Enroll in a Mentoring Session at 35,000 Feet — For Free?

Brian Cohen and Jerry Grinstein chat aboard a Boeing 757-200 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines on May 1, 2007. Photograph courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Imagine having a leader in his or her field mentoring you.
Now imagine having the mentoring session occur aboard a commercial aircraft during a flight — free of charge…
…or, more accurately — in the case of the next scheduled mentoring session, which is with Sean Brock — you will receive the following, if you are selected:
  • A check for $5,000.00
  • One non-transferable ticket to The James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony in New York whose approximate retail value is worth $1,500.00
  • Two nights standard hotel accommodations whose approximate retail value is worth $500.00
  • …and — of course — have the opportunity to share a flight with Sean Brock, who is purportedly “one of the most interesting and inspiring people in food today” where you can sit down and talk with him for the duration of the flight


This concept is called the Delta Innovation Class — emanating from the idea that the airplanes operated by Delta Air Lines “fill up with some of the smartest people in the world. Leaders in technology, science, the arts and more. But why should a flight just be a simple flight? Could these leaders use this time in the air to not just fly, but to share their knowledge with an up-and-coming professional in the seat next to them?”
The way this program works is that leaders in innovation who are on their way to events around the globe will be selected to sit in the mentor seat for the Delta Innovation Class — with the seat next to the mentor open for your chance to sit in that empty seat. You will be flown to the pertinent event, attend the event, and — most importantly — give you one-on-one access to an influential person you might never otherwise get.
I suppose I experienced a pseudo-precursor to the Delta Innovation Class some years ago. On a special flight on May 1, 2007 from Atlanta to Salt Lake City — the day after Delta Air Lines emerged from bankruptcy — I had that opportunity to sit next to Gerald Grinstein for approximately 45 minutes and chat with him. Jerry was the chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines at that time, preceding Richard Anderson. It was the first of several times I would get to meet and talk with Jerry…
…and although Jerry preferred to sit in the last row of the aircraft, we sat in the first class cabin — alone, with the curtain drawn for privacy so that we can talk without any interruptions. I still have my notes of that discussion — and if you are interested, I will consider sharing those notes with you in a future article here at The Gate. Please let me know in the Comments section below.
Regardless, it was an experience I certainly will never forget. Perhaps the concept of the Delta Innovation Class has some merit…
…but FlyerTalk members are divided on the concept of the Delta Innovation Class: some are interested; while others believe that the idea is “lame.”
FlyerTalk member canolakid is one of those people who believes that this is “a clever idea – our sons have made some invaluable career connections during flights. This just formalizes it a bit.”
If you are interested in applying for the Delta Innovation Class, there are four steps to follow:

  1. Select an upcoming Delta Innovation Class flight
  2. Apply with your LinkedIn profile by simply entering your LinkedIn credentials on the official Internet web site of the Delta Innovation Class — and your private data will not be shared with anyone outside the program
  3. Your application will be reviewed; and a short list of candidates is chosen based on their LinkedIn profiles — and if you are chosen, you will be contacted for additional information
  4. Not only will you receive a free flight to the event if you are selected for the empty seat — but during the flight, you will have access like no other; as when you are sitting next to the mentor, you will be able to learn, influence, and chat as much or as little as you like about the industry you share

It would be pretty funny — or sad, depending on your point of view — if one of the two people did not want to talk during the entire flight. “I don’t want to talk – a flight is a place where I can be left alone without being asked a hundred questions a day”, opined FlyerTalk member puddinhead. “When my DW and I fly we take aisle seats and each keep to ourselves for most of the flight.”
I am not particularly sure at this time how mentors are chosen for the Delta Innovation Class — nor do I know exactly what criteria they need to possess. FlyerTalk member GRALISTAIR wants to apply to become a mentor; but I have not found any evidence that that is possible.
If you do want to participate as what Delta Air Lines calls a “mentee”, you must be a legal resident of one of the fifty United States or the District of Columbia and be 21 years of age or older. Only one participant will be chosen per mentor.
Other terms, conditions and rules apply.
What do you think of this concept? Would you consider participating?

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