Delta

High School mathematics tells us that Delta represents an incremental change in a variable. If only that were true of the airline that has the moniker. The airline, in a space of five years, has gone from being profitable to bankrupt despite (some might argue that it is because of) an in-flow of cash from the Feds in the aftermath of 9/11. Once profitable, it took on the routes of Pan Am and its ageing work force. Since that was done without all of the pension liabilities of the defunct airline, it was assumed that it wouldn’t be a bad outcome. But, as we know from the diverse outcomes in countries with similar natural resources, people are the best resources. So it is with airlines as well. Pan Am’s staff were absolutely the worst in the airline industry and anyone who had the misfortune of flying it particularly during its dying days in the 80’s would have come away celebrating its demise. Despite over a decade, the staff seems to have taken on the Pan Am approach rather than the earlier Delta approach to customer service. Case in point, is their JFK-BOM direct service – a 777-200 ER that has fifty seats in business class with only 3 toilets, two of which are in the forward section. Those two end up being “off-limits” frequently for cockpit crew usage. But it is the way in which that is conveyed – a brusque gesture to head south – that points to their lack of service standards.

With the foregoing in mind, news of the airline industry adopting ideas from others such as the auto industry for air-bags is welcome. The flyboys (girls) could do well to emulate the hospitality industry. That might go a long way towards restituting the notion of profitability – something most airlines, particularly the legacy airlines, have not known for a long time.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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