Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Did You Like Your Carefully Chosen Delta Seat Reservations Made Weeks Or Months In Advance? Poof! They're Gone Every Time Delta Has A Small Schedule Change

If, like me, you try to make air reservations around holiday and vacation periods for you and your family months in advance in order to get decent fares and to have access to good seats, then this will not be happy news for you:

My wife and I have two young kids. When I buy tickets well in advance and am lucky enough to snag four seats together, I breathe a sigh of relief. Naturally we don't want to be separated from our small children.

Of course most itineraries involve four flight legs because of the need to change planes at some hub or another. Such was the case when I bought seats on months ago for travel over the upcoming Thanksgiving week--the busiest travel days of the year--to see friends and relatives first in Seattle and later in Minneapolis.

Our open jaw itinerary takes us first RDU/ATL and ATL/SEA. A few days later we ride Amtrak's Empire Builder across the great Northwest through Glacier National Park to the Twin Cities, after which we fly home MSP/CVG and CVG/RDU--four Delta flight segments total.

Yet last night I discovered online at that all 16 of my carefully chosen seats had been vacated on all four segments.

How did this happen? Because Delta's system automatically dumps ALL seat reservations for ALL flight segments every time there is even a small change in their system to an itinerary. The change can be either to the schedule or to a flight number; you still lose all your seat choices. The schedule change might be just a six or seven minute difference to a single flight in the four segment itinerary; you still lose all your seats on all four segments.

Worse, the act is done in silence, without warning. That is, I do not receive an email or a phone message from Delta to let me know that they will have, or have had, such a schedule or flight number change that will affect my travel.

And, even more bizarre, Delta will not automatically rebook the specific seats I selected in the first place, nor will they automatically rebook ANY seats, until I contact THEM to ask why suddenly I have no seats!

If, as often happens, I do not troll my outstanding itineraries frequently enough to notice a change has occurred that has knocked out my seats, then usually by the time I finally call Delta, they inform me that there are not four seats anywhere close together. That's because other passengers have been assigned seats in the interim.

Last night, luckily, I noticed that our Thanksgiving flights had "seat unassigned" shown for every segment, and I was able to restore the same or equivalent seats on three out of four segments. On the last flight, CVG/RDU, however, our family's seats are completely separated: one is in a window seat, another is in another window seat two rows away, and the last two are in yet another row.

And, by the way, such seat re-selections canNOT be made online. I must phone Delta reservations to be able to obtain new seats. They tell me that's because Delta wants to be certain that I have knowledge of the schedule or flight number change--a logic I fail to comprehend, frankly.

One last observation: Good thing for me that I am a Delta Platinum and have access to the Platinum Elite telephone lines. It can often be a long wait for a rez agent on a non-Elite line.

When I complained about the silect shredding of my family seat selections, the Delta agent said--with absolutely no intentional irony--that if I didn't boook in advance this would not happen to me! When I pointed out that if I waited until the last minute to buy tickets for Thanksgiving that there would not be any seats left, or, at best, the seats would be priced at absurdly high full Y prices, he said, "Oh, yeah, I guess you're right. Mmmm."

This sad tale proves once again that airline customer service is defined and designed by people who are smoking something funny, or who just have a hard time with logic and common sense.

It also proves, I guess, that truth is stranger than fiction, because no way I could make something like this up. Unless I was smoking something funny, and, last time I checked, I wasn't.


Blogger John said...

Perhaps you should use a travel agent rather than booking on My agency sells several million dollars worth of Delta flights every year and our clients never loose their seat assignments with DL schedule changes unless there is also an equiptment change (i.e. change in type of aircraft).

10/20/2006 12:46 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To John: I have tried a number of agents, but unless they have 24/7 access to one of their agents (which some do, but many don't), no airline will automatically rebook you if there is a misconnect or cancellation. They now say: "Go back to the agency that issued your ticket." Thanks for the suggestion, though.

10/24/2006 11:11 PM  

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