I feared something bad might be happening.
Something a little more bad than all the other types of bad that have already been happening.
Perhaps, though, I didn’t think it would be as bad as this.
Yes, of course we’re talking about airlines and specifically Delta.
A few days ago, I wondered what on earth was going on at Delta Central. The once reliable airline had begun to behave as if it had ingested far too much airport snack food.
Flights were being canceled, pilots were publicly protesting and customers were left weeping at the parlous state of their favorite airline.
Now, in what I imagine was an ululation of pure despair, the airline has made a little announcement. A quiet sort of announcement. The sort of announcement that said to customers: “This is going to be bad. Real bad.”
Naturally, it didn’t say precisely that. Instead, it presented the announcement as a special, frightfully generous offer.
The headline was macabre in its straight-faced absurdity: “Delta gives customers option to change flights ahead of July Fourth travel.”
A more accurate attempt might have been: “Delta tells customers that it’s made such a mess of things that there’s really little hope of getting you there.”
The generous offer, should you have got past Delta’s headline, was that passengers could now change flights booked for July 1-4 to any other time. And, perhaps, to any other year.
Delta is so desperate for you to change your plans for this weekend — yes, the weekend when you were really looking forward to seeing your family, your friends, or a city other than your own for the first time in years — that it will let you make any change not only for free, but also with no difference in fares. As long as you fly between the same two cities.
It’s even blessing Basic Economy passengers with this special offer. Those who have already booked, that is.
I worry this isn’t as generous as it sounds. Flights for the July 4 weekend will likely be more expensive than at most other times of the year. This may not be a profitable switch for you. It’s more Delta wanting you to lend it a hand, garlanded by the fear that, if you still choose to fly, your plane may not.
Or, in Delta’s words: “Some operational challenges are expected this holiday weekend.”
You may choose to translate this as: “We don’t think we’ve got enough pilots and we’re afraid a lot of people will call in sick with COVID. Or not with COVID. Or not even anything at all, but just because they’re so fed up with our incompetence.”
This, for lovers of technology, is the equivalent of Apple telling you it might get your new MacBook Pro to you next month, or it could be next year.
Delta has long aspired to Apple-like status, a brand apart from all its rivals.
Yet the airline’s recent perpetrations have emitted an unpleasant odor around the airline.
Perhaps Delta made it worse with this sentence: “Delta is expected to carry customer volumes from Friday, July 1, through Monday, July 4, not seen since before the pandemic as people yearn to connect with the world.”
The airline, along with its competitors, took billions in government money — its passengers’ own money — precisely so that it would be prepared for the return of travel. Then it allowed many of its most experienced people to take early retirement. What a money-saving wheeze that was.
And now Delta is saying it never expected it to be like this? I fear some passengers may offer rude retorts.
Or they might learn that Delta is offering some passengers $10,000 to get on a later flight.
Now that’s a special offer.
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