My experience with Delta’s new facial recognition boarding process

When I was flying from Atlanta to the Cayman Islands last month, I was in for a surprise – there was a sign at the gate saying that I’d be boarding using Delta’s new biometric boarding process.

Prior to seeing the sign, I actually had no idea that this was even a thing (and, in fact, already had a boarding pass ready to go on my phone). Before boarding began, the gate agent made an announcement telling passengers how it would work – basically that instead of handing over a ticket to board, we’d need to stand in front of a machine that would scan our faces, recognize us, and print out our ticket.

I think the process actually took a little longer than actually handing over tickets, but it may have been because there were a few families in front of me with small children that the parents needed to lift off the ground so that they were high enough to have their faces scanned. When it was my turn to go, it took about 2-3 seconds for my face to be scanned and for the boarding pass to be issued, which was pretty cool.

As cool as it was to try out biometric boarding, it definitely made me uncomfortable that Delta had enough information that it could recognize my face without me ever consenting to it. That said, like most Americans, I’m usually ready to trade a bit of privacy for convenience.

Have you tried Delta’s biometric boarding yet? What were your thoughts?

Delta uses in-flight magazine to complain about Gulf carriers

On a recent Delta flight, I was surprised when I opened up the Delta Sky magazine which was attacking the Gulf carriers (Emirates, Qatar, and Ethiad). The note from Delta read as follows:

The nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are attempting to take over international aviation by funneling billions of dollars in subsidies into their state-owned airlines. U.S. airlines have already ceased flying to certain international destinations because they can’t compete with the unreasonably low prices of the gulf airlines. And for every route lost, 1,500 Americans lose their jobs. Left unaddressed, the U.S. aviation industry is at risk.

Open & Fair Skies agreements exist to prevent this, but they are not being enforced. Join the fight to protect fair trade and American jobs.

I think Delta is being a whiny drama queen here. Delta itself has accepted billions of dollars in government subsidies, which it was not complaining about when it was on the winning side.

Delta is also avoiding the elephant in the room here which is, compared to the Gulf carriers, its qualify of service sucks. In the latest ranking of worldwide airlines, Delta ranked #32, whereas Emirates was #4, Qatar was #1, and Ethiad was #7.

Sure, you may argue that Delta could have better service without these subsidies, but let’s look how Delta ranks significantly below dozens of other international airlines that don’t receive these kind of cash infusions, including EVA Air (#6), Thai Airlines (#11), Turkish Airlines (#11), Virgin Australia (#13), and even Norwegian (#28).

Rather than lodging a campaign against 3 airlines, Delta should work hard to take the market share from airlines without cash infusions that currently offer a much better in-flight experience.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Los Angeles Trip Deal: $196 direct, round-trip from LAX to Mexico City, Mexico on United, Delta

Delta and United Airlines are putting direct flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City, Mexico on sale! Flights start at $196 round-trip, after taxes with very good availability from January through May 2018.

Volaris also has some availability for those dates, with flights as low as $191 round-trip, after taxes.

To find this deal, use Google Flights and search for flights between LAX and MEX.

Delta Air Lines ending service to Guam

Citing low demand, Delta Air Lines has announced that it is ending service to Guam, effective January 8, 2018.

Interestingly, despite ending direct flights between Japan and Guam, Delta will maintain service to Saipan and Palau.

This move makes sense for Delta. United (previously Continental Micronesia) has long been the preferred airline on Guam, being the only major American airline with a hub on the island. During my time on Guam, United regularly offered special packaged deals and had some amazing routes, including direct flights to Fiji and Cairns, Australia (both those routes have since, unfortunately, ceased operating).

So, the competition was pretty stiff for Delta against a strong United hub. Nevertheless, United’s service to Guam has been criticized by island residents, and without competition from Delta, my guess is that Guam residents can expect to receive the same level of treatment from United.

Toronto Trip Deal: $249 round-trip from YYZ to Phoenix, Arizona on WestJet

WestJet, a Canadian airline that has code-share agreements with both Delta and American, is putting flights from Toronto, Canada to Phoenix, Arizona on sale. Flights start at $249 round-trip, after taxes, with dates found from April through June 2017.

To find this deal, use Google Flights and search for flights between YYZ and PHX.

The curious case of the missing Alaska Airlines miles

Despite having status on United and American, I made the decision to fly Delta from SFO to LAX at the end of January.

With Alaska’s merger with Virgin America, I am considering going for status on the airline this year. My thought is to use Alaska/Virgin for domestic travel and United/Star Alliance for international travel (the latter is largely due to preferred routes rather than strong, favorable feelings towards United). Delta and Alaska are currently partners, though their partnership is ending in May 2017, so I wanted to take advantage of flying Delta and crediting the miles to Alaska while I could.

That said, based on my current experience with Alaska, I am questioning this decision.

Despite flying on January 27th and January 29th, my miles from my Delta flight have still not been credited to my Alaska account. This is after 2 calls to Alaska, 1 to Delta, and 2 e-mails sent to Alaska over the last week alerting them of the issue.

On both of my boarding passes for Delta, it had my Alaska Mileage Plan number and when I booked the flight through Delta, and before I flew on both flights, I called Delta to ensure the miles would be credited to Alaska, just to avoid this happening.

This may be an issue with Delta as much as it is with Alaska, but since the flights were almost 2 weeks ago, I’m disappointed that Alaska hasn’t done more about this.

Instead of going for status on Alaska, this experience is making me consider going for Gold status on United this year.

If you have any tips for getting great customer service from Alaska Airlines, let me know!

Flying Delta on the day of its computer glitch and airport protests

I planned a trip to LA this weekend for a meeting and to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Jimmy!) and thought it would be a quick trip to and from SFO.

I decided to book through Delta, despite having status on American and United, because I found a round-trip, Delta Comfort+ ticket for $136.40, whereas United and American were pricing economy in the $180 range.  Also, I wanted to take advantage of Delta’s partnership with Alaska, which is soon ending, and credit the miles to my Alaska account, as I go for status with Alaska this year.

I really regret choosing to fly with Delta for this flight, though. The headache began when I landed in LA, and saw that Delta credited the miles I earned to my Delta account, not to Alaska (even though my ticket had my Alaska frequent flier number on it, and I called in advance to confirm the miles would be credited to Alaska).  They told me this was non-reversible, then said it was, and then put me on a conference call with Alaska to fix their mistake. When they told me there was 25-minute wait to speak to a representative, they said the could fix it without me staying on the line, but, so far, I’m still waiting for this to go through.

Having seen what was going on in the news, I was happy my flight was at 11am from LAX to SFO, knowing that the later my flight was, the higher the odds that I’d be grounded due to a protest.  The flight departed at around 11:35am, though it managed to land around 12:30pm (the expected arrival time).

Although reports are that Delta’s computer system crashed later in the day, there were absolutely issues on my flight. After landing, we were stuck on the tarmac for over an hour, due to a “technical glitch” (there was nothing more announced on my flight).  Since the flight from LA was only around 50 minutes, the extra hour on the plane almost doubled the flight time.

I decided to take public transportation from the airport back home, and on my way to the airport’s BART station, I had to pass the International Terminal, which was full of anti-Trump protesters.  Even on the BART ride home, many people had signs reading “No Ban, No Wall.”

The Delta computer glitch was a hassle but, overall, it was an interesting day to fly.