Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Some passengers just don’t matter.
That’s the impression one can easily get when flying certain airlines.
They’ll pander to those in the front of the plane.
As for those in the back, they’ll throw them a little drinks service, half-heartedly try to sell them some food–and maybe a credit card–and then leave them to their own devices.
Literally, to their own phones and iPads.
That’s why an extraordinary announcement from Delta Air Lines this week might make some of the world-weary’s knees very weak.
You see, the airline declared it’s “reinventing” the long-haul experience.
In Economy Class.
Isn’t that like reinventing the line at the DMV?
What possible reinvention can take place in a part of the plane in which people are squeezed and asked to breathe only occasionally?
Sadly, Delta sank to marketing-speak to explain.
It said it wants to create “wow” moments.
Worse, it even insisted these wow moments would be “magical.”
Is the airline tearing out all the middle seats? Is it going to let all bags fly for free?
Instead, Economy Class passengers will be greeted at the gate by the purser of their flight.
That’s supposed to set the tone.
If you try and wade through the marketing treacle of “‘wow’ moments that feel like dining in your favorite splurge restaurant,” what Delta’s actually doing is quite clever.
Shortly after departure, you’ll be served a Bellini.
That’s a relatively fancy champagne-based drink.
Yes, in Economy Class. Yes, for free.
You’ll get a hot towel, too. Possibly to wipe your brow after this extraordinary surprise.
Then there’s dinner.
You’ll get, gasp, a placemat. Upon which will appear your choice of an “upgraded” meal, including an “enlarged” entree.
Few Americans can resist the concept of enlarged.
This enlarged entree might even bear some resemblance to the fine fare the wastrels up front are enjoying.
You’ll even be served a dessert separately.
Finally, as the plane is preparing to land, Flight Attendants will come round with chocolates.
This sounds startlingly civilized and it will be available on all flights lasting more than 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Why might Delta, in an era where airlines entertain themselves by competing in the Nickel-And-Diming Olympics, suddenly come over all generous?
This isn’t merely about differentiating its brand. Although when you’ve built a reputation for uncommon customer service, this clearly fits right in.
What Delta is acknowledging — and not enough airlines do — is that there are actually more Economy Class passengers than any other kind.
Treat them well and that’s more mouths that can offer more positive words to others.
Moreover, an Economy Class passenger on a long trip might also, on another occasion, be a Premium Economy or First Class passenger. Perhaps when flying alone on business, rather than with family on vacation.
If you can extend your customer service decency to all parts of the plane, you’re not only building the brand for the present, you’re also creating a powerful halo for the future.
There’s another aspect to all this. Delta is prepared.
Delta says 3,000 pursers have already gone through additional training.
Moreover, it says that these touches were designed by a team of 24 Flight Attendants.
This reeks of both sanity and ingenuity.
It all starts in November and I can only imagine how it will strike those currently unaware of this new attitude.
Last week, I flew Delta domestically — one way in Economy Class, one in Comfort+ — and found the whole experience eerily acceptable.
The mere thought that Delta might make Economy Class on a long-haul flight vaguely pleasant merely adds to an eeriness that might be heralding a (slightly) new era in flying.
The era in which customer service actually matters again.