On Oct. 16, I bought two tickets from Delta Air Lines through Chase Rewards for $794.80. We paid $599.86 plus 19,494 points. We received a trip confirmation letter from Chase, with a Delta logo, giving our flight numbers, departure times and seat numbers for our flights. Three weeks before the departure I checked our flight status and noticed that we no longer had assigned seats, so I called Delta. The agent said we never had seat assignments. I told the agent I had a confirmation letter with seat assignments. I was then told those seats were for its Medallion members and were taken away from us. I then asked why we were not assigned different seats and was told that I would have to check two hours before the flight to see if I would get seats. What's the deal?
Sol Zide, Calabasas
The Zides ultimately did get assigned seats, after our inquiry. The trouble appears to have stemmed from a Chase agent assigning seats that he or she shouldn't have, Delta said. (Medallion is a status in Delta's SkyMiles frequent-flier program.) Delta said those priority seats are opened "two hours before departure so anyone on that flight can switch seat assignments or get an assignment via Delta.com."
Under ordinary circumstances, that doesn't seem much of a risk, but this flight was several days before Christmas, and passenger load factors — that is, the number of occupied seats — have been nearly 80% on domestic flights in Decembers of 2009 and 2008, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Figures for the first nine months of this year show occupancy at 82%. Zide could have rolled the dice and hoped it all worked out, but if you're betting on anything that has to do with holiday travel, it is prudent to be cautious. So at our request, Delta assigned the seats. Thank you, Delta.
And now, an update on another airline issue: On Dec. 5, On the Spot ran a request for help from R. Medina of Los Angeles, who wanted a refund for British Airways tickets she and her husband had purchased three years ago. Her husband was undergoing chemotherapy and could not fly. He tried several times to get a refund but never got a response from BA. He died late in 2008. His widow had tried again to get a refund with no success and turned to On the Spot. We contacted BA twice to no avail, so we ran a column saying it had done nothing. On Dec. 10, Medina received a call from BA promising a refund and a $500 voucher for travel, good for one year.
Medina said she felt a sense of relief. I feel a strong sense of annoyance that it took three years, numerous inquiries and a public bullying before BA did what it should have done in the first place. For that, BA, we say put on the dunce cap, go stand in the corner and don't come out until you can behave with some modicum of civility.