Delta’s Dilemma

In early 2016, Delta Airlines was named the third best US-based commercial airline according to CNN, citing a national Airline Quality Rating. Only Virgin America and JetBlue were given better placements on the list.


And then, Monday, August 8 happened. At exactly 2:38 am Eastern Standard Time, Delta’s headquarters, located in Atlanta was hit by a power outage. While power outages are far from uncommon, this one in particular caused quite a stir, due in part to the fact that the headquarters experiencing technical malfunctions lead to a complete and total system failure across the country for Delta.


Customers–particularly the thousands who had their flights suspended on Monday and parts of Tuesday–were not overly pleased with the events. According to Delta, at the end of the dilemma (which was fixed about six hours later, partially) only 1,600 of the scheduled 6,000 flights were in operation.


Delta was wholly unprepared for the conundrum. In a time of complete crisis–perhaps a crisis only surpassed in severity by a crash–they were about as unprepared as they could get, writing out boarding passes by hand which left cripplingly long wait times for everyone involved. Airports were packed to the brim with customers left without a place to sleep, choosing to turn their luggage into makeshift pillows and spend the night surrounded by thousands of other angry Delta [perhaps former] customers.


So how can Delta rebound from this to become a trusted flight provider in the United States? They started, of course, by issuing an apology. While apologies are far from a fix to the problem, it was a good start. They also chose to allow passengers to reschedule flights (of course) as late as Friday and waived all rescheduling fees. Lastly, they offered $200 vouchers as compensation for those who were affected by the outage.


People often forget that these outages, while severe and quite annoying, aren’t that uncommon. SouthWest Airlines canceled thousands of flights just last month because of network problems, though that did not get as much press.  It’s important to remember in times like this that these issues are rare, and Delta did a fair job of righting the problem that very few companies expect that they’ll be faced with.