Yeah, It's Pretty Much Chaos At Delta/Northwest Right Now

Adding to the problems caused by snowstorms, travel delays, and a general lack of communication in the skies today, readers report that Delta’s and Northwest’s computer systems are still not integrated, resulting in some completely un-hilarious travel snafus.

Earlier today, Chet pittted Delta and Northwest’s phone queues and web sites against each other.

Hi Consumerist. My wife and I had an interesting experience with Delta/Northwest yesterday that defies explanation. We were scheduled to fly from White Plains to Detroit at 6am on December 19th. Many people asked us if our flight would take off, and we were confident that since it was early enough in the day that we would sneak out before the massive snow storm hit the east coast.

As we were packing on Friday night, my mom called to say that she saw on the news that many Delta flights were canceled and wondered if we were affected. Confident that our flight would sneak out before a flake of snow hit the ground, I pulled up and took a look at the flight status: Canceled. Son of a … I hung up and dialed both Northwest and Delta on two phones to see what was going on (which ever one picked up first, I figured).

Delta picked up after 30+ minutes of Christmas and Motown songs (sadly, no “Let It Snow”). The agent was very nice, and confirmed that our flight was cancelled due to weather. I asked what flight we had been auto-rebooked on, and she responded that we were rebooked because they couldn’t get us on another flight for 3 days. Amazed that we had already been canceled due to weather I had her check other airports in the area and, strangely, none of those had been cancelled for the same time. Digging further, she said that the flight was cancelled due to weather in Detroit, not New York. A quick glance at showed cloudy skies and a slight chance of less than an inch of snow over night. That didn’t seem to add up, but she was adamant that the flight was canceled due to weather.

I asked if we could be moved to the LaGuardia flight, but since the only seats left were first class the agent had to hold for a supervisor. After another 30 minute hold while we waited for a supervisor we were told that since we had booked this flight months ago on, we would have to speak to a Northwest agent. So much for the merger. I asked if since I was Silver Medallion if we could get the first class seats. But she assured me that NWA and Delta flights were handled separately and only an NWA supervisor could help us.

Luckily, I thought, we had been holding this whole time on the second phone line with Northwest so they should pick up soon. 3 hours in to the same loop of hold music and messages about how well the merger is going, my phone battery started to die. I decided to call again on the other line to see if I was stuck in some limbo. On the second line after another 40 minute hold time (I had 4 lines going at this point), Paul from Northwest picked up. Great! What he said next is what amazed me. The flight was on time, he said, is there anything else he could do to help me? What!? I logged into and checked the flight, “on time” it said. I logged into, still cancelled. I asked Paul, and he confirmed that what I was seeing was correct, but he thinks the flight should still take off. He said that Delta and Northwest use different systems, and he has no idea what is wrong with their system. Probably best to just go to the airport in a few hours and see if it takes off.

Well, it was a surprisingly smooth canceled flight that morning. And still to this day, the websites both shows differing information. Even calling Delta’s flight status line says canceled. I’m glad their recordings let me know how well the merger is going, because otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed.

Check it out: the flight is codeshared NW 3383 / DL 4250 on Dec 19th (screen captures attached).

Surprisingly, the flight was full. I guess we weren’t the only ones on the phone all night.



Jordan writes:

The status of air travel in the United States just keeps getting more depressing. Not only were the flights completely screwed up, but even the process for checking into the flight was an incredible inconvenience.

Since Northwest and Delta recently merged, their technology is still not yet integrated:

  • My reservation was through Delta
  • Trying to check-in on Northwest’s site redirects me to Delta, perfectly fine, my mistake
  • I check in on Delta’s web site instead, goes fine
  • I pay the $15 to check a bag
  • I get to the airport the next day, instinctively go to Delta first since, hey, that’s where my reservation is through, right?
  • At the Delta kiosk, my reservation isn’t found
  • I end up finding it through Northwest instead, and print the boarding passes
  • They tried to charge me another $20 to check the bag, since I paid the original $15 through Delta’s web site, but am now going through Northwest. Luckily, I explained the situation to them calmly and “oh, there it is, yes you have one checked back”

Not so bad, right? That’s what I thought too – I thought it was kinda funny, and as a software developer, I can understand these quirks and bugs. At this point, I was thinking of sending them a bug report to try to help out, definitely not filing any sort of complaint.

Then we get to the gate and find out that our flight was delayed 45 minutes. Again, not so bad, but the problem is our itinerary:

Seattle –> Salt Lake City, 30 minute layover, SLC –> Detroit (leaves SLC at 4:45PM)

Yet the agent in Seattle said that the SLC–>Detroit flight would also be delayed since many people are making this connection. All the while, there are miscommunications all over the place. The gate says one thing, the agent says another thing, Delta’s web site says yet another. At this point, Delta’s web site confirmed that the SLC –> Detroit flight was delayed.

We arrive in SLC at around 5:10PM – 25 minutes after scheduled departure. The SLC–>Detroit flight left on time. There are no more flights to detroit, have to catch a flight from SLC–>Denver–>Detroit tomorrow.

“Fine”, I think, “this sucks, but I’m sure they’ll help us out”. Yeah, they help us out by being extremely rude, and offering us a “discounted” hotel rate of $70 for the night. Yes, they’re making us pay for a hotel even though their own damned plane can’t wait an extra 20 minutes for a ton of people who missed this connection. “Because,” they go on, “we don’t control the weather, so why should we cover your flight”. Yes. That is a literal quote.

Multiple people talk with the manager there explaining the situation. Very calm, no one getting all fired up. We ask if we can get anything – small $10 food voucher? Comped hotel room? Anything at all??

Things are frustrating, but again, no one getting overtly furious or anywhere close. Yet we get some of the rudest, most unhelpful responses ever. They include the aforementioned “Well, we don’t control the weather, why should we pay for anything?” “It isn’t our fault, we can’t control the weather” and other such answers. One exchange I over heard went exactly like this:

Customer who paid $900 for his domestic ticket: “Where do we catch the shuttle to the hotel?”
Manager named Tina: “I already TOLD you where you get on the shuttle to the hotel” (completely undeserved, I overheard their entire conversation)
*flabbergasted look* “I don’t care, then tell me again!”

There was absolutely no regard for the customer. The customer was in the way for everyone at Delta, not someone who paid hundreds of dollars for ridiculously-inflated ticket prices and gouged for baggage checking fees to boot. It is an absolutely disgusting state of affairs for the airline business.

They had opportunity after opportunity to make things right without it costing them much at all, if anything. Simple courtesy, $5-10 food vouchers, anything. But no, they dishonestly pretended like we were trying to rip them off, making the illogical straw-man that we were asking them to control the weather.

Actually, we feel sorry for everyone in this situation–it can’t be fun to be a front-line airline employee right now.

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