Why Delta Is No Longer in the Airlines Business

The Carrier Used to Be Ready When You Are, but Now It's Only Ready When They Are

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I'm very much afraid the government has created a dangerous precedent by bailing out the "too big to fail" banks, insurance firms and auto companies.

Now the marketing strategy of corporations will be to get big at any cost so that no matter how badly they screw up, the government will save their bacon.

A good case in point is Delta Air Lines. Delta has gotten to be the biggest U.S. carrier by buying Northwest. But Delta wants to get even bigger by forging alliances with Japan Airlines and Australia's Virgin Blue.

The goal for Delta is to become so big and important that no matter how many billions of dollars it loses and how horrendous its service, the government will keep it going because of the massive disruption a service shutdown would cause around the world.

Delta is no longer in the airline business; it's in the let's-get-bigger-quick business, where customers are getting in the way of allowing its planes to get from one place to another.

How else to explain what happened to my daughter Heather when she and her husband, Steven, and sons Rett and Gray tried to get from Boston to Orlando via Delta?

They were scheduled to leave on an afternoon flight, but on the morning of their departure they received an automated phone call from Delta alerting them that their flight had been delayed to early evening. When they arrived at the airport several hours before takeoff, they were informed that their plane was already in the air.

A Delta agent Steven contacted on his cellphone while they were unloading their bags at curbside denied that Delta ever made the call and said, in a belligerent manner, that he had a call log to prove it.

Heather walked up to the ticket counter to find her fellow passengers on the same flight all trying to figure out how to get to their destination. They had all received the same automated call and/or an e-mail. A female passenger told Heather that the Delta agent said, "It's really your responsibility to call when you get an e-mail like that." But she said she had been trying to call Delta all day and couldn't get through "due to heavy call volume." She also couldn't respond to the e-mail because it said "do not reply."

Every ticket agent in sight was working to get Heather's fellow passengers on another flight when Heather joked that the solution was simple -- just get another plane. A frazzled Delta manager walking by said "we've already tried that," and that Atlanta wouldn't do it because Delta had already canceled 1,500 flights the previous day. Heather's Boston flight was obviously not a priority.

The only reservation they could get was standby on an oversold flight the next morning at 7 a.m. and confirmed seats two days later to Tampa. In the meantime they were offered a $7 meal voucher for their trouble.

The Delta agent said to Heather: "I could say something right now but I've got bills to pay."

Since everyone on Heather's flight had gotten the same message about the delay, and consequently they all missed their flight, Heather asked an agent why Delta would fly an empty plane. The agent said the flight took off full with other passengers who had gotten bumped earlier.

The agent also said Delta kept a severe weather warning in effect even after storms had not materialized, and so for 12 hours they canceled flights based on outdated weather conditions.

In the end two Delta agents miraculously found Heather and her family four tickets to Orlando two days later. Heather swears that the agents had angel wings in place of their Delta wings. She asked, almost in tears, how the seats suddenly became available, and one of the agents said with a smile, "They just appeared."

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