As COVID-19 vaccinations and consumer demand for travel accelerate as summer approaches, many Delta customers are taking to the skies and reclaiming their lives over the next few months – some for the first time in a long time. Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, answers six common questions about what things look like these days, both on the ground and in the air:
- How should I prepare before my flight?
Bill: Travel has changed a lot in the last year, and the Delta team has been working hard to provide customers with the digital tools they need for a more seamless travel experience. Our new Travel Planning Center is a one-stop guide to manage travel restrictions, testing requirements and everything else along the journey. And our updated, integrated Delta Discover Map has more filters and features to help customers decide where to go, allowing them to book a ticket in just a couple of clicks.
Before your flight, make sure to download the Fly Delta app for quick access to your digital boarding pass and important notifications about your trip. If you need help on the go, you can message a Delta representative in the app or on delta.com for quick and convenient assistance. Don’t forget to check your email for detailed information, guidance and tips on your upcoming trip.
Is Delta adjusting any of its health and safety protocols as COVID-19 vaccinations increase?
Bill: It’s really encouraging to see and hear about so many people getting their vaccines lately. In fact, nearly 75 percent of our U.S. customers tell us that they will be vaccinated by early summer. That’s incredible progress. Nevertheless, continuing to wear a mask is one of the most important ways Delta customers and employees can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we remain fully committed to our longstanding mask requirement, which is in line with federal law. Starting in May, you’ll start to see additional Delta employees positioned in airport lobbies to provide assistance and help remind you and your fellow customers to put on a mask or face covering as you enter the airport.
Those rigorous mask requirements, combined with all we’ve learned about the virus this year with the help of our expert partners at Mayo Clinic and Emory, as well as our own Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting, have given us the confidence to evolve some of our other protocols:
As we begin to make more seats available on May 1, you’re likely to notice fewer distancing stickers on airport floors, Delta Sky Clubs, gatehouse seating and jetways to allow for additional customers in our airport spaces. But hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass shields at Delta check-in counters, in Clubs and at gate counters will all remain in place.
While our Global Cleanliness team pursues long-lasting surface coatings that allow for sustained protection in flight, our aircraft interiors, check-in lobbies, self-service kiosks, Delta Sky Clubs, gate counters and baggage claim will still be thoroughly wiped down throughout the day. We will also continue to disinfect onboard aircraft, airport lobbies, jet bridges, gatehouses and Clubs with electrostatic spray each night, which takes into account recent CDC guidance on surface sanitization.
As we’ve learned more about COVID-19, we’ve been innovating on cleanliness and continuing to evolve our layers of protection to offer you a safer, more flexible travel experience as part of the Delta CareStandard. But even after the pandemic ends, cleanliness will continue to characterize the premium experience customers expect from Delta. You can rest assured that as we move forward, we will maintain our rigor around cleanliness. As I’ve said many times before, there’s really no finish line for this.
As a reminder, the air on all aircraft is still completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters, which extract more than 99.99% of particles, including viruses. These are the same types of filters used in hospital operating rooms, and we replace them onboard twice as often as recommended.
What else should I expect to see at the airport this summer?
Bill: From newly reopened airport concessions to a strengthened network to fly customers to more of the places they want to go, there are so many things to look forward to this summer as we welcome more of you back onboard. Central to all of this is working to keep people moving throughout airport experiences as efficiently as possible.
Many of you have missed our curbside bag-drop service, and we are excited to announce we’ve begun the return of Sky Caps this month and ongoing into summer in most of our leisure markets as an extra option to help reduce crowding in the lobby.
TSA continues to hire security screening officers to ensure checkpoints are adequately staffed for the summer, and they’ll continue many of the safety and cleaning protocols they started during the pandemic well through the recovery, such as plexiglass protection and more touchless ID verification in select airports. And here’s my personal favorite travel tip: enroll in TSA PreCheck or CLEAR to speed up your security experience.
Finally, we know our customers have a renewed excitement to get back out into the world, and we’re just as excited to connect them to it. While this isn’t new, remember to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international trips to comfortably allow you make it to the gate on time.
What's the experience like in Delta Sky Clubs these days?
Bill: We are thrilled that all of our Delta Sky Clubs will be open for guests by this summer. As we make more seats available onboard, Clubs will also be bringing back additional seating based on capacity needs and following local occupancy guidelines. You can also expect evolving food and beverage offerings in Clubs beginning in May and continuing throughout the spring and summer; many of our guests will experience our full complement of hot and cold fresh food stations with attendant service. Other select locations will reintroduce Chef’s Tables featuring a hot, seasonal feature of the day, in addition to an enhanced grab-and-go selection of fresh foods, hot breakfast sandwiches and soups.
If you are traveling through Fort Lauderdale this summer, keep an eye out for our beautiful new Club opening at the end of June. Like all our Clubs, you can look forward to relaxing and recharging in the new, thoughtfully designed space featuring our award-winning beverage program, reimagined food offerings and other premium amenities delivered with care.
What is the onboard experience like now? Are you resuming food and beverage service?
Bill: As I’ve mentioned, increased demand and vaccination rates has given us the confidence to not only open up more seats but also to reintroduce onboard snack and beverage service. It’s been welcome news to our customers – so far, we’re seeing double-digit improvements in our customer satisfaction scores in that category. We’re so glad you’re already enjoying classic favorites and new treats like our Tip Top Proper Cocktails, which are complimentary to those 21 and up in First Class and Comfort+ and available for purchase in Main Cabin. By June, customers flying in Delta One or First Class on select domestic coast-to-coast flights will see hot food options return, and First Class customers on other key U.S. routes will enjoy fresh boxed meals beginning in early July.
U.S. routes will enjoy fresh boxed meals beginning in early July. With more service coming onboard, mask compliance is as important as ever. We want to remind all of you to mask up when you aren’t actively eating or drinking, in compliance with our mask requirement. In-flight entertainment content also continues to be updated. You won’t want to miss our lineup of award-winning shows, movies and podcasts coming onboard this summer. Plus, you can look forward to fast, reliable Wi-Fi onboard as we bring high-speed streaming-capable connectivity to more aircraft this summer in partnership with Viasat.
What's the most important thing for me to know if I'm traveling this summer?
Bill: The most important thing to know is that you are at the center of every decision we make. We are doing everything we can to make your trip as safe and as easy as possible so that you can make flying a part of the journey to look forward to. We are always listening to your feedback and adjusting our processes, so please let us know if we ever miss the mark and feel free to tell us when we really ‘wow’ you with our service, too. We are all in this together as we build the future of travel. We appreciate your business and loyalty immensely. I assure you, we will never take that for granted.