Friday, December 10, 2010

The joys of flying Delta

This is a rather long-winded and complicated story, but I hope that by sharing it I will help people avoid the same nasty experience. Or perhaps if you do encounter the same problems, you will be motivated to complain and get some compensation...

Here is a letter of complaint I sent Delta recently:


I recently flew on Delta/KLM from Seattle to Cape Town with my wife and 6 month-old daughter, as well as my mother-in-law. While I have only positive things to say about KLM, I am disgusted at the way I was treated by Delta.

In mid-May this year, I purchased tickets from for travel in October, and included information about the infant in the reservation. Her full name and date of birth were provided, and in the breakdown of the total price the infant ticket charges are shown separately from the adult ticket charges. After getting the confirmation email, I called KLM (and eventually got re-routed to Delta, since they are their US partner) to make sure the baby’s ticket was OK and to reserve a sky cot – this was done without any problem and I thought I was all set... At no point did anyone mention that I needed a paper ticket for the infant, and I did not receive anything in the mail prior to our October departure.

Come October, on check-in at Seattle, I was told I needed paper tickets for the baby and that I needed to pay an extra 10% for the baby. When I asked why this wasn’t factored into the original price of the tickets I got no satisfactory answer and the agent accused me of not booking for the infant. The check-in agent was initially very aggressive and made it sound like I was at fault. I repeatedly told her I had booked with KLM, mentioned the baby and even showed her the printout of my confirmation that listed the baby’s name. She would not budge on the 10% fee, so I ended up paying it grudgingly.

We then waited for an hour and a half as they struggled to get paper tickets issued for the baby. There was some problem up with the reservation and the printers at SEA would not issue paper tickets. (They tried 3 separate physical printers and got the manager on duty to try fixing it without any luck.) During this process the agent also ran my credit card twice (the first attempt at getting the paper tickets issued failed due to the issues mentioned above, so she had to do it again). I mentioned I was worried about being charged twice and she assured me the first charge would be cancelled.

The check-in agent had to spend over an hour on hold with someone elsewhere who “rebuilt” the tickets in such a way as to allow them to be printed by the agent at SEA. I was in jeopardy of missing my flight by this stage (30 minutes or so until the flight would have closed, and we still had to clear security…) Needless to say, neither my wife nor I needed this extra stress and aggravation on our first international flight with a 6 month baby!

This ticketing nightmare repeated on every Delta leg of our trip. In contrast, the KLM staff in Schipol (AMS) airport were very friendly and efficient and got us boarding passes for our flight to South Africa, and on return from South Africa to Schipol we experienced the same fast and friendly service. However, our Delta connecting flight from Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) to Seattle was another nightmare with us almost missing the flight as I waited for a Delta agent to get boarding passes issued – again there was some problem with our reservation that prevented them from simply printing boarding passes. (When we departed Cape Town for our return leg, I was only given boarding passes for the KLM flights, not the MSP to SEA final hop.)

Remember the double credit card swipe mentioned above? To add insult to injury, now that I am back home and I have time to look at my credit card statement, I see that Delta has indeed charged my credit card twice for the 10% fee. So, it appeared I had now paid this charge three times! (Once during my initial reservation on, and twice on check-in in Seattle.)


After we came home, I checked my original credit card statement from back in May when I bought the tickets, and realized that KLM had not billed me for the 10% fee (even though it was shown on the receipt and included in the total...) So, in the end I only ended up paying the 10% fee twice...

I contacted Delta to complain and initially heard back pretty quickly, but soon ran into dead silence. Over a month passed without any response and in the meantime I disputed the duplicate charge with my credit card company. As luck would have it, I was in the final phase of wrapping this up when Delta finally got back in touch with me. (Perhaps as a result of the credit card company talking to them?) Delta finally apologized for the poor service I'd experienced and send some travel vouchers to compensate myself and my wife. (Yay, we get to fly Delta again! :P )

All in all, it was a draining experience, but I guess persistence pays off!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Think twice about recycling

There was an interesting segment on NPR recently, featuring Annie Leonard, the creator of "The Story of Stuff" project. The latest video in the series is "The Story of Electronics"

It turns out a lot of things that are collected to be recycled in the USA are in fact sent overseas to be processed. Even things like plastic drinking bottles. Things like old electronics are especially bad since the people harvesting metals and other valuable bits from the electronics are exposed to a stew of toxic gases and chemicals.

Before recycling your next electronic gizmo, you might want to check whether your local recycler is has an e-Steward certification. I wonder whether PC Recycle and other local recyclers used by companies like Microsoft are e-Stewards?