Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The value of loyalty

It's no secret that I travel enough for work to reap the benefits of being brand loyal to hotel chains (Hilton), rental car companies (National) and airlines (United).

My United loyalty stemmed from the convenience of my home airport (Denver) being a hub for the airline and the fact that they offer direct flights to two airports in Michigan and every client I visit each year. This used to be a BIG selling point for me.  Bend, Oregon would take a day to get to on any other airline.

This week, I traveled to Detroit for the day.  No overnight bag, no luggage. Just me, my iPad, my purse, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a change of underwear (just in case!!).  I had to fly Delta because it was the only airline that could get me to Detroit by 1:00 pm and home the same night.  United didn't have the options to get me there or back.  Nor did Frontier, Southwest and American.

Begrudgingly, I booked my Delta ticket and prepared for the day. And it was a typical airport/airplane experience until the security video started.  Delta has gone out of their way to spice it up a little.  I actually giggled a couple times. I appreciated the surprise as I usually can recite those videos verbatim.

I had meetings, it rained a lot, blah blah blah for 2 hours.  And then it was time to come home.  When I checked in in Detroit for my flight home, I noticed I had a 20 minute delay in Minneapolis and my previously scheduled 42 minute layover had been cut in half.  In a panic, I went to a gate agent who said this to me, "Mrs. Rowland, I would really love to help you, but unless your delay overlaps your next departure, my system won't let me rebook you.  However, here's what I can tell you. Inside security, there's a Croc's shoe store near your gate. Stop in and get some comfier shoes.  In Minneapolis, you are scheduled to arrive at F2 and your flight home is scheduled to depart from G20.  I know that seems like a long walk, but if you keep moving and use the walkways, I am pretty sure you'll make it."

Wow.  I did not buy the shoes (although I wished I had!!), but I appreciated the suggestion. And I was thrilled to know exactly where I was scheduled to be going, even if F2 and G20 were subject to change. When I got on the plane in Detroit, I noticed how roomy it seemed for an MD-90.  I know my butt is getting smaller, but I really felt like I had plenty of butt AND leg room.  That's an airplane rarity these days. We departed on time for our 20 minute delay.

After landing in MSP, everyone was in a hurry.  The gentleman behind me was also connecting to Denver and offered to ask the gate agent to hold the plane for me.  He was wearing sneakers and was dressed as though he were a physically capable person.  Apparently I am a bit more physically capable in heels than he was in sneakers. I beat him to the gate.  They were just beginning the boarding process when I got there and then they announced the maintenance delay of 30 minutes.  Phew!  Me and  my new foot blister had time to grab a bite to eat, a bottle of water, use the restroom and see Kelsey Grammer!  No joke! I saw Frasier (and not the flat giraffe!!).

We boarded exactly 30 minutes late.  But then we sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.  For another 60 minutes we sat on that plane.  But hey, I was doing a there-and-back day trip...this is a small price to pay to sleep in my own bed and get Nuggs ready for school in the morning.

While on the plane, I felt comfortable and content.  I never feel comfortable and content on airplanes. Maybe it was the captain keeping us updated and referring to maintenance as "those knuckleheads" that had me at ease.  Maybe it was Delta paying for a drink for each passenger.  I did not partake, but I could have had a free glass of wine at 30,000 feet!   Maybe it was the comfort of the seat? Or the legroom? Or the cleanliness of the plane?  I guess I don't care.

And then today I received this email from Delta:
We are very sorry that your flight was delayed on July 1, 2013. Your feedback on this experience is important to us. We ask that you please provide feedback on your experience while at Minneapolis/St. Paul Intl Airport using the survey at the link below. The survey is between 4 and 12 questions, targeting your specific circumstances, and should only take a couple of minutes to complete. We thank you in advance for your feedback and again offer our deepest apologies for this inconvenience
Really?  United has stranded me in a dozen different airports and delayed MOST of my flights, and never...NOT ONCE...have they ever asked for feedback on my experience. I have held status on United for seven years. I don't even have a frequent flier number with Delta.  I have only one word...WOW!

This service, level of communication, commitment to traveler satisfaction, and recognition of loyalty has me questioning my own loyalties.  Is it time to switch?  Switching to Delta will get me direct to Detroit, but have me connecting in MSP or ATL for every other trip I make.  Is it worth it?  Thoughts?


  1. I think this blog should be sent to Delta. There are so few who give complements these days that I am sure Delta would appreciate it. Good for you publishing this and koodos to DELTA AIRLINES.

  2. I have always had good luck with Delta and have been a member there for many, many years. I agree with your mom, send them a link to the blog.

    See you soon.

  3. I agree with Penny and Jessica! You could at least give them half your business for a while and see how it goes?