Among Delta’s most frequent travelers there are the Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion Members. There are people who have traveled 1, 2 and even up to 13 million miles on Delta jets. But there is one customer who holds the travel bragging rights trump card: Todd O., Delta’s first and only 14 Million Miler.
Read that again: 14. Fourteen. FOURTEEN million miles, flying with Delta. Even more astounding: Todd leaped from 13 to 14 million miles in only 18 months. “Let’s not call it an ‘accomplishment,’” Todd laughed when congratulated and thanked for his loyalty to Delta, agreeing that the word “milestone” might be a more apt word for his achievement. “The only thing I do is sit in a seat!”
Todd’s humility is rooted in a deep appreciation of Delta’s operational excellence, reliability and the close bonds he’s forged with Delta people. “The people at Delta are special,” he said. “I admire the frontline teams.”
“Everyone who works at the Delta Sky Club knows him,” said John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) Operations Service Manager Ikrame Elaouane.
It’s not unusual for Todd to go out of his way to spend time with Delta people at the JFK Delta Sky Club, even going so far as to help those ambassadors and his fellow customers when he sees people in need, Elaouane said. “He’s very humble and very sweet.”
“He always goes to the chocolate shops and gets goodies for the employees,” said Switzerland Station Manager Noeli Morf.
“It’s lovely to have him as a customer and a friend,” Morf added, sharing stories of a 20-year friendship with Todd that has extended to dinners in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and coffees at the Zurich airport.
Todd reached 14 million miles March 6 on a flight from Zurich to New York, a trip that happened to coincide with his birthday. And did Delta ever celebrate in style.
Todd was surprised with a custom birthday cake from the flight attendants, who wished him both a happy birthday and a congratulations on becoming Delta’s first 14 Million Miler.
The flight crew was even sent an ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System) message, which are normally reserved for operational updates, from Delta’s Operations and Customer Center with a message for a personalized announcement to celebrate Todd’s 14 Million Miler milestone. “Please take a moment to have the crew acknowledge his achievement and wish him a happy birthday… On behalf of the Delta OCC it’s been an honor to help [Todd] achieve this milestone,” it said. That message inspired the pilots to make a special congratulatory announcement on the plane.
When his plane landed at JFK, Delta people were ready to celebrate there, too. He was whisked through customs by Delta’s Elite Services, then brought to the Delta Sky Club where he was greeted with more birthday wishes, congratulations and appreciation.
While at the Club, Todd toasted with a bottle of champagne, dined on a specially prepared menu and enjoyed another slice of birthday cake. “Everyone wanted to celebrate him,” Elaouane said. “Everyone took it as a celebration of one of our own.”
Over the course of Todd’s milestone week, Delta people would continue to celebrate their friend and his achievement in Zurich, New York and San Diego.
“All of our on-duty staff were at the gate when he arrived,” said San Diego Station Manager Jason Kempster. “We told him that it was an honor to welcome him home and thanked him for all the years he has traveled with us.”
“It’s special to celebrate with the Delta staff because they’re the ones who understand,” Todd said. “[They] share the same interest in flying and Delta.”
A lifelong, self-described “av geek,” the seed of Todd’s passion for travel and flying was planted on his first flight on Pan Am at age 8. His dad took the family to a new destination every summer, and Todd then began traveling in earnest as an adult in the 1990s.
“I think one of the most amazing things about flying is that in the span of three, seven or 10 hours, you can be transported to an environment or a culture that’s completely different or be reconnecting with family and friends thousands of miles away,” he said.
Todd’s favorite plane? The now-retired fan favorite Boeing 747. The Airbus A350-900 and A330-900neo are his favorite jets in Delta’s current fleet.
Window or aisle? Window, always. “I love seeing the world from above,” he noted.
Todd calls San Diego home. One would think after a long flight from Zurich to New York and a day’s worth of 14 Million Mile festivities, he’d be ready to board the next flight to Southern California. Nope. Though he would make it home later in the week, a 14 Million Miler is going to do what a 14 Million Miler is going to do. He grabbed his bag. Made his way through the terminal. Found his gate. And boarded a flight right back to Zurich. Fifteen million miles is on the horizon.