30 May 2011
Delta's Fake Best Fare Guarantee
This week's stupid airline tricks award goes to Delta Airlines for their fake fare guarantee.
As background for anyone who does not follow this blog on a regular basis.
I play with airfares a lot.
I book a lot of flights
I am a platinum Delta Frequent Flyer
Delta has a fare guarantee that alludes to the fact if you find a fare on another website that is lower then they will refund the difference and give you $100.00 travel voucher. However I the one time I try and invoke it - I find it to be a bit fake.
So let me describe the facts of the matter.
I went to Delta.com and found a fare of $1316.89. It wasn't the absolute lowest (that was including tax $1121.50) but I wanted to arrive earlier - leaving the return to be the default that Delta would offer (including the minimum 11 hour layover in NYC). Oh now - I would not want to overnight in NYC if I could avoid it. Well that fare is $2382.50. go figure.
However I found a lower fare on Orbitz at better times for Total trip cost: $1,292.80 USD. The exact replica for Delta was $1491.80. just under $200 difference where Delta's fare was the greater.
Never mind all the usability issues - e.g. website arbitrarily changing my requests, invalid responses, inconsistent responses for the exact same input query... these are normal for the new Delta.com website, some of which are still carry overs from the old site.
These by the way include -
1. Dramatically different pricing for the exact same query in a different browser windows at different times. I didn't believe some of the prices that were offered. These ranged from a base fare of
2. Stupid itineraries which include offering ONLY flights with connections which require overnights on simple itineraries such as London to Seattle.
3. Hiding the information to get to the fare guarantee data. Yes - you have to go 4 screens deep to find the actual form. And NO ITS NOT OBVIOUS where to find it.
4. Losing the cookies that said I asked for multiple cities not simple return.IE if you select Multi city and schedule and want to change the option to price based search it forgets and then reverts back to simple return.
You get the point. So the final indignity - the logic of Delta's guarantee.
In the case of the proof of the lower fare - you have to book on Delta first then they will refund the difference and give you a $100 voucher. However if you do it the other way round - IE to book on the other site (in this case Orbitz) then they will only permit a cancellation - which you can do on Delta anyway. But no $100 voucher.
To actually apply for the Fare Guarantee - it takes you 4 confusing clicks to get to the form.
Click 1 - click on the Fare Guarantee Logo
Click 2 - figure out on this page where the form is... not obvious but the Help Desk told me where to find it... Click on the FAQs
Click 3 - In the FAQs click on the How do I fill out a claim link
Click 4 - Go to the form.... see I wasn't fibbing was I???
The rub? How can I prove that the fare was there unless I have actually booked it? Almost all cheapest fares are of limited inventory and therefore likely to go fast. So if Delta tried to replicate my work - they would have found it hard and then would dispute my claim. For which I would have no proof.(I checked the form and it doesn't ask you to provide screen shots). So I wanted to be 100% sure that my information was accurate. The only way to do that would be to book the ticket. Sadly that means that I am into the obligation of the remote site. Thus Delta would actually never have to pay out one dime on this program.
Voila - Delta's fake best fare guarantee. So Delta - shame on you!
I realize that this will make Delta mad at me for pointing out the issues in public. But I hope that they will look at this issue and work to address it. Will they? Time will tell.
And a few more little idiosyncrasies - in search by schedule Delta has a best match tool which supposedly gives you the best algorithm for connections. Its really useless and cannot let you find the needle in a haystack. For example for the best fastest and earliest flight arrival - on the schedule display using best match - it is not displayed until Screen 3 of 3.
If you use the search by "Departures" option - it is not strict... the timing of departure is random... further after pressing the sort by departures time - then when you go to the next screen by pressing the screen number or next arrow key - it reverts back to Best Match again so you cant use it anyway. Oh yes and after searching through the options - the obvious thing to do would be to have the next navigation at the bottom of the screen as well as the top... duh no - Delta makes you go back to the top again to navigate to the next option.
And just to annoy you even further - they time you out! And by the way - all this is replicable time after time. Try it yourself if you happen to have the spare few hours and have a drink in your hand because you will need it!
Stay tuned - I will see if Delta will allow my submission for the $100 voucher only.