Delta Becomes Airline Industry’s Leading Edge for Good and Bad
By Burt Carey
Last week’s airline news flash was a huge splash by Delta Air Lines that its in-flight entertainment system would become free to domestic and international passengers beginning July 1.
That put the Atlanta-based airline back on point, leading the industry down a supposed path toward improved customer service.
Earlier this year Delta was again at the forefront of domestic U.S. airlines, announcing that its “basic economy” fares would be available at superb rates but with all of the airlines’ usual options and amenities stripped away.
So forgive me for seeing Delta through the prisms of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Back in February of this year the evil doctor, in true PR terminology, added another option for budget-conscious travelers by announcing basic economy fares. In the real world, it means that travelers who choose this sub-economy level of travel cannot reserve a seat when booking a flight, can’t arrange to sit next to or even near traveling companions or family members, cannot upgrade to better seating, and cannot change or cancel their ticket after the first 24 hours of buying it.
United and American are expected to follow Dr. Jekyll’s – er, Delta’s lead. They are doing whatever it takes to compete with the likes of Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, Virgin America and other no-frills airlines whose passengers love the low fares but hate the no-service customer service they receive.
And so it was with great elaboration last week that Mr. Hyde would enjoin the traveling masses with the news that Delta Studio will be completely free to all passengers – yes, including those lowly basic economy buyers – on aircraft with at least two fare classes. (Delta’s smaller 50-seat jets are not equipped with in-flight entertainment systems.)
Delta studio will be available on more than 1,000 aircraft, making Delta the world’s largest in-flight entertainment-equipped fleet. Passengers will be able to stream movies, TV shows, music and other entertainment through laptops, mobile devices and tablets, and on seat-back entertainment systems in nearly 400 aircraft. That includes 300 movies, 750 TV shows, 100 foreign film titles, 2,400 songs, 18 channels of live satellite TV on select aircraft and a selection of games on aircraft with seat-back entertainment systems.
“The only thing better than operating the world’s largest in-flight entertainment-equipped fleet is providing it free to all our guests,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Our commitment is to provide Delta customers with the industry’s best on-board services – period.”
It’ll be interesting to see which airline will be next to follow Delta’s lead, and which alter ego they will follow.
Source: Baret News