Delta Airlines is trying to patch up its reputation after a double-amputee war veteran was humiliated by a flight crew described by another passenger as “hard as woodpecker lips.” Because of his disability, the Afghanistan combat veteran was put aboard the Atlanta to Washington flight last, rolled down the aisle in a narrow aircraft wheelchair to the last row, banging into seats along the way. Two first class passengers offered their seat to the wounded Marine but the flight attendants refused to allow it because the doors were closed. Passenger outrage was palpable in the cabin and Delta was deluged with complaints when the story hit the social media.
Another ex-service member on board couldn’t believe what he saw. “What the kid said was, ‘I have given everything I can give and this is the way I am being treated? This is how I will be treated the rest of my life?'” Other passengers say the flight crew refused to identify themselves and suggested complaints be directed to the captain when the plane landed. After touchdown, the captain left the aircraft quickly and the first officer suggested contacting Delta customer service. Delta finally issued a wooden, semi-apology on its corporate blog site.
The post is entitled “Regarding the Recent Experience of a Marine on a Delta Flight…” and calls the veteran’s ordeal a “negative experience.” The vice president of customer care who signed the post wrote the company is “unsettled by this incident.” The ice-cold prose continues, “What is clear is that we did not care for this customer the way we should have.” It goes on say the incident does not reflect Delta’s customer service standards or the company’s “high regard we have for those who do and have served our country.” As for preventing future outrages like this, Delta says “incidents like this one always make us pause to review service standards. We are doing that now.”
If readers were hoping for “We are sorry” or “We apologize,” neither one is found in this carefully-worded, public-relations-and-legal-department-vetted quasi-mea culpa. The airline says it tried to contact the vet but couldn’t find him. Several newspapers located his family fairly quickly but they didn’t want to discuss the matter. Delta endured another firestorm of bad PR back in June, 2011 when it charged more than 30 soldiers returning from Afghanistan $200 each to check a fourth bag. Maybe Delta has decided to adopt the old Northwest Airlines unofficial customer service slogan – “We’re not happy until you’re unhappy.”
Source: Washington Post, “Delta Airlines: We failed double-amputee Marine on recent flight,” Annie Groer, Dec. 15, 2013