One of the United States’ most widely recognized airlines has recently had to do some major image rebuilding and company restructuring. Delta Air Lines’ brand identity was quickly “grounded” when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2005. Not only did stockholders lose all benefits, but passengers also lost trust in the company. It was then up to public relations and marketing practitioners to salvage the relationship between passenger and airline and ultimately create a new identity for the airline.
Following the first crucial step in a public relations campaign, Delta did extensive research on what passengers were looking for in an airline and ultimately, how Delta could rebuild their trust. According to Lisa Bennett of Leo Burnett U.S.A., “The campaign is about doing a better job of listening, responding, and finally rediscovering the Delta passenger-focused heritage. It is not designed to be apologetic or to be a declaration of overnight change,” stated Bennett, who heads up the global creative team. “It’s a promise. To listen. To respond.” Delta’s focus or purpose concentrates on financial stability and improving the customer experience.
So has Delta succeeded in building consumer loyalty by improving the customer experience? Delta has supposedly made an effort to revamp everything from the check-in to the in-flight experience. Delta has even produced a new in-flight safety video. From the viewpoint of a frequent flyer, Delta has successfully rebuilt its image, but has failed to improve customer relations.
Although Delta has made it a point to release new advertisements, a new and improved logo and Web site, passengers are still dissatisfied with the way they are treated on Delta Air Lines. Delta has increased its profitability since bankruptcy in 2005, still being named one of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies, but really it had nowhere to go but up. I will give the marketing and media team kudos for embracing the financial problem and making themselves transparent during the crisis. While I was amused by the modern style of the new safety video, logo and advertisements, I was not amused when Delta lost my luggage on a recent trip. Delta must learn to follow through with its message of customer satisfaction, especially considering its financial circumstances.
A little over 10 years ago, I had my first flying experience aboard a Delta flight from Tampa to Atlanta. Without exaggeration, I’ll say that it was an absolute nightmare. The service was bad, it took forever to get through security and the flight itself was uncomfortable and far from pleasant. The experience completely turned me off to flying; I wouldn’t board another plane after that for eight years, another Delta experience that was, sadly, a letdown like the first. What I assumed would be a satisfying customer experience turned out to be a huge hassle. First, there’s the baggage issue—always a pleasure the lugging and lifting, then those security lines—endless waiting followed by more waiting and finally, the strategic wedging of one’s self in seats far too narrow, sometimes between two complete strangers, for a period of time exceeding five minutes that will feel like an absolute eternity.
I believe it’s possible that experiences similar to my own shared by thousands of customers became a major factor leading to Delta’s 2005 bankruptcy filing and motivated them to restructure their corporation. And hopefully, with Delta giving a little more focus to enhancing customer experience, my next flight will be an enjoyable travel experience. Bottom line is that Delta really needs to start proving itself to avoid having to file Chapter 11 again.
Anna Katherine Owen and Chelsea Worley
See the new Delta advertisement and safety video here:
Advertisement – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhNW_3AIek0
Safety Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgpzUo_kbFY