In a refreshing move that offers both a genuine apology and meaningful concessions, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has addressed the long hold times to reach an agent in an email to SkyMiles members.
Candid Apology Over Long Hold Times From Delta Air Lines CEO Is Action, Not Talk
Here’s the letter, which you may wish to read before I offer my commentary:
After a year of lockdowns, it’s been heartening to see so many of you returning to the skies this summer and reclaiming your lives. While we are pleased to welcome you back, the unexpected pace of the return of our customers has resulted in some unforeseen challenges as we ramp up to meet demand and handle a record-breaking level of calls. As you take a much-deserved vacation or travel to reunite with loved ones, friends and business colleagues, the last thing you want is to experience long hold times when you call reservations or receive a notification that your flight schedule has changed.
We know you expect more from Delta and assure you that these challenges are temporary. The Delta team is here to serve you and is taking significant actions to alleviate these pain points, including:
Accelerating staffing and resources to reduce wait times on the phone and at the airport. With the influx of travelers coming back after more than a year at home, our agents on the phone and at the airport have experienced an unprecedented level of questions about travel policies and schedule changes. That has resulted in significant wait times, which is why we’re rapidly adding staff and leveraging new technology to serve you in a timely manner.
The Reservations and Care team is welcoming back hundreds of Delta alumni to alleviate wait times while hiring 1,300 specialists who will be trained and ready to serve customers by September. We’re also adding a new phone platform that automatically equips our agents with even more details about your travel, so they can address your questions efficiently and get you on your way. In total, we’re hiring more than 5,000 people across the business, including more than 3,000 in Airport Customer Service and other operational areas, to supplement key service areas like catering, wheelchair staffing and our continued commitment to cleanliness.
Expanding digital tools to save you time and give you more control over your trip. Delta.com and the Fly Delta app are your go-to resources to change or cancel a flight, find baggage information and manage your SkyMiles® account. To gain confidence in the process, you can follow this step-by-step guide to cancel or make changes to a trip before your flight departs. Both expiring and newly purchased tickets in 2021 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2022. And when you’re ready to use an eCredit, it can be redeemed at delta.com/redeem or on the Fly Delta app.
Starting tomorrow, customers booked in Basic Economy can make changes to their flights for travel occurring through Dec. 31, 2021, to help address call wait times as we increase staffing. As with all Delta flights originating from North America, there are no changes fees.
Getting you to your destination as you originally booked it. As our teams work to accommodate the rapid return of travelers, flight changes are occurring that we know can be frustrating – you deserve to get to your destination at the time that best suits your travel plans. Our network planning teams are focused on minimizing changes in our schedule as we gain additional insights into travel demand amid the recovery.
There’s also a section on status matches, which I addressed here.
- Ok, he doesn’t literally apologize, but it’s clear from his remarks that he (and Delta) are finally taking the matter seriously
- I found his initial comments last week so tone deaf and these comments properly recognize the seriousness of the problem
- The dual concession of making basic economy tickets fully flexible once again through December 31, 2021 and extending elite status for all SkyMiles Medallion members are serious gestures that show remorse
- Delta’s web and mobile infrastructure is still woefully clunky and inadequate when it comes to making changing on tickets – too often it errors out, forcing a phone call
- The letter does not address the currently-broken “call back” feature, which greatly reduces tensions when you are called back rather than forced to spend hours on hold with the same music cycling over and over
- While it is nice to see to see Delta hire back so many agents, the whole employee deficit nicely demonstrates how airlines pocketed U.S. taxpayer money intended to be used to maintain full employment only to encourage attrition through early separation and retirement packages that has saved Delta millions of dollars
The Delta CEO apology is appreciated, not so much because he groveled (the word “sorry” never appears in the note) but because Bastian expressed sorrow by extending status and making basic economy tickets flexible again. While I tend to think many consumers would rather just not have to wait three hours on hold, this is a very concrete step that shows Delta is serious about fixing the issue.
Perhaps I am being too optimistic, but I am hopeful this problem will be fixed by the fall.