Caught in the Middle?

By Ron Rosenberg

Anyone who thinks travel is glamorous hasn't spent much time on airplanes lately.

The flights are full (good news for the airlines); the overhead bins are also full (bad news for passengers); and the "in-flight service" is nothing more than a drink and a small bag of peanuts (more bad news for passengers).

As I can tell you from the times when I manage to get an upgrade to first class, other than the bigger seat, it's not a whole lot different up there either.

That's why I was delighted when I got an unexpected surprise yesterday from Delta Airlines. Let me explain...

I was returning from a program in Orlando, and was supposed to be flying home on a non-stop flight to Raleigh. Just as I was about to start my program, I got a text notification that my flight was going to be delayed...for two hours.

Not having time to call and look into re-booking options, I forged ahead with my program. When I was all packed up and ready to head on over to the airport, I got another message that there would be an additional delay of 30 minutes. By the time I actually got to the airport, they had tacked on another 30 minutes - making three hours in total, and delaying my arrival back home until nearly midnight.

I checked on my options, and saw that there was a flight leaving for Atlanta with a connection that would get me to Raleigh just past 9:00 pm.

I raced to the gate, and the agent there was able to get me on the flight, but she only had a middle seat. I figured that "beggars can't be choosers," so I thanked her for getting me on the plane, and had a relatively uneventful trip back home.

No worse for wear, I chalked it up to the laws of "travel karma" - I'd had a long stretch of on-time flights, so I was "due" for something like this eventually - it's just part of flying and you pretty much have to accept that this is how things work.

Then I got the e-mail from Delta, and what a surprise it was:

Hello Mr. Rosenberg,

Mondays are tough, and we're sorry yours may have been less comfortable when you ended up stuck in the middle seat.

While we strive to give our most loyal customers our best seats, unfortunately, that's not always possible. To thank you for your flexibility and understanding, we've credited 500 miles to your SkyMiles account.

It's just one of the ways we're expressing our appreciation for your loyalty to the SkyMiles program. And we'll continue to take care of you - from booking to baggage claim and everywhere in between.

So thanks again. Next time, we hope to see you in First.

I know I fly a lot on Delta and I do have "elite status" on the airline, but, in essence, they were doing me a favor by getting me home early, and then apologized for having to put me in a middle seat!

There are several other important points about this whole experience, but space limits me from discussing them all here. (Inner Circle Members can look forward to an in-depth analysis in next month's newsletter!)

They didn't have to apologize - really, I was fine - and they certainly didn't need to give me the 500 bonus miles. But the fact that they did, increased the level of loyalty I feel towards the airline.

How do you handle it when your customers, clients, or members are inconvenienced?