Ten Things Delta Needs to Change to Keep Customer Complaints From Climbing.

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After the Delta meltdown this month, as well as so many other customer unfriendly and frustrating changes, it is time to, as they say, mend some fences and there are a number of things that really need attention. Most of them are truly not “that” hard to fix either. Well, some may take more doing than others but see if you (and Delta) don’t agree that these would be some changes that would stem customer complaints going forward.

1) Upgrade Emails. I have talked about before how sick I am about getting “your upgrade has been confirmed” emails when all Delta is telling me is I am in my C+ seat I am already in. Delta needs to differentiate the C+ emails and the 1st class emails (and send them btw). Delta feels C+ is a unique experience – fine – but then make the email notice unique as well.

2) Opt out of C+ middle seat “upgrades”. 99% of us, I think, agree that moving from say an exit row aisle or window seat and being “upgraded” to a middle seat anywhere is no upgrade. Since the seats in C+ are EXACTLY the same size as the rest of “main cabin” or coach, it is at best a SideGrade. How hard can it be to get Delta IT working to find a box for us to check to say NO to middle seat upgrades. Fix this fast Delta!

3) Alert us to seat changes. I have also griped about this one before but gosh this of all the things on this list should be the most simple to change and notify us when they go “monkeying” with our seats without telling us. This is just not that hard folks when others can do it!

4) Fix APP partial notice. Again, this just cannot be that hard to fix. Other airlines, when they push a notice to you, tell you all the info in the push and do not require you to pull up and go inside the app to see the full message. If this is un-fixable Delta IT has a serious problem.

5) Improve notice of schedule changes. I am almost afraid to have Delta fix this one as one of the last and most beneficial things Delta offers, that is, to fix things when they mess up our flights. However, they have a long way to go when it comes to notifying us about changes.

6) No firm policy YBYL. That is “you board you lose”. For those who don’t know yet (i.e. living under a rock) if you board you officially give up your upgrade slot. Just hang by the gate and watch what happens when elites board and you don’t. Now, unofficially, gate agents can go onboard and “pull” elites from the back but they don’t have to. That is when time matters getting the flight out matters more. An official hard rule would be nice.

7) Gift cards more than tickets (& track). Yet another topic I have harped on again and again and I think long term this one, if Delta does not fix it, will get them in major trouble. It should not be hard to track on MY DELTA gift cards. My guess is, at this point, millions of dollars of Delta gift cards are lost in cyber space. It is just a matter of time until this comes back to bite the mothership. Oh, and how about allowing unlimited number of gift cards per ticket rather than just 3. Again, fix this fast Delta.

8) Comfort Plus seats for Delta AMEX Platinum card BOGOF certs. This one will take Delta and AMEX to do some negotiating but I think this one is a MUST for a semi-premium card like the Delta AMEX Platinum card. Offering C+ seating as part of the offer of the BOGOF would help drive folks to the card. Plus, for the Reserve card holders, they can choose C+ or 1st and that helps drive users to that card as well.

9) Upgrade tie-breaker for Million Milers. Maybe this one is a bit selfish since I have just crossed the million mile mark recently with Delta, but I get this comment all the time from others who are 2 or 3 or more million miles. Why cannot this be one more in the LONG list of upgrade tie-breakers. Maybe not 1st on the list but make it count in some way. After all, rewarding years of loyalty with maybe one or two more upgrades could not hurt.

10) Better communication about program changes. This last one is against the “old” guard at Delta. You would not believe how many times Delta reps over the years told me they “cannot tell us in advance about changes” as they did not want to “end up in orange jumpsuits” that is, end up in prison for telling us what changes are on the way. Well, get over this, as telling folks what is on the way should be applauded and guess what, other airlines do tell us what is on the way. Change this Delta and alert us as to what is on the way.

That is my list. What do you think? Do you think Delta changing these, in part or in total, would both reduce complaints and gain customer loyalty? I think so. Have I missed anything? – René



Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

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  1. I agree with the MM as a tie-breaker… Of course, I just hit it as well so it’s self-serving, but it is a small reward long-term loyalty.

  2. I am facing items 2 and 6 in a few hours and agree with you on both points.

    I am PM and declined EC+ upgrade request (there is only one middle seat) and am now 5 on the FC wait list with 7 FC seats open. It’s likely I’ll be on the margin. If your proposal were adopted, I’d happily have signed up for both “upgrades” requests.

    I understand that, if I board as Sky Priority, I’ll probably lose an upgrade if some FC passengers don’t show. But, if I hold back at the gate and don’t clear for FC, there will almost certainly be no overhead storage. It becomes a choice between the two.

    Another question: What happens if people from EC+ get upgraded to First and I don’t and haven’t requested EC+? Do those vacated EC+ seats go to standby passengers or go empty?

  3. @Ajay – Most of the time filled by Delta people who are trying to get from A-B as all the medallions who would qualify for the C+ “upgrade” have already boarded and there is no way Delta is going to take the time to pull folks from coach to C+ and possibly delay a flight.

  4. One gripe I have is partner tickets. I can’t do an award ticket to my wife’s home town in Brazil on Delta/Gol mix but I can sure buy a ticket via google flights all on delta/Gol without a hitch…

  5. Good list, René. I would also like to see Delta provide 1MM flyers with 25K miles each year rather than SM status, with the opportunity to add miles and MQMs based on miles flown. Same with 2MM flyers (50K each year) and 3MM flyers.

  6. No question that #2 and #6 are annoying and not competitive (UA does neither). But most of the others would not make my top 10 let alone top 25. by far the most important factor would be for DL to come clean and post mileage charts as well as release sufficient inventory for lowest priced awards. Until that happens people will not choose DL for miles.

  7. @Rene

    A lot of this boils down to C+ not really being enough better to actually differentiate it. “Really? An ‘upgrade’ section with middle seats and worse legroom than the exit room I’m being move out of?”

    Another Delta fantasy, like “we never cancel flights” and “we have better ontime performance than anyone, despite having the oldest and least reliable fleet.”

    I’d rather board early and be sure of overhead space than wait around on the chance I might get C+ and a free drink if they remember to bring one by.

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