My previous post related a sad tale of Delta’s version of Chinese water torture when flying to New Orleans from Raleigh on a real (that is, not an upgrade) first class ticket.  I promised to tell the story of the return, too, which was the final bit of mud in my eye.

Though I enjoyed my time with friends in the Crescent City, it stormed and rained buckets every day and night.  The Tuesday morning of my MSY/ATL/RDU flights portended more of the same.  Weather radar at 6:00 AM showed a particularly bad line of thunderstorms moving east towards New Orleans from Baton Rouge, and though my flight to Atlanta wasn’t scheduled until 9:15, I decided to rush to the airport and stand by for the 7:15 AM departure to get out ahead of the storms.

FIRST CLASS?  HA!  YOU AIN’T GOT NO FIRST CLASS TICKET!

After clearing the TSA Pre-Check line I made a beeline to the Delta Sky Club and asked if there were any first class seats available on the 7:15 AM flight.  Yes, the agent, an older gentleman, told me, but I would not be able to upgrade to one of those seats on my ticket.  I expressed surprise, inasmuch as my ticket read “F” in the fare class.  I didn’t need an upgrade on an F fare, I said.  He stated imperiously that it did not mean anything because I had originally bought a coach ticket.  But, I retorted, I paid a great deal of money afterwards to change it to a true first class fare.

The guy didn’t appear to like me arguing with him and clicked away slowly without making eye contact.  Scowling, he finally said he could NOT put me on either the 7:15 AM or the 8:15 AM departures for ATL in F, but he could get me a center seat in coach back in an upper-twenty-something row on either flight.  Or I could wait for my scheduled 9:15 AM flight and hope the airport was not closed by then due to bad weather.  This entire conversation took some 10-15 minutes due to the agent constantly pecking away at the computer and having no sensitivity to the fact that the 7:15 AM flight would soon be closing.

OH, WAIT!  YOU DO HAVE A FIRST CLASS TICKET AFTER ALL.

His attitude was off-putting, and I decided it was best to end the conversation.  Walking to the back of the Club out of earshot of the agent at the desk, I phoned the Delta Elite line and explained what he had told me.  The agent paused a moment to examine my record and then pronounced him dead wrong.  She said of course my fare entitled me to a confirmed first class seat if one was available.  However, she said, the 7:15 AM flight has just closed a minute before and couldn’t be reopened.  She apologized profusely and put me on the 8:15 AM flight–still an hour earlier than my original departure–and also put me in F on an earlier connecting flight ATL/RDU.  She assured me the desk agent in the Club would be notified of his error.  I hoped Delta would at least do that, and maybe even give him a demerit or two.  He lacked competence and commitment to customer service, and I didn’t feel sorry for him.

Once on the 8:15 AM airplane, I could see the dark gray thunderheads looming on the horizon and prayed nervously for an on-time departure.  My wish was granted:  The captain had us at the end of the runway just as two enormous lightning-filled clouds enveloped the airport in a giant U.  We took off due south through the opening of the U in the storm with flashes of lightning on both sides, and we were soon winging our way in smooth, high-altitude air towards ATL.  I checked when I arrived Atlanta, and the 9:15 AM flight was indeed held on the ground long enough so that I would have missed my original ATL/RDU connection.

Thank goodness I thought to phone the DL Elite line.  I should have phoned them first.  Lesson learned.

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