Why Delta Is Leaving Middle Seats Empty During the Pandemic

The number of people flying today is down about 75 percent from a year ago. And in the fight to attract those few passengers who remain, airlines have promoted their health and safety policies.

Delta Air Lines has tried to stake a claim as one of the most cautious companies in the industry by promising to leave middle seats empty even as American Airlines and United Airlines are selling as many seats as they can. Delta has also said that it cleans planes between flights, tests all employees for the coronavirus and aggressively enforces a mask requirement. On Monday, it announced a partnership with Lysol’s parent company aimed at improving Delta’s cleaning practices.

The man responsible for all of those initiatives is Bill Lentsch, a 30-year veteran of the airline who is its chief customer experience officer. In an interview, he explained Delta’s approach. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What does Delta hope to get out of working with Lysol?

We hope to tap the 130 years of expertise that Lysol has — to transpose it into the cabin, into the lavatories on board the aircraft, into our facilities. Through our survey data, we hear that our cabins are very clean, but one thing our customers say is, “The lavatories are very clean when we get on board, but how can you keep them clean throughout the flight?” And this is the first area that we are going to target with Lysol, coming up with a product that will help us maintain cleanliness during flight on board the airplane. It doesn’t sound terribly glamorous, but it’s incredibly important to our people.

Delta has already teamed up with the Mayo Clinic. How has that partnership informed what you do?

The Mayo Clinic partnership is phenomenal. They’ve been looking at our practices and policies with a very critical eye. They are also helping us develop our program to test all of our employees, not only the active virus but for the antibodies. Once we have all of our employees baseline tested, who do we then retest, at what frequency, and what are all the factors to determine that? The Mayo Clinic has a very sophisticated algorithm that they’re building to help with that. They’re providing general education to our employees and sitting on an advisory panel for us, too, so that we have an opportunity to run new policies, procedures and technologies by them.

You’ve continued to fly weekly during the pandemic. How has that informed your work?

It’s interesting because while I have my eyes on the operation, we have flight attendants and pilots and gate agents and others who are on board that aircraft every minute of every day. They hear from our customers in ways that we may not through a survey. For example, the decision that we made months ago to start boarding the airplane from back to front rather than by zones. That came from a flight attendant who heard from a customer in first class, who said, “Maybe you should put us on last because everyone who is sitting behind me is walking right by me.”

Delta and other airlines have already implemented a lot of new health and safety policies. What more is there to do?

This is why we partnered with Lysol and the Mayo Clinic. We want to hear from them. We’re looking for a critical eye to help us fill any gaps and push the boundaries. It is my opinion that in three to six months, there are going to be some products on our airplanes that I’m not even contemplating right now. And, by the way, we’re never going to be done with this. We’ve built an organization at Delta, a global cleanliness division with a vice president of the company who leads it, and the purpose is solely to continue to push the boundaries of cleanliness and sanitization and protection for our customers and our employees.

Delta has brought back alcohol, restored automatic upgrades for elite members and reopened some lounges. Do customers still care about these kinds of perks?

Sahred From Source link Travel

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