INSIDER TIP: Airlines want to keep their customers happy, and sometimes this means handing out monetary credits. Don’t be afraid to ask, you’ve got nothing to lose!

There I was - a place that you’ve probably been several times before. Running through the airport in Atlanta and envying the leisurely paced walkers all around me, while reading the updated information about my flight delay and hoping I wouldn’t miss my connection. At this point, I’d started internally bargaining with myself. Yes, my original flight was delayed by two hours and then another 90 minutes, but if I could just make this next flight and be home by my regular bedtime everything would be ok. The problem is, this didn’t work. I’d missed my connection by less than five minutes. The plane was still at the gate, but since the doors were closed, I was stuck. I “should settle in for a while,” the Delta attendants told me. The next flight was already delayed as well.

How did I get here, sitting on the floor of the Atlanta airport contemplating dinner at Shake Shack? Every year, my best gal and I pick a spot that we’ve never been to before and plan a four-day vacation. She lives in LA and I live in Colorado, so although we don’t get to see each other often, it’s really nice to have a trip to look forward to. Over the past few years, we’ve visited Seattle, Portland, Tulum, and Oaxaca. We always plan out a pretty intense itinerary, collect suggestions from friends who have traveled to these spots before us and share a Google doc with all of the highlights. This might seem a bit dramatic for an extended weekend trip, but truly, 50% of the fun is in the planning.

This year we decided to check out Nashville. I was excited to see I could fly there with the miles I’d accumulated using my Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. It was actually really easy to earn points quickly, and I’ve taken quite a few complimentary trips in the last few years because of this. We’d heard a lot of different people say that they loved Nashville for the live music and fun atmosphere and we were excited to check it out.

This stretch of Broadway is known as the “Honky Tonk” and was a fun spot to check out live music. This trip was extra sweet because I spent just $13 in taxes and fees to fly here by cashing in Rewards Miles on Delta Airlines.
This stretch of Broadway is known as the “Honky Tonk” and was a fun spot to check out live music. This trip was extra sweet because I spent just $13 in taxes and fees to fly here by cashing in Rewards Miles on Delta Airlines.

On Thursday at 2 p.m., a few hours before I needed to head to the airport, my friend sent a text saying “don’t wait up.” Her Delta flight was delayed 5 hours because they could not track down a pilot, which meant she wouldn’t arrive in Nashville until 4am on Friday. It seemed like a bad dream, but we reorganized our plans a little bit so that she could sleep in on Friday and then moved on. Our spreadsheet really came in handy as we decided where to go and what to see. It’s always fun traveling with a friend who likes to go the same speed as you and is willing to walk everywhere to take in the sights.

Dining at 5th & Taylor in Nashville, a gorgeous spot with incredible food and cocktails.
Dining at 5th & Taylor in Nashville, a gorgeous spot with incredible food and cocktails.

Can I make a quick joke that there’s only one letter difference in delay and Delta? Too much? Maybe. My friends and I have talked about this at length: There is nothing that brings out the worst in humanity more than a substantial flight delay. At the end of the trip, I experienced a three-hour delay in Nashville that resulted in missing my connection from Atlanta to Denver by a mere five minutes. Luckily, Delta had already booked me on the next (and final) flight to Denver that evening. I had another three-hour wait before that flight would take off. That turned into a four and then five-hour delay…and after the plane finally arrived, one more 45-minute delay while the Delta gate agent tried to track down a cleaning crew to tidy up the plane. No one was impressed. At all. By the time we landed in Denver at two in the morning, I realized that I could have actually flown from Atlanta to Istanbul in the amount of time I’d spent at the airport. So maybe I should be compensated for that time I spent waiting?

After spending 12 hours running through airports, checking monitors, and eventually waiting at my gate, the last thing I wanted to do was think of talking to someone about my flight delay. Still, the next day, I decided to give it a shot. I called the Delta customer service line, prepared to wait for 45 minutes to talk to a live agent. I knew that I’d hang up if there was a wait. But instead, there was the option to get a call back from a Delta agent. This meant no waiting on the phone, and no listening to horrible hold music while stewing about the lack of sleep I got the night before.

An hour after I placed the call and left my callback number I saw an incoming call from an unlisted number and picked up. I explained my story very clearly including the flight I was on, the delays I experienced, and what I was hoping to receive in response to the inconvenience of a delay. It never hurts to ask, right?

I knew that in order to obtain a credit from Delta, I’d need to be organized. Here is what I did:

  • Outlined the details of my story including the flights I was scheduled on, the delays that had occurred and the reason I was given for those delays.
  • Was very polite.
  • Asked for a specific amount of money. I started by asking for $200 which I knew wouldn’t be a big deal for Delta.
  • If the customer service agent says they can’t honor that amount, ask them to go to their supervisor with the request. I expected them to counter-offer and they did. We settled on $150.

With this credit and a small number of miles, I’ve can travel from Denver to Mexico City for free for my birthday next year. So at the moment, Delta is forgiven. (Let’s just hope there aren’t any major delays.)

P.S. My friend and I are always looking for suggestions on new destinations - where should we travel next?

This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

All photos by the author unless noted otherwise.