Should Customers be Penali$ed for Bugs in Applications?

Since Dovetail Software develops and supports Enterprise CRM Application particularly within Customer Service and Support , I thought I would share an interesting happening to me recently that has a software testing twist thrown in the mix.

The other night, my wife and I were making airline reservations for our vacation next month.  My father- whom I am very close with- was gracious enough to let me use his Delta SkyMiles for tickets, so I was booking two reward tickets with them. 

I previously had tried to book this flight 1.5 weeks so I would not incur the booking fee that is associated with reservations made less than 21 days.  During that attempt, I received an application error that said to call Delta, as there was a problem with the reservation.  I was able to get a confirmation number, although it had to be done by logging into my account to retrieve it (I was in my father's account).    

The next morning (which now is less than 21 days, and mandates a $50 per ticket fee), I logged on again to see my reservation was cancelled.  I called Delta, gave the confirmation number, and told them what happened.  They said it had been deleted and they could book it over the phone for the less than 21 day service fee, as well as an additional $10 per ticket for making the reservation over the phone.  Quick math makes this sum $120.  Needless to say, I was displeased and talked to the manager.  She said could not do anything about the fee, although she DID acknowledge that their website had been down a few times the previous day.  I decided to hold off on booking it.   

The other night, I decided to book my reservation again.  While doing so, I again received an error that said the booking could not be completed (this time I DID get a confirmation number displayed on the website) and to call Delta with my confirmation code.  Sound familiar?  I was told it was a problem with my credit card (my father’s actually) and Delta could book the ticket for the same fees as were stated previously.  He transferred me over to a manager but I was disconnected, (I think he was new because he put me on hold 5 times).  

So, instead of calling back and being on hold for another 20 minutes, I logged into my account, and cancelled the 24 hour Hold that existed for my reservation, so I could free up the seats that I had selected.  I then rebooked my flight, but this time paid extra attention to my father's credit card info.  As it turns out, there is a bug in their system.  

There are two addresses in my father's profile- work and home- with the first address being his office.  The credit card in his profile has his home address as the billing address.  So, after selecting your flights, the application takes you to a page where you enter the traveler’s name(s) and credit card information. For the credit card, you can enter a new one or select the one on your profile.  On this page, my father's card matched his home billing address.  I entered our names and chose to use his credit card on file, then proceeded to the Final Confirmation page.  It was here that I found the bug within Delta's application.  The billing address of the credit card changes to use his work address, which is not the billing address of the credit card.  I did not catch this initially, which caused me to spend numerous hours on the phone with Delta and their website trying to book my ticket.

There is a work around, that my wife found (I've infected her!).  She went back to the page where you entered your name and credit card info.  On this page, there are some options to use another card or edit an existing card, including changing the address.  By selecting edit, we re-selected the home address, which was already the selected radio button.  We continued with our booking and, to my delight, finally ended up with a successful confirmation.

So, my question is, how many people are calling and paying the additional $10/ticket booking fee that is charged because Delta's online system has a bug in it. How many people are unable to book the flight, even though they are outside the 21 day window, but due to application errors, they lose their confirmation and are forced to pay an additional $50/ticket?  Companies are pushing people to use their web apps more, and charging fees for those who don't.  If you are making us use them, then should they not at least work?  When the website does not work as intended, why do they still insist on charging fees when it's obvious that the customer has done everything possible to perform the specified action online?  I am not a novice at computers here...

Oh, and Delta, I'd still like my $100 refund back on my father's card.  I have all of the 6 alpha-numeric confirmation codes, so I can PROVE to you that I originally had booked my flight ahead of the 21 day fee, but a BUG WITHIN YOUR APPLICATION caused me to pay additional fees.  I think that's the least you can do since I found YOUR bug.