Home > business, family > Delta Airlines has terrible customer service

Delta Airlines has terrible customer service

May 12, 2008

My poor little sister just got totally destroyed by awful Delta employees. She was trying to fly cross-country for the first time with her 4 month old baby. Disaster ensued, and Delta totally blew the customer service. Money quote?

“I asked [the supervisor] if she cared that I had been treated poorly by Delta employees, and she said if I wanted someone to care, I should write to “corporate” and they were required by law to respond to me in 30 days or less.”

My sister doesn’t fly as often as I do, clearly, or she would have known how terrible flying has gotten these days. She would have done online check-in, and would have arrived earlier. She made some mistakes, and seemed willing to accept the consequences. But that’s no excuse for downright rude customer service. Would an “I’m sorry” or a smile have been so hard? Shame on Delta.

Anne, for the record, flying with Virgin America has been an absolute dream, particularly when paired with Clear. (Want a free month with Clear? Use code SCA04501). I wish both were everywhere – maybe someday. In the meantime, avoid Delta like the plague.

UPDATE: I should have known Consumerist would have lots of stories like this. Enjoy!

  1. Katharine
    May 12, 2008 at 11:51 am


    Consumerist has all the info she needs to email corporate, and hopefully get that awful manager fired. Also, JetBlue is the best airline around nowadays, IMHO.

  2. Liz
    May 12, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Gee, they sound a little like Home Depot…

  3. May 12, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Oj I can only agree, I had a bad oversea trip with Delta, which took me more than 24h. And not a single helpfull statement from Delta personal. They delayed the flight multiple times for half an hour.

  4. Chris
    May 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    That’s terrible to hear. I worked for Delta (Delta Technology, the IT arm) for nearly seven years and left in ’05. When I started there it was a wonderful place to work and the long-time employees were obvious in their dedication to the airline, but it became an increasingly difficult environment as bankruptcy became a foregone conclusion. I still have some friends there, but Delta has probably forever lost the corporate soul that once made it a great airline and a company that one could be proud to be a part of.

  5. May 12, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Actually, with a lap-baby, for most carriers you cannot check online and instead must stand in line so they can properly check in the baby.

  6. May 12, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I agree about JetBlue being one of the nice airlines to fly on. I’d noticed a problem with a loud popping on the earbuds when the intercom interrupted watching tv. So I sent a message to their twitter account and got a response in minutes. Then I got a followup response from their tech team.

  7. amy
    May 13, 2008 at 1:04 am

    i was just curious, how did you come up with the name “smugmug” for your photo sharing website? is it supposed to be like you have a smug look on your mug/expression/face?

  8. Ed
    May 13, 2008 at 5:53 am


    Enjoy reading your blog. I keep getting the following error when attempting to access your posts from Google reader.

    Thought you would want to know. Error below:



    SecurityError: Error #2060: Security sandbox violation: ExternalInterface caller http://cdn.smugmug.com/ria/ShizVidz-2008042404.swf cannot access http://www.google.com/reader/view/#stream/feed/http://feeds.feedburner.com/SmugBlogDonMacAskill.
    at flash.external::ExternalInterface$/_initJS()
    at flash.external::ExternalInterface$/addCallback()
    at shizvidz/init()
    at shizvidz/___shizvidz_Application1_initialize()
    at flash.events::EventDispatcher/dispatchEventFunction()
    at flash.events::EventDispatcher/dispatchEvent()
    at mx.core::UIComponent/dispatchEvent()
    at mx.core::UIComponent/set processedDescriptors()
    at mx.core::Container/createComponentsFromDescriptors()
    at mx.core::Container/createChildren()
    at mx.core::UIComponent/initialize()
    at mx.core::Container/initialize()
    at mx.core::Application/initialize()
    at shizvidz/initialize()
    at mx.managers::SystemManager/http://www.adobe.com/2006/flex/mx/internal::childAdded()
    at mx.managers::SystemManager/initializeTopLevelWindow()
    at mx.managers::SystemManager/http://www.adobe.com/2006/flex/mx/internal::docFrameHandler()

  9. David Smith
    May 13, 2008 at 9:13 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me. How is it Delta’s fault that your sister allowed way too little time for her flight?

    So she had to pay $50 extra to get on a later flight. That seems fair and reasonable.

    Last time I flew, I saw a lady with a baby show up very late (airplane had left the ramp late) and throw a big temper tantrum. Not the baby, the mother. It did her no good either. That plane was NOT coming back to the ramp just for the poor, tired mother. And no, it was not Delta.

    I am a father and I know how hard it is to get moving with small children. But the answer is not to expect the rest of the world to wait for you. Your baby may be the most important thing in the world to you. But the world will not wait for you. Instead, you need to allow extra time for everything you do. Your sister did the opposite, allow the minimum time and it didn’t work out. There’s a lesson to be learned there, but the lesson is not that “Delta is bad”.

    BTW, I don’t like Delta either, but your story is not a valid reason.

  10. May 13, 2008 at 10:10 am

    @David Smith

    Maybe if you actually read my post, you’d see that I didn’t have a problem at all with the $50 or waiting for another flight. She should have gotten there earlier, as I said, and had to pay the consequences (again, as I said).

    I had a problem with how rude the employees were. Delta is a customer service business – and they simply didn’t care about their customer. A simple “I’m sorry” and a smile goes a long way.

    Might wanna call “Hooked on Phonics” if you’re having trouble reading… I hear they’re good.

  11. May 13, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I can’t agree more. Ever since Delta screwed up 3 of my flights in one 6 week period, I have refused to fly them. I even had a Delta Amex card that I got rid of. The problem is that every airline has a downside these days:

    American = Jets older than I am, their primary jet is the McDonald Douglas 80, a brand that no longer exists.

    Continental = I am not ‘elite’ enough so I never get upgraded (admittedly not an overarching customer service issue) – saying that, this is probably the best large domestic carrier these days.

    Delta = Worst customer service ever, not to mention Delta + Northwest lost a combined $10.5 Billion in Q1 of this year – and we thought the financial industry was hurting…

    United = If you fly out of SFO, they’re your best option, but their fleet is aging and the service is hit or miss.

  12. GregP
    May 13, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I’m from France and live in the US since awhile now.
    To me, airlines companies in US are rough, not only Delta, but also United, US Airways, Continental, … to name the few I used recently.
    I told myself it was maybe because here in US, flying was more common, so they don’t need to build good customer experience.
    Reality is that most of airline companies here are not profitable, how many time do we hear about that chapter 11?
    Now, only in US planes still flies while in chapter 11. Everywhere else, aircrafts are just sold by shareholders and the company is shut down, which is better for everyone, including the customer.
    Instead, we have to make little saving, you have to buy your headsets, drinks, and it’s always because of the weather that flights are cancelled…. and don’t protest or we call security! Nice!

    • Francois
      February 16, 2009 at 4:41 am

      Excuse me…our airlines are not government OWNED. Don't even get me started on the NON existent service on the ground once you have a ticket. Air France is known all over the world for lousy service and nasty French attitudes (God only knows what for, cause it sure ain't beauty, or power). So, spare me.

      Want to move on to nickel and diming a person to death? Try your entire culture, those cheap money grubbing chislers would charge you for AIR if they could.

  13. Kristina
    May 17, 2008 at 12:36 am

    I been using delta over 2 year’s . I had males more then 2400 . And i call them booking another flag t NY to Las Vegas . 05.23.2008 05.26.2008 Before I call them cheek the Delta.com ticket was 2 whey 723 My internet was to slower i toad i pad 25$ fee just call and buy ticket .. When i call castumor serves 10 minute whiting same Indian Gay (name Piter ) answer the phone he toke me to 30 minute get booking ,bu the time ticket praise go up 1027 and . He told me you don’t have no cho’s bayed bayed other wases go to deferent airlines !!!!!

    I’ll cheeked wit side stop.com and JET BLUE was 569$ same date same plase 🙂

    I agree about Jet Blue 2 minute i had my ticked !!

  14. Kristina
    May 17, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I’m sorry not 2400 males the was 24.000

  15. Deborah Schuller
    May 27, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Yes this last friday May 23 2008 while flying home from Paris..my husband asked the Attendant politley for another customs form and she became frustrated and choked him ! She had her hands around his neck and was shaking him back and forth,,,in jest..but still my husband was embarassed and said he felt the urge to push her off and even punch her..but he restrained himself..I think this was totally uncalled for if we would have put our hands around the attendants neck and choked her even in jest we would have been thrown off the plane and arrested

  16. Brian Theodore
    June 2, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Couldn’t agree more re: Virgin America – great customer and flight experience — and presently dirt cheap compared to other airlines. They are really the new JetBlue… let’s just hope Branson can keep things in check and avoid PR disasters like “complementary day tours of the JFK tarmak – sans the tour”.

  17. delta's lost its appeal
    June 9, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I am sorry that your sister had a bad experience with Delta. This job was my career, my passion was given the best customer service but the writting is on the wall and I can’t represent a company I cannot be proud of therefore I recently resigned.
    As a former employee, I agree Delta’s service the last few years has been on a downward note.
    Don’t look for it to get any better any time soon either, as all they want to hire are “ready reserve agents” that are paid $10.50 an hour w/o the opportunity for raise and no benefits. What sick idiot is going to sign up for that? Not to mention the the long hours worked, sometimes depending on the day you don’t even get your breaks, its difficult to get days off with the lack of employees, people forget planes fly 365 days a year, meaning many of them work weekends, holidays, varied schedule, mandatory overtime irregardless of what that employee has planned for their scheduled off time. No thanks! I believe you get what you pay for. If you want happy employees you have to pay them what they are with, treat them with respect, grant them an extra day off here and there to show they are appreciated!

  18. ed
    July 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    You know how people say travelling through Mexico is dangereous and ridden with bribes, well I have a story for you.

    I recently reserved a round trip flight from Dallas to San Salvador., El Salvador The flight coming in was fine, the one coming back turned into a nightmare.

    I arrived at the San Salvador airport approximately one hour before departure time. There had been torrential rains the night before and so there were some delays on the way to the airport. When I arrived at the check-in counter I was told by the rep the counter closes one hour before departure. After explaining my situation and I was told by the represetantive that a supervisor would only be available only until after the flight had departed and there was nothing I could do excpet change my departure date and pay an exhorbitant $283 fee.

    I again explained there was still plenty of time to board the flight especially since I had one carry on luggage and I am frequent Delta customer. Additionally I had offered my seat seat up on a different flight with Delta and accomodated an overbooked flight. ( Needless to say like many on this board the voucher I was given was never honored and my letter to their customer care department about the matter was not even acknowledged!) All these things did not matter, no one budged. I was going to be prevented from boarding the flight and was going to have to pay the fee.

    The supervisor appeared after the flight had left and I promised her I would not use Delta again. And so back to the Mexican stereotype I started with.

    Luckily I had time to travel back to Dallas using first class tourbuses from El Salvador through Mexico. Apart from the obvious (a very long ride) the ride was very comfortable with fully reclinable seats and I made it back in 2 1/2 days. I travelled though Guatemala and Mexico and not one cent was paid in bribes. To top it off the customer service I experienced was beyond anything Delta could promise. For example a bus was rerouted to accomodate for an overbooked bus on the last leg of my journey. Delta you were out done my Omnnibus Mexicanos! No wonder bakruptcy is looming. My total cost coming back was $200.

    I will be writing a letter to Delta’s customer care team only as a formality really. I will file a complaint with the BBB and consumer affairs and if this matter is ignored once again, I will be contacting media outlets here and in El Salvador to expose this unethical practice.

  19. Mel Cin Solomons
    August 11, 2008 at 6:44 pm


    Today I received a call from my daughter. She is stuck at JFK do to DELTA AIRLINES incompetence. She was headed from Boston to Dulles. She has been in NYC for more than 24 hours. As usual Delta has used every excuse in the book , but she is still there at JFK frustrated and fatigued. To make matters worse they refuse to return herb lugage. Her departure from Boston was at 8AM on 8/10/08 it is noe pst 9 pm on 8/11/08. She is a world traveller with frequent trips to Europe and Africa. She will never deal with DELTA again, neither should you if you have and options.

  20. Laura
    November 22, 2008 at 9:49 am

    In defense of David Smith’s comment, d-a-n-i-e-L, your immature and anger fueld remark is yet another reason why some of Delta’s customer service can come across in a rude manner. They have to deal with impatient childish customers like yourself on a daily basis, who complain because they are late or don’t follow the recommended procedures. What was the agent supposed to say to your sister, sorry you were late? I understand the difficulties of time management with an infant, but your rampage against Delta is not valid. I have flown with Delta numerous times, and yes have been frustrated as well, but have NEVER experienced a comment like the one you are claiming your sister recieved. I am sorry the world does not revolve around you and your family in the way you believe it should. Get used to it. It’s a shame that people only remember the negative experiences with Delta and seem to forget all of the positive.

  21. jeff m
    November 27, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    i to am a victum of delta airline, i booked two tickets, full fare phx to penscola fla, then found out two days later my wife has cancer, i called deta and got the to bad you can book another for a year with only a small penality, or try our on line refund (which they never answer) a year? for gods sake this is cancer, delta needs a heart.

  22. Gregg
    December 13, 2008 at 2:16 am

    I am flying tomorrow on delta from san francisco to jacksonville Fl. I bought this ticket the first part of june well in advance of the fees being added for extra baggage. I just paid delta $25 for the second bag. So they are stealing my money. I fly this route four times a year. I will never fly these idiots again unless the flight is under 300. They are losers.

  23. January 20, 2009 at 8:51 am

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  24. February 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    All airlines are getting worse and worse everyday. I have been in business for 10 years and I can see the diffrence. Anyone needs best fares on international flights check this our new site http://www.paylessflights.com

  25. June 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I'm sure your sister was acting rude and demanding things, also. I have dealt with people like her. Acting like the airline should shift its whole flight schedule and procedures because she couldn't get to where she was supposed to be on time.

  26. July 8, 2009 at 6:53 am

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  27. Ann Drew Topham
    September 30, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Some of the problems I have read about on this site seem larger than mine, but never-the-less, what Delta did to me upset me and financially impacted me a great deal.

    Each summer, I purchase tickets for my son and a family of six on the East Coast to visit me on the West Coast. On a fixed income, this is a large expenditure, but to keep close, I do it. Last summer, one grandchild could not make the trip that I had paid for and I wrote a letter to ask that I use the ticket to visit him and the family on the East Coast.

    Delta said that there was “nothing they could do. They needed to be fair to everyone that travels with them and must uphold the ticket rules.” They say they look forward to the privilege of serving my air travel needs again. Are they kidding??? How rigid is this!!!

    I will not consider Delta again. Continental, here I come!!!

  28. October 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Maybe it's because I'm from the South. But I agree with you; a compassionate smile works wonders. I was late (my fault) catching a connection flight, Southwest, last year. I spent the night in the airport! I was devestated! And all I got was 'You should have been here earlier and you will just have to wait until the next flight in the morning' If just one person would have acted like it mattered, it would have made the whole ordeal much easier to handle. Was it my fault? Absolutely! Do they have to care? No, obviously.

    I am sorry about what happened to your sister. It must have been very scary with a baby and all. I cried myself; just so scary to see that plane leaving and not knowing what to do.

    These companies should see this type of situation as an opportunity to 'shine.' Don, I will say that for the last year, SmugMug has 'shined' for me. Anytime I have a question, your staff is there immediatly, helping me. And I mean within minutes! Your staff seem like my 'friends'. I appreciate it so much!

  29. October 30, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Ah! This is really touching, would like to read more stuff like this.

  30. November 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Love it! You got me so excited to get one and start shooting video!

  31. Robert L.
    November 13, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Thanks to Delta’s reservationists and the customer (me) not babysitting the Delta employees to ensure they give their customer (me) the best itinerary possible, I have the joy of wasting 12 hours between the departures of the first flight to second flight on the final leg. I literally could have driven from Philadelphia to Atlanta in less time than what the Delta employee arranged for their customer (me). Yet when I called it was my fault for not ensuring the itinerary was set to my liking.

    I have to ask what the purpose in paying an airline to make reservations that meets the customers travel requirements of getting from Point A to Point B on a set date in the most efficient way possible and then have to double check their work. I already work 50 – 60 hours a week and now I have to add more time to double check Delta’s did what I am paying them for. It would seem fair they would have to pay me for my work in babysitting their employees.

    Today’s business environment is increasingly passing of their work to the paying customers. I can completely understand why some airlines struggle when the company can not understand that there is much more to customer service then getting paying customers from Point A to Point B. This has me so angry that I literally do not want to use Delta airlines for my future travels and I travel a lot.

    As much as I want corrective actions taken, I am a positive that Delta’s customer service will take no such effort, they already have my money with giving me no options but to take the rotten service that I paid for.

  32. Gabriel
    December 17, 2009 at 2:35 am

    This is the first time I'm using Delta to fly from houston to Honduras during Christmas break. So far it's a traveler's worst nightmare. I had trouble getting to the airport and barely managed to get there 7 minutes before the flight was closed out. As I was checking my bags in,the lady told me that I would have to pay 150 dollar fine because of the extra baggage weight. I asked her to give me a second to let me take some things out to reduce the weight. I tried to check it in again and luggage weighed 52 pounds. Usually other airlines would let me slide through with that, but the lady wouldn't budge. So I tried taking more stuff out. When I tried to weigh the baggage for the third time, the lady told me the flight was closed and there was nothing I could do about it. I asked her to help me out, because I actually got there on time and took longer because of the baggage. Her response was "Why should I help you? You are no family member of mind!!". I was shock to here this. And they wouldn't reschedule a flight for me. They said I was Expedia's problem. When I called Expedia they told me that I would have to pay 150 dollars to reschedule my flight and a 800 dollars difference for the new ticket fairs. Obviously I wasn't able to afford that. Expedia told me to speak with Delta and Delta told me to speak with expedia. After that, I decided to wait, and call later to see if the next expedia agent could help me. I ended up paying and extra 370 dollars to book a flight for Sunday. I was suppose to get surgery on Thursday and will have to reschedule that. I'm hoping nothing bad happens that day. So far, this is the WORST airline I've ever had business with. Any other airline would have happily helped me out and would have treated me like an actual customer.

  33. December 26, 2009 at 8:04 am

    not really that bad. Have patience.

  34. December 30, 2009 at 10:54 am

    very rarely write a review about a company, I am so frustrated with Delta airlines customer service that I am doing this.
    I have asked customer service 4 times to credit my account with the appropriate FF miles 4 times I was told that the miles will be posted within 48 hours several weeks later nothing has happened.
    Delta customer service has deteriorated since the merger with NW airlines, I think with reduced travel capacity thew airlines don't feel obligated to take care of their customers.
    I will no longer fly Delta I have other choices.

  35. sara
    January 7, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Thanks for publishing my comment..


    flights to Melbourne

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