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Customer-unfriendly decision: 120-minute delay for a full refund

Customer-unfriendly decision: 120-minute delay for a full refund

Old Aug 3, 20, 10:32 am
  #46  
 
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Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
Depends on the context. Sometimes it's about the least-worst option. To me the more unconscionable thing is that Delta is happy to charge you a significant premium for a two-hour difference in departure time. A 6:30 AM flight may be $200 cheaper than an 8:30 AM flight. In other words, customers value a 2 hour difference in departure time and Delta is happy to reap the revenue increase from that published time. But then on the flip side, if they cancel the 8:30 AM and put everyone on the 6:30 AM, then they are saying there is zero (contractual) recourse available to the customer. Good luck getting that $200 premium you paid back.
On the flip side, if you decide that you want the 6:30 AM because you value $200 over sleeping in, and DL pulls the 6:30 AM flight and shifts you to the 8:30 AM flight, DL does not come to you to ask for the $200 premium - you now get the savings of $200 and the benefit of sleeping-in.

It's certainly a debate about what's right, but it's also a "be careful what you ask for, you may just get it". It could possibly be changed by DOT policy and the DOT becomes more strict on airlines and forcing them to provide more when they change schedules by more than a certain amount (say 1 hour). But there many be other consequences, such as increased airfares or DL or other airlines becoming far less flexible with it's current schedule change policies. Right now, DL will let you rebook anything that day without a change fee or fare difference and often even switch days (I've also had luck even switching airports for no fee/fare difference). Maybe as a response, DL says "We'll only rebook you without fee or fare difference to a flight within 3-4 hours of your original time, unless no option is available". You may see some sort of step policy that says "if the schedule is changed this much more than X number of days before departure, these are your options, if changed this much Y days before departure, these are your options", etc.

I can say in my own experience, I feel I've come out ahead many times more in this respect (booking cheaper flights and then due to schedule changes, getting far more desirable options) than I've come out behind, both with DL and other airlines.
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Last edited by ATOBTTR; Aug 3, 20 at 11:52 am Reason: Fix Grammar/Typos
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Old Aug 3, 20, 10:53 am
  #47  
 
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Originally Posted by ATOBTTR View Post
On the flip side, if you decide that you want the 6:30 AM because you value $200 over sleeping in, and DL pulls the 6:30 AM flight and shifts you to the 8:30 AM flight, DL does not come to you to ask for the $200 premium - you now get the savings of $200 and the benefit of sleeping-in.
The issue is that the sleeping in was valued at less than $200 - for that individual, it was only worth anywhere from $0 to $199. It was never equal to $200 - otherwise they would have picked the 8:30 AM flight. So, no, it doesn't come out as a wash. In fact, in some cases the 8:30 AM flight may be worth even less to that individual because they really needed to be on the 6:30 AM flight. Inherently in any economic system where actors self-select for their own preferences and utility curves, reducing from 2 option sets to 1 option set will always result in a loss of total buyer value. Delta pockets the "destroyed" surplus for themselves.

It's certainly a debate about what's right, but it's also a "be careful what you ask for, you may just get it". It could possibly be changed by DOT policy and the DOT becomes more strict on airlines and forcing them to provide more when they change schedules by more than a certain amount (say 1 hour). But there many be other consequences, such as increased airfares or DL or other airlines becoming far less flexible with it's current schedule change policies. Right now, DL will let you rebook anything that day without a change fee or fare difference and often even switch days (I've also had luck even switching airports for no fee/fare difference). Maybe as a response, DL says "We'll only rebook you without fee or fare difference to a flight within 3-4 hours of your original time, unless no option is available". You may see some sort of step policy that says "if the schedule is changed this much more than X number of days before departure, these are your options, if changed this much Y days before departure, these are your options", etc.

I can say in my own experience, I feel I've come ahead many times more in this respect (booking cheaper flights and then due to schedule changes, getting far more desirable options) than I've come out behind, both with DL and other airlines.
I agree that Delta has been historically flexible and I've benefited from that flexibility, but candidly I would rather have clear guardrails rather than rely on Delta's goodwill. I realize this is not the case for everyone, but to me the whole exception/waiver/etc dance feels like haggling to me and I hate haggling. If Delta wants to be a customer-friendly airline, then they should be willing to be customer-friendly in their contract - and not selectively reward (or, indirectly punish) passengers based on the agent they happen to call.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 11:17 am
  #48  
 
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Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
The issue is that the sleeping in was valued at less than $200 - for that individual, it was only worth anywhere from $0 to $199. It was never equal to $200 - otherwise they would have picked the 8:30 AM flight. So, no, it doesn't come out as a wash. In fact, in some cases the 8:30 AM flight may be worth even less to that individual because they really needed to be on the 6:30 AM flight. Inherently in any economic system where actors self-select for their own preferences and utility curves, reducing from 2 option sets to 1 option set will always result in a loss of total buyer value. Delta pockets the "destroyed" surplus for themselves.



I agree that Delta has been historically flexible and I've benefited from that flexibility, but candidly I would rather have clear guardrails rather than rely on Delta's goodwill. I realize this is not the case for everyone, but to me the whole exception/waiver/etc dance feels like haggling to me and I hate haggling. If Delta wants to be a customer-friendly airline, then they should be willing to be customer-friendly in their contract - and not selectively reward (or, indirectly punish) passengers based on the agent they happen to call.
Everyone wants a policy that they feel best benefits them. But Delta is an airline that serves close to 200 million passengers per year (not counting the dip in COVID). DL is going to make policy that is best for itself and best for the majority of passengers and majority of cases. While anyone can come up with a situation that doesn't fall within what the general policy was designed to cover, DL's policy is fine for most passengers. Again, current COVID19 environment aside, most passengers who are booking down to the hour of their schedule are booking at a point inside of 30-60 days when schedules have been mostly finalized and are probably rarely impacted by advance schedule changes (day of departure schedule impacts or weather waivers in the few days prior not counted here; that's a different issue). Most people booking further out than that have far more flexibility and the number of people booking 2 months or more in advance and thus may be hit by advance schedule changes but who have such limited flexibility that they were booking down to the hour and also can't take any other options offered by the airline is probably a pretty small percentage. Hence my point that I and most other passengers have probably benefited more from DL's currently policy than we've "lost" because of it.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 11:44 am
  #49  
 
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I agree that is customer unfriendly just because it technically less people qualify for the refund and this change only benefits the airline.

However in all the talk of "fairness" how many customers take advantage of the policy and hope for a schedule change to get their money back which messes with the airlines cash projections. My point is only that it is a for profit business and you can be customer friendly so much that you don't have a sustainable business.

I hear that it is frustrating that you make commitments based on what you expect from other businesses and they let you down and you don't get your money back. UPS completely suspended their service commitments so you pay for 3 day service they get it there in 5. No money back and you just deal with it.

Point is businesses are trying to stay alive right now, so this move isn't uncommon and as things go it isn't game changing. For me personally I couldn't care less about adding 30 minutes.


Also, as an aside one thing I have learned on this forum is analogies are completely pointless. The haircut one was especially terrible.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by defrosted View Post
However in all the talk of "fairness" how many customers take advantage of the policy and hope for a schedule change to get their money back which messes with the airlines cash projections.
Among the hundreds of millions of air pax each year, probably a very very very small number of pax even know that you can get a refund if there's a long enough schedule change. And an even smaller number would even be in a rare situation where they are hoping to cancel the flight anyway and were waiting until a schedule change so they can take advantage of the system and get their money back. FlyerTalk is hardly a microcosm of the flying public.

Point is businesses are trying to stay alive right now, so this move isn't uncommon and as things go it isn't game changing.
US airlines aren't struggling to stay alive, and there's zero indication that this change was made to help them stay alive; it's just business as usual in the airline industry -- continuing to make the experience more and more miserable for their customers. Execs know they can screw over their customers and make record profits and line their pockets handsomely, and that the US govt will bail them out the next time things go south.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 12:08 pm
  #51  
 
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
US airlines aren't struggling to stay alive, and there's zero indication that this change was made to help them stay alive; it's just business as usual in the airline industry -- continuing to make the experience more and more miserable for their customers. Execs know they can screw over their customers and make record profits and line their pockets handsomely, and that the US govt will bail them out the next time things go south.
I disagree with that assertion. Yes, US airlines have liquidity in the short run, but cash burn is definitely not sustainable - and it is clear that COVID will be a long drawn out affair (especially in the US). Fighting for survival is definitely the right word to use. They mortgaged their assets in order to survive - once this money dries up, bankruptcy is the next step. Keep in mind that the cash burn rate at the end of Q2 included CARES which expires shortly. Delta's projection of being cashflow-neutral by end of year assumed at least a 60-70% demand recovery by then which is looking increasingly unlikely. They are still fighting for survival.

This was definitely COVID-related. Delta does NOT want to issue refunds. They'll issue vouchers all day long. But refunds? They'll do everything they can to avoid it. Going from a 90 minute to 120 minute window for refunds greatly increases flexibility to Delta for eliminating flights without risking a refund. 120 minutes opens up a lot of new connecting options - or for a mega-hub like Atlanta where there are hourly flights somewhere, they can cut more half of them and guarantee that no one is refund-eligible.

In this regard, it's unfortunate because they made this change in the context of COVID but it is highly unlikely they will ever go back to the old terms post-COVID.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 12:30 pm
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Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
I disagree with that assertion. Yes, US airlines have liquidity in the short run, but cash burn is definitely not sustainable - and it is clear that COVID will be a long drawn out affair (especially in the US). Fighting for survival is definitely the right word to use. They mortgaged their assets in order to survive - once this money dries up, bankruptcy is the next step. Keep in mind that the cash burn rate at the end of Q2 included CARES which expires shortly. Delta's projection of being cashflow-neutral by end of year assumed at least a 60-70% demand recovery by then which is looking increasingly unlikely. They are still fighting for survival.
Let's dispel the notion that a bankruptcy filing means shutting down and going out of business. As we've seen from all the recent airline "bankruptcies," the US Bankruptcy Code is a tool that the US airlines have in their pocket to hit the reset button, restructure themselves, screw over their creditors, and help their execs get rich again. The US government made very clear that it's not going to let the US airlines go out of business. If there's no threat of going out of business, there's no fight for survival. It's just a numbers game.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 12:37 pm
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
Among the hundreds of millions of air pax each year, probably a very very very small number of pax even know that you can get a refund if there's a long enough schedule change. And an even smaller number would even be in a rare situation where they are hoping to cancel the flight anyway and were waiting until a schedule change so they can take advantage of the system and get their money back. FlyerTalk is hardly a microcosm of the flying public.
I completely agree, hence the reason I think this is a complete non issue.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 1:07 pm
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
Let's dispel the notion that a bankruptcy filing means shutting down and going out of business. As we've seen from all the recent airline "bankruptcies," the US Bankruptcy Code is a tool that the US airlines have in their pocket to hit the reset button, restructure themselves, screw over their creditors, and help their execs get rich again. The US government made very clear that it's not going to let the US airlines go out of business. If there's no threat of going out of business, there's no fight for survival. It's just a numbers game.
You must not be a financial restructuring / bankruptcy attorney. If you were you'd realize that senior executives that are primarily compensated with equity options that takes multiple years to vest. And that those would become worthless (or near worthless) post-bankruptcy. Because the first "creditors" wiped out are the people that own the company (equity). You're right that the airlines would - in some form - continue to operate, but everyone who has any vested interest in Delta from an equity perspective would be naked in such an event.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 1:17 pm
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I understand the reason for DL making this change and it will effect flyers in different ways. When I am travelling for leisure to Europe for a week, and there is a 2 hour change with an additional hour at my connection, I shrug and say who cares. However, when I am going out and back for a meeting in the same day, 119 minute shifts on the outbound and return can result in serious issues. Even with the 90 minute rule, there could be issues. Fortunately, the couple of times that happened to me, DL has empowered staff to do what helped rather than follow things to the letter.

Overall, I think this is a non-issue for the vast majority of DL flyers. Joe Sixpack heading out for his weekend vacation is not going to have his vacation ruined if he arrives 2 hours later rather than 1.5 hours later. The Flyertalk road warrior that is scheduling an itinerary down to the minute can get DL to refund a 91-119 minute change if it truly effects the purpose of the trip. It should also be noted that with any change, you can request something different.

Going back to the barber analogy, it would be more like the barber says he cannot do 5:00 anymore, but can do 3:01 or 6:59. If neither of those work, he'll put your money on a voucher you can use later, but the price for the haircut may change.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 1:24 pm
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Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
You must not be a financial restructuring / bankruptcy attorney. If you were you'd realize that senior executives that are primarily compensated with equity options that takes multiple years to vest. And that those would become worthless (or near worthless) post-bankruptcy. Because the first "creditors" wiped out are the people that own the company (equity). You're right that the airlines would - in some form - continue to operate, but everyone who has any vested interest in Delta from an equity perspective would be naked in such an event.
Not sure about that...Ed's cash compensation in 2019 was just under $4.5mil. Granted he also received around $12.5 mil in stock and options, but $4.5 is nothing to sneeze at. The definition of "rich" is relevant here, but I am sure most of the world would consider themselves rich after a short period of earning $4.5/year.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 2:52 pm
  #57  
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Originally Posted by smartytravel View Post
In the end, nobody forced airlines to do business they are in. If they are not happy with keeping schedules that consumers pay for, then maybe they should consider quitting?
In the end no one is forcing you to buy an airline ticket either.

(I don't personally believe that's valid as a blanket excuse to justify any customer-unfriendly policies the airlines can come up with, but it's your logic...)
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Old Aug 3, 20, 3:31 pm
  #58  
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Originally Posted by Zorak View Post
In the end no one is forcing you to buy an airline ticket either.

(I don't personally believe that's valid as a blanket excuse to justify any customer-unfriendly policies the airlines can come up with, but it's your logic...)
I agree with you. I was just responding to another person who was making all sorts of excuses to justify a customer unfriendly policy.

Any business has its own peculiarities and problems. Saying that they cannot commit to a particular schedule due to a cost structure is not an excuse. Many businesses are challenged with all kinds of cost structured and they need to deliver services customers pay for. If they can't deliver, then they should probably change industries or businesses.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 4:07 pm
  #59  
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None of this has to do with the simple fact that DL does not contract or otherwise agree to maintain a specific schedule and that the customer expressly agrees that DL may not be able to do so.

If you have a ticket contract which includes provisions by which DL agrees to run within 5 minutes of schedule, you have a beef. Otherwise, the assertion that DL has contractually committed to a specific schedule means that you either disregarded the contract when you purchased or read it but choose to ignore it now.
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Old Aug 3, 20, 4:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
None of this has to do with the simple fact that DL does not contract or otherwise agree to maintain a specific schedule and that the customer expressly agrees that DL may not be able to do so.
Correct. You're literally the only one in this entire thread fighting an argument with a straw man who is somehow disagreeing that DL *can* write its contract in a way that allows them to make a 2 hour schedule change. (Cf. https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/32576840-post16.html ) There's not a single person in this thread who disputes that DL *can* write its contract in such a manner. The debate is whether it's consumer unfriendly.
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