Delta Airlines saved my ass today after Alaska screwed up, royally. Delta went way above and beyond and, either through process or (more likely) through employee empowerment, got me where I needed to go against all the odds. Here’s what happened.
Last night, I boarded am Alaska/Horizon flight for San Jose to Boise to go skiing with my family for the long weekend. I’d had a meeting earlier in the day in the Bay Area, so Lisa and the kids had gone ahead and had already flown to Boise and were going to pick me up at the airport when I arrived. My flight takes off; I’m on one of the high-wing twin prop Bombardier Q400s on the last flight of the day. The flight takeoff was delayed about an hour as the Alaska flights were all delayed due to weather, but no big deal.
About an hour into the flight as we are about to hit the Sierras, the pilot comes on saying that the in-flight wing deicing system is showing a failure/warning light, and that out of an abundance of caution, we are going to turn around and fly back to San Jose. Ok, good call, Cap’n, as falling out of the sky as a result of ice on the control surfaces is almost completely guaranteed to ruin one’s day. We turn around, fly back to San Jose and then spend about a half an hour making big, lazy turns over the Bay as we try to burn off fuel since we are over our allowable landing weight. Finally, we get the plane down to a safe landing weight and line up on final approach. We land uneventfully.
As soon as we touch down, I call Alaska’s reservations call center, where the call center rep does a great job booking me on a Delta flight the following morning at 10am. All good, I get it. Stuff happens and we’ll try this again tomorrow. They unload all the bags from the Alaska/Horizon plane, I grab my stuff, call Lisa and let her know I’m going to be a day late and to hug the kids, and I head home, getting to sleep about midnight. Before going to sleep, I check my email and see the confirmation of the flight change from Alaska in there, and showing my Delta flights and both my (old) Alaska confirmation number and my (new, confirmed) Delta confirmation number. I go to sleep and wake up at 6am, just to have plenty of time to get back to the airport, park (again) in long term parking, and get checked in.
I drive back to the airport this morning at about 8:00am, and try to check in at the Delta counter. They pull up my reservation and…they can’t check me in. “Um, why not?” I ask.
So. It appears that after the Alaska flight was canceled last night after returning to San Jose, the Alaska gate agents took it upon themselves to rebook everyone on a new, unscheduled flight at 7:00am this morning on the same Alaska plane from last night. Doing this invalidated the ticket that I had on Delta (even though I had a Delta confirmation number *that Alaksa gave me*). More importantly, I received NO notification from Alaska of this change. What I had was a belief that I was on a Delta flight at 10am, and the confirmation information to back it up.
At this point, I’m a man without a country. I have a Delta confirmation number, but no ticket (since Alaska pulled it back into their system). The Alaska flight that they rebooked me on (but failed to inform me of) has left. And now all Alaska AND all Delta flights are sold out of seats for the rest of the day.
Through all of this, the individual desk agents at Delta are trying to find a solution for me. They are trying different routings. They are going back and forth with both Alaska personnel at San Jose AND working the Alaska call center on my behalf. At one point, the had me routed in a First Class Delta seat out of SFO (spiffy, yo), and were calling a shuttle bus to take me from San Jose to SFO (that didn’t work out as there wasn’t enough time to make the flight out of the other airport). Finally, after almost 90 minutes of typing codes into their system, finding some way to pry the ticket out of Alaska’s system and into theirs, AND somehow getting me a confirmed seat on an oversold flight, the Delta agent tells me to run up to the gate. I don’t have a ticket, mind you…all I have is a printed paper that says “Seat Request” on it. “Do I need a ticket?” I ask. The Delta agent says that I have all that I need. I race through security and charge to the gate. As I get there, the gate agent is calling my name.
“Here!” I say.
He prints out boarding passes for me, but we are still not done. In doing all of this, I need to have *paper* tickets to affix to the boarding passes. The paper tickets are back at the check in, on the other side of security and a half-a-terminal away and on the other side of the gargantuan security line. “No problem,” says the gate agent. “They’re being brought up for you.”
While the 90 minute saga was going on, the lead agent at Delta had given me a meal voucher for the inconvenience that this whole ordeal was taking. (So, check this…Alaska f’d up, and Delta gives me meal vouchers for the inconvenience.) I decided to go over and grab a slice, and while I’m waiting for it I hear my name called over the loudspeaker. I race back to the gate and the agent from the check-in had hand-carried my tickets up to the gate. Unprecedented.
Five minutes later, the flight boards. I get on without further incident, and we smoothly roll down the runway and gently lift off.
Alaska’s systems failed and completely hosed me.
On the other hand, Delta’s *people* went WAY above and beyond, and did everything in their power to get me to my family today. Thanks, Delta.
The shouts out: Delta San Jose Station crew, you guys pulled off the impossible. Huge kudos to superstar Myanh T. for making this happen, and to supporting cast members Jessica H. and Glenn F. who brought everything over the line. Without you guys, I’d be cooling my heels in San Jose this weekend. My family and I can’t thank you enough.