Delta faces big image repair job

Delta Air Lines’ massive operational meltdown this week was a sharp fall for an airline that had been on the upswing.

Molly Lensing’s experience capsulizes the uphill battle Delta faces in rebuilding its image with some customers.

Lensing, of Fort Myers, Fla., was returning home with her 2-month-old baby from a visit to her brother in Colorado and was connecting through Delta’s Atlanta hub. Customers like Lensing are bread-and-butter business for Delta, whose domestic operation is geared around such hub connections.

Lensing’s trip went wrong from the start and got worse. Her initial flight Monday was canceled, she said. Then her rebooked flight Tuesday was delayed 6 hours, causing her to miss her connection at Hartsfield-Jackson International.

She waited until after midnight for another flight that was ultimately canceled, then in line for customer service until 4:30 a.m., only to be told there were no more hotel vouchers. With her baby at her side, she went to sleep on the airport floor.

“I’m glad I packed a lot of diapers,” she said.

Talking to a reporter while changing her daughter’s diaper in the terminal atrium Wednesday morning, Lensing said she was rebooked on a flight Thursday. She couldn’t stomach another long wait for an uncertain flight, though, and was arranging for her parents to drive her to Fort Myers instead.

Lensing said Delta handled the situation “horribly.” She said the $200 voucher “seems ridiculous,” taking into account the extra child care costs for two days for her two toddlers at home.

“I splurged for the ‘good’ airline this time,” rather than flying a low-cost carrier, she said. The experience “definitely makes me question if they’re a better option.”

Delta's CEO Ed Bastian acknowledges: “There certainly is a nick on our brand."

To read more about why the computer outage had a much more damaging effect than mass cancellations during a storm, and what Delta is doing to repair its image with customers, get the full story on

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.