#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 1)

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 2)

#InsideDelta – Two Questions I Wish I’d Asked Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Part 3)

The F Concourse Sky Club and Lunch with Jeff Robertson

After making our way into Delta’s flagship Sky Club, we proceeded upstairs where lunch was served. On offer were various fruits, veggies, and sandwich wraps by Luvo which are served on some Delta flights in Economy Comfort. Of course, the obligatory airplane photo was taken.

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After a few minutes off our feet, Jeff Robertson, VP – Product Development, Sky Clubs, and Marketing Communications. You’ll remember Jeff as the VP in charge of SkyMiles. He talked for several minutes, answering questions mainly related to his new job, and specifically about Sky Clubs. Some random thoughts he mentioned either in his talk or in response to questions. Note that I am paraphrasing a bit.

  • There is potential for seeing Sky Decks at other clubs.
  • Maintenance of clubs is not where it needs to be. I got a kick out of him talking about checking for dust.
  • He knows the Atlanta B10 club is not ideal. Longer term plan is for a mega club on the B concourse, and closure of B10. (PTL!)
  • Delta’s target in Seattle is to build a hub, not Alaska Air. (This wasn’t the only time I would hear this during the visit)

SkyMiles was mentioned in passing, and I do not recall any questions about it for Jeff. It was an interesting talk. He did specifically mention American’s transcon product as competitive, but did not allude to any changes on the Delta side. I’m actually a little surprised that the recent BusinessElite upgrade changes in the JFK transcon markets weren’t mentioned. If I’d known about them at the time, I would’ve asked about this. After this, it was on to check out an airplane.

The A330 BusinessElite Seat

I’ve flown BusinessElite in the A330, but it was in the old configuration. Delta has installed a very nice reverse herringbone configuration in its A330 fleet. Having flown the 777 BusinessElite seat, I think I can say I like the A330 seat a bit better. I’m sure the angle improved my perception, and I could be imagining things, but the A330 seats seems a tiny bit wider. Trust me, I wouldn’t mind flying either across an ocean!

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I entered full on #AvGeek mode at this point. I wasn’t the only one, but kid in candy store would be an apt description. The only thing that could have made me giddier would have been actually flying to Rome where this airplane was headed later in the day. I checked out the seats features, including video, and the all important power outlets.

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Maybe I was almost as giddy as if I were actually flying somewhere because the experience even included a little pre-departure refreshment.

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And of course, the ultimate test. Does MJ on Travel fit in the seat. The answer – an unqualified yes! The Delta A330 BusinessElite seat is now on my Must Fly list.

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I’m sensing a real need to fly to Rome soon. 🙂 Needing to keep us on schedule, the Delta folks ushered us off the airplane. There was a swag cart outside, including Tumi BusinessElite amenity kits. I collected one of those, and gave it away last week. One of my other airline lives was in Tech Ops Quality AAssurance, so the next stop on the tour would have special meaning to me.

Technical Operations

Airline operations fascinate me. I don’t know what it is, but I love the whole process of delivering air transportation, including aircraft maintenance. Perhaps that’s why I was looking so forward to the Tech Ops tour.

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Our tour started with a walk through the landing gear and engine shops. A few factoids I found interesting:

  • Something like 47 football fields under roof.
  • Delta installs GoGo wi-fi on brand new aircraft after delivery from Boeing. Process takes up to 7 days, but that includes some other new delivery functions too.

In fact, here’s a picture of what happens to a brand new 737-900 when she arrives at Delta Tech Ops after a delivery flight.

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That’s looking up where the overheads should be. Honestly, seeing what happened to a new airplane to make internet access happen for us made me want to cry. 🙂 Here’s an exterior picture.

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What kind of #AvGeek would I be without a few more airplane pictures walking around the hanger?

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And an engine in the test cell for good measure.

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Delta’s Social Media Lab

Our next stop was Delta’s social media lab, and a chat with Allison Ausband, VP-Reservations Sales and Customer Care. It was great meeting the folks that make @DeltaAssist work. I’ve had great success working with the @DeltaAssist team to fix minor little issues, or same day confirm onto different flights. It was nice putting faces with the initials. 🙂 Allison’s talk was interesting, and we learned about Delta’s outreach efforts via social media, new phone systems, and even the handhelds being rolled out to flight attendants.

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Finally, it was time to wrap up our day with Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson. That will get a post all its own, so let’s talk about dinner at Restaurant Eugene.

Dinner at Restaurant Eugene and Chef Linton Hopkins

I’ve heard great things about Restaurant Eugene, but I don’t think that I had put together the name, the chef, and BusinessElite meals in select markets from Atlanta until now. There was a wine tasting presented by one of Delta’s great flight attendants, and then a talk from Chef Linton himself.

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To say that Chef Linton is passionate about food would be a big understatement. I believe he could have talked for hours about his experiment bring “farm to tray table” food from local Georgia farms to Delta’s BusinessElite customers. You know what? I could have listened to him talk about it for hours too! But we had to eat.

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If you’re dining at Restaurant Eugene anytime soon, do yourself a favor and order the corn soup. Fellow BA blogger, Wandering Aramean posted a story about Chef Linton’s farm to tray table efforts.

In-Flight Service

The next morning began bright and early with a tour of Delta’s flight attendant training center. We were greeted by three instructors who took us through the center, demonstrating opening and closing aircraft doors and giving us the run down on life as a flight attendant for Delta. Yours truly, who has opened a few thousand aircraft doors in his time, got into the spirit of things. Like a boss!

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Without question, my favorite part of touring the training center was participating in an aircraft evacuation drill complete with collapsed landing gear, loss of electrical, a bit of fire, and some smoke too. I videoed the festivities just for good measure.

Nah, that wasn’t cool as hell. 🙂 After this, we made our way over to the Delta Flight Museum for grand opening festivities. I posted a few photos and details here.

Coming soon – Part 3, our time with Delta CEO Richard Anderson, 2 questions I wish I’d asked, and some parting thoughts on #InsideDelta.

-MJ, June 27, 2014

Travel Company Disclosures Updated June 28, 2014