1:30 PM EDT, October 1, 2013
Delta promises Shirin Vakharia a flight voucher if she volunteers to take another flight. She does — but where's the voucher?
Q: My sister and I recently had a confirmed flight on Delta Air Lines from San Francisco, Calif., to Dayton, Ohio. The itinerary included a scheduled 90-minute stopover in Atlanta.
When I arrived in San Francisco and checked in at the kiosk, I was asked if I would be willing to volunteer my seat. I indicated yes, checked my bag through Dayton and arrived at the gate.
While waiting at the gate at San Francisco, I was called to the desk. The gate agent notified me that she could put me on a flight to Detroit, and then continue to Dayton. I agreed to be rebooked and asked if my sister, who was on the same flight but a separate reservation, could also be rebooked with me. The gate agent rebooked us both and handed us new boarding passes. She rushed us to the gate so we could get on the Detroit flight, which was leaving momentarily.
While I was on the plane I realized that the gate agent had not issued us a voucher. The flight into Detroit arrived late, resulting in a missed connection to Dayton, an overnight stay and luggage that didn't arrive until the following day.
I was told I needed to contact Delta's customer care department to address the issue of the voucher for denied boarding not being issued in San Francisco. A representative told me the reason we were not issued a voucher was because our flight was not oversold, but delayed by 15 to 30 minutes. This, of course, makes no sense, since we had a longer stopover in Atlanta.
I want our vouchers. Can you help us get them? — Shirin Vakharia, San Francisco
A: If Delta promised you a flight voucher, then it should have given it to you. But it's not entirely clear to me what the Delta agent was trying to do when you were rebooked.
At any rate, the time to settle that question would have been before you left, and not afterward. Any airline is going to be reluctant to offer you a voucher based on a kiosk interaction. That would have to be verified by a gate agent and settled before your departure.
It's unclear what happened before your Detroit-bound flight departed. Were they trying to prevent a delay (if they were, they actually made things worse) or were they trying to remove two passengers from an oversold flight (if that's the case, then they misrepresented the facts when you called).
I'm fairly certain that some airlines fudge the circumstances of a delay to suit their interests. For example, a broken air conditioning — a "mechanical" delay — can be turned into a weather delay, because it lets an airline off the hook for covering rooms and meal vouchers for displaced passengers. But I don't think that's what happened here. I think this was just a misunderstanding.
I contacted Delta on your behalf and after reviewing its files, it offered you two $400 flight vouchers.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)