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‘Unprecedented transparency and flexibility’: Delta again named to Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies

“In an extraordinary year for commercial airlines, Delta has stood out for taking a customer-first leadership role during the pandemic."


For the third time in four years, Delta is one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies worldwide - this time in recognition of the company’s success in innovating with “creative problem-solving and fearlessness” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and for “finding reasons to be optimistic in an unprecedented year for tourism and hospitality.”

“In an extraordinary year for commercial airlines, Delta has stood out for taking a customer-first leadership role during the pandemic,” said Fast Company in its online review of the company. “Along with transforming the industry’s standard of clean with measures such as creating a Global Cleanliness team, a 44-point cleaning process and an all-employee COVID-19 testing program, it was among the first to stop selling middle seats and the only airline to continue doing so throughout the holiday season of 2020. As many of these protocols are here to stay…Delta has gained the respect of its frequent flyers and critics alike.”

In response to this recognition, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer Bill Lentsch said, “The past year was arguably one of the most innovative in our history, because we had to be creative in ways we didn’t anticipate. Through it all, Delta’s spirit of innovation has only continued to grow and accelerate. This recognition is a significant achievement for our people, who have harnessed adaptability and agility amid demanding circumstances to keep customers and employees healthy and safe while still delivering thoughtful experiences throughout travel.” 

The only airline on the who's who of companies leading the charge in innovation, Delta earned the #3 spot among travel companies following a year that kicked off with a historic keynote address at CES outlining the company’s plans to transform the future of travel. A few weeks later, Delta was facing its greatest test yet as COVID-19 rapidly spread around the world and global travel came to a halt.

Transforming the future of travel soon required tackling urgent and changing customer needs. Delta moved quickly to lead the industry in ensuring cleanliness, providing more space and offering safer service at every point in the journey. Through the Delta CareStandard, Delta put in place more than 100 layers of protection to deliver a safe travel experience, including sourcing and deploying electrostatic sprayers as early as February 2020 to thoroughly sanitize Delta flights with a high-grade disinfectant - a process the airline still follows as part of an extensive checklist to confirm the cabin is clean from top to bottom.

Delta was also one of the first airlines to block middle seats on flights and has continued to extend this policy longer than any other U.S. airline. The airline even put in place dynamic technology to automatically unblock middle seats for parties of three or more, allowing customers traveling as a group to still sit together while blocking other seats instead. Blocked seats are visible for every flight via seat maps shown when booking or on the Fly Delta app.

The airline also forged forward-looking partnerships with leading health experts at Mayo Clinic, Emory University and RB, the makers of Lysol, to guide the company’s best-in-class sanitization and health screening measures.

Delta has continued to take steps to reassure customers as they return to travel, including:

  • Deploying a dedicated team of clean ambassadors at airports – and equipping them with ATP testing devices, the same tools used to swab surfaces in hospitals, to spot-check the highest-touch surfaces in the airport and onboard – further guaranteeing our cleaning efforts are consistently meeting the highest standards possible.
  • Creating an interactive travel map to help customers understand where Delta flies and the latest travel requirements or restrictions at their destination. 
  • Streamlining travel by building a suite of digital tools to manage booking, test scheduling and automatic document verification all in one place on and the Fly Delta app.

“We put our customers at the center of everything we do, whether that’s partnering with trusted health experts, raising the standard for safer travel or offering added flexibility to change plans with ease,” said Lentsch. “What our customers value most is Delta’s ability to listen to them and deliver on our promises with every interaction and decision, every day.”

As 2021 unfolds, Delta remains focused on keeping innovation at the forefront, including hiring Dr. Henry Ting as the company’s first Chief Health Officer, doubling down on its sustainability commitments and announcing plans to bring high-speed Wi-Fi on board this year.

Delta was previously named to Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in 2018 and 2019. Earlier this year, the company was named the World’s Most Admired Airline by Fortune’s Most Admired Airline List, ranking the airline as No. 1 for the 10th time in the past 11 years.

Learn more about what makes Delta the world’s most-awarded airline.

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