Mar 20, 2023

Delta passes the buck on code-share flights; so much for 'seamless' travel


Delta sells and books tickets on flights operated by Aeromexico

As a Delta Skyteam silver elite member, I always travel on either a Delta flight or one operated by a code-share partner such as Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France or Aeromexico. 

Since Delta sells and books the code-share tickets, I expect Delta to take responsibility when something goes wrong.

The airline, after all, promises "a seamless travel experience" with code-share flights, a system that allows airlines to sell tickets to destinations where they do not fly. 

In the case of its partnership agreement with Aeromexico, for instance, Delta says on its website that it is "focused on providing customers with a consistent experience when traveling between the two airlines. 

"By looking at all aspects of the customer journey together, and using technology to enhance the digital experience, the two airlines have established a foundation to benefit their shared customers by aligning products, polices and services."

This was not my experience with a multi-city itinerary booked through and paid for on Delta, but operated by Aeromexico.

Instead of taking responsibility for an error that almost left my husband and I stranded in Veracruz, Mexico, Delta passed the buck, insisting that "Aeromexico will have to handle the claim." No offer to help. No offer to work it out on the customer's behalf.

After three e-mails explaining the situation, and requesting either miles or compensation for a missed non-stop back to Seattle from Mexico City, a customer service agent, using the name Isabela Cook, refused to budge.

"We consider the case closed, " she wrote, "and we will not respond to any additional correspondence regarding your travel." 

So much for a "seamless" experience.

The problems began when we went to check in online for our non-stop from Seattle to Mexico City, and neither Delta nor Aeromexico would let us check in using their apps.

We arrived at the airport early to find a gate agent. Delta sent us to Aeromexico where an agent found glitch on our return connection from Veracruz into Mexico City. Someone had transposed the month and day of our return so that the return was booked for April 3 (4/3/2023) instead of May 4 (3/4/2023).

After 30 minutes or so of back-and-forth, agents from both airlines assured us they fixed the problem, and our return was set as originally booked.

It wasn't until we received check-in notices from both Aeromexico, and Delta on the day before departure, that I saw the flight from Veracruz to Mexico City had disappeared from from our itinerary. We were left with the non-stop from Mexico City back to Seattle, but no flight from Veracruz.

Sitting on the bed in our hotel room, I spent an hour on the phone with a Delta agent (Our cell phone plan allows free calls in North American, but if it didn't, we would have had quite a bill) while she worked with Aeromexico to find us seats.

The flight we originally booked was fully-booked. We finally settled for an early-morning flight that would have meant an eight-hour layover in Mexico City. The alternative was an Aeromexico flight from there to Los Angeles with a Delta connection to Seattle. This entailed going through customs and immigration in L.A., leaving security; walking to a different terminal to find a Delta ticket agent to issue our boarding passes; and reentering TSA security to reach our gate - all within a 1.5-hour window. We have both Global Entry (the fast pass for reentering the U.S.) and PreCheck (TSA fast pass), otherwise we might not have made it.

What I wanted most in contacting Delta after we arrived home was to find out how a portion of one's itinerary could be dropped without a notice from either airline. Had we checked in as both airlines instructed, we would have arrived at the airport in Veracruz without a ticket.

 And indeed, if Delta's hard and fast policy is to "not provide compensation if the flight is operated by another airline," then surely a goodwill gesture was in order since we had paid extra for the return non-stop from Mexico City to Seattle. I recalled a time when the entertainment system on a Delta flight to Amsterdam was not working. The flight attendant came around and credited extra miles to passengers' accounts.

My last e-mail from Isabela Cook contained neither an explanation nor an offer to make amends. 

"Any further correspondence regarding these matters will be kept on file," she wrote. However, no additional responses will be sent. "

In other words, case closed.


  1. I hate this new code-sharing, seamless travel! I've just filed a request for missing miles with Alaska for a flight on its code-share partner, Singapore Airlines. The minute 'Singapore' appeared on the screen, I was directed to another page onto which I had to load my receipt for payment of said ticket as well as a copy of the ticket. Two days later we received an email from Alaska saying our request had been forwarded to Singapore airlines for verification and determination if miles will be awarded. Hogwash!!

    1. That’s terrible. The onus for their “seamless” agreement is all on the customer as they pass the buck from one to the other

  2. You should definitely file a complaint with the Dept of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division. Suggest that 1% of the complaint be about the botched “seemless codeshare” travel experience and the other 99% on Ms. Cook’s refusal to help and attempted coverup. At a bare minimum, this will make your experience a public record, and will therefore help the DoT monitor trends. But it will also help to hold Delta accountable for its unfair, deceptive, and misleading advertising practices about its “seemless” codeshare practices. I wish you the best of luck. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for specific compensation—to include retraining for and an apology from Ms. Cook.