My Mind Numbing Experience Trying to Book KLM Economy Comfort with Delta

by on August 23, 2013 · 33 comments

in Delta, KLM, Video Blog Post

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Yesterday, I wrote a glowing post about my experience securing free Economy Comfort seats on KLM for an entire upcoming itinerary from New York to Cape Town via Amsterdam when booking through Delta thanks to my Platinum Medallion status. Little did I know the issues I was in for…as you’ll find out in this video I made explaining it (I apologize for the quality – I am out in the country and only have my iPhone to film on today), then read on for the details of what happened to me and what you can do if this situation comes up for your own travel plans.

My trip had come up at the last minute, but I was excited to book an economy ticket for about $1,500 roundtrip – especially since I knew I could get more spacious Economy Comfort seats with my status. I know I always talk about business and first class because I’m so tall and I have trouble fitting in coach seats, but I’ve flown KLM’s Economy Comfort before and find it very…well, comfortable, thanks to more legroom and recline…so my JFK-AMS-CPT itinerary seemed like a good choice to me.

KLM's Economy Comfort is a decent option for me, even for long-hauls.

KLM’s Economy Comfort is a decent option for me, even for long-hauls.

Before booking, I had called up Delta to make sure Economy Comfort seats were available for all four flights and the friendly agent I got told me that they were open on all of my flights and that she could ticket me in them, so I went ahead and  booked, figuring I was all set (and saving me over $600 all told).

However, a lot of readers commented on the post and Tweeted me that I might want to double check my seat assignments on KLM since they had always had issues booking KLM tickets through Delta. So I went back into my reservation on KLM and lo and behold, I had lost my Economy Comfort seat assignments! Little did I know that this was just the start of my troubles.

It turns out I’d been given middle seat assignments in coach on 3 of my 4 flights, which is my worst travel nightmare – especially when there are 9- and 11-hour flights involved. I absolutely would not have purchased my tickets if I had known that this was going to be the case.

This is pretty much my worst travel nightmare. Photo from Thinkstock.

This is pretty much my worst travel nightmare. Photo from Thinkstock.

So I called Delta to find out what had happened, whether they could help me fix the situation, and what I could do. I was told by a phone rep that they could not do anything over the phone for me, so instead I tweeted @DeltaAssist, which is normally great and very quick to respond to customer service needs.

They were indeed quick, but the news was not good. Economy Comfort was not available for one of my flights, and for the other three, the only Economy Comfort seats available were all middle seats. That was not what I signed up for, so I asked @DeltaAssist if they could do anything further, and they responded that they had forwarded the request on to KLM but that there was nothing else they could do from that point. So this partnership is clearly not as tight as I thought and SkyTeam marketing would have us all believe.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.15.19 AM

I asked what my other options were and since my dates were flexible and there were Economy Comfort seats on flights on other days, Delta said it would waive the change fees for my flights, though I would have to pay any fare difference (luckily there didn’t seem to be any), and they went ahead and did that for me.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.15.52 AM

However, they still could not issue confirmed Economy Comfort seat assignments, saying that KLM had blocked the seats. They basically sent me on my way to fend for myself, so I contacted KLM immediately via direct message on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.16.17 AM Here’s where I felt like I started going down the rabbit hole. After I tweeted KLM and got them to follow me on Twitter so we could direct message each other (which took several hours), I sent them my request including specific seat assignments that I could see were open on my flight in Economy Comfort on aisles.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.07.56 AM

When they messaged me back, they had assign some window and some aisle seats in the main economy cabin. What!

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.08.09 AM

At this point I was flabbergasted, but I kept my cool and messaged them again politely asking them to re-read my request.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 11.08.56 AM

I waited with bated breath to see if everything would work out, and thankfully, after a while of radio silence, someone got back to me with the seat assignments I had asked for.

Phew! So now I’m pretty sure I’m set for my trip…but you can bet I’ll be checking on my seat assignment every few days to be sure there are no changes to it!

I want to thank the readers who reached out to me with words of caution, and I also wanted to share my experience in detail for any of you who were thinking of booking similar flights on KLM through Delta and were counting on Economy Comfort seat assignments since this is definitely a big rigmarole and you don’t want to end up in the back of the plane.

So stay tuned for my trip report, and thanks for sitting through my rant!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Wanderingentrepreneur

    Unfortunately I have been through similar challenges with DL-KLM, but you appear to have A LOT more patience than I do when dealing with their communication issues. I’m still not sure how “joint” of a joint-venture it is since DL doesn’t seem to have full access to KLM’s seating. KLM also has a strange IT issue that it shows award seats as available when they are not. Delta said they have been dealing with this KLM issue for 3+ years with no effort on the part of KLM to fix is.

    In all, I’m glad they finally took care of your seat requests.

  • Cory

    Clearly the “joint” in joint venture comes from an Amsterdam coffee shop

  • voteforpedro

    I travel to Africa regularly on KLM flights and have had similar issues. I am a Delta platinum flier, but I regularly have issues with Economy Plus seat assignments when dealing with Delta staff. The integration isn’t as tight as it needs to be!!!

  • Mike

    Skyteam is the most worthless alliance, ever. And Skypesos is the most worthless frequent flyer program. Do we need further proof?

  • decibel08

    Why not -call- KLM to confirm the seats after booking? Or call rather than tweet KLM once the snafu was apparent?

  • Matt

    I was flying DL from ATL-MBJ last week. This was on a paid ticket. Made a reservation for 19F which was a window bulkhead seat.

    Checked in on-line one day (!) ahead of travel. Boarding pass printed w/ seat 19F. Waiting at the airport in ATL for a friend to arrive from LGA. Nothing better to do, let me check my status again on one of the self-serve kiosks. Lo’ and behold, seat plant does not show a 19F seat even exists any longer–maybe because of equipment change–and I have been re-assigned to 22B. The dreaded middle seat…

    Ten minutes later and another reassignment, this time to 29B, even further back but still in the middle.

    I decide to talk to a CSR in the SkyLounge. She is able to get me into an exit aisle seat. Thank God for that!!!

    Upon boarding the aircraft, surprise, surprise…there indeed is a 19F which according to the seat map had vanished. My original seat now sits vacant for the flight.

    Delta is a crappy airlines. And I say this as somebody living in Atlanta. I actively avoid them at all costs!

  • Steve

    Actually flying in a middle seat to South Africa via Europe would be a nightmare. What you went through was a hiccup.

  • Steve

    I fly to Nairobi via AMS every year and have struggled with this ever since the economy comfort started. On my return trip last month KLM actually sold me three EC seats at online checkin (I’m GM so not free) but when checking in at NBO I was informed no seats were available even though the transaction appeared on my credit card.

    It seems the best approach is when you buy the ticket make sure your ticket is issued with the KLM flight # rather than the delta code share. I used this tactic for my next trip and not only did I get EC on KLM but I got it for free
    as a GM, and it shows up as confirmed on the KLM website. There’s a thread all about this on flyertalk.

  • Jetstream007

    I fly Delta and KLM a lot (as a Plat Medallion). When you book (or directly after) , call Delta. Ask the agent (from the International (manual (re)issue desk, the pros) to mail your seat request to KLM directly. They know why you’re asking…Usually KLM will confirm the seat in 1-2 minutes or so, done! Since I do this zero troubles (over a dozen of flights or so), but of course took some time to figure this out…

  • Friend of Shena

    Things were a LOT better between NW & KLM. It’s sad that the people in Atlanta have put this issue on the back burner to fix.

  • MarkWorth

    While this sounds a tad frustrating, I don´t see anything that really would earn the title mind-numbing. This all happened well in advance of a flight so couldn´t this have been expressed in a much much much shorter article that simply pointed out the facts without the need to narrate quite as much?

  • Django

    The porn guy, I also book flight on KLM. But I don’t have Twitters, how can I contact not calling France call center?

  • cthej

    And why shouldn’t you expect Delta to do what they say they will do? … because Delta …

  • Hoisin

    I agrees. This pornguy has run out of material long time ago and I find not useful !!

  • Xiao Fang

    Hey。 I hope my experience could help you. I have done my LA-Norobi trip last winter through KLM and Delta. My E+ seat is still not work. I have printed the the seats what I have already get on for crews in-flight, and then they have help me get the E+ seats……………………………………..the KLM crews in-flight are nice.

  • iahphx

    As Skyteam Elite Plus members booking award seats on AF and KLM through our Skymiles accounts, my wife and I had similar troubles figuring out what coach seats we were entitled to, and getting those seats confirmed. Since we “weren’t paying,” I made only a handful of calls, including to the AF call center in Paris — after a few DL agents candidly told me that did know where our seats were. We wound up in Economy Comfort on KLM and regular economy on AF. I think that’s what we were entitled to but, honestly, nobody could tell me and I really don’t know!

  • Allan Klein

    You should always verify seat assignment with the airline you’re flying on. Don’t ever trust the seat shown on Ask DeltaAssist for the PNR on the operating carrier and verify your seat on their own website.

  • dcjimmy

    It is a nightmare EVERY time. When I read your “rave” review yesterday I was dumb-founded, because not ONCE in the last 2 years, has it worked for me. DL and KL (and AF for that matter) have done the best possible job of creating systems that don’t seem to talk with each other; and they LOVE to point fingers (we can’t help, it’s DL’s control; we can’t help, it’s KL’s plane, etc etc). Why they bother to claim a Sky Team “alliance” I will really never understand…….. And by the way, good luck getting a decent view of the IFE monitor in KL’s EC seats….. they never redesigned the angle for the steep recline. If the person in front of you fully reclines (which I certainly do), you cannot barely even see the monitor because of the lousy angle (pointed toward the floor).

  • Steve Goett

    I’ve had pretty good luck getting my seat of choice on KLM and Air France BUT it requires work; Alitalia is a different story, I avoid them for the over-the-Atlantic segments. However, whether I am trying to get their premium economy, economy comfort, etc, etc it requires a lot of phone calls. When I’m trying to use the more-than-impossible system-wide certs it’s even more of a challenge. But I’ve been successful more often than not. Call delta to find several routes, find the partner airline, call them to confirm upgrade/economy comfort availability, call Delta back to book, re-call the partner to get my seats. Get EVERYTHING in email. Wait 23 hours to re-confirm, usually have to cancel and try again. It’s a process. But I’m 6-3 with wide shoulders so sitting regular economy is just uncomfortable for me and anyone sitting next to me.

  • raycifer10

    Actually, it is quite mind blowing how idiotic these reps can be. Poor training causes quite a bit of frustration, which sooner or later becomes quite mind numbing. These reps sounded pretty retarded to me as they couldnt be detailed oriented enough to understand what they’re customers were trying to explain to them.

  • raycifer10

    You should’ve unsubscribed a long time ago buddy.

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  • Beckmann

    I had the same EXACT issue on the same EXACT route and Im a diamond. This is a legitimate issue.

  • jb-yyz

    I recently booked a KL flight from yyz to ams through the Delta medallion reservation line, the DL agent booked an EC seat and verified with KLM while I was on the phone that the booking went through properly and my seat does show EC on both Delta and KLM sites. The agent mentioned they were having issues getting EC seats on KLM and made every effort while she had me on the phone to confirm that I actually received an EC seat. I am only a DL gold but I’ve had very good luck with free upgrades on my return flights to yyz from both KLM and Air France on 2 flights this summer.

  • lola marren

    because when you call KLM from North America you get a Delta rep who can’t help you.

  • flying lola

    Every time I book a KLM flight I have similar problems, which all come down to the lack of communication between KLM and Delta, and the poor customer service Delta provides, because it clearly doesn’t care about people who are flying on KLM. It could all be solved if KLM would answer their own phones in North America, but they don’t. And I don’t book a KLM flight through the Delta site because it’s more expensive than booking on the KLM site. So you end up booking with KLM, but having to book your Economy Comfort seat with Delta (what a stupid system that is!) and then hope like hell that they get it right. 9 out of 10 times they don’t. I can’t count the number of times the seat I paid for never showed up. Tonight I just checked again on an upcoming flight, as my seat status has changed six times since I booked it two weeks ago, despite repeated phone calls, tweets and facebook requests. And I found it had changed again – they switched aircraft and now instead of the nice 747-400 with separate cabin, I’m in a middle seat at the front of Economy on an Airbus 330-200, which is not good enough to be called EC, but they do anyway. Bottom line – this is the last time I will book with KLM or Delta. The stress isn’t worth it, and I’m tired of paying for a product that I don’t receive. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going back to Air Canada.

  • decibel08

    This has not been my experience.

  • TomBurner

    I apologize for the honesty, but bro, you sounds like a lady in this. Your whiny tone and attitude paint you as a big, giant woman. lol.

  • Runway08

    Thank you! This worked like a charm!

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