Social media continues to strengthen the consumer’s ability to get satisfaction from large organizations where front line employees have been unable to resolve issues. This story is about Delta Airlines and baggage allowances for US Army soldiers returning from overseas duty in Afghanistan. An issue arose and a dissatisfied soldier posted a video on Youtube that went viral and embarrassed Delta Airlines.
When checking in to the last leg of a return flight from Afghanistan, an army unit was hit with excess baggage fees of $2800.00 for the 4th bags carried by the soldiers. The soldiers thought they were entitled to 4 free bags. Apparently the 4 free bags was a provision for first class / business class travel and economy travelers were entitled to only 3 free bags.
Baggage fees are a big revenue producer for airlines. Delta charged their customers $952 Million in excess baggage fees last year.
It took less than a day for Delta Airlines to issue an apology and change their policy of 4 free bags in economy class for soldiers but 200,000 people have seen this video called Delta Airlines Charges Soldiers for “Extra Baggage’. It was removed from the Youtube site, but the web never forgets and a mirror site picked it up and 20,000 more people have seen it on the mirror site. Other airlines also changed their baggage policies at the same time.
Outrage followed with news wires picking up the story. A quick search on Google found 1284 articles on this topic.
1. Anyone with a cell phone or camera can make and upload Youtube video. It doesn’t take sophisticated equipment. Uploading to Youtube is simple.
2. Youtube is viral. If the consumer knows how to upload and describe the video, it can spread at ‘web speed’.
3. Public perception lingers even after the correction is made. According to the ABC News video and the comments following it, many consumers are now boycotting Delta Airlines.
4. There was obviously a misunderstanding between what the soldiers were told and what the front line Delta Airline employees were told.
5. The original policy of 3 bags in economy, 4 bags for first class passengers was ill conceived.
a. Enlisted personnel make up 80 percent of deployed troops. None would qualify for first class travel on commercial flights.
b. Enlisted personnel are not authorized Government issued credit cards unless they are directly supporting officers and that account is tied directly to their responsibilities which would not have included personal expenses like baggage charges on a commercial flight.
c. Enlisted personnel are not likely to carry cash with them when returning from active duty.
6. When issues arise, action needs to come swiftly and from top management. In the case of Delta, it was a public relations person who posted information on the Delta blog. If you look at Delta’s first response (which seems to be the party line answer), which was later ‘updated’, it appears as if Delta didn’t understand the severity of the issue at first. Read the comments. They are very telling! And there are a few comments about the low level media person who issued the response instead of the CEO of Delta.
7. I know nothing about the workings of the US Army but does anyone else find it strange that soldiers needs to transport their armaments in their personal luggage? Wouldn’t the guns belong to the US Army? Wouldn’t the Army be responsible for transporting their equipment from overseas back to America? There may be a really good reason for the soldier to transport their equipment but the video didn’t explain that.
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