Monday, September 17, 2012

Scandinavian Travel Adventures

It wouldn’t be an international trip for me if something didn’t go wrong while flying. And it did. I recently took a trip with Delta from Denver, Colorado to Stockholm, Sweden and then Copenhagen, Denmark to Denver, Colorado. It was less than impressive. But, luckily, I had absolutely no problems at Arlanda (considering I once dubbed Arlanda the worst airport in the world, a statement I stand by, by the way), this was no small feat. It’s the little things really.

I was scheduled to leave on July 23rd from Denver. At around 11pm on July 22nd, I received an email stating that my flight had been cancelled. Awesome. I immediately called and was told that there were no problems, I would just have to spend a night in New York. Because that is super cheap and easy to do on short notice. I told the customer service agent (whose name I do not remember, but who was quite helpful), that that wouldn’t work. To Delta’s, and her, credit, they were able to reschedule me on a new flight leaving at 7:35 the next morning. Obviously, this was short notice – less than nine hours actually. But it worked. I arrived in New York without any problems. I boarded the plane without any problems. I sat down without any problems. And I waited. And I sat. And I waited. And for approximately two hours, we sat in the plane. There was something wrong. Obviously. Turns out there was an oil filter issue with one of the engines. The pilot even said that had it been a domestic flight, they would have just gone for it. Part of me was grateful that they took such caution, the other part was sitting on the runway at JFK airport for nearly two hours. Finally, mercifully, we took off and arrived in Stockholm quite a bit later.

My time in Scandinavia was lovely. As it so often is.

On August 27th, I left Copenhagen for Denver. I thought that I had used up my bad luck while traveling. I was wrong. Although, this time there was no flight cancellation. I did make it to New York without any problems. I cleared customs and glanced at the departures screen. Delayed. Two hours. Awesome. I went to the gate, grabbed a vitamin packed drink (I was feeling a bit of a cold coming on), and waited. I wasted time on my phone. Read. Ate. And waited. Mostly I waited. I kept glancing at the departures screen as the delay continued to grow. There was no announcement explaining the delay. And so I waited. By the time we started boarding, I had been waiting for two hours and 41 minutes past the original departure time. By the time we finally took off, nearly three hours had gone by.

I travel a decent amount. Usually a couple of international flights every year and several domestic flights. I understand that things go wrong sometimes. Sometimes they are out of the airline’s control, like the weather. Sometimes they are under the airline’s control, like the mechanical readiness of their fleet. But every time I sit on a Delta flight, I watch that short film before the safety instructions with the CEO who espouses the virtues of customer service and mutual respect in his southern drawl. It’s charming really. But this last trip was just too much. There was not a single offer of compensation or a show of good will. I know, even that is not required, but this was rough. I spent nearly as many hours delayed as I did in taking a trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Stockholm. And that’s ridiculous.

What’s not ridiculous though, was the incredible response by Delta when I emailed them asking them about the above trips. I spend a lot of time complaining about flying. Mostly because I am delayed so often. And because I like to complain. But I very seldom do any of that complaining to the actual company. You know, the ones that can actually do something about it. This time was different. What you just read was essentially my complaint email. Within four hours, a Delta customer service representative responded to the individual flights that I had taken and even offered a $100 travel voucher. Well done, Delta, well done.

Welcome to the US. And customer service.

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