Delta Lost Woman’s Bag, Called Police on Her for Recording Poor Customer Service

Ever since David Dao was dragged off a United Express flight by police and beaten last April it’s been clear to most people that we have a problem in the airline industry. Customer service problems are turned into law enforcement problems.

In our hyper-security focused environment challenging an airline employee is treated as a crime, or a security risk. Express concern to a flight attendant moving your bags in the overhead bin? You may be a ‘problem’ (read: threat) to the aircraft. And that mindset has spread from the aircraft, and the gate, to elsewhere across the airport. The baggage claim office, which is outside security, may be the least likely place but it seems to be there too.

  • On August 24 Delta lost the bags of a businesswoman. She proceeded to the baggage office at Boston Logan airport. She felt she was getting terrible customer service so she asked to speak to the manager.

  • The Delta employee taking the claim refused to give the manager’s name, saying it’s Delta’s policy that employees cannot give out the names of other employees. It seems odd to me not to make a manager’s name available. Great managers want customers to contact them, even if they have a team who actually screens the messages due to volume.

  • This woman was videotaping the interaction. When the Delta employee realized that, she immediately called the police.

On September 12, nearly three weeks later, the airline hadn’t responded to her concerns despite reaching out on twitter and sharing video of the incident. Now her video is going viral.

She feels the incident escalated to police more quickly because of her race. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true, or if Delta’s baggage claim office calls the police on customers as part of their customer service plan. Regardless the video, which Delta asked her down, is clear that there were never any threats made.

People do not like being filmed, but no law was being broken and no one was in physical danger. This was a customer service issue. Outsourcing customer service to law enforcement is a terrible trend in the airline industry.

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 »

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Comments

  1. Isn’t Massachusetts a two party consent state for recording conversations? Regardless I agree that calling the police over a customer service issue is way out of line and this type of story seems to crop up way too frequently in the airline industry. We all bear part of the blame though for the sorry state of affairs by allowing our rights to be unduly trampled in the name of security.

  2. It may be a two person consent? But regardless, there should be no expectation of privacy in that setting, so videotaping should be ok….

  3. In that two-minute conversation I wonder if any of the agents statements were lies or inconsistencies. In any event she gladly jumped at the chance to call the cops. It seemed to really make her day. The agent may protest that “I have Black friends/coworkers. Race couldn’t be a factor.” Bigotry is more easily revealed in how you treat people you don’t know more so than how you treat people you are familiar with.

  4. Its too bad the video cut off just as the agent was finishing the call to the MA state police. Do you have any information on how the police handled it? Do you have a way to get a copy of the police report? And can you find any more information on the disposition of the baggage claim? I thought I read a long time ago DL started giving out prepaid debit cards as compensation for baggage claims, not sure if they do that anymore. Did the call to the MA state police intimidate the woman in to stopping recording? Did she leave or wait for troopers to arrive? Can you do a FOIA request at BOS or other airports on how often the police are called on incidents related to cusotmer service? Boy, you are going to need an investigative ITeamn at View From The Wing!

  5. Understand that the videotaping would be ok in this case. Just seems like a frivolous matter blown out of proportion IMO! Luggage gets misplaced from time to time. Though not everyone one is pulling out there phone to film it or take a picture. Seems like the common theme is some are just doing it to get attention. Those online tend to react to it. Just making it worse IMO…

  6. @Matt Calling the police on a customer claiming “she is in her face”, refusing to give aupervisors name. Clearly normal behavior.

  7. I see no saints in that video. The pax is being belligerent, and then the secret recording pushes the agent over the edge. I’m sure Delta would love to see its front line employees provide better customer service, but I guarantee you that agent won’t be getting disciplined.

  8. How is the passenger being belligerent? She didn’t even curse one single time, nor did she raise her voice or lose her composure at all. She was simply asking repeatedly for the manager’s claim so that she could fill out her lost baggage insurance claim… please explain how this is belligerent in any way.

  9. OMG -chopsticks are you kidding? Being belligerent? She couldn’t have been more polite and calm! I wasn’t going to comment but yours put me over the edge!

  10. The agent could have handled it better, but the customer was definitely not right in this situation. This should not go viral. Let the real stories be in the headlines

  11. Two party consent? So has everyone in the airport, gas stations and stores consented to being recorded by surveillance cameras?

  12. I totally disagree that the customer did anything wrong. To my mind, the employee was entirely in the wrong by refusing to provide the manager’s name or contact. The employee appeared to have decided she just was going to refuse to engage in any responsive action, and the customer did little more than repeat her request. The employee used the recording as an excuse to silence and evict the customer.

  13. The woman had every right to speak or communicate to a manager on Deltas failure to deliver her baggage
    I haven’t flown Delta in 20 years and there’s little chance ever again
    I’m embarrassed for my country and the airline industry
    Perhaps they can lock her up and throw away the key for wanting to be reunited with her baggage
    Really stomach turning that any airline as greedy as they are can get away with this business behavior
    It’s shameful

  14. Shameful conduct and absolutely childish display of conflict resolution skills by the agent. Culminating in abuse of police resources.

    This agent belongs in Hell.

  15. gary, do advise if you learn delta’s response. obviously bad training. the kid just made stuff up. … we have choices out of washington dc. gotta ask myself if i want to buy delta ever again. (was diamond for a while. )

  16. Shame on this agent, clearly she is not fit as a front line agent. The whole situation could have been handled in a professional manner, but she is clearly not up for it. If I was her manager and saw this situation, I would certainly put this in her work records. Of course this could also be the problem of her manager – as in instructing his/her subordinates to never give out his/her name and never escalate anything to him/her. Even in this situation, she could have handled the situation in a more professional way.

  17. “People do Not like bring filmed, but no law was being broken…”

    Uh…guess again.

    Massachusetts is a “two-party State.” Meaning, among other things, that secret recordings of conversations are prohibited. There IS a law against it and it WAS being broken.

    Contrast this to decisions regarding the recording of Police. The difference there is that police are public servants on the public dime. They do not have the same privacy protection.

    The woman got it wrong. She had no privilege to record the conversation. She could be subject to both criminal and civil action. Mr. Leff got it wrong, as well, by stating that no law was being broken.

    FYI – here is the law in question:

    https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter272/Section99

  18. While Massachusetts has one of the most antiquated wiretap statutes int he country Commonwealth v. Jackson (1976) makes clear there needs to be some expectation of privacy, and the second party has to be unaware of the recording. The Delta employee in the video states they are aware of the recording and calls the police because of it. I’ll leave it to experts on the state’s wiretap statutes but it’s not at all obvious there’s a crime here or — more importantly — that the agent in question had any belief there was a crime.

  19. Delta will need to explain their SOP for customer situation involving lost luggage. Since police are not called everytime an unhappy customer develops, it is probably due to the recording. Luggage pickup area may be or should be a no photo zone despite the public nature of it. Unlike a public street or the common airport area before the TSA line, people have limited ability to isolate themselves from others. So if you have just exited a 14 hour flight and may not be photogenic, you need not worry because the only cameras are for security not paparazzi. Luggage claim, even if its wide open to the public, is not optional for customers that checked luggage and therefore still a controlled area.
    As for the agent not answering the question about the managers name, give her a break. Maybe she works for a supervisor and was confused by the question, IDK, but the luggage was not going to appear based on her response.

  20. Re: Massachusetts Law, the video is posted and may be illegal because the segment posted was made before the agent was aware? Okay. The segment after the agent was aware would be legal? I don’t think so.
    If the video is a criminal act, that supersedes the civil complaint asserted by the videographer. The police can be called to protect the rights of the person being videoed as well as the rights of other customers, but especially her own rights. Posting the video complicates things greatly for the videographer because, if she is wrong, the subject(s) of the video could claim damages from the unauthorized video and royalties.
    With cell phone cameras, the larger issue is protecting customers from people that want to video in non-photo zones, and the only referee for disputes of that nature is security or law enforcement.
    But the gate agent, no matter what she did, could not make the luggage appear. There was no immediate resolution to the customers problem.

  21. My supervisor said in a training session just a few weeks ago, “Assume you could be recorded at any time and any interaction could be on the internet in seconds.” I suspect Delta employees get very little training in customer relations; mostly they’re taught how to extract every possible cent from their customers. I doubt that this person will face any discipline because it’s an airline and they don’t care. I know that if I didn’t handle situations any better than that, I would not be around for long in my job.

  22. Well, it seems Massachusetts is a 2 party consent state even for oral communications. See https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter272/Section99. I do not like it, as these two party consent statutes interfere with developing most reliable evidence of what transpires in any given conversation. Nor do they protect privacy in any meaningful sense.

    As for the corporate policy against providing names of employees, I am skeptical. Indeed, I think the agent was unsure and making up a corporate policy. Seriously now, if an employee is giving me bad service, should that employee be given the prerogative to refuse to identify to whom I should report his or her poor performance. Such a “policy” is so absurd that I cannot imagine it exists.

  23. First, what is not mentioned is the airport is a high security risk area.

    Delta hires the state police to have a presence in the airport to protect their employees and other passengers.

    The employee didn’t call the ‘cops’. She called the stationed security (state police) at the airport when she felt harassed.

    The state police is very often flagged by employees BUT discretely. The employee made an huge error by not flagging security discretely. If this was done discretely, a state police officer would have walked in to say hello to the employee. If the passenger continued to harass the employee, the state police would have walked the passenger outside.

    Was the passenger being harassing? It appears so, since a manager was already called and spoke to the passenger. A report was taken by the manager. The manager left the room after taking a report. The passenger did not leave and decided to stay and harass the employee by videotaping, which is against the law in Mass.

    Good journalism investigates and writes the whole story instead of one sided propaganda.

  24. All you idiots talking about a two party consent state, tell me the last time having more video and more information hurt a given situation. Y’all say to much video is a problem but you know what we have more video then ever now proving people provide bad service and treatment of others and instead of dissect that behavior you look down on the person recording. And on top that we got all this fucking video and people still getting killed or mistreated so fucking excuse us for making a recording when it might be the only thing we have to protect our lives you entitled piece of shit. You the type of dumbasses to follow the law cause it’s the law. Never question. Women didn’t have the right to vote or black people cause it was the law does that mean it makes sense? Let me pause cause those probably were your ideal times, I’ll let you reminisce. … Y’all some follower that don’t question the logic or reason behind anything. Y’all were prolly the type to keep shocking someone in Milgrams study. That’s the word OBEDIENT. Y’all some obedient Hitler following type of
    people lol.

    Let me also point out if this was a white man he wouldn’t be “belligerent” he’d be seen as standing up for himself. But no when your of color your being belligerent and irate even when being polite. fuck you and your undertone racist bull shit.

  25. Having worked in the transportation industry for over 30 years I can say that this Delta employee knows nothing about good customer service. First thing she had a attitude to begin with. Then she should have at least made a attempt to contact the manager. Unfortunately there are so many bad employees dealing with customers. You might say just fire them. The issue is they probably belong to a union and that protects bad employees. On the flip side there are just as many or more great employees who do a good job taking care of customers in need. They usually get zero credit for being the good employees they are and the focus is only on the bad apples.

  26. @ Leef

    “Posting the video complicates things greatly for the videographer because, if she is wrong, the subject(s) of the video could claim damages from the unauthorized video and royalties.”

    Under just what civil cause of action would one make such a claim, especially for royalties?

  27. The Mass. statute everyone claims was violated is inapplicable to this situation at a minimum because a phone video does not meet the definition of “intercepting device.”

    3. The term ”intercepting device” means any device or apparatus which is capable of transmitting, receiving, amplifying, or recording a wire or oral communication other than a hearing aid or similar device which is being used to correct subnormal hearing to normal and other than any telephone or telegraph instrument, equipment, facility, or a component thereof, (a) furnished to a subscriber or user by a communications common carrier in the ordinary course of its business under its tariff and being used by the subscriber or user in the ordinary course of its business; or (b) being used by a communications common carrier in the ordinary course of its business.

    If there was a violation of law in this case, then every phone video in Massachusetts that records conversation would be illegal unless all parties were aware of the video and had expressly consented to their words being recorded. Not happening.

  28. Delta has a training issue, and this is the result of the quality of that training.

    It does seem that the airlines have an unrealistic need to push the emergency button and call in law enforcement to handle customer service issues. But this Delta employee was not even onboard an aircraft – they’re likely in the baggage claim area. And they’re calling law enforcement as if it were written in their SOP.

    I’ve seen gate agents at SFO repeatedly call the same SFO airport police to the same gate to remove ANYONE who disagreed or questioned the staff regarding a delay that was happening (fog). The same two LE officers kept coming back and removed paying customers from the terminal each time the Southwest agent was questioned. Repeatedly. And the confirmed passengers were barred from entering the terminal for 24 hours (from what I overheard).

    I don’t see hotel staff calling law enforcement when someone at the check in desk has a reservation issue. Staff are using safety fears to call in LE to do their customer service duties, and is a sign of poor management. This is more than out of control and needs to be fixed.

  29. We obviously have two points of view. My question to you, Gary, what does Delta have to say about this incident? Without this, we are just going round in ever decreasing size of cirlces.

  30. Having worked for another major airline at a hub this agents lack of skill is amazing….all she had to do was give her a managers name…that’s all…FYI..that agent is not union….

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