While airlines continue to cut back service in economy, Delta seems to be bucking the trend with an impressive investment in the customer experience. Within the past several days, Delta has announced material improvements to international economy as well as more options to reach Delta customer service while on the go.
And unlike some press releases, these don’t seem to be fluff pieces either, and on the surface appear to make a significant difference in the Delta experience both in-the-air and on-the-ground.
Breaking It Down:
International Economy Changes
Delta has been conducting tests for its new economy service (soft product) and amenities (hard product) for more than a year on the Portland to Tokyo route. Apparently, it has been the most rigorous in-flight test in Delta’s history with over 14,000 hours of flying time to obtain feedback and refine the overall experience.
I am really impressed by the updates that Delta has announced with its international economy service. Here is what the changes look like in order, from before boarding and through the flight itself.
Notable Elements Of Delta’s New International Economy
Welcome At The Gate
First, I love that the purser or lead flight attendant will make a welcome announcement at the gate area, even prior to passengers walking through the jet bridge. This is not specific to economy per se but really sets a tone of hospitality from the get-go.
I always felt that if a gate area was a complete madhouse prior to boarding, that it also spilled over into my experience once I stepped onboard. Stressed gate agents barking at customers never helps the situation. Therefore, having a purser welcome everyone onboard even prior to boarding the actual aircraft could set the mood from the get go.
Welcome Aboard Cocktails
Welcome aboard drinks for economy? Yep, and it’s definitely a nice touch. Shortly after takeoff, service will begin with a welcome aboard bellini cocktail with sparkling wine and peach infused puree. Yum.
Hot Towels, Twice
After the welcome cocktails, flight attendants will come through with the first of two hot towel services. While these sure aren’t plush multi-thread count luxury towels, it’s still a nice touch to have something refreshing to wipe your hands with prior to the first meal. The second hot towel service will be right before landing.
Dinner service gets an upgrade with metal cutlery and a placemat that unfurls out onto your tray table. There’s the option to mix and match appetizers and entrees and the dessert service is a separate course entirely. Menus will be distributed at the beginning of the flight with options.
“Turn Down” Service
Flight attendants will come through the cabin with blankets and pillows after the main meal service. Nothing luxe like the Westin Heavenly bedding in Delta One, but still another way for Delta flight attendants to interact with passengers.
Economy passengers get a small chocolate right before landing as a little treat for flying Delta. Sweet.
Which Flights Will Get The New Delta Economy Service? And When?
Delta says only international flights that are 6 ½ hours or longer will get this new service in economy. The changes will launch in November 2019. As part of the upgrade, 3,000 Delta pursers will get special training on the new service concept.
Thoughts On The New Economy Service
Overall, this seems like a huge step forward for the Delta customer experience in long-haul economy. This is also coupled with the fact that Delta has a relatively spacious configuration in economy (3-3-3 on the Boeing 777, 2-3-2 on the Boeing 767, 2-4-2 on the Airbus A330, or 3-3-3 on the Airbus A350). I would say that Delta now can at least be in the same conversation with other airlines (primarily Asian ones) that are well-known for their onboard experience.
However, at the end of the day, all of these service changes increases the number of interactions that cabin crew have with passengers — which can be great if you have a stellar crew, but not ideal if the crew is subpar. At least Delta is way more consistent in having better flight attendants than United or American in that regard.
Better Customer Service Options On-The-Ground
Delta also recently announced new ways to connect with customer service besides the traditional means of calling and direct messaging on Twitter. While DMing an airline for customer service has become commonplace, some people would just rather not use social media. Fair enough.
The new methods to contact Delta that are being tested are live chat functions on Delta’s website, app, and even Apple iMessage. If you are using an iOS device, the native chat functionality will be through iMessage, similar to texting friends and family currently — except, you know, you’ll be texting Delta directly for help.
All of the changes that Delta is making actually seem like improvements to the overall Delta customer experience, both on-the-ground with added help options as well in-the-air with an improved experience in economy.
Add in the fact that Delta is piloting free Wi-Fi (and is considering implementing it at scale) and Delta has seat back in-flight entertainment screens on almost all of its planes, and you have pretty much a winning proposition for an onboard customer experience. Come on American and United, time to step it up.
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