Delta's added 'frills' from new international main cabin experience are already connecting with customers and boosting loyalty

11 December, 2019

Although US major Delta Air Lines remains in the early inning of rolling out a new international main cabin experience, early results looks promising. Back in July, the airline announced new amenities for international travellers seated in the Main Cabin (that’s full economy to non Delta flyers) on its longer flights.

The changes were designed by the airline’s flight attendants and Delta began rolling out the new amenities on international fights of longer than 6.5 hours from November. Customers now receive a welcome aboard Bellini cocktail, hot towel and upgraded food service that includes larger entrees. Desserts are also being served separately, and as a parting gift, customers will also be served chocolates on descent.

“This is about rethinking the entire Main Cabin experience to wow our customers,” said Ron Walk, a Portland-based flight attendant and design team member who’s been involved in the service since the very beginning. “The thoughtful touches we’ve incorporated throughout are aimed at making connections with customers to show them how much they’re valued.”

Speaking at an investor conference shortly after the new product debut, Delta CFO Paul Jacobson stated that “initial tests have already seen net promoter scores up over five points in trail markets and we expect that to continue to grow. And as we have seen over time, our net promoter scores have translated in direct correlation to that revenue premium that we're able to achieve over the rest of the industry”.

In today’s airline world where passengers travelling in Economy are generally getting less and less as air fare competition forces airlines to further commoditise, the offer from Delta was sure to be welcomed by its customers, especially frequent travellers.

Delta will be especially pleased with the net promoter score gain as it invested a lot of time and money in ensuring that putting these ‘fills’ back into the cabin where what passengers wanted. The airline tested the service on more than 1,200 flights, which is the longest test in the airline’s history.

The value of these flights meant the product was tweaked from its initial form. Delta confirms that the launch version “isn’t the same service” that it actually started testing originally, but has evolved via rigorous reviews during nearly 14,000 hours of flight time, information from over 1,800 customer surveys, robust crew feedback and input from a design team made up of 24 flight attendants.

This is an interesting customer strategy for longer haul international flights, further distinguishing the product offerings in the airline’s different fare segments. It also sees Delta working to distance itself from its large US global network rivals.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said this week that the carrier has gotten its "bad century out of the way" and is now "in a place where we've really fixed the business", confirming it will record its fifth consecutive year with profits above USD5 billion in 2019.

The question now is: will American Airlines and United Airlines follow Delta’s lead. The further rise in Delta’s net promoter score, which is now in the 50s, up from the mid-teens several years ago, will surely grab their attention.