How My Grandmother Made René Want to Cry — Thanks to Delta Air Lines

“G osh when I re-read your comment I want to cry!” is what René de Lambert of Renés Points wrote in response to a comment I posted pertaining to an impassioned article he wrote called Am I the only one who clear as day understands Delta Comfort Plus is just NOT worth it at ANY price?

How My Grandmother Made René Want to Cry — Thanks to Delta Air Lines

I did not expect that response — René can be quite emotional when it comes to Delta Air Lines, which was once his beloved airline of choice — but I can understand because my late paternal grandmother also had a strong emotional allegiance to the airline. I had her in mind when I posted this comment in response to the article written by René:

To answer your question, René: no, you are not the only one.

Comfort + is great as a free benefit to Medallion elite status level members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program; but I would not pay a SkyMile or a penny extra for it.

The problem is that there are people who would — and apparently do — pay for it. You know that the point these days is for Delta Air Lines to make as much money as possible while offering as little as possible in terms of amenities and benefits. As long as passengers still think that their front-line employees are better than any other domestic airline, they will keep choosing Delta Air Lines as their preferred airline — no matter what else is done to decimate the perceived “loyalty” to the airline…

…but the Delta Air Lines of today is not the Delta Air Lines of old years ago where blind loyalty was appreciated — let alone rewarded. It is not that Southern airline in which customers are part of the family. You will not see a chief executive officer take in a stranded passenger into his home like C.E. Woolman had purportedly done.

Nope. Today, the airlines are about the almighty dollar; and Delta Air Lines is gambling on you paying extra for their product and service — and apparently it is working; because if no one did pay extra, Delta Air Lines would no longer charge extra.

It is as simple as that.

When I commented about blind loyalty, I was not thinking of frequent fliers who were spoiled with benefits and amenities over the years. I was thinking about my grandmother.

During the later years when they were alive, my grandparents were people who were known as snowbirds: they would travel from a primary home in a northern climate — New York, in their case — to their other home in warm and sunny Florida to spend the winter and avoid the typical miseries of winter: cold, snow and ice, to name a few.

Other than for the rare special occasion, they flew as passengers twice per year: once to travel to Florida in autumn; and once to travel back to New York in spring. They were not frequent fliers by any stretch of the imagination; so they had no idea about the perks and benefits which were bestowed upon Medallion elite status level members of a frequent flier loyalty program. In fact — if I recall correctly — they never collected miles or points for their travels.

Loyalty Based on Emotion

There were — and still are — plenty of nonstop routes between New York and Florida which were operated by different airlines; but my grandmother absolutely insisted on Delta Air Lines. She would not even think about flying as a passenger with another airline — and there were more airlines which were in business at the time before the mass consolidation which had been repeatedly approved by the Department of Justice of the United States.

The reasons for her emotional connection with Delta Air Lines at the time included the friendliness of the front-line staff; the attentive service throughout the entire process from booking a ticket to retrieving luggage at baggage claim; the reasonable comfort of the seats in the economy class cabin aboard the airplanes at that time; and the dependable reliability of departures and arrivals being on time.

Emotional Connection Eroded by Doing Business

As much as I have lauded Richard Anderson as a chief executive officer, he is all business — and that has paid off dividends for Delta Air Lines in terms of record profits financial quarter after financial quarter. Unfortunately, that was at the expense of the now-former culture of the airline which was appealing to passengers — even those like my grandparents who traveled twice per year.

Delta Air Lines arguably still has the best front-line staff of any airline based in the United States — but I would not be surprised if the reason is because many employees have been with the airline for many years and keep the former culture of being “a Southern airline in which customers are part of the family” alive. As more and more new employees are eventually hired, expect vestiges of that former culture to erode in the future — possibly to the point of extinction — especially now that Delta Air Lines is a global entity which is one of the largest airlines in the world.

Summary

I do not know how many people were like my grandparents — may they rest in peace — who were infrequent passengers but consistently remained loyal to the airline; and I do not know how many of them have changed their habits in this new age of airline profitability. I do not even know whether or not my grandmother would change her mind about loyally patronizing Delta Air Lines blindly if she were still alive today…

…but one thing is for certain: Delta Air Lines — and other airlines — are rolling in the profits in recent years; and those who still remember the days when ordinary people were treated as special on a regular basis are left saddened and lamenting those good ol’ days. René de Lambert is apparently one of those people.

Translation: that warm and fuzzy feeling of being loyal to an airline has been dying and shows no signs of being resurrected anytime in the foreseeable future — if at all. Only time will tell whether or not neglecting and losing that connection with customers with that potentially powerful emotional loyalty was a wise business decision for the airlines in the future, as cultivating such powerful loyalty is one of the most difficult things to do in business — and also was highly desired by companies at one time.

Could there be a balance of both profits and a sense of “family” with a tugging of the heartstrings of customers who tend to be emotional about a business relationship — whether that is rational or not? I believe so, as I do not believe that profits should come at the expense of loyalty by customers — but as has been demonstrated by airlines in the past, they either tend to go to either one extreme or the other; and rarely tread the middle ground of balance and compromise…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

3 thoughts on “How My Grandmother Made René Want to Cry — Thanks to Delta Air Lines”

  1. Santastico says:

    I guess people like your grandparents are no longer the case. My grandfather would NEVER buy a Ford car. He would avoid even riding on one. Why? Because he liked Chevrolet and he trusted the local dealer and their people. Was there anything wrong with Ford? No. But he would never try it. Nowadays people have no only many options (like there were before) but social media and internet in general made it much easier for people to change their minds. If my grandfather had access to internet at that time he would probably learn that Ford had all the same attributes that we was getting from Chevrolet. His range of people to discuss that topic was very limited. Not to get off topic here today it is much different and people are understanding that loyalty is no longer worth it. It is all about convenience and cost/benefit. I used to fly Delta even if their product was worst that others and even if their price was higher just because I wanted to reach the highest level of loyalty and enjoy the perks that came with it. Now, I couldn’t care less about Delta. I only fly them if they make sense. Otherwise, I won’t. And BTW, I will never pay for Comfort+ on Delta. Neither Comfort not + are really there.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is a great point, Santastico.

      Our access to information has become exponentially readily available in recent years, with information doubling every year — and that was almost three years ago…

      http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

      …so as information keeps becoming more and more readily available, so supposedly also will our ability to make educated decisions.

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