Spring break is often seen as the precursor to the busy summer season at Delta, giving employees and operational leaders a taste of the influx of travel to come in summer between May and September. But it's also an opportunity to put dozens of enhancements to the airline's strategic operational plans to the test.
"Delta employees have a true knack for evaluating how we do things and finding ways to continuously improve," said Gil West, Delta's Chief Operating Officer. "Once again, ahead of spring break and summer, our teams are taking frontline feedback and combining that with a healthy dose of innovation to drive meaningful enhancements to better serve our customers."
With more than 4.8 million customers expected to board flights between March 30 and April 7 — 4 percent more than in 2018 — this year's peak spring break travel period will, by every measure, be one of the airline's busiest.
Managing the Operation
Starting with a healthy aircraft fleet delivered by Delta TechOp's maintenance technicians, the team —whose work began months ago — analyzed nearly every aspect of the operation looking for opportunities to build on the improvements Delta implemented after the 2017 Spring Break operation disruption.
Among those improvements are time buffers, built into the schedule by Network Planning and operational teams to allow flight crews and planes to “catch up” in the event of an earlier delay. Additionally, there will be an enhanced focus on routing pilots and flight attendants with their aircraft, particularly on narrowbody flights connecting through Atlanta. These tactics have been shown to reduce aircraft turn times in the hub, which then reduces delays at smaller stations along with missed connections by customers and crew.
Should weather or other disruptions prompt cancellations, the team in the Operations and Customer Center will leverage technology that considers the impact on customers and crew when deciding which flights to scrub — always with a human touch.
“Our customers are relying on us to get them to their vacations to be with their families and friends,” said Dave Holtz, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Operations and Customer Center. "Preparation, leveraging the technology innovations in our toolkit and having the right safeguards in place allows us to connect them better than anyone else."
The Delta Difference
Specialists in Delta's Engagement Centers worldwide are proactively providing additional hours to be there for customers in all channels while, Delta Peach Corps teams have been established in 10 of the airline's busiest airports, totaling 2,900 employees systemwide. Other employees on temporary assignment are on standby should an airport need extra arms and legs. Delta's IT team has performed preventative maintenance and updates to thousands of handheld scanners, NOMAD devices, printers, kiosks and more. Similar preparatory work has been done on ground support vehicles and jetbridges.
"We will see an influx of customers this spring break, many of whom may be flying for the first time," said Gareth Joyce, Delta's Senior Vice President — Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations. "The Delta team has done an excellent job preparing and I'm excited to see our employees come out and show customers, both seasoned travelers and first time flyers, the Delta Difference."
As part of its no-stone-left-unturned approach, Delta is also teaming up with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure checkpoints are well staffed, strategically placing employees to help with line mitigation and way-finding during peak times.