Alabama Scene

The Delta deception

 

 

I have been a loyal member of Delta SkyMiles for many years, even reached the Platinum Medallion Level once, but it was bumped down a notch by the new Diamond Level a few months back. Now I’m back at the lowly Gold Level, which is just a notch above the Silver Level and two notches above the seat by the rear toilet.

Nowadays the airlines want you to do business with them online. The search for a telephone number for Delta and other carriers online and elsewhere can be a challenging task. Last Saturday it took me nearly five minutes to find a dial-up number on the Delta web site, which leads me to relate the following dilemma I faced in attempting to book tickets from Montgomery to Shreveport.

The first deception by Delta and other airlines is their rewards program. It’s one of those “much-promised-little delivered” fictions which are always changing. Next we will likely see the Pearly Gates Medallion Level. What a winner that would be. It’s a level everybody will be clamoring to reach, but delivery could be a problem.

But you know, a Pearly Gates Level could prove to be a winner for consumers because the airlines might fear Heavenly wrath if they had cheated on the web and elsewhere folks who are trying to get the best deal on tickets.

Maybe I’m just a hardened skeptic, but when searching for flights and fares on the web I have made it a practice to never search for tickets on the dates I will actually be flying. This is particularly true if I’m paying with frequent-flier miles (FFM). I’ll search near my actual flying dates, perhaps using the same days in a different week. The reason: Too often I have searched with the actual date and returned moments later to discover that the frequent-flier miles for the flight I initially checked but didn’t book had suddenly been bumped up by five or 10 thousand miles.

This happened to me last Saturday while attempting to book a flight online out of Montgomery to Shreveport. I found the outbound flight from Montgomery I wanted, a three-and-a-half-hour flight, through Atlanta, of course, for 25,000 FFM. I then found a less-than-four-hour return flight, for 32,500 FFM. I clicked on the return flight, thinking I had purchased two tickets for 57,500 FFM points, a good deal in my opinion.

I had already congratulated myself before the computer screen blinked and I lost the Delta web site. When I retrieved the web site with my FFM number there was no itinerary for Montgomery-Shreveport. The flight was for Nancy and a friend to attend a wedding, so I had booked the flights in her name, using her FFM number.

I found the flight and itinerary using Nancy’s FFM number and was relieved. Booking a flight online can be a 30-minute chore. However, when I looked carefully, I noticed the return flight had been mysteriously bumped up to 40,000 points, upping the total FFM points for the flight to 65,000.

Delta sells frequent-flier miles for 35 cents per mile to SkyMiles members so the computer “bleep and switch” actually was a $535 cost increase. I immediately emailed Sky- Miles, telling them the FFM cost when I made my selection was 32,500 points. Their reply said the miles total had changed to 40,000 miles.

That was the quickest screen change I have ever encountered, and I don’t plan to give up even if I have to start talking again about the late and grounded flights to hub airports in Alabama and throughout the Southeast by what I often refer to as the “The Delta Misconnection.”

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.