Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Delta Air Travel Vouchers

Contrary to popular convention, I'd like to start this tale with the moral:

Complaining really works...
(But if you want to skip my venting and just learn how to use Delta Travel Vouchers, that's okay too.)

Last April, I arrived at Rochester International Airport 30 minutes before my 5p
m flight to NYC, only to find that my flight had been delayed indefinitely. (The flight status function that I'd logged onto at right before I'd left the house obviously had not been updated to reflect this!) Flight status monitors directed passengers of my flight to Gate A1, where, alarmingly, no Delta banners, logos, or personnel were visible or present.

By 5:05pm, my flight had completely disappeared from the status monitors, and the gate remained empty – no airplane housed in the gate, no Delta personnel to inform passengers of the nature or status of the delay. Via an airport security officer, airport dispatch reiterated that the flight was expected in Gate A1, so the security officer advised passengers remain in Gate A1 until we were otherwise directed by Delta. By whom, we wondered.

As the other passengers and I waited anxiously at Gate A1 for any advisement from Delta – advisement that never came – a comparable 5pm JetBlue flight flying from Rochester International to JFK
Airport was also experiencing delays a few gates away. And as the passengers of the Delta flight waited anxiously for the mere presence of a Delta representative, JetBlue personnel were on the loudspeaker every 15 minutes, apologizing to customers for the weather delay. Not to mention that the airport monitors had posted a new departure time. Meanwhile, Delta customers, who saw only that our flight was no longer listed, kept wondering if it was possible that our flight had departed without all of us. All passenger inquiries yielded the same advice from airport personnel: “Wait at Gate A10 until further advisement.” From whom, we wondered.

Finally, at 6:20pm – ten minutes before the flight was scheduled to land in NYC – a passenger returned from her inquiry to report that our flight was now due to leave from the farthest gate of the airport’s opposite terminal in ten minutes. The forgotten passengers of Delta Flight 5372 scurried to the appropriate gate in the appropriate terminal just in time to board the flight for which we had waited: (1) in the wrong gate, (2) for two hours, (3) without any official notification from, or even presence of, any Delta representatives.

So incensed was I with my Delta experience that, as soon as I got home, that I wrote an uber long email to Delta, detailing all the customer service travesties of the day. And about three weeks later, I recieved an e-mail saying that a $100 travel voucher was en route. I was appeased, but only momentarily.

Using your Delta Travel Voucher (DTV)...

Although I didn't particularly enjoy my own way of getting my DTV, airlines also give vouchers to customers who get bumped from overbooked flights (both voluntarily or otherwise). DTV's are also availablecan also be bought through sites like eBay, although (obviously) airlines frown on these sales. But whatever your method, beware the madness that can ensue when you attempt to actually use your voucher.

Most importantly, read all the terms & conditions that are printed directly ON your voucher. And know this: you cannot use your voucher at Mobissimo or even! My voucher clearly stated that it could only be used by visiting a Delta ticket office or airport ticketing counter. And ticket office locations are few and far between. According to their website, there are only five such locations in the U.S. - three in Atlanta, one in NYC, and one in Cincinnati!

And difficulty of cashing your voucher aside, mind the expiration of your vouchers. As fellow consumers will tell you, don't just take a Delta rep's word for it. Also, be mindful of the value of your voucher. I used my $100 voucher on a one-way trip that cost $110, bringing my total to $10, but it would be self-defeating to force yourself to fly Delta (or any airline for that matter) just because you wanted to take advantage of a voucher. Especially if you got your voucher the hard way.

What's my update? My $10 Delta flight was late (yes, again), but at least I knew what to expect this time. (It was only $10!) But another passenger on the plane had been patiently waiting for this flight since the day I probably won't be flying Delta again unless I have absolutely no alternative. Caveat emptor!

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