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What to Do & How to Get Help When Things Go Massively Wrong With an Airline – Like Delta Today!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

empty delta service counter renespoints travel blog
Not what Delta CS looks like today 🙁

My guess is none of the Delta counters look like this today. And when you look at twitter you will find phone shots of long lines at airports around the world. As I blogged about this morning, Delta has issued a waiver. This is a special waiver compared to most others. This one is worldwide but ONLY if you have travel plans for TODAY (not the rest of this week as some news outlets are reporting). You can, however, retro make changes or get credit or cancel until Friday the 12th. That is somewhat unique. Either way, Delta is willing to let you make changes at no cost for travel booked today.

But is that it? What else would be a helpful tip or two? Reader Mary R in part commented on one of my posts today:

“René – surprised you didn’t devote today’s column to Delta global system outage. What does a flyer do when caught in the middle of an outage?”

I did have a quick post up first thing Mary, but you are spot on that this would be a good time to review all the things that could help you. The way I look at it there are two issues. The first is traveling today or in a similar situation where everything is shut down. The next is what do to after the fact.

First what to do in the midst of the mess:

Be calm & don’t get mad at Delta people for this mess today. It is not their fault. I mean it is someone’s fault at Delta, but not those trying to help you. They likely got a call early this AM to come in to work and got little sleep last night and it is Monday morning for them too!

Now what do you do if, as was the case for a while today, everything IT is totally shut down there is little anyone can do but wait. Without computers no one at Delta can do anything and that included airplanes moving at all. But what about once they are getting up and running again. Then what?

Elites will have it better since they can call the elite line. That may also have long wait times, but still better than for non-elites. But if you have Skype you can call Delta’s international service centers (See E9 post) and sometimes get faster service. Either way you can also use Delta’s call you back feature so you don’t have to wait on hold forever.

I still am just shocked (and disappointed) when any reader tells me they are not on Twitter. I don’t care if you tweet or not but sign up and follow @Delta (was @DeltaAssist) so you can use this service for help when things go wrong. They are normally quick and when things go wrong you have one more outlet that can help you.

Then we have other choices. Clearly waiting in a 100x person long service area line is not fun. So, consider a visit to the Sky Club if you have access any way at all (even if not free). If you have a Delta AMEX card you can get in for a fee and it may be worth it and not just for the help but for a place to relax during the long delay. The line at the club may be long too but you can at least have a drink in hand while you wait! 😉

How can you get from A-B? Well keep in mind Delta has limited what airlines it can “interline” with now, that is, take your Delta ticket and put you on another airline to get you to your destination. Even if they can do it they are going to be reluctant to do so. Normally I don’t suggest pushing the DYKWIA card but if you are a top elite or in paid 1st class you may have more success getting something on another airline utilizing your Delta ticket but Delta is the one who has to make that happen.

Worst case, look at all your other options. Renting a car. Now the airport may be out of cars but consider an UBER to a rental location off site that does still have cars. Sure you may not want to drive 4 or 10 or 24 hours to get A-B but if you must get there it could work. Or, consider a one-way rental to another airport that DOES have flights if driving all the way from A-B is not possible. None of this will be cheap but if you must travel there are ways to make it happen today!

We are running out of same day fixes but you can call it a day. Go to a hotel. Maybe you can get a voucher from Delta but depending on what credit card you used you may have, after a long enough delay, an option to have the card pay you back for a hotel and meals and such. Just getting away from the airport may be the best call if you can live with travel the next day.

Then what about after the fact. What can you get for your delay? If your flight was to/from Europe you can reach out to AirHelp to see about getting some money for whatever the issue was.

You can also complain, when it is fully back up and running, on and request points or a voucher of some kind for the issue. It may not make you “whole” but something is better than nothing.

Lastly, again via your credit card, see about any other costs you could possibly get back or refunded due to paying for the ticket with a card that by default includes some kind of travel insurance when you buy airline tickets. You should know this ahead of time but if not it is worth a call after the fact.

Safe travels everyone! – René

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. So this is something I do not understand about Delta or any other large company these days.

    In this case, there was some sort of a power failure in Atlanta at Delta Headquarters. I have heard Delta say it was GA Power and Light and GAP&L said it was Delta’s equipment that failed and they were on sight to assist Delta in getting it back up and running.

    This failure then cased the entire computer system world wide to go down and for all intensive purposes, shut down the airline.

    So why doesn’t Delta have a Disaster Recovery system setup for a fail over when systems go down. Other large companies will have a redundant data center at another site, usually on the opposite coast or somewhere that the same event can’t take both sites down and when there is a failure, the other data center takes over. In order for this to work, the two systems would need to be connected to each other of a private network and all transactions would have to be replicated.

    This way if the primary location goes down for any reason, the backup takes over and business continues. There will be some data loss, as whatever was being updated / entered at the time of failure may not have been committed to the system yet. But having to this small loss will be a lot less troublesome then shutting down the entire business. I wonder how much a snafu like this costs to correct.

    just my $.02


  2. Santastico Reply

    @Gregg: They don’t have it because they are cheap. Someone told them the possibility of this happen was very small so they probably scrubbed it from the budget so they could look better in front of investors. Well, now someone will be losing their job for not having a contingency plan in case this happened. I am curious to see how Delta plans to manage all passengers that were affected by this mess. They cannot blame the weather since this is clearly their problem.

    • @Santastico – They blamed the power company to begin. I am reader reports they ARE blaming the weather. I expect very little compensation from Delta from all this. 🙁

      • @René,

        Since the airports around the world that this impacted where not closed or had delays due to weather, I hope that you are wrong. If a power failure, defective piece of equipment or a cut cable caused Delta worldwide to go down, that should not be the customer’s problem and the customer should be compensated. Since I am in the IT field and deal with numerous customers who ask how our systems can be made redundant, in case a site goes down for whatever reason, I can say that even if Delta had a Disaster Recovery plan, it was either not implemented upon Atlanta going down or not working as designed. Again, these are Delta problems, not local weather problems.


  3. Santastico Reply

    @rene: This is what the power company said:”A spokesman for Georgia Power told The Associated Press that the company believes a failure of Delta equipment caused the airline’s power outage. He said no other customers lost power.” I am pretty sure Delta’s legal team will work long hours this week trying to find a way to blame someone else so they are not responsible to pay a lot of money to compensate customers.

  4. Tachyon_OGG-SBA-IAD Reply


    You may want to dive deeper, as well, into the extra misery Delta will mete out today to “non-Diamond-Medallions” who can’t go to the head of the line… With high load factors and SNAPP fully implemented, those of us walking up the the kiosks today will get one of those classic “We can get you there a week from Saturday” re-booking BS slips of paper from using “the Red Card”.

    One of the reasons the ground experience on DL has deteriorated so much is that SNAPP will no longer let you do “those little tricks” to find a creative routing that would get you there hours or days sooner.

    DL always leads the charge to the bottom and SNAPP will be Exhibit A for this today.

    DL Best at ‘no cancellations’?!? Right.


  5. I was in my seat for my flight home (SFO-EWR) on UA July 6, 2013 when Asiana crashed at the end of the runway. My wife and I spent the next 6 hours watching the delay time creep further back, being cancelled, rebooked, cancelled again, then on hold for 40 minutes while standing in line at the customer service desk in Terminal 3, The UA agent on the phone was useless. I tried changing my destination airport to anything even close to NJ. JFK, LGA, PHL, ABE, DCA, IAD, I was even willing to go to ORD and figure things out form there and all the guy kept saying was nope nothing available. Then I tried departing airport to OAK or SJC, no dice, The best he could do was keep us leaving from SFO and getting home on TUESDAY AFTERNOON and here it was Saturday afternoon. I tried to stay calm and respectful on the phone but they literally gave me no options. What was I supposed to do? Fly standby for the next two days in hopes to get home before TUESDAY?! Then it his us. My wife is an AA flier and was AA Gold at the time. She had miles saved up and we booked ourselves out of LAX at 6AM the next morning. We then RAN to the rental car counter at SFO and got what turned out to be one of the last cars Enterprise had. We started the car at 6:30 and I drove us to LAX in the middle of the night. We got to the car rental counter at around 1 and spent the next 3 hours in the terminal as all the hotels were SOLD OUT. After clearing security and leaving on time we got home Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

  6. Thanks Rene. I am glad you are here to cover this fiasco. Please keep us posted.

  7. Santastico Reply

    @KS77: I am not a lawyer but I believe what happened with the Asiana flight qualifies to what in legal terms is called “force majeure”. That means that “unforeseeable circumstances prevent someone from fulfilling a contract”. It is when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract. A plane crashed on the airport and closed the airport for all take offs and landings. Not saying the way UA treated you was correct but they had nothing to do with what happened. In the case of Delta today it is different. It was a failure in their systems which I would say is similar to a technical malfunction on one of their planes which they have to compensate if the flight is delayed for many hours or cancelled. Thus, if proven that the problem was with Delta’s equipment their legal team will have to work long hours to find a way to not pay passengers affected. Well, they are good in blaming someone else to let’s see what they will do.

  8. Tachyon_OGG-SBA-IAD Reply

    Dr. John

    Maybe on the $200 voucher– it’s certainly what the DL website says.
    But, like most things Delta, they say LOTS of stuff that’s demonstrably not true. They should have been proactively canceling and re-booking flights for tomorrow (and at-risk flights Wednesday), but in usual Delta death-by-a-thousand cuts fashion they waited to do so until it was long-obvious to even casual observers that the pain would extend well into the week. So, if you were thinking you were ‘in the clear’ for tomorrow’s departures: Surprise!

    I can also provide a list of dozens of valid DL flight numbers that DL’s website claims operate at 90-100% ontime percentage. A pity that you can go to FlightStats and FlightAware, look up those same flights and easily see that they only operate at 60%.

    Like the GEICO ads say, “Delta lies. It’s what they do.”

  9. Ugly…took two days to get out of CAK, with Hall of Fame w/e, and full flights on top of it! The planes weren’t getting in, so none going out. Finally after getting cancelled for a day and a half, even after offering to go to CLE, I went to the CAK airport, NO line, had the agent put us on a United flight, got the heck out of CAK-ORD, then on DL ORD-SLC, and upgraded too, finally! First, no Hall of Fame Game, then no flights…what a weekend…LOL! Glad to be home. My friends are Supervisors in SLC Res, they’ve been working so many hours. ALL the DL agents were so pleasant and helpful. The UA agent in CAK…totally indifferent..couldn’t even put me and Hubby next to each other on their flight, and yes there were several options. Geez.

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