This is an open letter to Delta Airlines, those bloody douche bag wankers.
To: The head dude/dudess at Delta
Re: An extraordinary customer experience.
Dear Delta Airlines,
I am writing to congratulate you for assembling a staff that provided me with extraordinary customer service this Sunday on October 17th at Kotoka International Airport in Accra. The staff of which I speak are those on the front lines – the ticketing agents and customer service reps who spared no effort in following to the letter what I can only assume are Delta’s rules and regulations concerning travelers to and from the country of Ghana. If your goal has been to train a dispassionate and unimaginative work force, then you are to be applauded for your success.
My flight from Accra to Atlanta that Sunday was scheduled to leave at 9:30 pm. Upon arrival at the airport at 8:15 pm, I was informed that I would not be allowed to get on the plane that night. Why? Because none of your agents was checking in any more passengers for that flight. In fact, they stopped checking in travelers at 7 pm, two and a half hours before the plane was scheduled to depart. As I approached one of your employees, he dismissively rolled up his radio, and nodded his head in the direction of your customer service line, telling me that I would have to speak with the agent there. I was greeted with a line of 9 other passengers, all eagerly hoping to make the flight for a plane that was idling on the tarmac outside.
As she casually ‘assisted’ customers who were obviously foreign, and scolded those who were clearly locals for missing check in, we were all told the same thing: Return to the airport the next morning to board the flight to Atlanta via New York and pay a $250 change fee per ticket. For me, this was totally unacceptable.
After 30 minutes waiting in line, Jane Sowah, (your agent’s name) gave me the same spiel. I approached her window with my 3 small children in tow, the eldest being only 5. She told me I would have to go to New York the next morning. I informed her I could not. Have you been through New York on a Delta flight, Mr. CEO? The combination of a disgruntled populace and your airline’s attitude toward service make going through New York akin to a journey through the bowels of Hell. Asking me to make that journey with 3 small children is like asking me to make that trek legless. Sensing that something was amiss and that we were not going to make the flight my daughter began to cry. I had already spent $800 to change our return date and cut our visit short by a month because she missed her father and brother terribly (they remained in Atlanta), and it had affected her eating. As she heaved and sobbed, I watched helplessly as enormous tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Please ma’am,” I begged. “I already have my boarding pass that was printed from the sales office. I’m willing to leave my luggage and just go with my carry on bags. Is there nothing we can do? My daughter is crying!”
“And why shouldn’t she cry?” Jane snarled. “Her mother did not get to the airport in time for check in.”
I was amazed.
“You have no compassion, do you?”
“No, I don’t,” she replied.
Now, I could understand her attitude if I were the only passenger in the airport who had shown up “late” that evening and was making an uncompromising fuss. But as I said earlier, there were 9 of us in the queue. As I told Jane, my experience and expectation at any other airport in the world is that one is able to check in within 2 hours of flight time at a Delta desk, to be served by a Delta rep, to get on a Delta plane! It is only in Accra that passengers are asked to show up 4-6 hours before the plane’s take off time and then punished with a change fee when there is so obviously plenty of time to go through security. I was informed that early check in was required to allow the plane to take off ON TIME and was forced to wait until Wednesday to get the next direct flight to Atlanta.
On the surface, this looks like a simple gripe, but there are things beneath the service that perhaps you have not considered:
- Ghanaians have a strong hatred for Delta Airlines – I was warned by no less that 15 people within my circle NOT to take Delta to Accra for any reason. Having had 2 previous horrible experiences myself, I unwisely returned and gave Delta another try, like a battered woman foolishly expecting kindness from her abuser. Following the pomp and pageantry at your gala in Atlanta, I succumbed the urging of Mr. Aye Addo the president of Ghanaian Association, who said via email that Delta would “soon become the clear and only choice for the discerning traveler to Ghana”. Instinctively, I knew I should have flown United to Accra, but I chose to believe in Delta, to my detriment. How does closing your check in counter 2 hours early translate to amazing customer service?
- In closing the check in counter 2 hours early and demanding early check in, you force/allow passengers to exit the airport minus their checked luggage. Do you not see the security breach in this? Who is to say that these passengers will not leave and return with contraband on their person? Who is to say that there are no dangerous substances in the bags that have been checked, and now being separated by their owners will not detonate on the plane? It is a well known fact that the scanners at KIA don’t work! How does this plan of action assist in the fight against terrorism? This lax attitude toward security are the reasons that the smuggling and sale of cocaine are so rampant in this country.
- In my case in particular, Jane Sowah (your employee) typed in that I attempted to check in at 8:45 pm. This is inaccurate. She took longer than necessary to assist each customer in an effort to cover her back and make it seem as though we were collectively late when in fact we were all there in ample time and could have boarded he flight if your crew was inclined to provide us with a modicum of service.
After being denied access to our flight, I went home to feed my exhausted children. As I stood at the sink, I heard the 9:30 Delta flight take off and fly over my home at 10:10 pm. This was merely adding insult to injury. In light of all that transpired, I must recommend the following:
- Empower your employees to do everything in their power and within the TSA guidelines to get your paying passengers on the flight. If you do not, you will loose your market share in Ghana very rapidly. Lufthansa continuously exceeds customer’s expectations, and remains the legacy airline of choice. I myself will never fly Delta to Accra again, as this experience has been the third and final slap.
- If your check in staff must go upstairs to serve in boarding the passengers, you would do well to leave at least one of them downstairs to assist customers until the plane takes off; that, or hire extra staff who serves that function alone.
- After being subjected to unnecessary rebuke, inconvenience and fiscal loss, I believe that a refund of the money I paid for the change fee is in order. I think you will agree that this fee is not only unfair, but cruel as well. Your staff clearly had every opportunity to get my family on that plane, particularly since I was willing to leave my checked baggage AND already had a boarding pass/assigned seat
- Is your purpose for coming to Africa to nickel and dime the customer base to make up for your budget short-fall? Recognize that your passengers are people, with emotions, and needs. We are not just dollar signs to make up and pad your bottom line, nor mere numbers on a flight manifest.
I eagerly await your response so that I may inform my public.
cc: The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA)
cc: Delta sales management (Accra/Atlanta)
cc: The Ghana Association (Atlanta)
Attachments: Boarding passes for Oct 17th and receipts.