Newest Review: ... most people consider the less developed parts of the world) would be two steps ahead of what Delta were offering - i.e. no seat back scree... more
Very poor. May yet complain.
Member Name: Fircone_Frankie
Date: 08/09/11, updated on 08/09/11 (38 review reads)
Advantages: Large airline with fairly comprehensive service.
Disadvantages: Customer service sometimes ok, but disgraceful when you really need them.
I flew with Delta earlier this summer, from Manchester UK to Houston. I chose to book with them via STA as they offered a fairly significant student discount. Being on a budget, the price was the main factor for me in choosing this airline. The flight itself was split into two legs. Manchester --> JFK --> Houston on the way out, and Houston --> Atlanta --> Manchester on the way back . There were positives and negatives, but overall I'm not sure the airline would be my first choice for transatlantic flights in the future.
Just a quick note - if you book via a travel agent it appears you cannot pre-book seats on the website, only watch as the planes fill up and the only remaining seats are miles apart. It is a quirk of STA, I believe, that each booking is processed separately, so although I was not travelling alone, there was nothing at the check in desk to link my companion's booking to my own. Arriving at check in, having had our visa / ESTA documents checked in the queue, it was naturally the case that the plane was full. We were informed we had 3 options: to be allocated seating far apart on the plane, pay $80 to upgrade and be seated in economy plus, or wait to be allocated seating at the gate. We chose the latter option and were pleased to find that we had in fact been allocated the economy plus seats at the gate, which meant we were able to sit together without the charge.
The first plane (between Manchester and New York) was an ex-NWA Boeing 757, rebranded in Delta colours - old but clean enough. The crew were friendly, although we didn't have any questions so didn't see much of them. First service is drinks, and wine and beer, tea, coffee and soft drinks are free for everyone. You also get pretzels or peanuts. Spirits are free in economy plus and business, or $7 in economy. The food service was good, with a choice of vegetarian pasta or chicken. I had the pasta, my companion had the chicken. You also get a salad with a little oil / vinegar shaker a biscuit, a bread roll... the usual. A few hours later there was a second meal service with a cheese and tomato pizza (like a Micro Pizza, if anyone remembers them, but much nicer) and a small tub of ice cream. In fairness to the crew, they were very liberal with the drinks, and the beaker of wine they gave to me was huge.
All passengers on the transatlantic flight had a small red blanket and a small pillow. Entertainment was on overhead screens, which I thought was a bit old fashioned. I didn't watch the films, but there were 2 or 3 during the course of the flight, and a television show too.
We landed into New York on time and without issue. Customs was ok, but the baggage took a while to come round. Not Delta's fault, I imagine. We re-checked our bags, went through security and left the airport as we had an 8 hour lay over, returning in 2 hour's good time for our Houston leg. In the time between our return to the airport and passing through security for the third time, the weather had turned bad. The flight to Houston was cancelled along with many other internal Delta flights. All the international flights were still leaving, and although we were in the Delta terminal at JFK and I couldn't see the other airline's details, many other aircraft were taking off and landing. I'm not qualified to comment on their decision to cancel the flights, but their handling of the situation was unbelievably poor.
When your Delta flight is cancelled from JFK you go to Gate 24, which is not a gate at all, but their customer service desk. You cannot get any where near it of course. They've cancelled about 25 flights over the past half hour and all the passengers are desperate to rearrange. The queue was long and slow. Naturally those who qualify for Sky Priority are treated quickly, the rest of us ignored by that area of the desk. I got to the front after about 90 minutes in the queue. The lady in front of me at the desk was sat in a wheelchair and shouting and creating such a commotion you would not believe. She was allocated a hotel. All was calm. And I was called forward. Having travelled across the Atlantic for the first time, with the time difference and all I was exhausted. The woman couldn't have cared less, she started rebooking us on flights for the next day. I said we'd travelled a long way and were very tired, we were on a budget with no money and nowhere to stay. She gestured to the floor. Oh no. I asked why the other lady had been given a hotel. She is sick (she wasn't "sick" per se, I overheard everything she was shouting. She had type 2 diabetes). The wheel chair was a convenient prop as the next day the woman was in Starbucks walking around comfortably with a large cream frappuccino. This annoyed me. It seemed to be purely a case of how loud you shout. She booked us on flights for 3.50pm the next day, connecting via another airport (Atlanta) and then a further plane to Houston. Apparently, in "exceptional circumstances" such as the weather, no one is provided with a hotel by the airline (unless you shout and bawl ungraciously). We were given a slip of paper telling us to contact a company for the "best available prices" of hotels in New York. This was not an option for us. The lady cared not one iota. We walked away. We realised sometime between 15 minute dozes in the airport - myself on the chair, my companion on the floor, that we'd been seated separately on the rebooked flights, and furthermore that we had only been issued meal vouchers in the name of my companion. Delta were unsympathetic, uncaring and unhelpful. Even the most meagre customer service skills can make a massive difference in these situations. I've never in my life been treated like such an inconvenience.
Unfortunately, it gets better. Having spent the $18 vouchers on dinner and breakfast in the airport we were broke. We counted down the hours to the plane to Atlanta. We just wanted to leave. Then we noticed on the board that the plane to Atlanta was late. So late, in fact that we were going to miss our connection from Atlanta to Houston. Rather than risk being stranded in another airport, we decided to make the trek back to Gate 24. A different customer service assistant this time. She agreed to rebook us on the flight to Houston direct from New York - the same flight we should have been on the day before. She messed up the boarding cards and had to call her supervisor. The supervisor was immeasurably rude. Despite us having cleared security 3 times she requested to see my passport. I handed it over. Then she needed to see my companion's. I left to go and get him, while I sat with the luggage - as of course, woe betide anyone who leaves luggage unattended in an airport (and also I had my laptop which I didn't want to leave). She saw him. Then he came back and said she needed to see us together with both our passports, which - I'm sorry - to me, makes absolutely no sense. I was furious. I packed up all the hand luggage bits we'd been using including my computer, and dragged all our stuff over to Gate 24. She barely looked at my passport (why would she, she'd already seen it?!), slammed it across the desk along with the boarding cards and walked off. I was in stunned disbelief. We had now been up about 26 hours.
The rebooking was a 8.40pm departure. This meant another 6 hours or so and having only had one meal we were getting hungry. I went back to the desk and asked if I could have the food vouchers that should have been issued to me the previous evening when we were initially cancelled. I was told that they could not issue food vouchers except in exceptional circumstances such as weather, but the lady would give me one $6 voucher. Right, between 2 of us, when we've only had breakfast. So no hotel when you need one, no food when you need it. Seemingly what they can and cannot issue depends on a. the assistant's whim and b. whether and how loud you shout.
We were so beaten down by now. Sat in JFK, terminal 2 - a small Delta only terminal with absolutely nothing besides a rip off Boingo internet service, a Wendy's and a Starbucks. We sat watching the board as our flight time drew near. All we needed to make this brilliant adventure complete was a delay. We joked, even laughed, that knowing our luck that would now happen. Sure enough, our flight time came and went. Three and a half hours after our scheduled departure time we finally left the airport. That's a total of nearly 28 hours since we should have flown out of New York, making it a 35 hour layover with just $24 (£15) to live off from Delta. This means the duration of our journey was 47 hours Manchester take off to Houston touch down. My companion and I were exhausted on arrival, having endured in excess of 50 hours without sleep.
The final flight, and I say final because it felt like the closing chapter of a novel, in fact it was only leg 2 of 2, was pretty uneventful. The plane was a tiny little CRJ-900 and it wasn't full. There was a drinks only service. Biscuits (cookie) and a soft drink complimentary. I imagine you'd have to pay for alcohol, unsure if it was served as I was beyond being able to give anything my full attention. The pilot shook our hands as we got on the plane, which was nice, but there was some complicated procedure about valet hand baggage, and pink labels that I wasn't familiar with never having travelled on a US domestic flight before. In the end I was allowed to take my bag on the plane, so I imagine the pink tag was superfluous. Over the PA the pilot asked us to kindly be nice to his crew (2 of them) as they were pushing their hours to make our flight, having been late inbound from Minneapolis (cause of the additional 3 hour delay). My only thought as we taxied out to the runway sitting in a long queue, was "please can our bags be on this plane". To the credit of the baggage handlers at JFK, our bags did indeed arrive at Houston. There were only about 3 checked bags on the entire plane. 2 belonged to us. One came round the carousel, one was already in baggage services as I marched over to ask where might I locate it.
Perhaps it is worth noting, that while in the USA for 2 months I flew domestic flights several times with budget carriers. I found the service to be equal or better to Delta. Having said this I maybe didn't appreciate the Delta domestic experience as I spent most of the JFK-Houston flight shivering and shaking uncontrollably.
The return flight was fairly unremarkable. In this it was overwhelmingly superior to the outbound flight. We arrived at Houston and checked in, again being seated miles apart (we were told we could ask to change at the gate). In an absolute contrast to JFK Delta staff, the Houston gate staff actually changed our flight, so we would have a more reasonable change over time at Atlanta (it would have otherwise been 40 minutes from domestic touch down to international take off). You cannot imagine our relief, as I tell you we were foreseeing another night on the airport floor.
The Atlanta - Manchester flight was operated by a Boeing 767. It wasn't quite full. To my disappointment there were no seatback screens - just overhead ones. I've flown UK charter airlines on short and medium haul routes with much more comprehensive entertainment packages, and infinitely superior hardware. Anyway, the drinks service was the same - food not as good as the previous transatlantic flight, with barbecue chicken or pasta offered. I went for the chicken, which was nice, but placed atop a bizarre sweet potato / cinnamon mash, with green beans. You got a brownie with it and a bread roll. The second meal service was a tiny little omelette with flecks of red and green inside it, on a sort of bread roll, served in a plastic wrapper. You also got a banana (I don't like bananas) and a small cup of orange juice (best bit). For some reason both the tea and coffee during this flight were disgusting. The coffee tasted burnt and the tea like it had been made with soap water. The announcements from the captain were a bit misleading as it took us a lot longer from when he said we would be landing to when we did land, and people were beginning to shift uncomfortably in their seats, 40 minutes after he said we should have landed and we were still up in thick cloud.
The landing itself, appropriately to the entirety of my experience with Delta, was bumpy. A massive big bump of a very rough landing, which I am led to believe, means the pilot has attempted to land the plane too fast. Whatever the reason for the rough landing, we were all delivered to the gate at Manchester, safe and sound, and roughly on time. I suppose that's the most important thing overall, but I had a very uncomfortable experience with Delta, and I would certainly have some major hesitations before booking with them again. It would have to be the last option in a set of circumstances where I really needed to get somewhere before I would consider it.
I've tried to present the positives with the negatives here, so you can make your own judgement, but since discussing my experience with others, both in the USA and the UK, it seems that Delta is something of a repeat offender. During my time in JFK I googled the flight stats for the New York - Houston flight, and saw that not once in the period looked at (standard for all flights, 6 months I think), not once had it left on time. Moreover, there were a number of occasions of severe delay or cancellation. Perhaps I have only myself to blame, but what I would advise others to do is to check the performance of the flights before you book them. Delta may be relatively cheap, but it is absolutely not worth it if you have to deal with their customer service staff. I would also avoid flights which involve a connection in New York JFK. The Delta staff there are appalling. I genuinely do wish you the very best of luck if you take the plunge and decide to book with them, I only hope you don't need it.
Summary: Our experience was shocking. Often cheaper than competitors, is a definite gamble.
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