How do I solve my airline woes?
December 24, 2007 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out an air travel fiasco.

So, about two months ago, I bought plane tickets home for winter break via Orbitz. The odd thing was that they were paper tickets for flights on Northwest and Cape Air printed on Delta ticket stock. Weird, but not really an issue if it gets me home, right?
Fast forward to a week and a half before I leave, and I realize that I was going to cut my departure time way too close to the end of my last exam and may miss my flight (which was originally on wednesday). So I call up Orbitz and find out that at this point, because of my paper tickets, I have to actually go to the airport to get my tickets changed out.
I go to the airport and tell the lady at the (Delta) ticket counter my issue, and then ask to change the tickets out, to which she told me (after a few calls to the higher-ups) that even though she was the person to talk to about changing the ticket, she couldn't actually reissue my tickets because there were no Delta flights on my ticket (Go Orbitz), but she would change it in the computer, and I could come check in with my old tickets on the next available flight home (saturday), with no problem. I thought this was odd (especially because she didn't ask me to pay anything to reschedule the flight), but she's the one who works there, right? I had no reason to doubt her.
So it's wednesday night, and I go to the ticket counter again to see if anything has opened up and I can't get out earlier, when the lady at the counter tells me that I have in fact already missed my flight, to which I respond "no, that can't be right, I had it rescheduled"
"that's not what the computer says"
So she gave me a number to call, and then, after a total of almost four hours on the phone with Delta ticketing and then Delta customer service, escalating to a supervisor both times, i was told that the best they could do was essentially sell me a new ticket home, less the price of my return flight. This was going to cost (with the difference) as much as my original flight, and the earliest I could leave was sunday(today). I instead bought a cheap one-way ticket home that left thursday.
Now I'm home, and have spent an additional two or three hours on the phone with Delta, and I've gotten this: "we have no idea what the lady at the ticket counter did or said to you, but what happened was a seat was reserved on the flight on saturday, but the ticket was never actually transferred, so you technically missed your flight." Moreover, I was told that there's no proof that it was Delta's fault ("I don't know what she said to you, but we have no way of knowing who did what, or whose fault it really is"), so there's nothing they can do at all, more or less. And the kicker? Delta's ticket counter at South Bend Regional doesn't take calls from the public, so I can't even get the name of the person I talked to that screwed this up in the first place.
It seems like calling customer service has become a dead end.
So, now what? Am I hosed? Is there anything else I can do? Anyone I can call? If there even was someone I could talk to, how can I make sure they won't just "you can't prove we did anything wrong" me again?
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Send the folks at a note. They seem to have gained a fair amount of clout and love to bust the evildoing bad guys.

Good Luck!
posted by Fuzzy Dog at 1:45 AM on December 24, 2007

Speaking of, start here: Complain Like a Pro in 10 Easy Steps
posted by onalark at 2:01 AM on December 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know it sounds old-fashioned, but write a letter. I have had several friends with tails of woe like yours who were able to get refunds or, at least, a free round-trip ticket by writing letters to airlines. I think the key is to make sure your letter is comprehensive. Tell them everything you've told us. Also, I've been given the advice here that it's a good idea to send two letters: one to customer service and one to the CEO's office.
Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 5:38 AM on December 24, 2007

You bought the tickets from Orbitz, but it seems all your complaining has been to Delta. If you haven't contacted Orbitz about this, do so immediately.
posted by ubiquity at 5:59 AM on December 24, 2007

What is your goal at this point? To get the refund on the ticket home you purchased through another airline? For future reference, usually an airline will bend over backwards getting you on the next flight if you missed a flight. If you had hung around the ticket counter they probably would have done that for you so you'd be a "happy customer" but now that you have spent money on a competing airline I think they will probably stick with the script that you missed your original flight. Also, Orbitz is cheap because those tickets are usually non-refundable and they don't usually let you make changes on a discount ticket. Again, the airline will try and accomodate you if you are not a total rude jerk at the counter and can maintain some politeness while navigating the process. I have had airlines with delayed flights put me on a competitors plane at no charge to me--they want you to be as satisfied as possible and they really do try but once you have made the decision to buy a ticket elsewhere I don't think they will feel obligated to reimburse you.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:48 AM on December 24, 2007

Contact Orbitz. I'm surprised that Delta didn't offer you vouchers already. They will.

I had a weird paper-tickets-only situation that turned into a nightmare of a canceled flight. I called Expedia, who told me to try to resolve with Delta, but they (Expedia) checked up with me to make sure that the situation was actually rectified.
posted by desuetude at 9:03 AM on December 24, 2007

Christopher Eilliot, the National Geographic's Travel Troubleshooter, seems to be a good resource: -- good luck!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:01 AM on December 24, 2007

Personal experience with Delta and with Orbitz tells me you've made two mistakes here:

#1: Working with Delta

#2: Working with Orbitz

To this day I have an entire flight's worth of credit with Orbitz that nobody at Orbitz can find, even though the notes in my account have all the details of my canceled-to-be-rescheduled flight, and my woes with the ticket counter people at Delta could fill a pamphlet.

I do not have information on how you can better deal with your current predicament, but I did want to let you know that this isn't a completely isolated incident, and I will suggest that you should take this as an indicator of the service you might expect from Delta and/or Orbitz in the future rather than chalking it up as a fluke.

Good luck.
posted by davejay at 12:44 PM on December 24, 2007

I second writing the letter. We ran into a similar situation when traveling on American to Mexico. For some weird reason our return flight got cancelled due to a screwup with our original tickets and we would've been stranded in Mexico if it wasn't for good old Visa. After we got home, I wrote a letter to American and they sent us a voucher for the ticket we had to buy in Mexico. It's worth a try.
posted by tamitang at 5:25 PM on December 24, 2007

Have you called Northwest or Cape Air about this at all? (Since that was the actual carrier of the flight.) Maybe they know more or will do more than Delta.

Also, I'm pretty young, but I've never even seen a paper ticket.
posted by SuperNova at 12:22 AM on December 26, 2007

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