Delta Air Lines: You Need To Pay A Fee To Pay This Fee

Update: Delta representatives are in touch with Martin and his family, and we’ll let you know when they work something out.

Martin’s 5-year-old stepdaughter has had a very eventful holiday week. So has her family. Flying as an unaccompanied minor, she had to miss her original flight on AirTran and her family booked another at the last minute. The first reasonably priced flight available was on NWA/Delta, but her parents tell us that communication between different departments seems to have shut down–resulting in fees, hours of delays, and the child ultimately missing her flight because the airline didn’t mark down that the unaccompanied minor fee had already been paid.

Due to an unfortunate series of events [two major accidents on the way to the airport], my five-year-old step-daughter missed her AirTran flight to Michigan last night and ended up sleeping on a good family friend’s couch.

My wife and I scrambled all night to find a halfway reasonable deal and ended up booking at 1:20AM a 6AM flight for our child. We first tried to book through NWA.com, but the website would not let us book a child alone and customer service wanted an extra $20 to book the flight. They told us, however, to book the same flight through delta.com and call back to pay the $100 unaccompanied minor fee and provide guardian information.

So we booked our flight via delta.com and called customer service back. Since I’m e-mailing you right now, you know that there has got to be a twist. Upon calling back I was told that the person dropping off our child would have to pay the fee at the airport. Mind you, my friend had spent the entire day heroically taking care of our child through the worst possible set of airline/airport screw-ups ever, and was gracious enough to feed her and entertain her for an entire unbelievably hectic day, and we did not want him to have to spend the additional money when he dropped off our daughter.

I explained that to the rep, and she said with a straight face, “well, you can pay the fee over the phone, but there is a fee to pay the fee.”

With barely suppressed disgust I asked her to repeat herself slowly. “There will be a fee to pay the fee.” (Ok, I thought to myself, they’re going to screw me out of a few bucks any way they can)

I asked how much it was and she calmly replied that there would be a $100 fee to pay the $100 fee. $200 total. When I asked what the fee was for, she said it was a “transfer fee” to another department that could take the payment. At that point I broke the Cardinal Rule of Dealing with Customer Service Reps and I asked her if we were going to have phone sex for the $100. My wife sensed the hopes of any solution plummet to the floor and she angrily ripped the phone out of my hand and began to apologize for my comment and asking to speak with the supervisor. The agent insisted that there was nothing a supervisor could do, and she was right. However, we did find out after some prolonged discussion that we could go to the Delta ticket counter at our local airport and pay the fee — something the rep should have suggested first before having us pay a $100 “transfer fee.”

My wife and I went to the destination airport to pay the unaccompanied minor fee in person, we got a receipt, and we had a notation added to the reservation. Our weary friend got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and he was told that he had to pay $100 to get a boarding pass. Immediately we told him that the payment was made and noted on the reservation. The ticket agents could not seem to find it. I frantically called our local airport but I was not allowed to speak with any Delta ticket agents. I called the toll-free number and I was quickly told that the notation is indeed in there.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, they seemed to finally find the information they needed, and they had my friend fill out a form. Midway through the form, they stopped him and told him that it was too late to board the plane and they couldn’t do anything. I spoke with a manager who claimed that the reason my child couldn’t board the plane was because my friend had to call me to complete a part of the form; a call, mind you, that took less than a minute. I retorted that the reason he had no time to fill out a form was because the ticket agent refused to check him in for 45 minutes while he attempted to collect $100 and/or locate a receipt. There was nothing we could do except rebook the flight for 6 hours later. In the meantime, my 5-year-old had nowhere to go and nothing to do while her entire family assembled at our house for the holiday.

I called the 800 number and explained (as I had to the manager) that my 5-year old had spent the last two days at airports dealing with issues and incompetence; I asked for a voucher or a discount for what was clearly the Delta’s fault. One agent told me that re-booking the flight was the most compensation they could give us. I said that I was glad my step-daughter could still get here, but having to wait 6 hours through a ticket agent’s fault was a long time and a huge disappointment to a girl who had a rough previous day dealing with another airline, and should come with an apology or restitution.

A supervisor told me that because the ticket agent or manager did not document anything, the supervisor would not be able to make a decision on this. He recommended that I instead get in touch with the ticket counter and have them document everything; I told him that I doubt they would write a self-incriminating report.

The entire time, every Delta employee that my friend, my wife, or I spoke with told us that this wasn’t their problem and we should just deal with it.

I told the supervisor that I did not wish to call the ticket counter people and raise hell because I was aware that they could boot my child off the plane. He told me that I should instead contact corporate customer relations through their website.

I’ve never had a problem with Delta. In fact, I have always praised them. I still think they are fairly good compared to the others, but I am disappointed in the way certain people mishandled their jobs. I guess I will write Corporate Customer Relations and hope someone there will have a heart.

Interestingly, I asked the supervisor at the (800) number to tell me what time the reservation was first accessed by the airport personnel and he replied that it was 3 minutes prior to the scheduled flight time. What gives? Does the system not log everything? Was this some sort of game?

Dear readers, when someone messes up, bad things happen; this 5-year old has spent the last two days at airports dealing with issues and incompetence. She should be in her mother’s arms right now. Or at least have an apology.

We’re waiting to hear what Martin and family hear back from Delta. No one envies airline personnel during major holidays, and many of them deserve some sort of medals. But this complete breakdown of communication at Delta was unnecessary and inexcusable, especially with a small child away from home in the middle of it.

Incidentally, Martin notes that dealing with AirTran after the original missed flight was wonderful. He wrote:

Kudos to AirTran Customer Relations agent Charity for staying on the phone with me for over an hour providing advice, understanding, patience, and kindness, as well as involving everyone from the ticket agent to the supervisor, then the AirTran operations manager, then the airport director in an attempt to fix the problem. It was, by far, the best airline customer service I’ve ever received.

(If you’re curious about the circumstances surrounding why the child was flying unaccompanied and staying with a family friend, please read this comment from Martin.)

RELATED:
Continental Puts 10-Year-Old Child On The Wrong Plane
Delta Wants $300 In Fees On A $306 Ticket
Chase Charges You Fees For The Privilege Of Being Charged Fees

(Photo: Pylon757)

Comments

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  1. ConsumerWolf says:

    “Due to an unfortunate series of events, my five-year-old step-daughter missed her AirTran flight to Michigan last night…..”

    The nature of that unfortunate series of events would determine how much sympathy I have. I wish that would have been explained in more detail.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I had to cut the email down significantly, but I believe the cause was that there were two major car accidents snarling traffic on their route to the airport. Let me go back to the original text.

    • Mr_D says:

      Does the nature of the unfortunate series of events also make the Kafkaesque nature of Delta’s (to be fair, any airline’s) fee system OK?

      • ConsumerWolf says:

        If the first flight was missed because of traffic, and the second flight was missed because they had to spend 45 minutes sorting through a computer glitch, I just don’t think they’re leaving for the airport early enough, especially when the individual who has to suffer the consequences of being stuck is a child.

        • coren says:

          I’d say two major traffic accidents along the way (which could have been at two different points on the trip, or at the same point ending travel completely, who knows) would be sufficient delay during the holidays to miss a flight.

          As for the 45 minutes, that doesn’t say how long they waited in line to be helped, or how long other parts of the check in took either.

          • Martin says:

            coren, I am the author of the e-mail. To fully explain all the circumstances preceding to the Delta issue, I would have to write an entire essay. I chose to omit facts and events that were not directly relevant to the topic. However, the questions being asked by readers are valid and it is definitely proper for you to inquire into them. I’m going to post a comment below that will provide some background information.

    • Garybaldy says:

      Regardless of what the “unfortunate series of events” may be. The parents realized it was not Air Trans fault. The called Air Tran to rebook. Air Tran had no available flights. Delta did have flights. They booked through Delta,and delta screwed up.

    • Copper says:

      I don’t care why the kid missed the first flight. Her parents rebooked her on another flight and then hi-jinks ensued. They’re complaining about all of that, not missing the original flight.

      Delta, you should refund whatever extra fees you charged these poor people for keeping their 5 year-old for 2 days. It’s not babysitting when you’re holding the kid hostage.

    • coren says:

      If there complaint was about that, or about measures the original (AirTran) airline took to remedy that, I’d agree. However, clearly Delta did nothing whatsoever to be reasonable in this situation.

    • mythago says:

      Why? Delta’s incompetence had nothing to do with the original missed flight on AirTran.

  2. Chris V says:

    If a company provides a service and you don’t pay, that’s called theft of service. Companies will call the cops to haul you off to jail if you do that.

    However, when you pay good money for a service and the company doesn’t provide it, that’s called tough luck. Just try calling the cops on a company. They’ll laugh in your face. Or, they’ll come and take YOU to jail for wasting their time.

    Supposedly we’re all guaranteed equal protection under the law. If they can haul us off to jail for not paying, then we should be able to call the cops for companies not providing the paid service. Someone SHOULD be punished for taking their money and NOT providing the agreed-upon service. Anywhere else, that’d be called THEFT.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I read the whole thing, and it is insane how much Delta screwed up. Absolutely insane. They need to refund those fees immediately. That would be a small repayment considering how crappily they messed up a family’s plans. And a $100 fee – to pay for a fee? Seriously?

    FYI, this is in no way a judgment on the parents, but I balked at the idea of sending a 5 year old on a plane alone. That seems to be way too young to do such a thing, especially considering how terrible airlines have been about actually watching the kids flying alone.

    • ConsumerWolf says:

      I agree with you about the unaccompanied minor part. Unless it’s an extreme emergency, I don’t think a five year old should be allowed to fly alone.

      • ben says:

        That’s great that you believe that, but Delta disagrees. They allow unaccompanied minors, and they charge a fee for it. The fee was paid, the service wasn’t provided. Delta is at fault.

      • Tedicles says:

        I TOTALLY disagree…I am a well-adjusted, and well-traveled, 32 year old at this point. I started flying by myself at the age of 5, and logged probably 10 ‘solo’ flights before my 12th birthday. It was never a problem, and most of the time I was able to take care of myself without the assistance provided. It is a crucial part of learning self-reliance. When I have children myself, I would most likely send them off alone at an early age just to learn how to travel if nothing else!

        Don’t keep children pent up at home where they never learn about the rest of the world. The best thing you can do is expose them to it, and let them learn on their own. How else can you really learn!?!? I would, however, NEVER send a child (or adult) to De Gaulle airport….. ;)

    • ArcanaJ says:

      Yeah, had it been us, one of us would have stayed to deal with the Delta mess, making sure they didn’t lose the girl in the process and the other would have been on a plane to go get said five-year-old.

      That said, I am not judging the parents here. I know every family situation is different.

      As for Delta, they’re like a perpetual loop of screw-up-pass-blame-charge-fee. I really loathe Delta.

  4. Benny Gesserit says:

    Delta Employee 1: What’s the “filling out an incident report” charge?
    Delta Employee 2: $100 same as the others

    Seriously, if they’re this inept booking the poor kid’s flight, I’m not sure I’d trust them to actually fly the tyke home.

  5. crichton007 says:

    As a Delta frequent flier I have to say that they really seem to only go out of their way for us, and that is slowly going away.

    • Coles_Law says:

      If you’re going to Minnesota, they’ll REALLY go out of the way for you.

    • aguacarbonica says:

      I flew Delta last weekend for the first time in years. I will never fly them again. Their customer service sucks. Their flight attendants are rude and inattentive. I know this was only my experience but from what I hear, Delta in Atlanta just treats you like crap because they have everyone’s layover flights by the balls.

  6. coren says:

    So…they needed a 100 bucks to transfer some money internally? Uh huh. What’s the cost to transfer the call to the department that needs the money, 120?

  7. Mknzybsofh says:

    I have a very simple idea. If no parents are going, then the kids cannot fly alone. That would end this problem. If a parent cannot fly with the child then there is no reason for the child to go.

    On another note, stop flying, DRIVE. If there is more than one adult going anywhere most places are less than 24 hours drive. Any number of car rental places offer unlimited mileage. it might cost 400$ or so to rent a car out of state for more than a week but when you are paying 1000$ or more for the airline tickets then they decide to tack on all these ludicrous fees on top of it. WHY ARE YOU FLYING?!?! It’s more hassle than it is worth anymore.

    Airlines = Banks = Cellular = ISP = Cable All these companies NO LONGER care about customer service they only care about padding their bottom line and screwing over the little guy. I recored very single call I make dealing with these bottom feeders.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      One, driving is more dangerous. We don’t know where they’re leaving from, but there could be bad weather along their route.

      Second, just because it’s cheaper, doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s not about the money – who wants to spend 14 hours on the road? Time is money too, you know.

      Third, even though renting a car is cheaper than flying, the 5 year old was the only person flying – depending on the flight, that could have easily been comparable to the cost of renting a car.

      Fourth, there’s no indication that the parents want to go with the 5 year old. The woman is a second family to the 5 year old (hence, calling her “my stepdaughter”). If the 5 year old was supposed to visit her biological parent who lives in Michigan, what makes you think that the parents need to go with her, or should even go with her. If they felt she was capable of flying alone under the supervision of AirTran, she should have been fine under the supervision of Delta. Unfortunately, Delta proved to be entirely incompetent at simple things like booking a flight.

    • crazylikewhoa says:

      Martin says “my five-year-old stepdaughter” which pretty much implies this is a child of divorced parents who don’t live anywhere near each other. it would seem that the girl’s biological father has full-time custody & the OP’s wife (girl’s biological mother) would have her daughter visit on holidays. this is a very common situation & usually the only reason for unaccompanied minors on flights. the child has to see her mother somehow!

    • mizike says:

      I have a feeling you never have the need to travel further than 20 miles from your home. My girlfriend and I are going to her parents for Christmas. It’s literally a 27 hour drive. In the middle of winter. Down a winding and hilly highway along the north shore of Lake Superior. If you think we’re going to spend 5-6 days of our Christmas vacation driving through hellish and dangerous conditions instead of taking two three hour flights you’re completely insane.

      • kateblack says:

        Valid.

        Parents may also live in NYC or another major metropolitan area where they don’t need to own a car, and renting is prohibitively expensive. Car rentals here are $150-ish/day before insurance (another $30-40/day) and the surcharge that most car rental companies tack onto Brooklyn residents’ rentals ($37-97/day). Of course, none of this includes gas or tolls. I could hire a limo to and from the airport and pay for an airline ticket anywhere JetBlue goes for less than a rental car.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      ‘On another note, stop flying, DRIVE. ‘

      Let me know when that bridge connecting Europe and America is built, okay?

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      1. There are lots of reasons for kids to fly alone (I did it many times to visit relatives, go to camp, etc.).

      2. Driving can often by cheaper, but 24 hours in the car is just a nonstarter for me, and for most people. New York to Chicago is

  8. jenjenjen says:

    In the first paragraph, “customer service wanted an extra $20 to book the flight.” I am guessing if they had gone this route in the first place, they could have avoided a lot of the hassle down the road that resulted from trying to book online to avoid that fee. Isn’t the safety and quickest possible flight for your precious child worth an extra $20? When you’re dealing with an airline, a fee for anything unusual is inevitable and $20 seems like a bargain.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t quite understand the difference between the $20 fee to book through the phone with NWA, and the $100 fee to book with Delta. NWA charges a $100 fee for unaccompanied minors anyway – they would only be paying an extra $20.

      NWA FAQ on unaccompanied minors

    • ben says:

      True, $20 isn’t much. But it’s not like the $20 was a “we won’t screw up fee.” There’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t have been problems booking that way as well. They followed a valid procedure that Delta offered them and Delta screwed up.

  9. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    So we finally have the much-anticipated-by-the-bloodsucking-airlines “fee” fee.
    This is enabled by OUR tax money because OUR “elected” officials:
    1. Allow this shit to go on
    2. Allow this shit to get this out of hand
    3. Allow piss-poor management by airline management to be rewarded in bailouts.

    But hey, we do it with the banks now too.
    And if you’re not mad, you should be.

  10. pinkpetunia says:

    As a side note, I’m having trouble understanding why the 5 year old had to sleep on the couch of a family friend. Did this debacle happen between an initial flight and a connecting flight? If it was a direct flight, couldn’t the parent (assuming her father dropped her off at the airport originally) be there to retrieve her after she missed her flight?

    That said, Delta is totally in the wrong for not acknowledging their screwup.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I have a friend whose parents live about three hours from the airport they have to fly out of – so I could see how the parents couldn’t have driven to the airport to fetch their kid if they thought that it was entirely feasible to book a second flight and have her simply go to a friend’s house in the meantime, a friend who lived near the airport.

      • pinkpetunia says:

        Yeah, I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. I used to fly unaccompanied when I was a tot, though, and my parents would always wait at the airport to make sure I got out okay before heading back home. Especially if there had been a delay getting to the airport.

  11. AngryK9 says:

    At Delta, we love charging fees, and it shows.

  12. Shoelace says:

    $100 as a transfer fee to another department that could take the payment. What did the rep have to do – push a button to transfer the call? Maybe reps are trained (am thinking monkeys here) to tack on these insane fees but there should be a way to override, especially if the welfare of a small child is involved.

  13. friday3 says:

    There are some questions here. One who is the friend with your 5 year old? Why arent you or the mother taking the kid to the airport. Why not ask this friend topay the $100 and then work out the details at the end. The OP tried throughout to do EVERYTHING on the cheap, I personally think a 5 year old should not be flying alone anyway. I want airline employees doing their necessary function, not babysitting for parents who made their own decisions.
    Its funny how you expect the delta employee during the busiest travel day of the year to sort through your last minute mess, while others waited. Here is a plan that will work in the future. Get to the airport way in advance during holiday flying. Accidents happen, and yoru daughter was not a typical flyer who can check in by herself. You kNEW this was all last minute, and had been extremely rude (asking for phone sex) to an employee doing her job. That alone should have caused the CSR to hang up on you and move to the next person. If you have an issue with fees, take it up with Delta management and dont be a douche to the employee.

    • mmmsoap says:

      While I can’t agree with you’re entire blame-the-OP, you have hit a couple of important points. The OP was repeatedly “penny wise, pound foolish” as the saying goes. Continually trying to avoid a fee, and ending up deeper in the debacle.

      Yes, while it sucks to ask a family friend to pony up $100 to get your kid on the flight, I would probably ask most of my friends do to this, and then make it good on the other end. While I wouldn’t be pleased about paying $100 twice, it would be worth it to me to get a scared 5 year old where they belong even if the money never got refunded. Granted, I live a comfortable enough life that a $100 won’t break the bank, and who knows if the same is true for the OP.

      That being said. when you’re stressed and frustrated, you tend to focus on the most immediate problem rather than the big picture, so I can see how the whole thing spiraled out of control.

  14. ohenry says:

    For some reason this made me think of a “great’ commercial idea; a take off of Southwest’s “Bags fly for free” commercials, but reather “Kids fly for fees!”

  15. B says:

    The worst part is, if you don’t pay that fee, there’s the failure to pay a fee fee.

  16. AlecM says:

    These days, airline travel is hard enough even for adults. It’s not great, but it is what it is?

    Why would one think that it’s appropriate to send a 5-year-old anywhere unaccompanied? Or at least without a family member to pick them up on either end?

    Of course, it’s partially the airlines fault for even contemplating it.

    ADM

    • aguacarbonica says:

      I’m sorry, but I have to really agree with you. I understand that shuttling a child back and forth to spend time with both families is difficult, but I cannot imagine sending my five-year-old on an unaccompanied flight with Airtran on a holiday weekend. This seems like a recipe for disaster. I’m against helicopter parenting but this is too far to the other extreme.

      Of course none of this has anything to do with how badly Delta dropped the ball. Their customer service was terrible. However, my sympathy well for these stressed parents ends with their customer-service runaround. It’s hard to empathize with statements like, “this 5-year old has spent the last two days at airports dealing with issues and incompetence. She should be in her mother’s arms right now” when the parents were okay with sending their baby girl across the country all by herself on a super budget airline in the first place.

    • katstermonster says:

      Your questions: Why would one think that it’s appropriate to send a 5-year-old anywhere unaccompanied? Or at least without a family member to pick them up on either end?

      The answers: Someone who was bound by custody arrangements to make sure that the 5-year-old reached the other parent. Someone whose hands were tied when it came to what the other parent (in this case, an abusive and dangerous one) did about airport arrangements. See the OP’s post at the bottom of this page. And try more empathy and less blaming-the-OP.

      You see, my first thought wasn’t “Why is a 5-year-old flying alone??? What bad parents!” My first thought was, “Gee, this sounds like a really unique situation. There must be a good reason for it. That aside, let me FOCUS ON THE CONTENT OF THE ARTICLE, which is the fact that Delta screwed up.” You might try it sometime.

  17. jayde_drag0n says:

    this is when you immediately call the new station and let them know that Delta Airlines is leaving a 5 year old child stranded without her parents.. and fill in the rest of the gory details once they get there

  18. Martin says:

    Dear readers, I am the author of the e-mail. My reason for writing it was Delta’s mishandling of a simple task — the payment and receipt of an unaccompanied minor fee. Therefore, I chose not to elaborate on my step-daughter’s life story or make this into a general rant.

    However, I expect the Consumerist’s readers to be astute and inquisitive. You all have asked good questions and some have inquired into why my step-daughter was in the care of a good friend and flying alone.

    As crazylikewhoa observed, this travel arrangement is the result of a divorce with the parents living a significant distance apart. My step-daughter flies at least twice a month — once to be with her father and once to be with her mother. This month, she will be flying another round trip.

    Trust me when I say that flying her (vs. driving) is the best solution given the custodial arrangement. 12 hours in the car is an eternity to a 5-year-old. We have done it before, and it is not an easy drive, taking us through the Smoky Mountains along the twisted I-40 teeming with speeding 18-wheelers. It is not a drive you want to make alone — someone has to entertain the kids and provide company and relief for the driver. I have seen many accidents along the way.

    And then there are stops at shady rest areas, random restaurants, restroom-hunting. No, thank you.

    I would rather have her dad drop her off at the airport for a 1hr 40min flight, and her mom and I would gladly wait for her at the gate with a present or balloons. This way she has an extra 10 hours and 20 minutes to be a kid. It’s a controlled environment – dad –> non-stop flight –> mom. Since my step-daughter enjoys flying, there is no real need to send dad up with her and then back down or vice versa– mom down to pick her up and then back up together. What if one of the flights is late? cancelled? My wife and I would rather spend the money on more productive things.

    Please realize that the AirTran / Delta troubles we had are not the result of last-minute planning by a clueless family. We have done this many times. However, there was one wildcard in the equation: the father.

    People get divorced for different reasons; one thing is for sure: The little girl’s father is not entirely a kind or loving man, nor is he entirely friendly. And there are control issues present, too. He was emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive to my wife when they were married, and his pattern of emotional and verbal abuse continues to this day, with his daughter as a weapon of choice.

    In any event, under the custody agreement it was my wife’s turn to have her daughter up here for Thanksgiving. As is customary, my wife contacted him with the proposed travel arrangements — a mid-afternoon departure two days before Thanksgiving; one of my relatives would pick up the little girl from her dad’s and take her to the airport. The trouble started when the father refused to release her to someone he didn’t know, no matter what the court order said he was obligated to do. We kept proposing different trusted friends and relatives; we endured being drilled and questioned about them. Even if it had been Mother Theresa, he would not have allowed her to pick up his daughter. We asked if he could instead send her with someone he trusted, but he could not/would not come up with anyone.

    Finally, he said that he would take her to the airport himself…. but only if we paid him $200! (Although he has taken her to the airport before without having to extort money) At this point, with her back to the wall, my wife agreed to it, planning to deal with that issue later through the courts. Long story short, he ended up having my wife go online and giving her specific step-by-step instructions to book the last flight of the day because it was the only one that would work for him. He said he would contact the airline and provide all the necessary contact information for the unaccompanied minor, as is required by airlines.

    The day of the flight came, and the father insisted that we PayPal him the $200 before he would take the little girl anywhere or our airfare would be wasted. So we grudgingly paid up just to have her for the holidays. (“We’ll deal with that later”). Because they live in a podunk town in the South, the best and most reasonable flight was out of Atlanta. He drove her there — a 2.5 hour drive — and attempted to check her in, only to find out that she could not board that flight — the one he chose — because it was against policy to let an unaccompanied minor fly on the last flight of the day. The father had neglected to call the airline to set up the unaccompanied minor service ahead of time, and thus he wasn’t aware of this.

    We scrambled to arrange an alternate flight at any cost, but we could not locate any airline that would be able to accommodate my step-daughter that evening. Our hearts sank. AirTran graciously rescheduled for afternoon the following day, waiving change fees. The father plainly told us he was not staying in Atlanta, despite our offers to get him a hotel room; furthermore, he was not coming back with her. He drove the sad little girl back.

    Immediately my wife and I called back our friends and family in the area in order to secure a ride for the next day. After pleading with the father, he finally agreed to my brother going back to Atlanta the next day. However, early the following morning my brother found out that he would not be able to leave work as planned. No problem — we had a plan B, one of my best friends; the guy through whom I met my wife. He was a kind, gentle man and a father, and he was willing and able to go, but the little girl’s father simply did not want to send the her with him, saying he had never met him. (Mind you, the court order did not leave it to his discretion to approve/deny visitation).

    As the time to leave for Atlanta slowly drew near, the father was still refusing to release the child; my wife and I instructed our friend to go ahead and go to the residence and wait outside.

    Our friend brought his son along, and they ended up waiting outside as time slowly ticked while the father called us from the inside, peeking out the window and questioning us about our friend. Finally, with my wife in tears, the father turned his daughter over to our friend and the two left. The arguing had taken a long time, but if everything worked out right, they’d arrive at the airport just in time to go through the procedures.

    Of course, there were two huge accidents that slowed traffic to a crawl for miles, and our friend was not able to get there in time. Again, we worked with AirTran and other airlines to find any suitable flights for that evening, unable to do so. My step-daughter, my wife, and I were heartbroken. This was totally unnecessary. It was at this point that AirTran Customer Relations agent Charity spent over an hour on the phone with us, involving pretty much the entire chain of command at the airport to see if anything could be done to get our little girl up here that night. Despite her valiant efforts and after an hour on the phone, we could not make that happen. She kindly rescheduled the flight once again for the morning, again waiving the change fee, and offered us her best wishes.

    Our friend drove our little girl back, arriving in her home town around 10:30pm. We were damned if we would let this end like that; we informed the father that our friend would be returning the little girl to him for the night, but she would have to leave early in the morning (4am) to catch a flight and that she would make it without any interference.

    The dad essentially communicated to us that she was now ours and that he was not going to get up in the middle of the night(!!). So, with no home to go to, she ended up going home with our friend who fed her and put her to bed so she would be ready for the next day.

    At this point, my wife and I were not willing to put the poor child and poor friend through another car ride. We searched for a LONG time to find a non-stop flight out of the local airport; only about 5 airlines operate out of there, most with layovers at one of their hubs.

    Finally, we found Delta, and the rest of the story is published above.

    As you know, Delta fee policies were daunting and Delta employees neglected to perform their duties properly, adding aggravation to a loooooong three days.

    Even worse, before the new –rescheduled– Delta flight, the father started calling our friend threatening to have him arrested for kidnapping, and threatening to assault him. Our friend was so concerned that he informed airport security of what may potentially happen. And, sure enough, the next thing he knew, the father barreling down towards him. He got in our friend’s face, right in front of his daughter, and had to be separated from our friend. Things turned interesting when airport police showed up and the father accused our friend of kidnapping his child. The police told him that it wasn’t kidnapping if he willingly handed her over. Ultimately, the father ended up escorting his daughter to the gate as our friend sat back.

    On a side note, when my wife went to pick up her child, Delta had absolutely no information on who dropped her off and who was supposed to pick her up. The 5-year-old was listed as an adult, and apparently that was enough for Delta staff to treat her as one despite the obvious fact that she really was a child.

    So, my friends, you have to realize that the above events are somewhat irrelevant to Delta’s incompetence; that’s why I excluded them. But can you believe that this really happened?

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      hopefully this friend will stand as a witness for the next custody hearing and you can get a copy of the report from the security/police at the airport as to the dad’s behavior

      • Martin says:

        Yes, indeed. I’m sure we will also be able to obtain incident reports (subject to report fees) and surveillance footage (subject to surveillance fees). I am putting together an outline for our attorney, which basically consists of a slightly more detailed and cut-and-dry version of my comment. Additionally, we have phone records to show the sheer number of phone calls it took to get our poor child up here, as well as PayPal receipts and airfare receipts.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      I hope this comment reminds the commenters (new and old) to think twice about the OP before going all “OP’s Fault!!”.

      While I believe that sometimes questions do arise about the circumstances described (or left out) in the post, asking snarky questions like “why were you even doing X?” and “why were you not doing Y?” only distracts from the real problem in question.

      As has been pointed out in the Code of Conduct, please remember than the OP is “A F&*%ing Person” and all YOU have to do is to be “A F&*%ing Person” in return.

      My objection to OP blaming is not because “it discourages people from sharing stories” but because often times, it is really unfair to the OP to pass a judgment on him/her without knowing full details – which may often not be relevant to the actual nightmare in question, and have thus been left out.

      I hope everyone who forced Martin to provide this long detailed and avoidable explanation about decidedly personal matters feels really proud of themselves right now.

    • Martin says:

      May I add, ladies and gentlemen, that had Delta gotten my step-daughter on the first plane, the crazed father wouldn’t have had the opportunity to assault her escort and cause a scene at the airport later that day? :-)

    • ben says:

      Yep, your story was completely irrelevant to your complaint about Delta’s handling of the situation. You really shouldn’t have felt obligated to post all those personal details. Unfortunately many Consumerist posters love to find any excuse to “blame the OP.” In fact, I’m sure you’ll still get some replies from people giving you “helpful” advice about how you should have handled things differently, none of it changing the fact that Delta failed in its obligations to you.

    • ConsumerWolf says:

      “So, my friends, you have to realize that the above events are somewhat irrelevant to Delta’s incompetence; that’s why I excluded them. But can you believe that this really happened?”

      Of all the players involved, it sounds like Delta contributed least to this bad situation.

      • Martin says:

        Yes, they play a miniscule role in what is really a crappy divorce & custody situation. But I am not writing to complain about life. My wife and I are dealing with all that other stuff through appropriate avenues. I was simply writing about Delta’s inability to perform a routine task, the fact that they felt it was not their problem and I should just deal with it, and the fact that the mistake exacerbated an already complicated situation.

    • runswithscissors says:

      Good on you Martin, you sound like a great parent (step or otherwise).

      And for the love of god don’t listen to the “it’s always the OP’s fault because that way I can be safe” Just World believing commenters that are trying to find ANY fault they can so that they can pretend bad things don’t happen if they never make any mistakes. Most of us are on your side.

    • krownd says:

      You’re a great father and seriously I hope she will be allowed to stay with you rather than that douchebag

  19. baristabrawl says:

    Delta is not my preferred airline of choice. I don’t know the last time I flew Delta.

  20. pyehac says:

    Yo, I herd you like to pay fees, so we put a fee for paying a fee so you can pay your fee for paying a fee. dawg.

  21. pdxguy says:

    One of my airline travel rules: NEVER fly on Delta.

  22. sophistiKate says:

    I’d like to take a computer scientist’s view of this situation and say that the problem with the fee-to-pay-a-fee scenario is that you’ve created a recursive loop with no base case.

    You will end up being forced to pay a fee in order to pay the fee you need to pay to pay the initial fee, which will of course require you pay a fee to pay it.. and so forth to infinity. Every customer service representative will quickly be drawn into the loop and Delta won’t even be able to collect its precious fees anymore because it will first need to collect a fee in order to do so! It’s madness! I can foresee ultimately a rent in the fabric of space and time here! Thanks for destroying the universe, Delta.

  23. sophistiKate says:

    Way to be a jerk.

  24. Winter White says:

    Well, while the whole story is very disheartening, a couple things happened that did not help the situation.

    First being that the OP rudely asked a CSR if they were going to have phone sex. I can’t think of any situation, and certainly not over a $100 fee, that I would ever ask a stranger this question.

    Second being that the family friend did not IMMEDIATELY call the police when he was threatened with assault.

    I guess this Thanksgiving the OP was grateful for very accomodating friends and the eventual safety of his child, which are probably the two most important things here.

    • orion70 says:

      I have to agree, that phone sex thing was way over the top. I can’t say i’d expect much compassion or special services after a stunt like that. I’m surprised that they didn’t hang up in the OP’s face.

  25. brandmuffin says:

    I am outraged at the lack of compassion from many posters here. As a young child I was subjected to the war of child custody orders, my little sister sat on our porch one Friday waiting for our dad to pick her up for a week long vacation at the lake. She thought he pulled up and went outside shutting the door and locking it behind her, it was not our dad and she spent almost 6 hours locked out no one knowing her dad never showed up. I commend this guy for the hell he went through, your a better man then most fathers.

  26. runswithscissors says:

    Be a f#$%ing human, man. Read the OP’s post in this very thread. And don’t insult his daughter, who you’ve never met.

    Terrible OP blame.

  27. mmeetoilenoir lurktastique says:

    What a horrible story. That undeserving father should have the book thrown at him.

    Oh, by the by…all of you “Blame the OP” clowns? Get over yourselves. Delta’s not going to give you free tickets for kissing their booties.

    • mmeetoilenoir lurktastique says:

      I’m referring to the creepy dad/psycho that Martin described in the comments, not Martin himself. Just wanted to clarify.

  28. KCBassCadet says:

    I love it how this poor girl is the one paying the price for a pair of incompetent, tightwad parents who seemed to have made their child the LAST priority.

    And letting a 5 year old fly alone should be criminal. Shame on you.

  29. Martin says:

    Unfortunately the world we live in is full of dysfunctional relationships, broken families,good guys,bad guys,and neurotic freakshows. When a topic about airline fees turns into topic on parental values and begins to slander the PO and his family it just goes to prove that even more so. The topic was about a company that promises professionalism and competence and failed.Just as the some of the people commenting on this subject failed to simply stick to the subject. As for the phone sex thing? Give the guy a break! Was it appropriate? no. But neither were your nasty, blasphemous comments about the subject presented to you.

  30. Delta says:

    Dear Martin and Family,

    We are very sorry to hear about the frustrations you and your family experienced last week trying to get your daughter on her Delta flight. After reading your post, it definitely seems that there was confusion on our end. I am a manager for Delta and our team would like to work with you directly about this situation to make it right. I want to reassure you that the fee for an unaccompanied minor is $100 but there is not an additional $100 fee. If you would forward your name, contact number and information about your daughter’s reservation (ticket number, confirmation code, etc.), it will enable us to research further and to ensure that our staff receives the proper information and training. Please email the detailed flight information to us at transform.delta@delta.com.

    This was an unfortunate mistake that we want to address immediately. Again, we sincerely apologize for the situation and want to restore your faith in Delta.

    Rachael R.
    Delta Air Lines
    Manager, Social Media Relationship Management