Friday, March 28, 2008

Cancelled Flights: Short Notice?

Delta Air Lines' flight schedule returned to normal this morning after a shaky start when 12 flights were canceled by 6 a.m., according to data. Yesterday, Delta canceled 241 of its 1,656 scheduled flights as it pulled aging MD-88 aircraft off line to conduct FAA safety inspections.

I like Delta. But I think they dropped the ball on this one. Unlike American Airlines, which provided a day's advance notice earlier this week when it pulled its MD-80s out of service for the same FAA maintenance checks, Delta waited till Wednesday night to send out a news release that it was taking planes out of service on Thursday.

On Tuesday, American announced it was removing 200 MD-80s from service. The actual number was nearly 300. American ended up canceling 325 flights on Wednesday.

Delta left a lot of customers flat-footed yesterday. I happened to be at a book-party lunch yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South in New York, and a handful of people there had to either return to Washington or fly elsewhere. They all were anxious about whether they'd get there on Delta. All of them lacked information.

Airline management is often ham-handed, and Delta's is right in character on this. Here's the lecture ... I mean, customer-service statement ... that Delta put out yesterday to make sure you know your "inconvenience" was for your own damn good. Note how it fails to address the fact that Delta simply didn't give customers enough notice:


ATLANTA, March 27, 2008 – Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) remains on track to complete all MD-88 maintenance re-inspections by late today and expects to resume normal operations Friday morning, March 28, 2008.

In a statement to customers on its web site, Delta said:

“Dear Delta Customer,

We are very sorry for any inconvenience the MD-88 re-inspections may have caused you and realize fully that our decision to conduct this review may have negatively impacted your travel plans. However, at Delta we take safety requirements very seriously and moved quickly to take voluntary action in addressing the issue. Though these re-inspections impacted the travel plans of many of our customers, safety is our No. 1 priority at Delta and conducting these inspections proactively was the right decision.

Delta is already taking steps to communicate with Delta SkyMiles members whose flights were canceled as a result of the MD-88 re-inspections. However, if you are a customer who is not part of the SkyMiles program and you experienced an MD-88 flight cancellation as a result of the re-inspection, you may contact Delta via a special form found on You’ll be asked to provide your contact and flight information so you may be contacted and assisted by a Delta representative.

Many of you have already heard from Delta after signing up for our customer notification system, Delta Messenger, or worked with Delta’s reservation agents and airport customer service agents to be reaccommodated for canceled flights.

We once again apologize for any inconvenience this may have had on you and your travel plans and hope that you can understand how important safety is to everything we do at Delta.


Steve Gorman
Delta Air Lines
Executive Vice President – Operations"

Delta's Statement Continued:

"Delta yesterday began working in full partnership with the FAA to proactively and voluntarily revalidate the full compliance of a prior Airworthiness Directive completed earlier this year.

Delta expects this voluntary review, which is taking place on the airline’s 117 MD-88 aircraft, to result in approximately 275 cancellations through early Friday, impacting about 3 percent of Delta’s worldwide flight schedule.

Based on the aggressive and proactive re-inspection schedule, Delta expects inspections to be complete on approximately 70 percent of its MD-88 fleet by early Thursday evening, with normal operations planned by early Friday. The majority of impacted customers have already worked with Delta reservation agents and gate agents to be reaccommodated or receive refunds for canceled flights."


No comments: