Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Merger for Delta and NWA seems to be ... awkward

We recently traveled to the "south", giving my other half his first true exposure to the Bible belt and the United State's "interior". This was a fun trip, which will be written up later, but the flights were... complicated.

We booked what is known as an "open jaw" trip in the industry, or as "multi-city destination" by normal humans - flying from San Francisco to Memphis then from Memphis to Atlanta and home again to San Francisco. I do stuff like this all the time - it rarely costs extra, and in this case, cost way less than flying directly to Atlanta from San Francisco.

I am well aware of the NWA and Delta merger, as my brother-in-law is a Delta pilot, but I still booked my flight on the NWA website since I've been a long time frequent flyer with them and all of my information was already on their site.

Our first problem was encountered when our credit card was rejected. I tried multiple times, assuming I had done something silly like type in the wrong expiration date. No luck. Finally called our credit card company, CitiBank AAdvantage card, who claimed that buying airline tickets was an "unusual" purchase for us so they determined it was fraud and blocked the purchase. Hrm. I have racked up several hundred thousands of air miles with American, United, and Northwest. How is buying airline tickets suddenly an unusual activity for me? I think it was unusual for me to buy non American Airline tickets, so the company decided to make it awkward. Now, this was totally a weird problem with CitiBank and had nothing to do with Delta/NWA (except they weren't AA).

We were off a couple of weeks later - I reviewed both Delta and NWA's websites for information on the merger and where to check in at each airport, and everything started very well when we checked in with Delta in SFO. No problems.

Now, when it was time to go from Memphis, TN to Atlanta, GA, we hit a snag. First, I noticed the check-in reminder email came from Delta instead of NWA (unlike the first one), but figured they are actively merging more things each day so no red flags were raised. We arrived at the airport and went to the e-checkin kiosk, which made us choose if we wanted to check in with NWA or Delta. I chose NWA, because that's where I booked my tickets. The kiosk let me check in my bag, but reported an error about our boarding passes. The agent was ready to help us, but she could not find our itinerary in the computer under either Delta or NWA. Uh, oh.

She noticed my bookmark was my boarding pass from San Francisco to Memphis, so she asked to have it. With that she was able to pull up my itinerary, but not my husband's. So we dug through our bag until we found his old boarding pass and she was able to do the same thing. This took about 20 minutes and quite a line stacked up behind us. I'm glad we showed up with more than an hour 'til take off time.

Convinced I did not want to go through this same thing again at the airport when leaving Atlanta, I clicked on the email from Delta to check in the day we were flying home. My husband's seat was the same one on our reservation, but I was not able to get a boarding pass - only a "Seat Request Card". That's right - Delta had moved me to standby! Bumped me right off the flight! Now, why would you split a party? Also, I didn't think they could do this without making requests for passengers to volunteer off of the flight. This was a disaster. Fortunately, a call to a very wonderful kind soul in Delta Reservations got this worked out, but even he could not figure out why I had been bumped.

The actual flight experiences were very nice, and I really enjoyed the DirecTV on the flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. Just a heads up to any of you that might be traveling on an itinerary that crosses combined routes from these merging airlines, that you'll want to check in in advance if at all possible. I'm sure once the kinks get worked out, things will be great - but in the meantime, beware.

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