Travel Troubleshooter: Delta switched her to an unusable flight

Published: Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 - 12:00 am

Many months ago, I booked a trip from Minneapolis to Milan on Delta using my frequent flier miles. I was scheduled to come back to John F. Kennedy International Airport around 4 p.m. from Italy, and then catch a 6:30 p.m. flight home to Minneapolis.

I received an email from Delta in March indicating that there was a change in aircraft, to a regional jet. Although I prefer larger planes, I had no choice and made note of the plane change. The time of return was not affected.

A few days ago, I checked my itinerary, as I always do when I have a trip coming up. To my complete astonishment, I noticed that the final flight from New York to Minneapolis was changed. I would not even be back from Italy in enough time to catch that plane.

I spoke with a representative from Delta, and asked why I had been booked on a flight that was impossible for me to use. She told me she didn’t know why the airline had done that and apologized.

I quickly had to rebook a flight going out the next day and reserve a hotel in New York for my husband and myself.

I do feel Delta owes me some kind of reimbursement for over $500 in expenses I now have to add to my trip because of its mistake.

I tried contacting Delta’s department regarding customer complaints and got nowhere. I have been a loyal member of its Skymiles program for many years. Can you help me get at least some compensation for this?

Cecilia Dobrin, Minneapolis

You might have booked your flight too early. Airlines typically publish their schedules 330 days in advance, but they update them every quarter. It’s yet another reason to confirm your itinerary online before you leave for the airport.

I understand you were redeeming your frequent flier miles, and seat availability can be scarce on some routes, which is why you have to plan ahead. But when you do that, you run the risk of a significant schedule change.

Here’s what should have happened: As you are a loyal frequent flier, Delta should have had all of your contact information and let you know about the schedule change. The airline should have offered you choices for fixing your flight plans instead of waiting until you discovered the new schedule by accident.

When an airline changes one of its flights, it normally offers either an alternate flight of its choosing or a full refund. If you still want to take this vacation, you’ll have to deal with the new itinerary. Still, Delta’s “Customer Commitment” – a nonbinding promise to its passengers – suggests it should do more ( www.delta.com/content/www/en–US/legal/customer-commitment.html).

The airline offered to return your frequent flier miles, which didn’t really work for you. I contacted Delta on your behalf, and it agreed to cut you a check for $125, as long as you sent it a receipt for your hotel. I still think Delta can do better. When you land in New York, find the service desk and explain that you’re delayed overnight because of a schedule change. A representative may be able to find a flight that will get you home earlier, or offer you a voucher for a nearby hotel.


Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.

Read more articles by Christopher Elliott



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