Delta Encourages Profitable Drunkeness At Sober Customers’ Expense

1st class on Delta can be a trip to hell in a flying handbasket, as Mike writes. He got seated next to a drunken lush whom the stewardesses only plied with more and more wine. Mike (pictured) came back from hitting the head to find his seatmate had splooged wine all over his iPod and Bose headphones and seat.

The stewardesses’ solution?

“Would you like another drink, sir?”

Find after the jump how this 1st class ticket ended up feeling like row 36 in a Hooters Air charter to Daytona Beach…

Here’s the letter Mike wrote to Delta.


I wanted to inform you of a situation that I endured on a Delta flight last week, and would like to work to some remedy.

I flew from ATL to LAS on flight #417 last Thursday afternoon. I purchased a full-fare First Class ticket. Needless to say, I expected a pleasant flight.

As it it turned out, I sat next to a pretty obnoxious fellow. He was certainly intoxicated when I sat down, and didn
t stop drinking (or being served) throughout the flight. I treated my headphones as walls and was avoiding Seatmate fairly well. Just 4 more hours with Drunk Seatmate. He orders wine after wine, I order water and turn up the music.

After dinner I used the restroom and when I got out, Seatmate was in the galley. He flagged me down and let me know that he had
spilled red wine
in my seat. The flight attendant was standing right there, and said nothing. I stood silently waiting for something. I just sort of expected the flight attendant to offer up some towels or club soda or a new seat or a suggestion that he and I switch seats or something. Nothing. Seatmate says not to worry, he
saved up some blankets.
To my utter surprise he lays the blankets down in my seat, tells me
s cool
and sits back down. Stupified, I sat. All I could think of was the refuge of my headphones to save me from what had rapidly descended into a Spring Break drunkfest. I sat. I looked around for my iPod (which I had set on the seat). Seatmate explains that he wiped it off, and that
s just fine.
So I picked up my brand new $500 iPod and $100 noise canceling headphones (believe me, at this point I regret having not purchased the $300 noise canceling headphones). They
re soaked. I wipe them off some more. They
re sticky, but they are the only defense I have from Drunken Seatmate and his loud drunk apologies.
re cool? Right buddy?!?
Looking around, it
s clear that my other 47 first class passengers are all very glad they didn
t pick my seat.

As I lean back into my seat, Seatmate lets out a bellow and shakes his head.
Oops. You
re gonna need one for the back too!
Indeed, I did. Seatmate had done quite a number with Red Wine #X. Got the back of the seat, too. It goes without saying that I was wearing a white shirt. A wet white shirt.

Not 10 seconds later, our flight attendant returns.
Something more to drink?
she asks Seatmate. He makes a joke about not needing anymore red wine and that she
d better make it a Tanqueray and Tonic. Not one to disappoint, our flight attendant returns with a T&T. She probably served him 4 more after that.

s where my gripe with Delta comes in. I understand that you can
t control for people who are idiots. Or rude. But you can control people who are visibly intoxicated and acting like drunken morons. You can certainly stop serving alcohol to them when they prove to be drunken morons, when they are encroaching on another passenger. This man was just plain drunk. He reeked of it, he acted like it, and nobody lifted a finger. They just left me there in my red wine and blanket cocoon to endure him and his ever increasing level of intoxicity. Suffice to say, it didn
t feel First Class. It didn
t even feel coach class. It felt like row 36 in a Hooters Air charter to Daytona Beach.

I was disappointed, and certainly felt that I didn
t get what I had paid for. I am seeking a full refund for the entire ticket and I
ll consider my headphones, iPod and clothes a casualty covered by such.


Here’s Delta’s reply from the Manager of Customer Service (does that title give him certain flowing robes and staffs to heft around? just wondering).

Dear Mr. Landman:

Thank you for your e-mail referencing your experience with Delta on your recent trip to Las Vegas. I am sorry to learn from your report of your discomfort on Flight 417 on January 26.

Our flight attendants are instructed never to serve alcoholic beverages to anyone who appears to be intoxicated. Your comments have been sent to the responsible department head for review to ensure that established procedures are followed on all Delta flights. It is disappointing to have the good work of many undone by a misunderstanding or insufficient consideration for our passengers’ comfort.

Mr. Landman, we can certainly appreciate your feelings and regret your disappointment. Since you completed your trip and the fare you paid is correct, we must respectfully decline your request for a refund.

However, in the interest of your goodwill, we will mail our Transportation Credit for $250.00. The voucher is valid for one year from the date of issue, and can be used toward the purchase of a future Delta ticket. Additional terms and conditions are explained on the voucher.

Again, thank you for writing. We recognize this was not the response you expected to receive and trust you will understand our position. We value your business and hope you will continue to choose Delta.


Customer Care

Obviously, this wasn’t enough for Mike.

I particularity like the fact that I completed the flight as justification that in fact it must not have been that bad. Apparently I was to do one of 2 things:

1. Jump out
2. Not return home

Then, apparently, my dissatisfaction would have been proven by my actions, not merely my words.

So a pack of orangutans beat you up for the entirety of your plane trip but since you paid the full price and arrived at your destination, there’s nothing we can do but maybe you would like a complimentary plastic pair of captain’s wings to pin to your shredded shirt?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Vulcan says:

    Dear Mr. Landman.

    We apologize, and completely understand your feelings about your recent brain surgery. We do our very best to ensure that our surgeons and support staff treat each patient with dignity and top-notch medical care. We sincerely regret the chain of events that led us to leave gauze and a small tool in your cerebellum. However, we cannot refund the cost of your procedure, as you were sewn back up and are obviously now awake.

    However, in the interest of your goodwill, we will mail you our Cranial-rectal Inversion Credit for $250.00. The voucher is valid for one year from the date of issue, and can be used toward the purchase of a future brain surgery. Additional terms and conditions were explained to you during your last surgery, so I hope you were paying attention.

    We recognize this was not the response you expected to receive and trust you will understand our position. We value your business and hope you will continue to choose Delta Regional Surgicare for your future medical needs.

  2. christy says:

    I guess that’s what those emergency exit doors are for.

  3. Danilo says:

    Stupid, stupid, stupid companies. Do they think this is the 1950’s? They had a choice between refunding this good fellow his ticket or screwing him over. They chose to screw him over. This is the INTERNET AGE, suckas. You screw someone over, you will be made to look like an ass on a blog.

    Did they really think this guy didn’t have electricity or something? Here’s a clue, guys: If you’re dealing with a customer who is spending over $600 on his portable audio and taking the time to write you a letter, you can bet your bottom dollar that this techno- and English-literate individual will bring the righteous, cleansing fire of the internet raining upon your incompetent heads if you don’t behave.

    Even if this letter gets only mediocre coverage elsewhere in blog land, Delta lost a lot more by being douchebags than they would have if they’d simply done the right thing.

  4. CTSLICK says:

    A sad mishandling for something that was approached reasonably by this person. That’s a cut paste response letter at best. The sucker punch is to offer him travel vouchers to fly on Delta again which he likely won’t use.

  5. Brian Gee says:

    I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, Mike should have done a little more than just, “I stood silently waiting for something.” In case you didn’t notice, customer service on airlines went out the window on 9/11/01. If you actually enjoy your flight, the terrorists win.

    In Delta’s defense, they did provide him with the bare-minimum service they are allowed by the FCC. Presumably the cabin was pressurized and the flight did arrive at his intended destination. Oh and he was in first class, so his seat was bigger than the suckers’ in steerage. And don’t forget the free drinks (from which Mike, apparently, opted out)! Technically he got what he payed for. First Class isn’t that 1950’s dream anymore (at least not *domestic* first class).

    Delta’s job isn’t to ensure you have a pleasant flight. Even though at the end of the safety video they say they *hope* you enjoy your flight, they’re not going to go out of their way to make it so. Even if they were so inclined, they’re far from mind readers (though they do have an uncanny knack for knowing when someone needs another drink…hmmm).

    Anyway, the squeeky wheel gets the grease. Drunks get plied with more alcohol so they shut up and don’t disturb the whole cabin. Silent “victims” who try to make the best of their situation are left alone; silent victims don’t disturb anyone. And surely the flight attendants know not to disturb someone when they’re hiding under headphones. That’s just rude.

    Had he spoken up during the flight, maybe I’d have more sympathy for Mike. Even so I don’t know that there was any in-flight solution to the problem. Moving the drunk just shifts the problem to someone else, which might lead to 2 letters instead of just one. Perhaps Mike could have proactively looked for another seat, or even asked if one was available.

    I’m not saying Delta shouldn’t do better; I know they can’t do much worse. But a letter after-the-fact doesn’t change the situation at hand. The $250 credit is the end of that situation; that’s how people in Customer Service are trained to “solve problems”. Maybe if Mike really pushes, he might be able to bump it to $400, but as far as Delta is concerned, its over. It was over when the plane touched down and Mike reached his destination. The only reparation he gets is a chance to experience it all again at a discount.

    Short of reading it here, none of the flight attendants on that flight will recall anything about the “incident” simply because nobody told them when it was happening.

    In the end Mike has a good story, and he learned a good lesson. Next time speak up.

  6. ECN2 says:

    Well put, Brian. Those were my exact thoughts after reading that long-winded letter to Delta.

  7. Danilo says:

    I’m not impressed by that line of reasoning, Brian. Our guy Mike was a gentleman by not throwing the tantrum to which he was entitled. Being in an enclosed space at high altitude isn’t pleasant by any stretch. I’d be inclined to bite my tongue, also.

    The fact of the matter is, Delta was saucing up a wildly intoxicated customer and poor Mike got screwed. Delta should bear responsibility for that situation. That the CSR isn’t trained to properly execute the appropriate assumption of responsibility is irrelevant. It’s a damn raw deal and Delta can and should pay for it.

    And, in fact they are paying, as tiny bits and pieces of their remaining brand equity vanish into puffs of vapor.

  8. ToastedWoobie says:

    I’ve got to agree with Danilo. Consumers shouldn’t have to resort to becoming orangutangs to getting good service. I work hard for my money, I choose carefully where to spend it. I expect to be treated like a human being. I don’t want to have to throw a tantrum to get that respect.

    Delta screwed up in a couple of ways: First, the flight attendants should have caught and corrected the problem. Stop serving drinks or find a decent place for Mike to finish the flight. Next, Mike took the time to be polite and notify customer service. They took the weenie way out instead of … um … serving the customer.

  9. Brian Gee says:

    Glad I came back…

    I think there’s plenty of room between the extremes of “throwing a tantrum” and “silently taking it”, like Mike did. If tantrums were the only alternative, I’d probably sit quiet, too.

    Consumers don’t have to devolve to apes to get good service, but at the very minimum they should give someone at least a subtle hint that they aren’t getting it. Mike did nothing until he was home, and then he sent a letter to what I’m guessing is the paper-receiving equivalent of an outsourced call center, where it was “resolved” by some lackey matching some keywords and replying with a form letter.

    I’m as annoyed as any of you at how terrible customer service has gotten, but sitting back and waiting for Prince Charming doesn’t change anything. Politely asking a flight attendant if there’s anything that can be done is a good first step.

    $250 just for writing a letter, huh? I predict a “How to save $250 on delta flights” article on the front page within the week :)

  10. Danilo says:

    Brian, hmm, I think I see your point there. I think in any situation, it’s helpful to at least propose a solution rather than expect other people to read your mind, give you a cuddle and make everything right.

    That said, though, we don’t know too much about the flight. If it was packed, there may not have been any other seating options. I don’t imagine Delta keeps a Little Green Machine in the overhead rack, so no matter what I think he was screwed on his soaked seat. The iPod and phones were a wash from first spill — nothing the air crew can do for it. And, finally, unless Mike had some hardcore TSA credentials on him, I don’t imagine that he could have done much to stop the flow of booze. That’s not to say he couldn’t have attempted diplomacy out of sight of the lush in question, though.

    I guess the lesson here is that we have to be proactive as consumers in getting our needs met. The lesson, that is, in addition to “Delta is a bunch of douchebags.”

    Mike should try the previously-posted tip about getting ahold of the CEO, though, just for kicks. What a rotten experience.

  11. Brian Gee says:

    Yup yup. But Delta has been a bunch of douchebags for years now. The whole industry is.

    Is there an airline (aside from perhaps short-flight commuter carriers) that don’t just completely suck since George Bush discovered terrorism?

  12. ECN2 says:

    Here’s what I think happened: Mike’s seatmate realized that Mike is a pretty big asshole.* When Mike got up to use the restroom, his seatmate poured the wine all over his stuff and made a half-assed effort to clean it up, just to be a jerk.

    *Read a comment he makes on the Delta issue in his own blog about the only reason he flies first class: “it reduces the likeliehood that I will sit next to someone is [sic] a tank top and sandals.”

  13. L_Emmerdeur says:

    You make a fool of the stweardess in front of the whole cabin, while remaining polite, civil and not raising your voice in anger. You insist that she stop serving him drinks, and then you engage the drunken idiot in conversation. While he is distracted, take his wallet, and use the credit card at the airport to buy a new iPod, new earphones and a new shirt. Then throw the wallet away (including the money, that would be stealing).

    This is the only way you will find justice and satisfaction.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The airline should do something more than a $250 voucher. Maybe refund 1/2 the ticket cost and an automatic upgrade the next flight he books with them. It’s likely that Mike is well-educated and affluent and him flying isn’t a rarity. He can easily take his business else where and entourage others to do the same.

    He’s not demanding anything unreasonable. He’s not asking for dry cleaning or replacement for his pricey electronic gizmos–just a refund of the ticket. He easily could have made a scene. I know I would have at least raised my voice for a momentary outburst if my iPod and expensive headphones were just damaged.