24 December 2011

Delta and Air France joint partners yes in form, integrated in service no.

Not a pretty sight.

Many of the airline JVs are touting their seamless service. Sadly this is not the case. It is important to consider that as a user the expressions and impressions you use and leave behind permeate. By now we should be long past trying to hoodwink your customers. Airlines however have yet to learn this lesson. Some have – others keep stubbing their toes. Qantas and its various unsuccessful attempts at Social Media prowess would seem to be a case in point. Airlines need to step up their game across the board.

And this is where I want to pick on someone who should be my favorite airlines. I am elite on many airlines. With Delta for the first time I have reached Diamond status. Delta is currently running lots of ads extolling the virtues of people. Delta people.

Delta people are good. Sure not everyone can be perfect all the time. But they try pretty darn hard. But Delta people are the only ones servicing Delta customers.

Let me describe an issue which illustrates that this is more of a structural problem. While on a long distance international business trip.  I received a phone call to say that my waitlist on a DL flight had cleared I was told to call my “local” DL res office. When I called DL Reservations in UK it was answered by a rather obnoxious Air France representative. (BTW this is the usual way AF deals with DL pax. They are generally arrogant and rude even when dealing with AF passengers. I really don’t know where they get them from but AF really does seem to go out of their way to hire people who can best Ryanair for customer service skills). She insisted that there was no upgrade authorized in the reservation, therefore I must be lying. However gritting her teeth she did divulge that I was still listed as waitlisted. I told her that my DL account showed that the WL had cleared.  

The issue is three fold. Firstly DL should see that I am travelling and should use email as a way to communicate. Then there is no ambiguity. Secondly AF does not have access to the full system. As there are no longer any DL full service personnel answering the phones this represents a huge problem. Particularly for frequent travellers such as myself. Thirdly, the AF agent (a much nicer person!) at the airport was unable to get to Skymiles to confirm the information necessary (certificate number). If my flight had departed before say 0930 that would have meant the agent did not have access to the information nor could they obtain it. Recommendation is that there should be an automatic roll over back to Atlanta Skymiles desk when the local desk is not occupied.

A general observation. The so called seamless service of DL/AF/KL is flawed in many ways. A process team should be looking carefully at the whole manner of integration. As I noted above Delta's advertising talks about "Delta People". I am sure that Delta people would have handled it. However Air France people attempting to behave like Delta people are unsatisfactory. So much for the fiction of seamless. And just in case the other airlines want to have a quiet snigger about this. DL’s experience is not unique. The other global alliances and the inner JVs are just as bad. In some cases WAY worse.

C’mon guys. You need to put some meat behind that service. Otherwise then regulators should be looking hard at penalties for failure to deliver on your promises to them when these programs – mergers in all but name – were approved.


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