Jeanne passes along this complaint about Delta that’s in the early stages of gaining traction online.
Bottom-line: passenger is denied boarding by Delta because they couldn’t produce the credit card used to purchase the ticket (her boss bought the ticket).
The passenger was enroute to Uganda. Her boss got involved in the call, trying to convince Delta the ticket wasn’t fraudulent. And while we have only the boss’ word for it, she contends Delta’s agent suggested…
The talented and adept Delta Red Coat team answered all of my questions and explained to me that my employee was asked to present her credit card because the “country of Africa is full of frauds.” How embarrassing! All this time, I was under the impression that African was a continent full all kinds of different people. Thanks to your intelligent and worldly staff, I realized my grave and humiliating error. I owe you one, Delta! In an effort to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge your team possesses, I asked a few questions for my own edification. Like, “What other countries are full of fraud like Africa?”
“The Philippines,” your Delta Red Coat said confidently.
The complaint is starting to go ’round YouTube, though I’m not sure it’ll gain much traction there since it’s just the boss reading the complaint letter (very sarcastically) which she reproduces on her blog.
Clearly what the Delta employee meant to suggest is that Africa tickets have a relatively high incidence of credit card fraud (I”m prepared to believe this is true, and also that travel to certain Asian countries might as well, though I haven’t seen the data).
A decade ago it was common for airlines to request to see the credit card used for purchase on all tickets booked through their websites using a third party’s card for payment. When buying tickets at united.com for domestic travel where I wasn’t going to be checking in with the passenger I’d have to stop by the airport (or a city ticket office!) and show the card in advance, and hope that the agent properly documented the reservation to that effect.
Booking United mileage award tickets for someone else used to require a stop at the airport to sign “a blue-ey” … an authorization form which, again, wasn’t even always properly handled. This applied to awards and upgrades where the passenger had a different last name from the accountholder.
Fortunately I would transit the airport often and agents in the club or at the ticket counter could handle this.
Even more fortunately, this is no longer commonplace. Although some international airlines do insist regularly on seeing the credit card used for purchase at check-in. This isn’t just on third party payments, either. And it’s especially frustrating when the card was used fraudulently and cancelled and reissued by the bank, it is no longer possible to show a valid version of the card (though showing the old one would work, but who keeps cancelled cards?).
Award tickets booked by Korean Air, where the tickets are in the name of the mileage accountholder and the credit card is in the accountholder’s name as well, require showing the credit card used for the taxes. It may be a $10,000 airline ticket, and they’ve already gotten written identification and written authorization to deduct the miles, but they’re worried somehow about the validity of the card paying perhaps $350 in taxes on a one-way ticket… even if the payment was made several months earlier and not charged back.
So Delta really isn’t behaving badly relative to its peers here. They do want to make sure the tickets weren’t purchased fraudulently. If they were, they’re going to face a chargeback and will have transported the passenger but won’t ultimately receive payment for doing so.
Still, Delta should be clearer about the possibility that they will insist on seeing the card used for payment at checkin or about any option to show it in advance. Of course, doing that serves as a barrier to someone being willing to make the transaction on their website so perhaps they aren’t incentivized to do so especially when it’s relatively rare that they’ll flag tickets to see the card before allowing the passenger to check in.
What should Liz Bohannon, the employer making the complaint, have done?
The answer here is actually quite simple: don’t use third-party credit cards to buy tickets on airline websites.
I don’t mean the employee should have used their own card, or Ms. Bohannon should have given the employee a company card.
I mean she should have booked the ticket through an online travel agency like Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity. Delta wouldn’t be asking to see the card used for purchase when the purchase wasn’t made directly through them. They don’t worry about it when it’s an agency ticket, because if the agency issued a ticket purchased fraudulently it’s the agency that will be on the hook rather than Delta.
Buying tickets for someone else with your credit card is best done through a travel agency including an online agency and not directly with an airline, especially on the airline’s website.