Delta CEO Ed Bastian acknowledged in a letter to employees that there are serious shortcomings in customer service as passenger demand ramps up quickly, and that the current structure has failed to meet customers’ needs on multiple occasions.
“After a year of lockdowns, it’s been encouraging to see so many of you returning to the skies and regaining your lives this summer. While we are delighted to welcome you back, the unexpected speed with which our customers have returned has resulted in some unexpected challenges as we ramp up to meet demand and handle a record-breaking level of calls,” Bastian wrote in the memo.
While the CEO has described these difficulties as “temporary,” he admits that “the last thing you want is to encounter long hold times while calling reservations or receiving information that your flight itinerary has changed.” With this in mind, Bastian stated that he is prepared to address the problem through four measures:
First, Delta is increasing staffing and resources to reduce wait times on the phone and at the airport, as agents on the phone and at the airport have been inundated with questions about travel policies and schedule changes on an unprecedented scale.
As a result, there are significant wait times, and the company is both hiring more than 5,000 new agents – approximately 3,000 Airport Customer Service Agents and 2,000 in other service staff areas – and updating the service platforms for both customers and agents in order to provide better information to passengers faster.
Delta is also developing new digital tools. Delta refined the step-by-step guide to canceling or changing a trip by reinforcing the company site and the Fly Delta app, and has determined that expired and newly purchased tickets in 2021 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2022. Customers booked in Basic Economy can make changes to their flights for travel through December 31, 2021, beginning tomorrow, to help address call wait times as we increase staffing. There are no change costs on Delta flights departing from North America.
Delta is focusing its network planning teams on minimizing changes in our schedule by utilizing information provided by demand and recovery scenarios among current flight operations in order to focus on improved network planning to avoid stops and diversions.
Delta is also working to improve its loyalty program. Delta will extend the validity of the traveler’s Medallion Status through January 31, 2023, as well as any Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates.
Those who are currently traveling to achieve or maintain Status will be rewarded for their loyalty with enhanced benefits and will continue to earn at a faster rate. The airline is also extending the ability to use Award Travel to earn Status until December 31, 2022.
In the memo, Bastian states that Delta is “committed to restoring and exceeding the reliability and service you’ve come to expect from us,” as the recovery has presented a new set of challenges for all operators, and all are taking accelerated steps to match both the renewed demand and the expectations of a market eager to fly again after a year and a half of isolation.