I wrote to Delta to complain about homophobia and I got a homophobic response back

My original e-mail follows. I've highlighted the relevant portions.

On our flight from Ireland to New York yesterday, my spouse and I had ordered vegetarian/no dairy/no eggs meals. These were not on board. We also were told at the check-in counter that our seats weren't together, but that the flight attendant would have no trouble having people shift around. When we got into the plane and asked a flight attendant, she told us "there aren't two empty seats together." She also referred to my spouse as "your friend" despite my corrections. When I tried to explain to her that maybe she could ask someone flying alone if they'd switch, she seemed confused and insisted "there aren't two empty seats together." I ended up seated in a window seat with a couple on the outside of me who made racist and homophobic comments the entire flight.
I was too intimidated to ask to step over them so I could be reseated, particularly given that the flight attendant didn't seem to care about our situation and seemed homophobic herself. When meals were served on the flight, ours was not onboard. The flight attendant was again aloof, stating that we could eat the pasta or chicken instead. When I asked
what was in them, he said he didn't know, but we could look at them. I explained that looking at them wouldn't tell us the ingredients, and asked if there was anything they had with ingredients listed. He said there was not. Four hours later, when the in-seat TV monitors started crashing on everyone, another flight attendant, Sheryl, told us she would provide us with some complimentary snacks to pass the time, and she came out with various bagged chips and other snacks with the ingredients printed on the labels. When I asked why these weren't offered to us when our meals were forgotten, she said she did not know, but proceeded to offer us various items and was very accommodating. While I did eventually get some tortilla chips for dinner toward the end of my seven-hour flight and found Sheryl to be very kind and helpful,
the other flight attendants were absolutely incompetent, and I find it ridiculous to pay hundreds of dollars to fly on a flight where we aren't fed and are subjected to rudeness and incompetence on the part of the flight attendants and harassment by other passengers, especially after
the flight attendants have refused to make arrangements so that I could sit with my family member. I would suggest that flights have onboard some more substantial nonperishable items that people with various dietary restrictions can eat, maybe some energy bars or whatnot. Since
my dietary restrictions are accommodated on Delta flights and I have never had my meal forgotten before, it didn't occur to me to bring my own food. I also would suggest that the flight crew is trained in GLBT sensitivity -- had the flight attendants modeled some respect for our family, the other passengers might not have felt so entitled to make homophobic comments throughout the flight.

Their response, also with the relevant portions highlighted:

RE: Case Number 642679

Thank you for your email describing the inconvenience you and your
spouse experienced due to our poor customer service, onboard meal
service, seat assignment issues and disruptive behavior of your fellow
passengers while traveling with us. On behalf of everyone at Delta Air
Lines, I sincerely apologize for the problems you encountered and also
appreciate your kind comments for one of our flight attendant.

I am truly sorry you did not receive the special meal you requested and
certainly understand this causes concern for a person with strict
dietary and/or nutritional requirements. Passenger comments like yours
are critical in our efforts to provide superior service.

We also recognize our passengers have seating preferences, and I
certainly understand your frustration when you and Mr. Shira did not
receive seat assignment together while travelling from Ireland to New
York. We understand that our passengers have seating preferences, and I
certainly realize your disappointment with our seat assignment policy.
Flying with Delta should be enjoyable, and I am unhappy for any role we
may have played which caused your travel experience to be otherwise.

Further, we were concerned to learn that the actions of another
passengers disruptive and unpleasant behavior onboard. We truly wish
there were some way to ensure that passengers would be considerate of
all travelers. We strive to provide everyone with an enjoyable and
comfortable cabin environment, and I regret your experience was to the
contrary. The inconvenience you experienced does not support our goal
of providing a high level of service and value to our customers.

After reading your email, I certainly understand why you wanted to bring
this matter to our attention. We expect all our flight attendants to be
helpful and professional at all times. I am truly sorry that you did
not receive the service you expected and should have received.
Nevertheless, we appreciate your kind comments regarding the service
received from our flight attendant Sherry. We believe that she is one
of our most important assets, and I am happy to learn that she exceeded
your expectations in extreme travel conditions.

Please know feedback like yours will help us to improve our overall
customer service. Be assured your comments will be shared with the
leadership teams of the concerned department for internal follow up.

As a gesture of apology for the inconvenience you and your spouse
experienced due to our poor customer service, onboard meal service, seat
assignment issues and disruptive behavior of your fellow passengers
while traveling with us, I have issued an Electronic Transportation
Credit Voucher (eTCV) in the amount of $75.00 for you and your spouse.
Please note the voucher number and associated Terms and Conditions will
be arriving in a separate email. I encourage you to add Delta Air Lines
to your receiver list so the voucher document is not misdirected to your
spam folder. Please keep the voucher number and the Terms and
Conditions since the number is required for redemption. It is also
important to remind you that there is no Direct Ticketing fee for
reservations confirmed online at delta.com.

I did receive the credit vouchers, and this was nice of them. One is made out to me, and the other is made out to some person I've never heard of, who has a pretty obviously male name. WHAT THE HELL, PEOPLE?! Molly and I have the same last name, and we bought our tickets together on the same reservation thingy. Not hard to figure out who my spouse is, unless you're a homophobic moron who is insisting my spouse has to be male AFTER I WRITE YOU AN E-MAIL ABOUT WHAT A BUNCH OF HOMOPHOBES YOUR AIRLINE IS.

Edited to add: Look, Delta has a "gay travel" page, in which they tout how gay-friendly they are. They have a HRC 100% score, which we all know is a bunch of bullshit, since all it looks at is whether they offer benefits, not at whether they train all staff at all levels to, like, realize there are gay people. There's of course no links to any sort of diversity chairperson or anything that would actually be helpful. Just a page indicating that Delta would like gay people to spend money on their airline.


Jodie said...

Sorry sm'am. That sucks. I'm not an overly huge fan of Delta to begin with, and that does not make me like them more.

ericjay said...

I agree that Detla dropped the ball on the special meal request. That's a big deal, especially on longer and/or international flights. Someone should have at least checked the galley for something with an ingredients list.

The attendant referring to Molly as "your friend" despite your corrections was certainly homophobic & disrespectful. However seating travel companions (spouses, other family members, co-workers, or otherwise) together, isn't part of your contract of carriage with the airline, and isn't the responsibility of the flight attendant.

I've traveled extensively on most US airlines, and see this come up all the time. The response is always the same: Feel free to ask other passengers, but we're not getting involved.

The only situations in which I've seen airline personnel intervene is when one passenger is a young child or person with disability. In those cases, corrective action takes place at the gate, where agents have the ability to re-assign seats, not on the plane where the only priority for the flight attendants is to get every butt buckled into a seat and every bag safely stowed so that the plane can get moving.

Unfortunately, "Mr. Shira" in the reply sounds like a symptom of the all-too-common state of lazy customer service, relying on form letters and canned responses.

Molly said...

Thing is, our seats WERE together when we bought them. We don't know what happened between then and the time we checked in.

eeka said...

I know being seated together isn't guaranteed. But our seats were together when we bought the tickets, then when we checked in, check-in person said they all of the sudden weren't, but to ask the flight attendants and they'd help us ask people to move around. The check-in person let us know that the two people next to me and the two people next to Molly were part of a group of six, and said to start with asking them if they'd take the window seats. We started to ask a flight attendant, who was trying to help us, then Mr. and Mrs. Homophobe jumped in and started bossing everyone around about how "no, no, she has to sit next to her, and he has to sit next to her..." (these were all adults) and the flight attendant shrugged and shut up. Mr. and Mrs. Homophobe then continued, telling me that "this arm rest is going to need to be down, and you're going to need to leave that vent off so it doesn't blow on me." I know the flight attendants aren't referees or anything, but really, this couple started bossing me around and talking to me like a subhuman immediately upon my spouse and I identifying as such. If the airline were gay-friendly like they claim to be, they might realize that people who start mouthing off to a couple strangers as if we aren't fellow human adults are likely giant homophobes, and it might be good customer service to then see if someone in one of the many "person-emptyseat-person" rows would mind swapping with us.

But Delta isn't remotely gay friendly. They don't even train their e-mail answerers that when someone says "spouse" (how many straight people say that?) while complaining about homophobic treatment on an airplane while with their spouse, that spouse probably isn't an opposite-sex spouse.