Empty Check-in Counter: What would you do?

Discussion in 'Delta Air Lines | SkyMiles' started by AMPfromBNA, May 9, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. AMPfromBNA

    AMPfromBNA Silver Member

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    Okay, so I was traveling out of a VERY rural airport last week. I got to the airport exactly 40 minutes prior to my 6:30am flight, and was at the kiosk checked in 35 minutes prior to my flight. The only problem was that NO ONE was at the check in counter to take my full size bag (I was gone for a week, thus needed more than a carry-on).

    I admit that I was cutting it close, but I was there in time to checkin via kiosk, and before the 30 minutes luggage cutoff.

    So I snap some photos to prove I was there on time, and I wait.... and I wait. I can literally see the pre-board line of people behind security, and I can hear them calling each zone to board. I ask TSA if they could tell the gate agent I was waiting, and they said they would, but it did not help.

    So the plane leaves without me. It takes over an hour after the plane leaves for anyone to be at the checkin counter again. There was an AA flight departing around 10:30am, and the next delta flight wasn't until 1 or 2pm. This was a 2 layover trip (Origin-DTW-ATL-Home), as it was the only routing possible, so waiting until the later flight meant a 20 hour travel day.

    I called the medallion desk, to which I was told by multiple people that since there was no IROP listed for the flight, there was nothing they could do but rebook me on the later flight, or I could pay ~$600 to get on the AA to ORD, then pick up DL to my final destination from there.

    Before I explain how things turned out, I'd love to know how you would have handled this situation. Clearly this was a DL mishandled situation, but the medallion line wasn't very helpful. Thoughts?
     

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  2. MSYgirl

    MSYgirl Gold Member

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    I would wait 5 minutes and when no one appeared, I would be calling the appropriate customer service line while walking to the nearest airport official to have them paged. If it got close to the flight, I would go through security, get to the gate, and make them check my bag at the door as I boarded.
     
  3. dayone
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    dayone Silver Member

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    Go to another airline's manned counter and ask how to find someone from DL or use airport's overhead paging system, if available.
     
  4. wombat18
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    wombat18 Silver Member

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    Start pressing buttons, both literally and figuratively. I've even been known to open doors and see how far I can waddle before someone discovers me. It doesn't make any friends, but suddenly your problem becomes their problem. (MSYGirl's advice is probably wiser :))
     
  5. AMPfromBNA

    AMPfromBNA Silver Member

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    Okay.... So here is the rest of the story.

    When I say no one was at the counter, I literally mean NO ONE. No other airline. No airport rep. No other anyone (except TSA). It was literally an empty lobby.

    When I called the delta medallion desk, they specifically said they did not have a way to contact the staff on the ground. At the same time, as previously stated they said there was nothing they could do but rebook me on the much later flight. Graciously, they did offer to rebook me ORD-ATL-Home, if I wanted to pay for the earlier AA flight into ORD. To sum it up, there was no one in the airport from 35 minutes prior to the flight until about an hour after the flight (~60 minutes prior to the AA flight).

    When someone finally does show up at the AA counter, I ask if there is anyone from Delta present. The man, wearing an AA polo, said that he was also the Delta person. It turns out that Delta partially leases the AA employees at this airport to work the Delta desk too. I outline my entire story to him, and his response basically was "You weren't here early enough". He did not want to acknowledge the 30 minute "late check" policy, nor the fact that I was able to check in with bags via the kiosk. He was generally polite, just not very helpful. He helped to price the Y fare options on AA to ORD.

    So I call back the Medallion line. This time, knowing they cannot FIM/IROP me onto the AA flight, I ask if they would process a partial refund. This call center agent said that they could not, however he did tell me that I could always pay the AA fee then appeal to Delta corporate - basically a $600 gamble.

    So after another 30-40 minutes on the phone, I go back to the AA counter. This time, there are three people present, and I ask to speak with the station manager. I outline to this individual my entire backstory, and say that I am going to pay the AA fare fee then appeal to Delta. I show him all of my photos and documentation, outlining several errors (not just the missing checkin staff), and say (politely) that I plan on disclosing all of this information to Delta as part of the appeal process. At that point, they jump into action, begin to document my PNR/Flight Record accepting fault. They then have to call Delta and have them reissue the FIM onto AA (they didn't know how themselves). Long story short, they did get me on the AA flight to ORD, continuing home via DL.

    What amazes me, is after talking with the ground staff at this airport, I actually felt really bad for them. It turns out they are a staff of 4 people who handle both AA and DL desks (albeit only 4 outbound flights daily). They also handle the luggage all the way to the plane, the gate area process, direct the plane in/out of the gate (orange light stick job), and they even have to de-ice the plane when its cold. They truly do it all. Even worse, they have to clock in/out between flights! On the day of my flight, they had 4 people in wheelchairs that they had to wheel onto the plane, and that is why they left the checkin desk early - they had TOO much going on.

    In the end, I was accomodated, albeit through a VERY stressful 2 hours. I gained a lot of respect for this small town airport crew. Considering a 30 day advance purchase to this airport was >$800 round trip, you would think they could better staff and support.
     
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  6. Jenny & Curt
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    Jenny & Curt Gold Member

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    Our local airport is one like this, so perhaps it's easier for me to picture the ops there. Ticket agent sells tickets at the counter and checks in bags, then morphs into gate agent. Once the flight starts boardings, it's not possible for him or her to exit security and run back to the ticket sales point. Sometimes, this same person might be ramp personnel, by donning a day-glo vest and exiting with baggage. On one return home, we waited a long time for our bags because a flight arriving after ours needed the baggage personnel to switch to being the flashlight guys who guide them on the ramp. Only when the second flight was at the gate could the bags be dealt with.
    So, the takeway is this: these small, rural airports often mean that you don't need to allow so much time in advance of the flight....except when you do!! If we arrive too early, it's silly and we all stare at one another. Too close to departure, though, and it can be difficult to get checked in and through security in time.
     
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  7. DeltaExpert
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    DeltaExpert Gold Member

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    What airport was this at?
     
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  8. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Pretty much the same thing happened to me once for a DL flight out of BGM. I was at the check-in counter 50 minutes before the flight but nobody was there, at any of the airline counters. (US is contracted to handle DL stuff at BGM. UA, US and DL have flights out of there 2 or 3 times a day.) I proceeded to check-in my bag at the self-service kiosk but, again, nobody was around to take it. After a while I asked TSA if someone was around and they said the only person was handling the boarding process at the gate. I finally nabbed someone who was going home for the day who was nice enough to go back in and find help.

    Someone came out and snottily told me I had to be here 30 minutes before the flight if I wished to check a bag. I told her I was here 50 minutes ahead! She remarked how that was impossible since the counter is staffed until 30 minutes prior to the flight. I asked her to check the timestamp on the luggage tag computer and suddenly she got very quiet and finally mumbled "That's odd, Fred said he was here." She apologized finally and I (and my bag) just made the flight.

    BGM doesn't even have security there most of the time. About an hour prior to a flight they show up. Rest of the time there's a sign up basically saying "come back later". Ditto with the airline counters. The car rental counters are usually staffed though. Go figure.
     
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  9. mtkeller
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    mtkeller Silver Member

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    BGM is huge compared to some stations. I flew to/from GTR last February. They get 2-3 flights per day to ATL and that's it. TSA agents do both baggage and pax screening, so you can't go airside until the bag cut-off 30 minutes prior to departure. They have this lovely little ramp they roll out to the CTT™ so that you don't have to use the stairs to deplane.
     
  10. AMPfromBNA

    AMPfromBNA Silver Member

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    This was at MQT. I'd fly there again, and like I said I don't really fault the ground crew for there bad situation.
     
  11. DTWBOB

    DTWBOB Silver Member

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    The work around I would use is to check in on line, explain to TDA what happened and go through security with the large bag and ask that it be gate checked.

    DTWBOB
     
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  12. Davescj
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    Davescj Silver Member

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    In addition, the OP may well consider a polite note to DL explaining what happened. This situation is not cool.
     
  13. DiverDave
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    DiverDave Gold Member

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    That's life at a small outstation.

    It's not so easy, but that's how you make the economics work when you are flying 50 seat (or less) aircraft into a 3rd or 4th tier marker.

    And as noted above, it's a small airport. Take your bag to the TSA checkpoint and ask for help.

    David
     
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  14. AMPfromBNA

    AMPfromBNA Silver Member

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    TSA said my bag couldn't go through the gate-side X-ray, although it looked like it would fit. Maybe they had another reason. They did offer to tell the gate agent that I was there. A few minutes later the TSA guy came back and said the gate agent would send someone up. As you know already, that only came true over an hour later.
     
  15. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Then they should post different cut off times for those airports to ensure their customers can actually get what they paid for.
     
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  16. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Airline understaffing is not the passenger's problem. If the cutoff is T-30, this means you should be able to check in and drop a bag up to T-30. Documenting the situation and calling DL was the right thing to do. If you don't have probhibited items, by all means take the bag to the gate. It's also a good idea to use the kiosk to reprint the boarding pass as proof of when you arrived. At some point, a report to DOT is in order.

    It's not just tiny airports where this occurs. I witnessed it at SYR once, where when the agent arrived at the counter, she kindly yelled expletives at five paid FC passengers who had missed their flight despite having arrived 50 minutes before scheduled departure. Unbelievable! They were rebooked onto my (later) flight, but forced to waste several hours with no apology. I suspect they didn't fly DL again.
     
  17. Morkal

    Morkal Member

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    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013

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