Delta Air Lines Check-in Was Halted At London Heathrow As Agents Threatened To Seize Plane Over $3,400 Debt

A U.K. series Call The Bailiffs: Time To Pay Up, which debuted in summer 2021 on Britain’s Channel 5, aired footage of Delta Air Lines check-in at London Heathrow being shut down prior to a flight to New York JFK.

Bailiffs sought to collect a $3,400 refund that had been owed to a passenger for a couple of years. The customer had obtained a court writ, and the agents are empowered to seize a company’s property to satisfy the debt. They can seize planes. They’re shown planning to halt check-in and ground aircraft unless Delta paid.

Once agents were inside the terminal, check-in staff call their manager, and they had a dispute over whether the check-in desks could be closed. As one agent put it, “it may seem slightly disproportionate when you’re perhaps using a 50 million pound asset for a debt that’s maybe only a few thousand pounds.”

They closed check-in, passengers were turning up and the airline’s queues got longer. So a Delta manager pulled out their personal credit card. The ordeal took “over an hour” but collections were made.

This all occurred at London Heathrow terminal 2, and Delta currently operates out of terminal 3. That, and the prevalence of masking, tells me that this was filmed during the pandemic. Terminal 3 had been closed temporarily and operations were consolidated in other terminals, but Delta (and Virgin Atlantic) returned to terminal 3 in July 2021.

I’ve written about passengers hiring private bailiffs to collect on unpaid flight delay compensation, taking credit cards from airline staff in their offices to avoid seizure and sale of the office furniture.

Bailiffs once showed up at London Luton airport, delaying a Wizz Air flight to collect a refund that was owed to a customer. It caused a flight delay, and then Wizz Air owed EU261 compensation to all of the passengers on board!

Former Slovenian Star Alliance member Adria Airways once even cancelled a flight to Vienna because they expected bailiffs to seize their aircraft over an unpaid 250 euro claim. Weird, because everyone on the cancelled flight would have been owed compensation, too.

(HT: Travel Zork)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That was the Delta station manager who came over from T3, and yes, she pulled out a personal credit card just to get it done with and sort out the rest later.

    UK places a particularly high amount of leverage in the hands of bailiffs on court writs.

  2. Delta is a premium airline that flies its discerning, sophisticated guests to amazing destinations.

  3. Awesome!
    And the Station Manager who pulled out her own card to solve the problem and keep planes moving deserves a raise. (And reimbursement)

  4. if the refund was genuinely owed, and if DL have slow walked it, they should be ashamed of themselves. It serves them right to get embarrassed like that.

  5. To hear Tiny Tim spewing his “Delta is the Greatest Airline in the world” nonsense all the time, this is awesome to hear. Delta is a deadbeat and can’t pay their bills. Pathetic.

  6. We offered the customer a premium beverage, premium cutlery, 1,000 sky miles and the promise of a premium experience on their flight.
    But inexplicably and irrationally, they insisted on the $3,400!

  7. @glenn pickard

    The debt was genuinely owed. It was EC261 compensation for a delayed flight (for several passengers I assume given the amount). To get to this stage Delta must have failed to pay so the person then got a county court judgement and moved this to the high court to allow enforcement officers to be sent in. While this is a fairly simple process for the claimant, it invokes a legal process in which Delta would have had plenty of official notice and opportunity to pay.

  8. I hope the Delta Air Lines station manager remembered to use her Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card​ to pay for the $3,400 refund owed to a passenger for a couple of years. With a Delta SkyMiles® American Express Card, you can earn miles on every eligible purchase on the Card. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card offers exceptional benefits like Delta SkyMiles that don’t expire and a first checked bag free for yourself and your companions.

  9. This is awesome! I remember when deputies seized a branch of Bank of America in Florida after the bank accidentally foreclosed on the wrong house. They were emptying cash drawers into garbage bags. The bank finally produced a cashiers check for the settlement amount, but could you imagine the mess trying to straighten that out?

  10. I have absolutely taken over residence in a whole lot of people’s lives -and I PAY NO RENT!

    And no one can take legal action because they did it to themselves.

    Kinda wonder if the bill was sitting in a mailbox in terminal 2 and LHR couldn’t figure out that Delta was no longer there.

  11. man, i would kill for the ability to saddle up some of the Texas Rangers (they are a real law enforcement agency, and they have horses) and march in to GSW with my stack of claims.

    gentlemen, please lasso that DC3 over in the museum and tow it outside for mr. celine here….

  12. True story. In the late 1970s I worked for a state agency which had obtained an order against TWA for $1,600. After the appeal time had run, I contacted the TWA attorney to ask when a check would be issued. It was then I found out he had not read the statute and assumed a more general appeal time applied. It didn’t and he then told me that TWA would not voluntarily issue a check and I could go through the long and expense process of enforcing the order against TWA (usually by drafting paperwork and having to serve TWA’s bank). I declined and said that I’d simply prepare an attachment order and one evening go out to the airport with the sheriff and slap it on a full 747 about to depart for Europe. He said I couldn’t do that so for the second time in the phone call I quoted statute numbers to him, at which point I gave him until the following day to get the check to my office. The next day it was delivered by messenger.

  13. hagbard,
    you do realize the DC3 is in Georgia? and the Texas Rangers are in, well, Texas?

    posting while under the influence is dangerous to your (mental) health. the question is the influence of what.

  14. Premium debt collection for a premium debt causing a premium delay. I wonder if the premium manager got reimbursed or was stiffed.

  15. @Beachfan +1

    I wish the same would happen with EU261 claims in Germany where Lufthansa routinely ignores claims.

  16. @Tim Dunn,
    I’m assuming by saying GSW he’s referring to American Airlines. Former GSW Airport was roughly where the former HDQ campus sat and the current training center is at. Internally they still use GSW as the company mail address for the facility.

    An airline I worked for way back out of college once decided to short pay the PANYNJ. Next flight into LGA got met by PA cops. Good thing one of them was the brother in law of our station manager… that day he earned his salary.

  17. F- the airlines. They stiff somebody for 3 grand which is pocket change to the airline and now they pay the price. Good lesson to management – don’t shaft your customers because it will be more costly later.

  18. “I have absolutely taken over residence in a whole lot of people’s lives -and I PAY NO RENT!”
    Hey Doofus – yes you are getting the attention you seek. But it’s not for a good reason.

  19. Oddly, the UK government did not want to accept compensation in Tim Dunn’s SkyPesos.

  20. Also stunning will be if the Delta manager is somehow denied reimbursement by the airline for his/her personal credit card charge!

  21. dear mockers,
    I understand very well that the reason you are preoccupied with me – to the point of bringing me into conversations that I haven’t even participated in – is because you can’t stand that I highlight how well Delta runs its business and airline and there is all kinds of evidence of that.

    Of course, every company drops the ball and they caught that dropped ball via an onsite manager in the UK. None of us know how the ball got dropped and how a relatively small bill slipped through the cracks but the endless grandstanding highlights the insecurities in being able to admit that you – if you have dealt with finances for any length of time – have missed a payment, gotten a reminder or even a debt collection notice – and fixed it. Delta, as the world’s largest airline by revenue – pays alot of bills including through its local agents. Station managers for any airline are authorized to spend money and are reimbursed for it.

    according to the replies, TWA thought they could push the envelope in paying an airport and finally collapsed with reality.
    Delta paid the bill. End of story.

    Grow up. Seriously. When Delta falls off its pedestal, feel free to justifiably cheer. But for now, accept that when someone accurately highlights Delta’s position of leadership, it doesn’t require you to mock the bearer of news or the company just because your fan favorite can’t achieve it.

  22. Nice. All of the commentors on this site are living rent free in Tiny Tim’s head. Even though Delta can’t pay their bills, it’s bla bla bla Delta good, bla bla bla Delta wonderful, bla bla bla Delta has cured cancer.

  23. Delta is a scumbag airline. I was wrongfully terminated by delta based on lies from a co worker. Now Delta is demanding $3000 as payment because I left before my contract. I wish delta nothing but the worst. They are vindictive and scum

  24. Alan,
    if you aren’t smart enough to read the comments above and see that there were multiple people that dragged me into the discussion before I ever participated, then you are more obtuse than you are blind, deaf and dumb.

    I could care less what people say about me.

    I do want to point out the low quality and intelligence people that are incapable of accepting the basic reality which is that Delta simply runs a better business and airline.
    And the people that can’t accept this reality is almost entirely AA and UA people that can’t stand to see their airline compared to DL and shown to be lacking.

    It’s up to Gary to start blocking IP addresses and put the childish drivel of these name swapping and mocking low lives’ participation to an end.
    but let’s also face reality that Gary is more interested in page clicks and he doesn’t care how he gets them.

  25. It is exceptionally amusing to watch enforcement actions against a major company. I’d love to complain about the UK’s exceptionally creditor-friendly enforcement system, but on our side of the pond, we have civil forfeiture, so not sure who’s ahead in the “government taking things for silly reasons” category. I’ll take your impounded A350 and raise you a “State v. $200 in US currency.”

  26. Airlines frequently need to be ordered on how to behave properly. Most of them need to be kept on a short leach at all times. Consumer advocacy groups KNOW this.

  27. Delta’s customer service management is a train wreck. It’s ridiculous, because I’ve never met a DL person who wasn’t just delightful. Delta hung me out to dry for more than two years over $6K credit; no reason, they just couldn’t be bothered to help me. They refused to show the CR in my SkyMiles a/c; I could only use it by calling a special agent to rebook. Any guesses on how many times I called and nobody answered the phone? I had exactly the same situation with United, a tix booked with cash and miles. Everything showed up where it belonged in ten minutes with no effort at all on my part. I make 6 or 7 cross-country and international trips a year, all up front. Delta’s chances of ever seeing me again are minute. I wonder how long it took the LHR Station Manager to be reimbursed for the personal CC charge.

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