially when there is literally nowhere else to go. Oh and the magazines in front of us were either skymall or year-old mommy magazines. Only a $800 flight that I seriously would have rather skipped out on, waited 6 hours for the next functioning one, and sat on a bench just to have that damn entertainment system.

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