Delta’s New Campaign Misses The Point

I’m a Delta Airlines frequent flyer. Not quite George-Clooney-“Up In The Air”-frequent, but I average two round-trips a month on the airline, have managed to hit Gold Medallion status, and have an outside shot at Platinum.

A week ago, I was one of 180 passengers who had to hike from one terminal to another at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport because Delta had parked its plane at the wrong gate. This was the third time in 2010 this has happened to me on a Delta flight.

So I was amused and astonished to see  see this ad in today’s morning paper:

The substance of the message is terrific: Delta is bringing back their “Red Coat” agents to assist passengers who need help rebooking or otherwise solving problems. This is a good thing.

The problem with the ad is its self-congratulatory tone, which directly contradicts the experience of anyone who’s ever flown Delta.

You should be able to depend on an airline to make your trip easier, no matter what’s going on in the industry — those are our concerns, not yours.

Well, yes.

But this is not some secret information that only Delta knows. In fact, there is considerable evidence that in terms of dumping the industry’s problems on their customers, Delta has been one of the worst offenders for years.

Delta has consistently ranked near the bottom in national customer-satisfaction surveys. Their Skymiles frequent-flyer program is considered one of the very-worst in its availability of free tickets. Google “Delta Sucks”, and you’ll find page after page of horror stories.

Passengers really don’t like Delta Airlines.

There is significant evidence that Delta’s senior management recognizes the problem, and is taking steps to address it. The return of the Red Coats is certainly a signal of that. If the campaign told its customers, “We heard you, we know we have a problem, and we’re fixing it”, Delta would deserve applause.

Instead, this ad attempts to position Delta as if they’ve always led the charge for good service. Which reminds one of Judge Judy Sheindlin’s timeless advice:

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Until Delta proves to its passengers that it is committed to improvement, this is one message that will be met with derision.


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2 thoughts on “Delta’s New Campaign Misses The Point

    • I saw this recently in an Atlanta business publication: “Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson watches the J.D. Power study closely and covets the top ranking among so-called network carriers, including it in the company’s list of annual goals.” So they are aware of the problem at a very high level.

      I rarely have issues with Delta’s people on the front lines. In general, they’re working hard under rough conditions, dealing with problems often outside their control. The two big issues are communication (they often receive incorrect information, or no information at all), and numbers — when something goes wrong, they are horribly understaffed and overwhelmed.

      The return of the “Red Coats” may alleviate the problem of numbers, at least somewhat. I can only hope they’re working on communication, too. And that they stop making all the passengers move when the plane parks at the wrong gate.