BRUTALLY HONEST: Delta Declares You’re Not Entitled to Compensate Even If They Injure You

See below for an update.

Historically airlines have sugar-coated changes. When they reduce the value of their loyalty program, increase fees, or otherwise making the travel experience more cumbersome, they tend to couch changes as enhancements.

We should be happy that we’ll get fewer miles, have fewer seats with extra legroom, and a more difficult time earning elite status.

A given change may be good or bad for the airline’s business, but either way airlines are rarely candid with what they’re doing. They speak as though they think we’re too stupid to know the difference and to me that’s even worse than making a change I don’t like.

Remarkably, recently several airlines have been on a streak of blunt candor.

Regardless of whether each carrier made the right move, and no matter what you think of their logic, they aren’t spinning what they’re doing as improvements, changes you’re going to like.

Now Delta’s Turn to Be Brutally Honest.

In an article about a Delta employee who stole ~ $80,000 worth of vouchers, there’s this very telling quote from the airline:

“We never issue vouchers or upgrades – unless there’s a major benefit to the airline – even if we bump passengers, injure them, lose their luggage or leave them stranded in Detroit in January,” the spokesman said.

    Update: Travel Pulse has since removed this quote from its piece, so I can no longer rely on its provenance or veracity.

Of course, Delta took the position last year in front of the Supreme Court that a consumer has little recourse in court even if they don’t honor their contracts. So why should they?

Is that the right position to take — that they won’t issue compensation to a passenger even if they injure that passenger — unless there’s a major benefit to the airline to do it?


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. I call BS.

    In October, I was on a DL flight from Beiing delayed 3 hours for a windshield wiper. Missed my connection my 30 minutes. As a DM in BE, DL gave me a voucher for the Westin (at DTW) without me prodding and booked me on the first flight in the morning, no questions asked.

  2. @SB: They could have given me a voucher for the Holiday Inn Express 10 minutes and a shuttle ride from the terminal. Instead they gave me a premium room right off the concourse; the hotel has it’s own TSA screening checkpoint.

    So, there is what they are leagally required to do, and as far as I am concerned, they did far more than that.

    This is where elite recognition really pays.

  3. A little common sense would go a long way in avoiding embarrassment here.

    The original article can easily be found online (http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/lauderdale-by-the-sea/fl-airline-ticket-theft-arrest-20141203-story.html). There is no quote at all from Delta (or from the police, for that matter). It’s basically a blotter report.

    It’s not credible that an airline rep would make that statement — I would need to see an attributed quote in a journalistic source (not a blog) before even provisionally accepting that this statement was made.

  4. Nowhere does Delta say they don’t compensate injured travelers. It just says Delta doesn’t issue them vouchers or upgrades.

  5. @Gavinmac

    Um, yes it does, right in the article – “We never issue vouchers or upgrades – unless there’s a major benefit to the airline – even if we bump passengers, injure them…”

  6. +1 LarryInNYC.

    With that extra little “quote” at the bottom, this is blogspam, pure and simple.

    I’d suggest removing this article, Gary.

  7. Nope it’s true, many people living under misconceptions of judicial review thing that they have right. They don’t! Gary you are correct passengers have no rights and no judicial recourse.

  8. @LarryInNYC is correct. The “TravelPulse” site to which Gary links starts out citing the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as the basis for its “story”. However, the purported Delta statement that TravelPulse includes is nowhere to be found in the actual Sun-Sentinel article. TravelPulse states that a “Delta spokesman told the paper…” but unless there is another newspaper source, the quote on TravelPulse appears fictitious.

    If Gary or TravelPulse can find an original source attribution for the Delta quote, that would be another matter.

  9. God, Gary is so eager to smear Delta at any and every opportunity he’ll leap at poorly-sourced blog posts with clearly fake quotes in order to add to the “Delta sucks” narrative.

    Way to go on your good reporting, Gary. Meanwhile, do you have any other posts about how AA’s domestic food is getting better, you swear?

    I don’t expect you to all love Delta, but good god, at least show some integrity and impartiality.

  10. @Gary Leff: Yes, but the quote itself appears to be completely fictitious, an invention on the part of the blogger you quoted (or perhaps someone between the blogger and the original article), not reflective of the corporate culture or attitude in any way.

    In other words, it is NOT true that Delta does not issue compensation in those cases. The quote is neither true nor even “truthy”. The existence of the quote suggests nothing about Delta.

    While I’m sure the originator considers inserting a completely false statement into an otherwise true news story a form of satire it becomes, when claimed as truth, a smear. I could share a “quote” from an unnamed spokesperson at Delta (or at VTFW, for that matter) discussing their corporate policy of killing and eating kittens but my doing so would not serve the purpose of illuminating their corporate culture — the purpose would be to spread a calumnious falsehood.

  11. I have to agree with the above posters. I think this post should be taken down. You don’t really think a Delta spokesman spoke those words, do you? You are losing credibility as you try to attack Delta at every opportunity.

  12. Your post is beyond-useless and it seems based on an obviously false, discredited source.

    Are you taking douchey-ness lessons from Travis Kalanick (of Uber fame)?

  13. @Gary Leff: Two reasons:

    1. The quote is suspicious in and of itself. A “spokesperson” saying “even if we injure the passenger”? Seriously?

    2. The original article (although not linked by the blogger) is available and contains no suggestion that Delta was contacted for a quote.

    Suspicious-sounding statement + no link to source + no hint in the source that the statement occurred = high likelihood that the statement was never made.

    Honestly, I’m flabbergasted that this is even in question — I assumed I was just pointing out something you didn’t have time to research yourself (and I want to disassociate myself from the outraged comments by others, BTW: to the extent that anyone deserves that level of criticism it’s the person who invented the quote in the first place if it is, in fact, invented).

    If that quote really was uttered by a Delta spokesman (or even a Delta whistleblower off the record) then you’re breaking some pretty major news here (Delta Admits to Causing Passenger Injury). Why not confirm with Delta? Or even the original blogger (although — get proof!)

    If, as I suspect, it was a poor attempt at satire that escaped into the wild it represents a lot of what I think is wrong with civil discourse in America these days — that people (all persuasions) feel entitled to become outraged over things that are completely made up.

  14. Seriously, Gary, this wildly unsubstantiated post is enough to get me to stop clicking on your blog. Your blog is basically “take stories that reflect poorly on American Airlines and spin them in a positive light” and “take neutral stories about Delta and slam them for being customer-unfriendly.” I never went to your blog to expect spin and FOX News-level bias, and I don’t think I intend to stick around while you perpetuate this ridiculousness.

  15. Gary, let’s make this even more simple for you:

    1. The Travelpulse article/blog post states:

    “A Delta spokesman TOLD THE PAPER that the airline’s policy on issuing vouchers and upgrades – or lack thereof – helped them catch White-Duarte.

    “We never issue vouchers or upgrades – unless there’s a major benefit to the airline – even if we bump passengers, injure them, lose their luggage or leave them stranded in Detroit in January,” the spokesman said. “This is how we caught the employee.”” [emphasis added – CAPS]

    2. “told the paper” presumably refers to a newspaper.

    3. The only newspaper cited in the Travelpulse article is the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. We have to assume the Travelpulse writer is referring to the Sun-Sentinel.

    4. The Sun-Sentinel article about this incident (linked in comments above) includes no such statement, or anything like it, by any Delta spokesperson.

    5. Therefore, Travelpulse is either making up the quote (for satire or other reasons) or Travelpulse has some other newspaper source which they haven’t named and no one else has thus far located.

    I’d also note that official company spokespeople, speaking on the record in their official capacity, generally are not hesitant to provide their name.

    I get that you probably assumed the Travelpulse story was accurate. But with this glaring discrepancy having been pointed out to you, perhaps try to confirm the accuracy rather than argue with the people here who have merely shed light on it? The Travelpulse writer’s contact information is readily available at the top of that page.

  16. I have no status with Delta and haven’t flown them for a while (mainly due to their sub-standard rewards program) but I do have some old miles with them.

    Anyway, if I had real cause to complain I guess (if ‘Delta’s’ comments represent company policy) that Delta might not see fit to compensate me. If this occurred I would simply file a complaint with the DOT.

    It’s easier to file a DOT complaint against an airline which you have very little to loose. If I had status and a lot of miles with Delta I would only go down that road as a last resort, as I understand that airlines have frozen accounts under these circumstances.

  17. The quote is simply wrong as a matter of law. DOT requires denied boarding (bump) compensation as follows:

    §250.5 Amount of denied boarding compensation for passengers denied boarding involuntarily.
    (a) Subject to the exceptions provided in §250.6, a carrier to whom this part applies as described in §250.2 shall pay compensation in interstate air transportation to passengers who are denied boarding involuntarily from an oversold flight as follows:

    (1) No compensation is required if the carrier offers alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if none, the airport of the passenger’s final destination not later than one hour after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight;

    (2) Compensation shall be 200% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $650, if the carrier offers alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if none, the airport of the passenger’s final destination more than one hour but less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight; and

    (3) Compensation shall be 400% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $1,300, if the carrier does not offer alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if none, the airport of the passenger’s final destination less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight.

    (b) Subject to the exceptions provided in §250.6, a carrier to whom this part applies as described in §250.2 shall pay compensation to passengers in foreign air transportation who are denied boarding involuntarily at a U.S. airport from an oversold flight as follows:

    (1) No compensation is required if the carrier offers alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if not, the airport of the passenger’s final destination not later than one hour after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight;

    (2) Compensation shall be 200% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $650, if the carrier offers alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if not, the airport of the passenger’s final destination more than one hour but less than four hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight; and

    (3) Compensation shall be 400% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $1,300, if the carrier does not offer alternate transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s first stopover, or if not, the airport of the passenger’s final destination less than four hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight.

    (c) Carriers may offer free or reduced rate air transportation in lieu of the cash or check due under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, if—

    (1) The value of the transportation benefit offered, excluding any fees or other mandatory charges applicable for using the free or reduced rate air transportation, is equal to or greater than the cash/check payment otherwise required;

    (2) The carrier fully informs the passenger of the amount of cash/check compensation that would otherwise be due and that the passenger may decline the transportation benefit and receive the cash/check payment; and

    (3) The carrier fully discloses all material restrictions, including but not limited to, administrative fees, advance purchase or capacity restrictions, and blackout dates applicable to the offer, on the use of such free or reduced rate transportation before the passenger decides to give up the cash/check payment in exchange for such transportation.

    (d) The requirements of this section apply to passengers with “zero fare tickets.” The fare paid by these passengers for purposes of calculating denied boarding compensation shall be the lowest cash, check, or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service on that flight.

    (e) The Department of Transportation will review the maximum denied boarding compensation amounts prescribed in this part every two years except for the first review, which will take place in 2012 in order to put the reviews specified in this section on the same cycle as the reviews of domestic baggage liability limits specified in 14 CFR 254.6. The Department will use any increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) as of July of each review year to calculate the increased maximum compensation amounts. The Department will use the following formula:

    (1) Current Denied Boarding Compensation limit in section 250.5(a)(2) multiplied by (a/b) rounded to the nearest $25 where:

    a = July CPI-U of year of current adjustment

    b = the CPI-U figure in August, 2011 when the inflation adjustment provision was added to Part 250.

    (2) The Denied Boarding Compensation limit in §250.5(a)(3) shall be twice the revised limit for §250.5(a)(2).

    (f) In addition to the denied boarding compensation specified in this part, a carrier shall refund all unused ancillary fees for optional services paid by a passenger who is voluntarily or involuntarily denied boarding. The carrier is not required to refund the ancillary fees for services that are provided with respect to the passenger’s alternate transportation.

    [Doc. No. DOT-OST-2010-0140, 76 FR 23162, Apr. 25, 2011]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *