Editorial

Sorry doesn't usually make it right, but Delta did the decent thing

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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The rage of some 155 passengers on Delta flight 28 from Kingston to Atlanta last Friday morning was justified, we think, based on widespread complaints that they were left in the dark for long periods before being told what would become of them, or their flight, after it had been cancelled.It is noteworthy that the passengers did not complain about the cancellation per se, as there was clear understanding that safety is first at all times when it comes to flying. Their beef was about how the matter was handled after they were told that the plane's computer system had triggered a smoke detector in the baggage hold and then deplaned.

According to the passengers whose claims were published in last Saturday's Jamaica Observer, the airline's ground crew could not provide information that would assure them that arrangements were being made to get them to their destination. Many of them had work to attend.

It was not until mid-afternoon that they were taken to a hotel and given meals while they awaited repairs to the aircraft. Engineers had to be flown in from Atlanta to make the repairs and the flight resumed Saturday morning. Some people who had been sent by bus to Montego Bay to catch another Delta flight did not make it because the flight was full and they had to return to Kingston.

In the circumstances, one can understand their anger which was openly vented, as would have been the case had the matter occurred in the United States, and as borne out by what happened with the nine flights cancelled by Spirit Airlines in Florida.

We were, of course, happy to see that Delta apologised to the passengers, giving each of them a handwritten letter issued out of Atlanta, in which they also offered compensation in the way of 'SkyMiles' or electronic travel vouchers valued at US$125 each. That was the decent thing to do given the severe inconvenience caused by the cancellation and its mishandling.

However, what was found wanting was the apparent lack of systems and procedures to handle passengers after a cancellation. Flight delays and cancellations are par for the course in the commercial airline industry. One would, therefore, assume that all airlines have protocols for mitigating the situation.

In the scramble to make airlines viable amidst these economically turbulent times, some companies have cut back sharply on services such as customer care, both in terms of numbers of staff available and in the quality of training. Passengers are already peeved with the fact that in some cases no free bags are allowed and no meals are served.

We can't say this was the case with Delta, but on Friday morning the ground crew seemed quite overwhelmed.

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