Every time I fly to the United States on personal account, I always take Delta Airlines. I may not be a frequent flyer that flies several times a year but rather Delta is my first option whenever I fly to the United States because of mileage program (having started with Northwest/WorldPerks) and the ease of flying domestic US coming from the Philippines. The last incident was however unfortunate making me reconsider flying Delta and how they treated me on my return flight to Manila last 29 November 2015.
I have a scheduled trip SFO -> LAX -> NRT -> MNL last 29 November 2015. A day before that, I checked in using the iPhone Fly Delta app and saw that I am allowed to check-in up to 7 luggage for free. Ironic as it may seem, it is clear that it’s a standard deviation from the usual allowed check-in luggage of 2 for coach passengers. At first I thought that it may be a “reward” for flying Delta for the past several years. Checking if it indeed true, I selected 7 check-in items even if I don’t plan of maximizing them, and the system allowed me to. In fact, the boarding pass generated indicated that I have 7 bags with me. At this point, I didn’t receive any prior notification nor e-mail from Delta indicating that I am traveling in a period where there is an embargo. I proceed packing my stuff and finalized them – packed them off and ready to go home, and go back to work.
My flight to LAX was scheduled at 0700H. I was at the airport around 0620H – just right that the gates are open for passengers to drop-off their luggage. Upon reaching the check-in counter and presenting my boarding pass and passport, they said that I cannot check-in more than 2 luggage. I asked them why are they not honoring the number of luggage indicated in the app. They said that there is an embargo imposed to the Philippines where one cannot check-in more than 2 luggage. I asked them, I didn’t receive any notification from Delta informing me of such restriction, much more that the app allowed me to check-in more than 2 luggage. I had to kept asking them since they offered app-based check-in plus the number of luggage that I will be bringing and yet refuse to honor it upon check-in. I asked them if they imply that their iPhone app that shows how many luggage I can bring for free is a bug but they didn’t answer it categorically.
After missing the 0700H flight, the check-in guy moved me to the 0800H to LAX which is just right for me to catch up the connecting flight to NRT with enough time to transfer my check-ins. I think by this time, they had to call the supervisor to discuss my predicament. When she came, I repeated my predicament and she answered back by saying that there’s an embargo to the Philippines that the government has “imposed”. The airline cannot do something about it. Then I asked her why did Delta, through the app, allowed me to check-in more than what is allowed if there’s indeed a restriction. In fact, I told her what I have earlier stated that I didn’t receive notifications of flight restrictions much more that their own app allowed me to select more than 2 checked baggage. She said something like this which I found to be a bit insensitive – “changes in checked-baggage provisions such as embargoes isn’t notified to passengers because it is a minor one”. How can be changes in checked-baggage provisions be a minor one considering that IT DIRECTLY AFFECTS THE PASSENGER especially during holiday season when passengers tend to buy gifts to bring home? She in a way smirked and said “sir, we’ve been going on circles” and I answered her because Delta isn’t honoring what the passenger has selected and in a way putting me in a helpless position now that I stand in front of them in the check-in counter. They may want to check the CCTV at the Delta counter last 29 November 2015 at the Domestic departure near Gate 09.
She offered me options on which isn’t workable at that time, considering that I have limited to work on to catch up my flight:
- Ask a relative to ship the box using a cargo forwarder. I specifically told them that my relative who dropped me off is driving back to Sacramento and is she telling me to call my relative and risking being caught by highway patrol for using phone while driving? She offered no answer.
- Another is to ship the extra luggage via cargo. She said that it is a separate department somewhere within SFO. I asked her if I have to pay because I am counting on the accuracy of the app where it allowed me to bring more than 2 luggage. She said yes, and I countered back to her that if she is making me at fault for believing what the Delta app offered me during check-in? We had a bit of raised voices because no one wants to fold and each has a point to raise. She said that they can’t override the system because they can’t.
- Call the reservations hotline and ask if they can make an exception to my case. I did call the reservations and tell the whole story again and said that there’s no embargo indicated in her records. However, she also said that her copy might not be updated and the check-in counter may have an updated one. She also mentioned that there’s no way for her to “command” instructions to the check-in counter as they belong to different departments. The hotline person asked if she can talk to the supervisor but they weren’t able to talk to because the call was placed on hold for the longest time. The call was transferred to another guy just to document but offered no resolution to my point.
Since it took a long time to discuss matters, I also missed the 0800H and I won’t be able to go home that day. That also mean that I won’t be able to report to work by December 1, Philippine time, missing my responsibilities waiting for that day. I just told them to rebook me for the next day, with the same flights even if that means that I risk losing my job for not being present on the day that I am expected to show up. My relative returned and picked me up from SFO – had to repack my stuff and readied myself to fly again the next day with only 2 checked luggage.
The following day, I didn’t do online check-in, but rather did it in the airport. This time, I took a video of the check-in process and and again I was offered to check-in more than 2 luggage with the same number as it was the previous day – 7 pieces checked for free. Yes, I was able to fly and upon arrival in Japan, I received a message from a colleague that the president has announced that they decided to have me forced resign from the company for not being in the office by December 1. I kept that thought hanging since pending receiving actual word from either HR or from the president himself, it might be still uncertain.
Upon arriving in the Philippines, clearing immigration and picking up my checked luggage, I was enraged to see someone who had more than 2 checked luggage picked up from Bay #1 in Manila. I might be wrong but I checked the name and it belonged to the same person. I even had to talk to a ground crew of Delta and asked why was that being allowed to have considering that SFO staff said that there’s an embargo and more than 2 luggage isn’t allowed. The ground crew offered an explanation that the passenger may belong to a tier in the Skymiles program which is a plausible one.
The following day, I reported back to work and confirmed the result – I am removed from work, for not being in the office by December 1, Manila time.
I am still thirsty for answers to some perplexing questions that’s related to this issue:
- Who actually imposes baggage embargo – airline or country? I find it disturbing when the SFO supervisor said that the embargo is imposed by the country. I saw a link online – https://www.directly.com/p/delta-airlines-exactly-what-is-the-flight-embargo-41521 states information about embargo. It has been more than 2 years when that question was asked, and yet the embargo information or restriction hasn’t been transparent to the passengers then till now.
- How far does the airline’s responsibility go on notifying travel-related changes that affect passenger’s schedule? I find it irresponsible that the supervisor would just say that the embargo is a minor issue considering that the passenger didn’t receive notifications on the said restrictions and the app allowed him to check-in more than the standard. No accountability even for presenting false information to the customer?
Glad that Skymiles aren’t expiring. If only ANA-United was a good alternative, I would have taken it. Oh well.