As my handful of teaser posts would suggest, I was invited to attend the #InsideDelta event at Delta Air Lines headquarters last week. I was pretty stoked to receive the email invitation.
“Delta Air Lines is excited to invite you as our guest to the Inside Delta experience for digital influencers and the grand opening of the newly-renovated Delta Flight Museum. During the two-day event at our Atlanta world headquarters, we’ll take you behind the scenes to meet the people at the heart of Delta’s industry-leading global operation and award-winning service while giving you a taste of what it takes to connect more than 165 million annual customers on nearly 6,000 daily flights around the world.”
As the name of the event suggests, this was an in depth look at what it takes to keep one of the world’s largest airlines flying. As my fellow BA blogger, Wandering Aramean, remarked while we were touring baggage operations at the airport, (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) it’s amazing all the stuff that has to happen just get me a drink on an airplane. Amazing indeed. There’s quite a bit of information, so I’m breaking this up into 3 posts.
#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 1)
The event actually started Sunday evening with a receptions at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel adjacent to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Living in Atlanta, I Ubered over to the hotel to join my fellow event attendees. It was great chatting with some of the folks from Delta Corporate Communications, and meeting the people I’d be spending the next 2 days with. Unquestionably, the best thing about the Renaissance was the great view of the runway and Delta’s famous Technical Operations hangar with the lighted “Fly Delta Jets” sign.
The Operations Customer Center (OCC)
Delta’s OCC is the nerve center of the airline. Flight dispatch and crew scheduling are all run from here, and important departments from across the airline are also represented. We arrived just in time for the morning operational conference call.
The discussion centered around what you might expect, reliability, maintenance problems, crew availability, and any issues that happened overnight. Once upon a time I routinely sat in on a similar morning call at another airline, so the issues and challenges discussed seemed familiar, and brought a bit of a smile to my face. The marketing department gets all the glory and the entertainment budget, but here is where things happen for any airline. Of course, marketing puts butts in seats, so I love marketing types too. More on that later.
After listening in on the conference call we moved out to the OCC floor where the action happens. Here’s where thousands of flights, crews, and connections are managed with a worldwide view. Worldwide or not, each flight is special and managed individually. I was impressed that the number of not only Diamond Medallion members on a flight, but Platinums too was immediately available. Million milers and unaccompanied minors make the cut too.
Sorry for the blur! With such a busy day, I snapped that photo on the move to our next tour.
After getting gate passes and working our way through the TSA security checkpoint, we made our way to the A Concourse operations tower. We received a briefing from the operations manager which included interesting information on the number of flights that move through the airport each day. There were a ton of neat factoids from achieving a 3-minute reduction in taxi times thanks to the “end around” taxiways on the airports north side to the optimal arrival rate being 126 landings per hour. Three minutes may not sound like a lot, but multiply that by over 900 flights a day over the course of a year, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money. After the briefing, we made our way up to the ramp tower for some spectacular views.
After the tower, we made our way to Concourse B for a look at Delta’s baggage operations. I’ve seen a large ramp operation behind the scenes before, but I was still impressed with the intricacy of moving bags over dozens of miles of conveyor belts out of sight of most passengers. Frankly, I’ve always been a bit amazed that more bags aren’t lost.
That’s the belt your bags take as they make their way from the ticket counter to Concourse B. 🙂 We got a brief presentation on how baggage operations work in Atlanta, the airlines internal goals, etc. But the best thing was just watching the bags move.
Is that your bag?! I think it made the flight! After working our way through the baggage operation, we made our way back to our transportation, and drove over to Atlanta’s international terminal, Concourse F. Waiting for us? The beautiful Queen of the Skies – the Boeing 747-400, waiting to take passengers to Tokyo.
I’m really going to miss these birds when they eventually leave the Delta fleet. One can wish for the B747-8i, but I’m not hopeful for seeing this airplane at Delta. We ascended the stairs right into the gate area where passengers were waiting to fly to Tokyo. If you could see the look on their faces when a large group of people in safety vests appeared out of nowhere. I’m sure thoughts like “what the heck is wrong with our airplane?!” went through their minds. The morning was incredibly busy, and the afternoon would be too. Thankfully, there was time for lunch.
Coming up – lunch with Jeff Robertson, A330 product, and technical operations.
-MJ, June 27, 2014