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Delta says it wants the very best customers (then it treats them like this)

Investing in the right technology?
Screnshot by ZDNet
The departure of Omicron and the arrival of business travel seem inevitably linked.

Airlines are craving the day when higher-paying, price-elastic business customers will adorn their planes again.I wonder, though, whether airlines are truly prepared for that day.Delta Air Lines, which many believe is America’s finest, offered another recent prediction about business flyers’ return.The airline’s president, Glen Hauenstein, recently mused that spring and summer would see a strong resurgence of business travel. Yes, this spring and summer.In what feels like a related edict, Hauenstein suggested that the airline wasn’t afraid of lower-cost carriers. Instead, he said, Delta’s superior offering was geared to a more premium customer.People are prepared to pay more for better. Business travelers are certainly prepared to pay more for better. And, in times gone by, Delta has proved this.

Now, the airline is making sure there aren’t too many seats on its planes. It’s trying to enhance legroom. It’s even offering an enhanced premium economy offering to attract business travelers who may not be adorned with the most glorious travel budgets.This all appears both wise and daring.How much, though, might this drive to an exalted plane entail getting its customer service technology in order?I only ask because of the recent experience of a Delta passenger, David Slotnick of the Points Guy.He tweeted this lament: “Is there anything more frustrating than an airline website returning an error and telling you to call, and the phone line telling you they’re too busy, try using the website?”You see, the Delta website had offered him this: “Oh no! We’re sorry, David, but there was a problem processing your request. Please try the entry again. If you continued to experience problems, please call the SkyMiles Platinum Medallion line at 800-325-1551.”Should you not be a regular flyer, the Platinum Medallion thing blesses precisely the elevated flyers for which Delta yearns.Delta isn’t alone, of course, in having such issues. Why, in the comments to Slotnick’s lament, travel writer Joe Brancatelli targeted American Airlines: “More annoying than all of that: the Verifly app, which you must use to fly AA intl. It tries to upsell a faster ‘review’ of your negative Covid test. It’s despicable that you have to use a middleman to deal with your own airline — and have the middleman try to upsell services.”Premium passengers require premium comfort, which includes premium technology to help them on their way.Last year, Delta installed a new phone system specifically for fancy passengers. It didn’t receive universal approval, as customers felt it didn’t understand what they were talking about.Things haven’t improved too much, it seems.The impression left is that there’s yet no substitute for having a sufficient number of human beings on call to deal with the problems of a plethora of human beings.Another impression left, of course, is that existing technologies can’t cope with the current vicissitudes of flying.Or, perhaps, that they’re not very good at it.