Delta Air Lines Sky Club B Concourse opening
Edward Bastian. Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Public Apology Issued by Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines: “We Know You Expect More”

An e-mail message from Delta Air Lines was sent out to customers yesterday, Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in which Edward Bastian — who is the chief executive officer of the airline — publicly apologizes for the long times in which customers waited for service both via telephone and at airports as a result of failing to adequately staff both the reservation center and customer service center of the airline as demand for travel unexpectedly returned with a vengeance.

Public Apology Issued by Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines: “We Know You Expect More”

Delta Air Lines Sky Club Ribbon Cutting
Glen Hauenstein, who is the current president of Delta Air Lines; Kasim Reed, who is the former mayor of Atlanta; and Edward Bastian cut the ribbon to the new Delta Sky Club at Concourse B at the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The following text is the verbatim message in its entirety:

Dear Brian,

After a year of lockdowns, it’s been heartening to see so many of you returning to the skies this summer and reclaiming your lives. While we are pleased to welcome you back, the unexpected pace of the return of our customers has resulted in some unforeseen challenges as we ramp up to meet demand and handle a record-breaking level of calls. As you take a much-deserved vacation or travel to reunite with loved ones, friends and business colleagues, the last thing you want is to experience long hold times when you call reservations or receive a notification that your flight schedule has changed.

We know you expect more from Delta and assure you that these challenges are temporary. The Delta team is here to serve you and is taking significant actions to alleviate these pain points, including:

Accelerating staffing and resources to reduce wait times on the phone and at the airport. With the influx of travelers coming back after more than a year at home, our agents on the phone and at the airport have experienced an unprecedented level of questions about travel policies and schedule changes. That has resulted in significant wait times, which is why we’re rapidly adding staff and leveraging new technology to serve you in a timely manner.

The Reservations and Care team is welcoming back hundreds of Delta alumni to alleviate wait times while hiring 1,300 specialists who will be trained and ready to serve customers by September. We’re also adding a new phone platform that automatically equips our agents with even more details about your travel, so they can address your questions efficiently and get you on your way. In total, we’re hiring more than 5,000 people across the business, including more than 3,000 in Airport Customer Service and other operational areas, to supplement key service areas like catering, wheelchair staffing and our continued commitment to cleanliness.

Expanding digital tools to save you time and give you more control over your trip. and the Fly Delta app are your go-to resources to change or cancel a flight, find baggage information and manage your SkyMiles® account. To gain confidence in the process, you can follow this step-by-step guide to cancel or make changes to a trip before your flight departs. Both expiring and newly purchased tickets in 2021 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2022. And when you’re ready to use an eCredit, it can be redeemed at or on the Fly Delta app.

Starting tomorrow, customers booked in Basic Economy can make changes to their flights for travel occurring through Dec. 31, 2021, to help address call wait times as we increase staffing. As with all Delta flights originating from North America, there are no changes fees.

You can also stay updated on entry requirements with our Travel Planning Center or view country-by-country details to plan a trip with our Delta Discover Map.

Getting you to your destination as you originally booked it. As our teams work to accommodate the rapid return of travelers, flight changes are occurring that we know can be frustrating – you deserve to get to your destination at the time that best suits your travel plans. Our network planning teams are focused on minimizing changes in our schedule as we gain additional insights into travel demand amid the recovery.

Your loyalty to Delta has never been more important, and we’re committed to earning it as we move into the recovery and beyond. That’s why as of today, if you have Medallion® Status, you can continue to enjoy it through Jan. 31, 2023, along with any Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates you may have. For those currently traveling to achieve or maintain Status, you will be further recognized for your loyalty with enhanced benefits and continue earning at an accelerated rate.We’re also extending the ability for Award Travel to count toward Status through Dec. 31, 2022.

Our core values include always learning from our experiences and using those insights to constantly improve how we serve you. We are committed to restoring and exceeding the reliability and service you’ve come to expect from us. Thank you for your patience as we continue to do everything we can to improve and enhance your experience.

On behalf of all 75,000 members of the Delta family, thank you for trusting us with your travel. We’re focused on delivering the experience you deserve. Stay tuned for more updates.


Ed Bastian


The main campus of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines in Atlanta.
The main campus of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

Like other companies in various sectors of the travel industry, the number of employees in the call center of Delta Air Lines was reduced by as much as 50 percent in order to save money due to the drastically reduced demand for travel as a result of the impact of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. As many as 1,300 new customer service agents and employees are currently being recruited and trained; and hundreds of retired employees are being brought back to work at the airline as contractors in an attempt to meet the sudden demand — and new technology is being considered to help employees serve customers more efficiently by providing additional details about the customer.

Bastian has taken a page of sorts out of the book of Jim Whitehurst, who admitted that “we screwed up” during the Velvet Rope Tour in Atlanta on the evening of Thursday, May 18, 2006 when he was the chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines — except that Whitehurst gave the apology in person to an audience of customers, frequent fliers, employees, and other stakeholders.

Jim Whitehurst — who vacated his role as president of IBM earlier this month and is currently a senior advisor to the chief executive officer — is still highly respected by many frequent fliers of Delta Air Lines.

Regardless, Bastian seems to be trying to improve customer service at Delta Air Lines at least back to what it was prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — as well as attempting to retain its customers through a number of initiatives.

All photographs ©2009 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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