Delta Air Lines is under fire in Korea after an actor and K-pop star revealed her experience of being downgraded from first class to an economy seat without a refund.
Hyeri, an actor and member of the K-pop band Girl’s Day, wrote a statement on her Instagram story on Thursday.
“Although I booked my first class plane ticket about a month ago, I’ve been told that my seat has been downgraded to an economy ticket without any refund,” the actor wrote. “The only option that they offered me was to either fly economy at the price of a first class ticket or to walk away and wait for the next flight.”
She added, “This is the most absurd experience l’ve been going through recently.”
Accompanying her previous statement was a snapshot of her flight ticket, identifying Delta Air Lines as the carrier at the center of the controversy.
Hyeri’s flight was confirmed to be a domestic route within the United States.
Responding to the incident, Delta Air Lines told the Korea JoongAng Daily in a text message on Friday that the involuntary downgrade was due to “an unplanned substitution to a smaller aircraft to operate this flight.”
“As is customary in these rare occasions, our agents give the customers the option to wait for a later flight with first class seating available, or to take economy seating with a refund of the difference in fare to be processed soon after travel,” the carrier said. It added that it is contacting the customers for refund procedures.
Delta added that the selection of customers who were relocated to economy seating was conducted “randomly.” Yet it did not provide clear answers regarding how many customers were downgraded or the standard of how they were chosen.
Airlines in the United States have faced criticism due to instances of overbooking or abrupt substitutions with smaller planes during peak travel periods.
In April 2020, a Korean American woman residing in New York filed a lawsuit against Delta after allegedly being removed from the first-class cabin due to overbooking, a local media outlet reported. The lawsuit claimed that the passenger was coerced into relocating to the economy class section to accommodate a white woman, stirring controversy over seat overbooking and allegations of racism.
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