Andrew shares a pretty crazy story about trying to fly from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Seattle in Delta’s business class that he booked with Alaska Airlines miles.
He had some real bad luck on the trip. His rental car was broken into in the south of France and his family’s luggage was stolen. He needed new bags and he went to Ikea.
He couldn’t check in using the Delta app and assumed it “was related to our service animals” and showed up at the airport 3 hours prior to departure to ensure he had time to deal with it.
He had a long wait in the Sky Priority line and a woman manning the queue approached him and let him know they wouldn’t accept his Ikea bags as checked luggage.
She approached us and pointed to our IKEA bags and said we can’t fly with these. No explanation, no solution, no help, she didn’t offer us to go to the wrapping station first, she didn’t listen to our arguments that we lost our bags. Just point blank NO.
And she also threatened us: “You’ll see that you’re not flying today!” Apparently, she went around all check in stands in the SkyPriority and warn every agent not to accept our bags — just because she didn’t like them.
When he made it to the front of the line he was asked the series of questions for US-bound passengers. When I was in Paris this year I was asked what I did while I was away, what I do for a living, and a number of other specifics about myself and my journey.
The problem with his reservation turned out not to be anything about service animals, but that his reservation managed to become unassociated with his ticket. He was sent to the ticketing desk, who told him to call Alaska Airlines, and eventually everyone figured out that the ticket number on his confirmation email just needed to be entered into his booking. He was sent back to the check-in desk for boarding passes.
At this point there was no problem getting him checked in but they wouldn’t accept his Ikea bags as luggage citing Delta policy.
“This is Delta’s policy,” they say. ..“You have to find a solution.”
“You have 3 more minutes to find the solution or the flight will be closed.”
…“You should go and buy new luggage.”
…“Our plastic bags are for strollers only,”
…“You can go and wrap your bags in plastic at the wrapping station”
Along the way he filmed several of his interactions with staff.
Andrew had his bags wrapped, and while completing that task he says he was “surrounded by those “security” guys who were demanding to remove all video footage from my phone. Yes, all videos or else they won’t let us fly today.”
He says he removed all videos but obviously since he posted some to YouTube that’s not completely accurate (there are 3 more in addition to the two above). An agent informed him he wouldn’t be flying.
He wanted names of staff and they wouldn’t give them, so he took a photo of an employee badge one was wearing. That’s when he was “arrest[ed]..and take[n] to the Police Nationale office.”
Police searched his phone and deleted some content, and let him go when he agreed to leave the terminal.
Eventually Alaska Airlines found him alternate flights home and refunded some miles as a customer service gesture.
If you read the whole story there seems to be a lot of extraneous detail to work through, and he keeps referring to an unhelpful “black woman in red jacket” which I cringe at.
However I share this story as a reminder that:
- your rights aren’t the same abroad as in the United States
- even if you feel you’re right you sometimes face a choice of vindicating your position and getting what you need from the person you’re arguing with
- being confrontational with bureaucrats isn’t nearly as effective as being kind and generating sympathy which may yield help instead of pushback.
Customer service doesn’t seem great here though we only see part of the interaction and Andrew does seem belligerent with agents. The e-ticket issue is rare though it happens, I nearly missed a Cathay Dragon flight out of Siem Reap when they couldn’t find my ticket even though Cathay Pacific itself had no such problem days earlier.
Ultimately the problem was that the agents wouldn’t accept an Ikea bag. They wanted him to wrap the bag. Security is likely to rip open the wrapping, but that’s fine, at that point agents would have already accepted the luggage.
My ultimate advice is to deal with the most pressing issue at the moment — fighting agents when what you need is check-in isn’t going to be your best strategy — and then complaining or vindicating yourself after you’ve traveled when there’s little risk.