What a Weasel!: How Delta damn near destroyed a dream vacation

It’s been a while since we had one, but Delta is officially our Weasel for 2016.


So we just got back from our vacation. Barely.

I’ve recently been on a screed about Delta. As a long term, medallion member, I used to have a lot of loyalty towards the company. That loyalty has greatly waned, to a point of near despisal. If I did not already have several trips bought and paid for through them I would not be using the company anymore. But for at least two more months I am stuck with them. We booked this one via Delta Vacations, way back in March.

Let me preface by saying our vacation itself, once we got there was a grand affair. We enjoyed it greatly and frankly were in no desire to leave. That said, all good things must come to an end. I posted several pictures on Twitter and Tumblr for you to see for yourselves. As usual no personal pics, sorry.

All of that nearly did not come to pass. Keep in mind we saved for this trip for over two years, and had been planning for it in excess of 4 months.

We departed our home airport a week ago heading to MSP. We arrived there with no problems or issues. However, once there everything began going downhill.

Our flight from MSP to LAX was delayed in arriving. Once arrived we were delayed again by a computer error, leading to a disagreement with between the gate attendant and stewardesses on the airplane head count.

Despite physically counting the number of people on the plane, no less than 4 times, they stll could not agree and refused to allow the plane to take off.

Meanwhile, we were asked to move our seats. Seats assigned to us by Delta. Apparently even though the Delta Vacations agent knew the ages of our party they had assigned us an exit row, with an 11 year old in our party. This move was not asked politely. It was presented to us angrily, even hostily. We moved but not before I explained we did not choose our seats and did not appreciate being treated as if the entire situation was our fault. This was met with more anger and hostility, to put it delicately. I let it ride.

30 minutes after our original departure we took off and arrived at LAX.

Where we sat for another 45 minutes on the runway. Another plane was out our gate. We watched our connecting flight roll down the runway to our final stop, leaving us behind. THe next flight out of LAX would not get us to KOA before 10 the next evening.

We had been scheduled to arrive in KOA at 20:00 local time to them. That wasn’t going to happen. Delta at first refused to find us a new flight. Then after much searching on my own I was able to pressure them to place us on a flight the next moring….leaving from SFO. Delta did not wish to do so, and told us they “had no responsibility”. They apologized for our “inconvienence” and was dismayed that I was being “unreasonable” in my expectations.

So they flew us from LAX to SFO. Then they did not want to put us in a hotel room. In a party with a 65 year old diabetic, and an 11 year old they felt they had no responsibility for our welfare after the entire foul up.  I spoke to a local service manager and finally was given tickets with United for 7 am the next morning (it was 23:00 PST) and a voucher for a local hotel. We were on our own to get there. We also recived food vouchers, but all the restaraunts were closed and behind the security gate.

We got to the hotel at 1 am, got about 4 hours sleep before heading back to the airport. At that point we found the Delta food vouchers were completely useless….as we were in a United Terminal now.

Onsult to injury: I had paid for upgraded seats throughout our flight. When Delta passed us to United, they gave us coach seats. I had to pay, a second time, for upgraded seats. Whats more I had to pay for my bags…..again…even though our bags had been transferred to United by Delta the night before and we had not even seen them.

We were now behind a full day on our vacation and racing the clock. We had scheduled Critter to have a dolphin swim this day at 14:00, figuring if there were any flight problems it would be handled promptly, even professionally. As you can see we were wrong.

The United flight damn near didn’t take off either. An employee has misplaced a log book required for take off. Once again we were delayed another 30 minutes. Finally, we lifted off.

We arrived in HNL with enough time to get to our Hawaiin Air connecting flight. It was at this point that while checking my Delta App we noted that all of our bags were still showing in LAX.

You can imagine my enthusiasm. We started calling and no one could figure out what was going on in terms of our luggage. Attempts to communicate with Delta’s social Media Twitter account went unanswered save for a vague apology.


When we arrived at KOA, it was 13:00…a full day behind our original arrival time, and we had not a single piece of luggage. Whats more we had prepaid for our hotel (also through Delta). This meant we lost an additional $600 on rooms we hadn’t even seen yet for a night we didn’t get.

Our arrivial in KOA had already impacted us in time and money:

  • Original cost of trip $10k
  • New Bag fee’s $150
  • Ground transport at SFO $50
  • Lost 24 hours…cost of $600for unused hotel rooms
  • Loss of PTO time we would not get back from our employers approximate $600 value between the 3 employed adults
  • Total cost by landing: $11,350

We had 2 hours before my daughter and mothers pre-scheduled dolphin swim adventure. And we had not a single piece of our 5 bags of luggage.

We worked with a nice lady at KOA with Hawaiian Air who put out a BOLO on our bags. We now had an hour before my daughters adventure was to begin.

We drove like madmen to the hotel. Got checked in and purchased bathing suits at the ridiculously expensive resort shop for my daughter and mother. Add another $370 to the tally for suits, cover ups and towels. All items we had packed for this. But we made the appointment with mere minutes to spare.

Our bags finally arrived on Sunday night. We had now been wearing the same clothing for over 3 days nonstop. We had spent most of Sunday morning on the phone with Delta trying to get things set correctly.

They finally agreed to credit us for the hotel rooms we did not use…..a credit that as of this writing, over a week later, we still have not received. They would not cover us for the last minute clothing purchases or the food we had to buy in SFO. They gave us $200 vouchers for flights with Delta. As if, after this nightmare we would use them.

Finally, in a fit of frustration, we left it alone. We wanted to be on our dream vacation, a vacation we had spent months planning and years saving for. A chance for my daughter to see the ocean and my mother to see Hawaii. We were tired of fighting every day of our trip to get what we paid in full in advance for.

The rest of our trip, out of the hands of the airlines went uneventful.

Until it came time to leave.

Our return tickets…weren’t tickets. They were just confirmations. No tickets had been issued. What’s more they were issued to Hawaiian Air. This meant I spent another hour at the airport (thankfully, expecting this to go horrifically wrong we arrived a full three and a half hours in advance just in case) getting us tickets. Then paying $135 for bags that, as a Medallion member, I should have gotten for free but since were flying Hawaiian Air instead of Delta we did not qualify.

We got to HNL on time. Our Delta flight from HNL to ATL however boarded and departed late. Once again we had to move seats, as once again they had placed us in seats we could not use due to the 11 year old in the party. We attempted to pay for 4 available First Class seats to alleviate the situation but were told they could not place a value on our tickets to do so.

Tickets we had purchased directly from them.

Tickets they had assigned to us.

Tickets they had not even issued until we arrived to depart.

When we arrived in ATL we got another shock. Only four of our five bags showed up in our App. We were once again missing luggage.

We arrived at our home airport on Saturday. We got our last piece of luggage yesterday.

In short we racked up almost $2,500 in additional expenses all directly due to Delta’s negligence and poor customer service. We lost 1 and a half days of our hard earned personal paid time off from our employers, totalling nearly $700 not counting gas to drive to and from the airport to pick up bags due to their negligence.

Had it not been for the extremely nice folks at the National Car Rental office in KOA and Rosemary of the Baggage Services at Hawaiian Air of KOA, this could have easily become a nightmare of a vacation. Both of these groups did their best to make a trip that was horrific in nature better to the points when we encountered them, just due to what we had gone through getting to them.

It is, simply put, pathetic when an organization such as Delta must rely on other companies to supply customer service because their own was so lacking. No business should ever operate in such a fashion. My own employer could not operate that way, we rely heavily on our customers to believe and be proud of the services we offer. It’s untenable, and not a recipe for success.

But wait: there’s more! As any SkyMiles member can tell you, the new “improved” SkyMiles program Delta has means that every mile and connection counts. You can not make up the difference through partnership programs like you can with American for instance.

Delta2 Delta3So when Delta completely ommitted my MSP to LAX flight from my SkyMiles, I was not happy to say the least. It took me 4 days to get it fixed….and when they did they completely removed the credits for the LAX to SFO flight as well as SFO to HNL instead. As with so many things with their company instead of fighting it, I have simply given up on them taking any form of responsibility towards their customer. I redacted personal information and the personal name of the customer service agent for security reasons to all parties.

From a customer perspective: my daughter had never seen the ocean until this trip. My mother has wanted to go to Hawaii all her life. We aren’t part of the 1%. We scraped, saved and paid down for two years to pay up front for this. We timed over my wife and I’s anniversary, and my mothers birthday so the trip over lapped both. Delta single handedly took what by all accounts should have been something wonderful and turned it in to a fight just to arrive, with additional costs and stress every day of the first 72 hours.

A vacation is supposed to combat stress and allow you to recover from your job. As a doctoral student and IT professional, frankly I should have stayed the hell at work as I would have had less stress.

As for us, we intend to go back to Hawaii at some point. Given my career, I am sure we still be flying for a lot of things in our future as usual.

What is certain is that if I had any second thoughts on continuing my relationship with Delta, it’s gone now. They will  not recieve another dime from me. I hope this relation of our experience, encourages others to consider alternatives as well.

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