SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Disappointing airline experience

By Derek Meister & Jessica Lutton


August 02, 2015
Sunday PM

Initially, many including myself were enthusiastic about Delta arriving in Alaska. I had been so far satisfied enough with Alaska Airlines, but I was optimistic that another airline would bring some healthy market competition and help lower fares. This most recent episode involving a trip I was making with my fiancé to Minnesota for a wedding was without a doubt the most disappointing, baffling, and infuriating airline experience we've ever had to endure. We fly out of Alaska regularly, and will be soon planning at least 4 more flights from Ketchikan, AK this year alone. We have been attempting to remain hopeful that Delta would do everything in their power to do what is announced on their aircrafts every trip; which is to "exceed our expectations" and to truly make us feel like we're part of "the Delta family."

Let me tell you about my experience – which continues to be a nightmare to try to correct even after I have returned home. I was first questioned intensely upon trying to check my bag onto the flight as Delta representatives did not believe I had prepaid for her baggage check online before arriving to the airport. It's not clear whether there is an extreme deficiency of digital technology at work, or whether Delta staff are considerably under qualified and/or under trained for their positions and unable to negotiate the system that fulfills this function. I was made to show my personal bank account to Delta staff, showing hard evidence of my prior check bag purchase before I was allowed to check my bag.

Next, my flight was delayed due to mechanical difficulty. I understand this happens in a world of manmade technology. However, I went on to spend over 8 hours at the airport watching as the intensely disorganized and highly emotional Delta staff -one staff member actually began crying into a microphone while addressing customers- scrambled and failed to do what they promised me and many others to do. I was of course assured I would be put on the next available flight, as was the party who had a connecting flight within several hours to get home, as well as the woman who was actively missing a loved one’s funeral. This did not happen. They then assured me I would most certainly be put on the next available flight. That also failed to happen. Finally, I was placed on an Alaska Airline flight. I repeatedly pleaded with Delta staff to ensure that my baggage be placed on the flight I was taking as I was worried the bag would be left behind, arrive late late or be lost. Given that we were attending a formal wedding, this was extremely important. I was told repeatedly and even promised that my bag would make it to my final destination. I had no choice but to board the plane, trust Delta staff, and move on.

Once in Seattle, I asked the Delta staff there what the status of my baggage was. I was told explicitly that my baggage was there, safe and secure, at the SEATAC airport and would be traveling right along with me as I proceeded to Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is not an exaggeration, and I was treated by the flustered customer service representative as though my request was petty none-the-less. When I finally arrived to Minnesota, sleep deprived, hungry and upset, my bag never showed up in the baggage claim area. It didn't take long for us to discover that despite being either lied to or misinformed somehow by Delta representatives, my baggage was still in Ketchikan, AK and in fact had never left the ground. We made every effort to make sure the bag would eventually get through to us, but again, the apparent disorganization of Delta staff at MSP and whatever Delta tracking technology at hand gave us little more reassurance than a file reference number and phone number. We were of course traveling to Duluth, Minnesota -2 hours north of Minneapolis and MSP airport- and thus had no hope of seeing the bag before we needed to leave. My fiancé was in the wedding, not just attending. So, it was relayed to us that the bag could AND would be delivered to the Duluth, MN airport and then delivered to the residence in which we were staying there. The exact address of the location was given to Delta representatives that day. We were told that at best, the bag would arrive in Duluth, MN sometime Saturday morning, the day of the actual wedding.

We had no other option than to go shopping frantically for the multiple items we suddenly did not have and needed for the wedding. I then spoke with yet another Delta representative over the phone about our situation and she assured us that we would be compensated for the things we needed to purchase that would have otherwise been in my luggage. These items included multiple items of clothing meant to be worn to the wedding, cosmetics, makeup, hair tools, underwear, toiletries and last but not least, medication that is not recommended to be suddenly stopped. This unplanned yet unavoidable shopping experience also caused us to be late and miss the rehearsal dinner that evening, as we arrived hours later than expected.

The day of the wedding -feeling that the worst was behind us- we proceeded with itinerary for the day, in the pale hopes that my bag would finally be delivered at some point. Instead, I was called personally two separate times and left messages asking me where the bag was to be delivered. This came as a shock as I'd already told Delta where the bag should be delivered. As we were directly participating in the wedding services, ceremony and celebration, we were unable to answer the phone. When I tried returning the phone calls, I was redirected to the general line for Delta services; which I quickly came to learn was not the correct line for baggage recovery. I was unable to reach anyone that day after multiple attempts throughout the wedding reception. The bag never appeared that day.

Sunday, as we were preparing to depart and drive back down to the twin cities in the morning, still without my baggage, I reached yet another Delta representative on the phone hoping to have an explanation of the latest failure of service. The representative was quick to ask me if I still wanted the bag delivered to the address I had given on the Friday before! I explained that I'd been called and asked for the address she repeated to me right then and there over the phone. She could not explain why another confirmation of address would have been necessary, or why the Duluth Airport had not been given the seemingly obvious communication of the address in question from Delta. The representative assured us then that since we were no longer going to be in Duluth, that the bag would be re-shipped back down to Minneapolis and the MSP airport, put on our plane out of town Monday morning (today) and would arrive with us back in Ketchikan, AK. Ironically, this would amount to us never have even brought the bag with us in the first place, but what other choice did we have at this point?

Well, here we are, back in Ketchikan Alaska, and of course 2 days later, to neither mine nor my fiance's surprise, my bag is STILL NOT HERE. This has been the worst failure in customer service and airline experience we have ever endured. The embarrassment was palpable on the faces of those in KTN airport after our arrival home trying to explain to us what was happening and why we somehow still do not have our baggage. We have repeatedly attempted to reach the corporate office as soon as we returned home as I was told by another Delta rep that no compensation could be sought until we returned home and our travels were over.

After no less than 8 hours spent on the phone, repeatedly being told we were speaking to the wrong person and needed a different number that they were unable to transfer us to directly, we were told the best that Delta can do in “exceeding our expectations” is a $75 credit towards another Delta flight – truly adding insult to injury. I sincerely hope that others can avoid similar experiences with Delta which appear to have become the norm through our local airport. Our trips off the island are far too valuable to depend on Delta to simply do an acceptable job.

Derek Meister & Jessica Lutton
Happy transplants and members of the Ketchikan community
Ketchikan, Alaska



Received July 28, 2015 - Published August 02, 2015



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