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badice.com ~ musings for the masses

Delta Airlines did something wrong before Andy Azula’s recent flight and he’s written about it (please see letter below). He’s right that Delta needs to apologize and offer some sort of compensation for the fact that they made him a day late to his meetings. The incident had nothing to do with weather and he should have been accommodated on the next available flight on another carrier.

My issue with what Azula wrote is in the tone he takes about himself, that working for UPS and being on television makes his claim more important. If anything, his status as a Delta Platinum Medallion has more weight behind it. I hear claims like his every time I am at the airport. Some guy is late getting to the airport, misses his flight and then proceeds to berate the agent that is trying her best to get him on the next plane, screaming, “Do you know who I am?!”.

In Azula’s case, he did receive poor customer service, but throwing around your place in society gains no sympathy from me. It is an alarming trend in fact. Maybe it’s blogging (I’ve been known to complain here about travel issues) or Twitter or something in the psyche, but people seem to really take complaints to the next level.

This complaint does not spell the end for the Delta, it simply means that there are people complaining in a new way. Delta should read it, respond to it, offer compensation and move on. That’s it. Mr. Azula should report the incident to the Department of Transportation (without mentioning who he is or how much his kids were crying).

[EDIT] Mr. Azula has since pulled the blog post down so I have posted a copy below.

Dear Delta:

I am a frequent-flyer with Platinum status on Delta. And one of your biggest fans.

I’m also the guy in those UPS Whiteboard commercials on TV. And I’m not just the actor. I’m also am the creative director at the ad agency who creates the advertising for UPS.

On June 18th I flew Delta for the last time. As of now, I cannot imagine ever stepping foot on another Delta airplane.

Because on June 18th, things went wrong. Very, very wrong.

On that morning, my wife and two children (7 year old twins), got up at 4 am in order to catch the first flight from our home in Richmond, VA to Atlanta. It was a business trip mixed in with a family vacation. You see, my parents live in Atlanta and my children hadn’t seen their grandparents for quite some time. As you can imagine, we were all very excited.

The sequence of events that occurred for the next 13 hours, and then resumed again the next day, is almost too hard to explain.

In fact, as type this, my heart is racing once again.

You see, our flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem on our plane. Over the course of the next 13 hours we sat in the terminal at Richmond as flight after flight after flight all departed on time to Atlanta. Except, of course, ours. An entire airplane full of people – all of whom had gotten up early to catch the first flight of the day – watched helplessly as every other plane departed incident-free.

And since our bags were on the plane (we had all already been seated, before we were asked to de-board) we couldn’t even get our luggage off the plane and go home. Also, we kept being told our plane was almost fixed.

I took the initiative at noon to book us on the 5pm flight to Atlanta. I called Delta (five times in fact – you can check) to confirm and re-reconfirm again. I was continually reassured that my family had guaranteed seats on that 5pm flight. I was, in fact, on the phone with you as the Delta employees at the gate refused to give us our seats – on a flight we had already been confirmed on. And I never even heard an “I’m sorry.”

Consequently, I missed a few things in Atlanta: The Direct Marketing Association’s conference – of which I was the guest speaker. It was a paid event and the DMA was understandably shocked, mortified and embarrassed by the situation. They had to offer refunds to all their attendees.

I also missed my Wall Street Journal interview.

I also missed my meeting.

But much worse than all that, was what happened to my family.

I really wish some one could hear the crying and see the stress on my children’s face, as they ask why we couldn’t go see grandma and grandpa. And why we couldn’t just go home. I wish you could have heard the phone calls as all of us cried as we spoke with my parents. As my parents, who were also crying, tried to console their grandchildren. My children kept on asking why the airline was doing this to them. They kept asking what is was they did wrong.

We finally got our bags back after our 7am flight was officially and blessedly canceled.

At 6pm.

We were NEVER even offered as much as food vouchers for breakfast, lunch or dinner – all of which were purchased at the airport, as our flight continued to be pushed back and back. And we were not alone. But at least we could spend the evening in our home.

Again, we never even heard an apology.

The flight the next morning, was of course, delayed. Those passengers, who hadn’t been through what the rest of us had, could not understand our collective stress and tears when our gate was changed and then we were delayed. It was a short delay, one that until now, I wouldn’t have even given a second thought about. But the stress lasted much longer. I had to promise my children that I would not make them fly on an airplane anytime soon. They used to LOVE to fly. They simply cannot understand why things are so unfair.

Since returning on June 21st, I have flown 5 round trip flights to Las Vegas, Atlanta and New York. None of those flights have been on Delta.

I am now prepping my travels for the next three months, which include multiple flights to Los Angeles, St Louis, New York, Orlando, London, Berlin, Singapore and Shanghai.

In fact, I am literally flying MORE than I ever have in my life!

But until I receive some sort of apology, I will continue to adjust my schedule to avoid Delta. My coordinator and travel agent know not to book me on any Delta flights for the time being.

This is a fixable problem. This is about principle? Yes. It’s about my belief in customer service. It’s about working with business partners who respect each other. I really believe that. Which is why, until June 18th, I had been one of your biggest cheerleaders.

In the end, it wasn’t the actual circumstance that has caused me to avoid your airline. It is the complete and utter lack of compassion.

Regrettably,

Andy Azula
UPS Whiteboard Actor
SVP/ Creative Director – The Martin Agency

Comments

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  1. July 15, 2009

    The link to Andy’s blog didn’t work, so without fully knowing his story I will say that I don’t blame him for throwing his weight around a little b/c truth be told, the airlines don’t care squat about the avg. traveler.

    Case in point: Jim and I traveled to Montana a few years back: Harriburg to Detroit to Minneapolis to Bozeman. Definitely not an easy journey, but in this modern age it shouldn’t have taken 48 hours to make.

    1. DAY 1: We show up at the airport to discover that our plane is first delayed and then cancelled. No more flights until THE NEXT DAY.

    2. DAY 2: The next day we catch a flight to Detroit. Mechanical problems delay our next flight 5-6 hours. We finally get on a flight, they taxi us out and then discover another mechanical problem. Back to the gate for a few more hours. Get back on the plane. Another problem, except they won’t let anyone off the plane. People start freaking out. We finally take off and get into Minneapolis just before midnight. Told no more flights. They put us in a hotel, give us vouchers for restaurants that are already closed and tell us to be back at the airport at 6:30AM.

    3. DAY 3: Flight from Minneapolis to Bozeman is delayed because of, wait for it, mechanical problems. After several more hours we finally get on a flight. As we’re taking off the pilot informs us that we won’t be stopping in Bozeman, instead we will be flying past Bozeman to Helena first.

    We arrived at our final destination at 4:00pm on the third day. We should’ve been there by 6:00pm on the first day.

    We complained to every agent we encountered and one, in particular, told us to read the back of our ticket. The only thing the airline guaranteed was to get us to our destination. It didn’t say when they had to deliver us, just that we would get us there. And they had done that.

    We have never flown Northwest again. Never will. And we tell that story to anyone who even thinks of flying Northwest.

    • July 16, 2009

      He has since pulled the blogpost from his site. I am going to see if I can find it somewhere else and repost it here.

      I do not blame you for not flying Northwest, they are not the greatest airline out there. What people need to understand when traveling is that as long as the delay issue is not weather related, the airline almost always has an obligation to accommodate their passengers on another carrier to get them to their final destination. This is in the Contract of Carriage and should be used any time the delay goes over a couple of hours.

      Again, my issue is not with Andy Azula’s complaint, it’s with the way he presented the complaint, touting himself as a higher member of society in hopes to provoke a response from Delta.

  2. July 18, 2009

    Looks like Andy Azula isn’t the only passenger with an airline beef. I guess letters and blogs aren’t the only way to air your complaints in a web 2.0 world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

  3. diane #
    July 21, 2009

    “whiteboard actor?” really?
    like, who cares?

    [edited for language]

  4. Wendy #
    October 8, 2009

    You don’t use your company or your title in a personal complaint letter. “Whiteboard actor”? Seriously. The answer to your rhetorical question is yes, hell yes.

  5. Jer #
    October 19, 2009

    Been there done that… Suck it up Andy. There were just as many people with similar horror stories, losses, costs, emotions and embarrassment that day. Shit happens.

  6. October 22, 2009

    It was a well written letter of complaint, but I’m not sure of the relevance associated with being on TV. I’m utterly tired of elitist attitudes and self righteous senses of entitlement due to wealth or fame..

  7. Dave #
    December 10, 2009

    delta sucks..

    they really suck.

  8. Carol Tensen #
    December 12, 2009

    I think Azula added the information about the UPS ad to literally put a face on his complaint. I once spent over 12 hours going from Burbank to Seattle on American Airlines. Another classic tale of how not to run a business.

    Speaking of sucking it up, I’m a teacher and you should hear some of the spurious complaints and lame excuses I get from parents. And guess what — I’m not some name on an annual report. They have access to me. I like to see corporate America have the level of accountability that we have.

  9. MissAmandala #
    May 12, 2010

    You know what really irks me? People like some of these respondants who simply trash the man because he mentioned who he was. Are you serious? So what if he is trying to point out to Delta who he is? Did he once say ” I’m f****** famous and deserve to be treated better!” ? No, he did not. He repeatedly said how sorry he felt for everyone and the strife that they all had to go through. He clearly and concisely put out there the details of the situation in order to lend credibility to his claims, which is generally a good idea when writing a complaint letter. What I hear coming from you is just purely juvenile. He had every right to be upset. Yes, I hear the “but it happens to LOTS of people!”, however if they all posted their complaint letters to the net like this and caused a stir, SOMETHING might actually happen one day. I give the guy kudos for having the backbone to complain and not let bad service (again) go un-answered for.

    • May 13, 2010

      MissAmandala,

      I am fine with him writing a letter to Delta and even posting his grievances on a website. What I am not ok with is the DYKWIA (Do You Know Who I Am?) factor. If he’s such a frequent flyer with Delta then that’s where his argument should lie, not with what he does for a living or how famous he is. If he’s disappointed with Delta and gives them so much money with his travels, then he should be voting with that cash and going elsewhere, not stomping his feet like a baby saying “I’m famous, I deserve better!”.

      The situation also sounded like one that was partially out of Delta’s hands (weather, mechanical issues) and there are only limited things that they can do in those situations. People miss flights all the time and I see businessmen at airports screaming at the top of their lungs at agents because there is a thunderstorm delaying their departure. Give me a break.

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