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Delta goes big in Texas with SXSW, ongoing commitment to Austin

Delta’s SXSW® debut featured exclusive experiences for SkyMiles® members and speaking engagements from seven Delta leaders. Read more on how Delta is leading the future of connection and rooting itself in the Austin community.

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Last week marked a milestone for Delta as the airline made its first major appearance at SXSW®, the iconic Austin festival celebrating all things tech, music, film, culture and education. As the official airline partner of SXSW, Delta leaders, including CEO Ed Bastian on the mainstage, spoke to festival attendees on values-centered leadership, the future of connection, how Delta is building community through partnerships and experience-driven membership opportunities, and more.  

Delta embarked on a first-ever journey as the official airline of SXSW 2024, delivering exclusive experiences, premium rewards, and much more as it continues to reimagine and elevate the meaning of SkyMiles membership.

Leader spotlight: Delta executives share vision for connected, experience-driven brand 

Bastian took the mainstage with Fortune Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell to discuss how Delta is leading the future of connection by putting people at the center of business. Following that conversation, Bastian interviewed José Andrés, decorated chef, humanitarian and CEO, José Andrés Group, on the power of business to bring people together—be it through food or travel. Their conversation was recorded for an episode of Delta’s Gaining Altitude series, available to watch starting next month.  

Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, interviews chef and humanitarian José Andrés during the second half of the SXSW Featured Session: "People First, Always: How to Put Values at the Heart of your Business" on March 10, 2024. 

Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman, sharing a stage with representatives from Pfizer and eos Products, discussed how Delta is reimagining the role of CMO by unlocking the value of connecting members to experiences.  

"At the heart of any successful company is not only a really healthy value proposition, but an ability to tell that story, and connect it with the customers you’re trying to attract.” —Alicia Tillman

Julieta McCurry, Vice President - In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity Strategy, spoke with executives from Delta Sync partners Paramount+ and Atlas Obscura on how innovative partnerships, investments in emerging technologies, and experiences are helping global brands take loyalty to new heights. 

Dwight James, Senior Vice President - Customer Engagement & Loyalty for Delta Air Lines and CEO - Delta Vacations, spoke with Robb Report senior editor Justin Fenner about how Delta is elevating what it means to be a SkyMiles® member and delivering relevant value to customers through partnerships, both within and beyond the travel journey.  

“We don’t want customer to just associate Delta with ‘I fly, earn miles, redeem miles,’ so by partnering with these brands, it allows customers to stay with Delta throughout the entire travel experience.”    —Dwight James

Shannon Womack, Managing Director - Product and Loyalty Marketing, spoke with other women leaders from the transportation industry on their respective career journeys and the importance of diverse, dynamic leadership. Speaking to the power of leading with vulnerability and the importance of curating a strong team, Womack emphasized, “You don’t have to know everything to participate in a conversation.” 

In a panel conversation with representatives from Whole Foods and Hyatt, Ranjan Goswami, Senior Vice President – Customer Experience Design, spoke to how Delta is designing experiences with intention to meet customers’ unique needs. Included in those experiences was Delta’s SXSW lounge activation.

“Our SXSW lounge is a lovely example of how we’re trying to inspire connection. SkyMiles members from all over are meeting others and talking about the SXSW experience. We want to keep creating more experiences like this for our members.” —Ranjan Goswami

Finally, Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband took the stage with executives from LATAM Airlines (a Delta joint-venture partner) and TelevisaUnivision to discuss the challenges and opportunities of working across cultures to create a seamless experience for customers.  

Members only: Dispatches from SXSW’s buzziest hangout, exclusive to SkyMiles Members

A Delta Lounge attendee views the curated artwork while venturing the two-story respite, exclusively for SkyMiles Members during SXSW 2024. 

A SkyMiles membership got festival attendees needing a break from the SXSW hustle and bustle access to the elevated Delta Lounge, a branded pop-up experience featuring fast, free Delta Sync Wi-Fi, global fan-favorite beverages from Delta partner Starbucks, custom limited-edition Delta x SXSW merch, and more.  

Plus, the Delta Lounge hinted at even grander things to come: after years of planning, the Delta One Lounge – an exclusive, premium experience complementing Delta’s highest tier of onboard service – will debut for customers at JFK this June.  

Guests of the lounge enjoyed complimentary culinary delights from Austin local and James Beard-nominated Rene Ortiz. A Texas native who’s worked in kitchens around the world, Ortiz’s menu, while rooted in the Lone Star state, took inspiration from the many destinations Delta flies: a mix of classics like pork carnitas with globally flavored delights such as quinoa potato latkes and tuna crispy rice. The Lounge speakeasy, exclusive to Medallion members, featured a BBQ tasting experience from world-renowned Austin pit master and James Beard award-winner Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ. Speakeasy guests also got a private show from THEBROSFRESH, an Austin-based brother act with sounds that draw from rock, soul, R&B and southern hip-hop. 

At Delta's reservation only speakeasy for Medallion members at SXSW, members got to enjoy truly exclusive experiences, like an evening BBQ tasting experience from world-renowned Austin pit master Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ.

Staffed with flight attendants and iconic Red Coats, Lounge attendees experienced Delta’s signature hospitality and the power of connection through membership. They also had the opportunity to select from exclusive branded Delta x SXSW merch – which became a familiar sight around the city of Austin. 

A Delta Lounge attendee receives a limited-edition Delta x SXSW canvas tote bag at the Gifting Salon during SXSW 2024.

Keeping Austin Connected: Delta’s commitment to the Texas capital 

Embedded in ATX  

With more than 200 Austinite employees, Delta is proud to be part of the Austin community. At the festival, Delta, in partnership with Waterloo Greenway and Future Front Texas, demonstrated its commitment in Austin with the unveiling of a new mural, co-designed by the airline and local artists Ruben Esquivel of East End Eclectic and Kat Talley. The mural reflects a human-centric, connected vision for the future of the Austin community.   

Austin artists Ruben Esquivel and Kat Talley with Quinnie Jenkins, Director, Community Engagement and Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer, at Delta's unveiling of a new mural, co-designed by the airline and local artists.

The mural will be utilized as part of Waterloo Greenway's annual Artist in Residence program with East End Eclectic through the summer and highlighted during spring and summer as part of Waterloo Greenway’s environmental and art programs.  

As part of the mural unveiling, Delta hosted a pop-up market featuring more than 20 local artists and entrepreneurs.  

A fast-growing gateway to the Lone Star state—and beyond  

If “everything is bigger in Texas,” then Delta’s presence in Austin is no exception. Delta’s upcoming April expansion is positioning Austin as a key access point to facilitate connections to its robust global network. 

This summer, Delta is offering its largest Austin schedule ever – a 20% increase in seat capacity over July 2023 that mirrors Austin’s rapid growth as a city.  

Additionally, Delta will operate nearly 50 peak-day nonstop flights to 15 U.S. airports—including all nine Delta hubs—as well as Nashville, Tennessee, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida. Delta’s partners in AUS provide additional global connectivity with nonstop service to Mexico City (MEX) and Amsterdam (AMS). 

Customers in Austin also have the benefit of one of the network’s most popular Delta Sky Clubs. Opened in 2019, the Club features uniquely Texas touches: a pewter rhinestone cowboy boot sculpture, artwork with the iconic “Keep Austin Weird” slogan, and a premium beverage menu that’s heavy on the tequilas and mezcals. For the last three years, AUS Delta Sky Club has ranked highest in customer satisfaction for the Southern region.   

A pewter rhinestone cowboy boot sculpture sits in the Delta Sky Club in Austin, Texas.
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