And Just Like That, Plans Change


On Monday, I announced that I’d be hitting a Grand Tour of Guatemala and Honduras next month, using frequent flier miles I’d accrued with Delta. On Tuesday, that entire scheme fell apart.

See, what had happened was:

Because Delta was merging the former Northwest Airlines’ computer systems information into its own, many of the functions on Delta’s website were not working properly. I ended up spending a total of three hours on the phone (half of that on hold) while the customer support people tried to square away my award ticket. Mind you, this is after I spent hours on delta.com trying to match dates and destinations to my personal timeframe and mileage account balance. Finally, I was booked to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Guatemala City via Atlanta on February 3rd, returning on the 18th. As I said in the previous post, I was supposed to have been charged $55 for taxes and debited 35,000 SkyMiles. I shot off emails to friends and contacts in Guatemala and posted the news here.

Tuesday morning, I check my bank account balance and notice it’s been debited $150 by Delta.

I broke out the People’s Eyebrow.

Then, I called my dear friends at the World’s Largest Airline to find out what the hell’s going on. After another half-hour wait, I finally spoke to someone who informed me that I’d been charged $55 for the taxes, $20 erroneously for booking over the phone (this was supposedly already re-credited, since it was their website that was screwy), and $75 for booking a ticket using miles within 21 days of departure.

Two things:

  • Out of the three hours and three customer service agents I spoke to, not one mentioned the $75 fee.
  • I could eat off of that $75 for the WHOLE TWO WEEKS I was supposed to be in Central America.

Her: “I’m sorry, sir, but your SkyMiles account is self-service, and if you check the rules and regulations section, you’ll see that the penalty for booking within 21 days is $75.

Me: “I acknowledge that I might need to go back and review the fine print, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect somebody at Delta, while booking the ticket and reiterating the tax amount, which is even LOWER than the booking fee, to say, ‘Mr. White, you are aware that you will incur a $75 fee for booking this ticket on these particular dates, are you not?”

To make matters worse, cancelling the ticket altogether and having my miles reinstated carried a penalty of $100.

Rock. Fly Brother. Hard place.

I explained to the agent that I know $75 might not sound like a lot, but in this economy…! And that normally, even non-refundable tickets can be cancelled without penalty within 24 hours of booking, and I had about 3 hours left.

She spoke to her superviser, and to Delta’s credit, the entire itinerary was voided, my miles were reinstated, and I should see an additional $150 back in my bank account within a few days (otherwise, I would have talked lots of shit about them on this blog).

Checking back on delta.com for flights leaving 21 days later, I found I could leave for Guatemala on February 16th and, for the same amount of miles, return February 18th or March 3rd (two weeks after I’m supposed to have the visa paperwork back from Brazil). Sayonara, Guatemala.

So for 25,000 miles and $7.50 in taxes, I’m heading to San Fran from February 16th-23rd (Bay Area Fly Brother fans, make some noise!) with a raincoat and two lessons learned:

  • Read the fine print in your frequent flier account.
  • Be flexible with your plans (which is easier said than done, especially if you’re going to a wedding or Carnival or to see that hot jump-off you’ve been chatting up on the Internet for the last few weeks).

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