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Cheap billing trick

On Thursday, May 25, I spoke to the assembled high school principals of New York City Schools at a hotel/conference center in Westchester County. I wasn't sure when I would be done and so booked a Delta Shuttle back to DC National at 7:30. Given the wrap up time and a lack of traffic on the Hutchinson River Expressway, I walked into the terminal a little after 3:30.

I asked a Delta agent if I could get on the 4:30. He said that in order to fly standby at a peak time such as this required an extra $50. If I didn't get on, the fee would be refunded. I paid and asked how likely it was that I would get the early flight. He said "About 80%" and that he was putting me on the 3:55, now boarding.

When I boarded, I counted the people on the plane. 30. On a 727.

I imagine that the agent was fully within his rights to extract the extra $50, but isn't it still a cheap trick to make someone think they're flying standby and might not be able to get on when, in fact, the plane is only about 20% full????

The Delta website (I have contacted them as well today) is full of gushy statements about their commitment to customers, which this incident seems to contradict.

I should mention, in fairness, that on at least one occasion in the past when stakes were higher, the commitment did come through. In 1994, my wife and I had flown free to Milan on my frequent flyer miles. On our return date, there was an airport strike. TWA was not affected, apparently because it is an employee-owned airline. Although Delta agents delayed and hemmed and hawed initially, they eventually gave us tickets on TWA, perhaps because I advised that I had a speaking engagement in Boise the next day and would hold Delta responsible for lost income if I couldn't make it. In any case, they got us back.





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