Tag Archives: Delta

I Flew Delta Air Lines One Way and United Airlines Back. There Was 1 Huge Surprise
October 20, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I tried to be fair.

I booked flights at more or less the same time, in the same class.

In the case of Delta Air Lines, it was its Delta One Class. In United’s case, it was Business Class.

How similar would they be? Would Delta confirm its reputation as the best and most comfortable of the big airlines? Would United take one look at me and decide I was an undesirable?

The route was San Francisco to New York and back again.

Delta One Means You’re All Alone.

I began with Delta and an early-morning flight.

Delta suffers in San Francisco from having to endure a dingy, desperate Terminal 1. It’s the terminal that time didn’t merely forget, but never liked at all.

At the first coffee place I stopped at, they serve only black coffee. They claimed not to even have milk.

I noticed also that the cabin crew seemed to arrive very shortly before passengers began boarding. Where had they been? Would they have time to prepare themselves?

Yet when I boarded the flight, I had a very pleasant surprise. 

My seat was by a window and there was no one seated next to me. Because there was no seat next to me.

In this Boeing 767 configuration, window seats are lone seats with a substantial area to the side for placing your laptop, books, magazines, knitting, emotional support squirrel or whatever you happen to enjoy on a plane.

This is, of course, wonderful if you’re flying alone, as I was. It’s less wonderful if you’re traveling with someone, as neither of you will be able to have a window seat. 

You’ll have to sit in the middle.

I’d pre-ordered breakfast, which was a simple, pleasant, cold affair with generous helpings of cheese and fruit.

The service, though, was efficient rather than warm. 

The entertainment system offered a large screen and the lie-flat bed was, well, who doesn’t want a lie-flat bed on a cross-country flight? This one was perfectly comfortable.

The flight, though, had one little drawback. 

There was a family of three. Dad was right behind me. Mom and highly entitled child were in the middle seats in his row.

Their form of communication involved shouting to each other across the aisle. Yes, they were from New York.

It’s easy to forget that the behavior of just one passenger can affect your flight. The only thing that saved me here was putting on my headphones and watching episode after episode of a wonderfully improbable and suitablly dramatic BBC series called The Split.

The flight was on time. Delta stuck to its promise of getting the bags out quickly. The whole thing was really quite pleasant.

United Airlines. Wait, What Just Happened?

There’d been a little hiccup the day before my flight back home.

United had emailed me to tell me my flight might be delayed by up to 30 hours. The email arrived the night before the flight.

So my biggest concern was whether the flight would be on time. 

Arriving at Newark at an ungodly hour, I was met by an extremely pleasant United Airlines check-in agent. Far more friendly, indeed, than the one I’d encountered at Delta. 

Yes, she said, the flight was on time. 

It did, indeed, board on schedule. Moreover, United’s terminal at Newark is curiously bright and airy place. I confess I rather liked being there. 

Yet United’s Business Class isn’t quite Delta One. On this Boeing 777, there were eight seats across the plane.

I was seated next to someone who, if he hadn’t been a decent human, might easily have taken over the whole armrest we shared.

He was a decently large human, you see and the armrest wasn’t too wide. 

The proximity was jarring when compared with Delta. 

The biggest surprise, though, was the service. The attitude of the Flight Attendants — one woman in particular — was a marked contrast to Delta’s slightly chilly efficiency. 

United’s Flight Attendants offered a rare warmth. It was as if they’d just come out of remedial training and had been infused with the need to project humanity. 

For first thing in the morning, their attitude came across as genuine. 

At one point, the female Flight Attendant saw that I was finished with my New York Times and said, with wit infused: “You haven’t done the crosswords, have you?”

Crosswords? Me? Lord, no. I have enough words in my regular life.

She was relieved, as she was one of those crossword people and really needed my paper. 

This was my biggest and most pleasant surprise.

From check-in to in-flight, United’s personnel exuded far greater warmth than Delta’s. It made the experience just that little bit more pleasant.

In customer service, it’s always the little things.

Tech

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Delta Is Being Accused of Sneakily Tricking People Into Booking Much Worse Seats Than They Think
September 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When I book flights, I try to be patient.

Perhaps like many people, I go to Kayak or Google Flights, and hope to find everything that’s available. 

Then, I might wait a few days to see if prices go up or down, depending on the urgency of my booking.

It’s like playing with your cat, really. Most of the time, Tibkins is quicker. Just occasionally, though, you get him. 

The accusation was that Delta Air Lines made ordinary Economy Class flights appear as if they were Premium Economy when booked via Google Flights.

Or, as the Points-Saving God puts it: “Delta displays economy prices for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, and at no point during booking does it actually specifically tell you you’ve got the wrong deal.”

In essence, if you go through the Google Flights search process, wanting to book, say, return flights from London to LAX, you get what seems like a wonderful deal.

If you book via Delta’s site rather than its partner Virgin Atlantic’s, that is.

The price difference is more than $ 1,000. Which is clearly the very definition of a steal.

Because you like saving money and feelings clever, you click on that deal and still believe you’re booking Premium Economy.

It’s just that, if you look closely, it has a novel and delightful name: Economy Delight.

This is actually Virgin’s fancy name for something that’s slightly better than so-called Economy Classic, but is still very much Economy Class and not the wider seats and more pleasant experience of Premium Economy.

Which Virgin calls, oddly, Premium Economy.

For all you know, however, Economy Delight is what Delta calls Premium Economy.

There are so many names these days.

And nowhere, said God Save The Points, is it clear that it isn’t. After all, why are you being shown this option when you searched for Premium Economy fares?

I asked Delta for its view.

An airline spokeswoman told me: 

Delta recognizes the limitations of some current shopping experience on third-party sites may not be ideal. That’s why we are leading industry collaboration to ensure customers have access to all of Delta’s products, no matter where they shop.

Ah, so it’s Google Flights’ fault?

Delta seems to think so. Its spokeswoman continued: 

It’s time for third-party displays, including Google Flights, to invest in the technology necessary to display the various products available so customers can view all their options clearly, just as Delta has done for customers on delta.com. 

An airline mocking Google’s technology? That resembles entertainment.

So I asked the Silicon Valley company for its reaction and will update, should I hear.

I remained perplexed. If Virgin Atlantic’s fares are accurately depicted, why aren’t Delta’s?

I was so moved by all this that I tried the search for myself.

I got very similar results to God Save The Points. 

Not exactly close.

I clicked through to Delta’s site and there it was, the Economy Delight designation.

Only if I scrolled down would I see that an upgrade to Premium Economy would cost an additional $ 257.75 each way.

This all feels a touch unhealthy. 

Delta says it’s the champion of the people, but airlines aren’t always so keen to play with third-party sites, where many people go to make comparisons.

Risibly, the airlines’ lobbying group claims this is all intended to increase, please wait for it, transparency.

It might even, say the comparison sites’ lobbyists, threaten the ability of fare comparison sites to operate.

Worse, the airlines seem to believe that third-party sites should deliver all the detailed information that airlines have, yet those same airlines refuse, in some cases, to give those sites that very information.

Which all should make emptors do a lot of caveating.

And we thought technology is going to make things easier. 

Easier for corporations, perhaps.

Tech

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Want to Turn Planes Around Faster? Delta, United, and Southwest Have Some Creative Ideas
August 5, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

We saw separately how Delta Air Lines customer service agents came up with an idea that shaves a couple of minutes off turnaround time for the airline’s jets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

I was curious whether other lines did the same or similar thing, so I reached out to all of the Big Four. Southwest and United replied, while Delta also responded with a couple of other ideas worthy of attention.

Turnaround time is a big deal. The FAA reported in 2010 that flight delays cost the U.S. economy roughly $ 32.9 billion a year. Andit’s one of the key metrics on which airlines  judge themeselves.

Here are some of the other things big airlines are doing to turn airplanes around more quickly.

45 degree pushback

This is the original idea that Delta customer service agents came up with. We’ll summarize it here: Instead of pushing an airplane straight back from the gate, then turning it 90 degrees and pushing it again, the idea is to push straight back at a 45 degree angle.

This simple change shaves about a minute or more off turnaround time, which really adds up over 1,000 or more flights a day. Delta does it at Atlanta and Detroit. And, United tells me they do a 45-degree pushback at some airports as well, “depending on a variety of factors including aircraft type and setup of gate.”

The Quick Turn Playbook

This one is all United. The airline has what it calls a “Quick Turn Playbook,” which is a proprietary document that it says outlines “how all departments work together to help reduce the amount of time it takes to service and turn an aircraft.”

“The playbook was developed with the help and input of United frontline employees,” a United spokesperson told me. “We continue to go back to employees to solicit feedback on how it can be continuously improved.”

Maybe it’s working: United ranked #1 among competitors during the Q2 of 2018 for on-time departures.

Open seating

Yes, this one is limited to only one big airline–Southwest–and they were quick to point it out when I asked about turnaround tactics. Letting passengers take any open seat “saves us valuable time and keeps our aircraft moving efficiently,” as a spokesperson put it.

It’s hard to understand why other airlines don’t copy this–perhaps not on entire plans, but maybe by letting economy passengers board in order of how expensive their fares are?

Self-parking guidance systems

Both Delta and United told me they use laser-guided parking systems at some airports and gates. 

Instead of an employee standing on the ground and guiding the plane in with a couple of orange flags or lights, the laser system lets the pilot know how to inch the plane up to the gate, and when to stop. That means the employees can get ready to hook airplanes up to ground power and do other tasks more quickly.

Not charging for checked bags

Again, this is just Southwest, which doesn’t charge bag fees for any passengers. That’s in contrast to economy class passengers on United, American and Delta.

As a result, on any given Southwest flight there are likely fewer people carrying bags onto the plane and trying to put them in an overhead compartment to avoid a bag fee. That means less blocking of the aisles, and a faster process. 

The one they’re not doing

I found a few other interesting tactics. Ryanair, the low cost European carrier, says it cut turnaround time “dramatically” by removing seat back pockets, which means there’s no place for passengers to stick trash that has to be cleaned out. 

But the interesting one is a more complicated boarding dance called the Steffen Method, after the astrophysicist who came up with it in 2014. In summary, passengers would board from the outside in: window, then middle, and then aisle. And they’d board from the back, skipping every other row.

One drawback: Travelers flying together couldn’t board together if they were really strict about the process. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t really caught on.

Tech

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Delta Passengers Are Outraged. They Say Those With the Cheapest Tickets Are Getting Nicer Seats
May 13, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

“You’ll enjoy the best elite travel experience whenever you fly.”

That’s how Delta Air Lines describes the blessed privilege of being a Delta Medallion member.

Not just elite, but the best elite. The elite of the elite. 

I worry, therefore, that some of these Delta elitists are concerned that their eliteness is not complete.

And, indeed, that they’re being cast aside when it comes to upgrades, in favor of the riff-raff who bought the cheapest tickets.

Points, Miles and Martinis describes the pain: “On a recent trip, I noticed that the flight went from 6 Comfort Plus seats an hour before the flight, down to just 1 seat, 30 minutes prior as a result of the gate agents clearing Basic Economy passengers into Comfort Plus.”

Indeed, on this occasion, Points, Miles and Martinis insists that only one Medallion customer received an upgrade to Comfort Plus, while five Basic Economists were slipped straight into these more comfortable seats.

Others  commenting on this accusation said they’d seen similar events too. 

Goodness, this is like pulling people in off the street and giving them a table at the French Laundry. (Well, almost.)

It’s like giving lower-paid people a tax break that’s bigger than that poured upon the rich.

These Medallionists are peeved that Delta appears to be favoring the Basic Economists, who are only given a seat at the last minute.

The idea of Basic Economy — or Sub-Cattle Class, as I prefer to call it — is to shove these low-fare passengers into the middle seats that are left over. Not the Comfort Plus seats that are, well, a little more comfortable.

The suspicion is that, on some flights, gate agents are giving the nicer seats to these low-paying customers in order to get packed flights out on time.

I contacted the airline for its view. 

“While the situation described does not align with Delta’s upgrade procedure/policy, there is not a way to determine the Medallion level of other customers or the fare product another customer purchased via gate upgrades or standby displays,” a Delta spokesman told me.

So what are these aggrieved Medallionists supposed to do?

“Any customer who feels they were not given the correct seat assignment should share their concern with customer care, who will review their inquiry,” said the airline spokesman.

Some might fear, though, that this could be another painful assault on an airline’s most important customers.

Last week, I wrote about how United Airlines was angering its First Class passengers, removing some favorite menu items from its premium offerings.

Just, it seems, to save a little lucre.

Still, this alleged Delta move might encourage some passengers to buy the lowest fares, in the hope that they’ll actually get far lovelier seats.

Don’t airline passengers realize that the concept of Something For Nothing is precisely the one that airlines are fighting against?

Their principle these days is Everything For A Payment.

If this alleged Delta generosity toward the Sub-Cattle Class is true, it casts a pall on the image and modern purpose of airlines.

Tech

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