First it was the kiosks, then the website. Now Delta travelers are being rewarded with a brand-new iPad app as part of a $140 million upgrade of consumer-facing technologies at the airline.
It's not often that a legacy airline truly reconsiders the user experience, especially when it comes to devices that many consumers find indispensable - specifically smartphones and tablets.
Delta has been working on their digital experience for over two years now, and as as far as airlines are concerned, the newly minted app offers a very unique experience that is, thankfully, thoughtful, fun, and potentially very useful.
Speaking of the biggest investment the company has made in 10 years, Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s EVP for Network Planning, Revenue Management and Marketing, emphasizes enhancing the user experience as a primary goal.
“Our goal is to simplify the digital experience across the touch points where our customers already spend their time by making their interactions with Delta easy and intuitive. The incredible functionality and innovation found in the new iPad app embodies all that we’re doing to further improve the digital experience customers have with Delta.
The feature most likely to be buzzed about is also one that is not necessarily new to the landscape.
Dubbed Glass Bottom Jet, the in-app feature allows users connected to in-flight WiFi above 10,000 feet to track their flight's progress while also exploring the landscape beneath them via Wikipedia articles, social media updates and other points-of-interest.
One potential hurdle for uptake of this new feature is that users must pay for an in-flight WiFi session in order to have access to the Glass Bottom Jet view. On one hand, this could reduce the amount of people that access the tool; on the other, perhaps it will give people another reason to opt for in-flight WiFi, which they can easily purchase right there in the app, of course.
While this sort of functionality has been pioneered by other apps such as WindowSeat, FlightAware, FlightTrackPro, etc, it's a good sign that an airline is thinking of providing value across the entire lifecycle rather than simply providing features that boost the bottom line.
Other legacy airlines should take note: a better user experience can lead to happier customers overall, and should be infused throughout the value chain and not simply on the most obvious customer touchpoints.
Other useful features that will likely make this app competitive enough to woo some away from their old standbys are:
- Airport directions.
- What's Next, which features destination content from several internal Delta sources including the publisher of Sky magazine, in addition to multimedia content.
- Web deals that allow users to find inexpensive last minute escapes via a world interface.
- Package vacation deals that also allow users to explore last minute package deals, via the same world interface.
- Flight check-in, upcoming flights, and related upgrades and ancillary add-ons.
All that being said, sometimes it's painful to watch larger companies "market out loud." Gems like "don't book your next flight, experience it," "world on whim," "imagine the places you'll go" and "our way of being with you every step of the journey" tend to make even the less skeptical tune out.
Do customers want to be with Delta on every step of their journey? Do they want to find out about things to do once they've reached their destination via the Delta app? Do they want to pay for WiFi so they can interact with everything they are flying over? Do they want to book spontaneous last-minute trips on iPads?
Among the ones that show the most promise of engagement are the world-based interface exploration of last minute deals, the destination-related content and the flight-tracking integration.
In their release announcing the new app, Delta suggests that engagement data will be a big part of the ROI calculations on this technology investment, offering a more personalized user experience that leverages available technologies to improve travelers' lives - and add to the bottom line.
Over time, delta.com and all Delta digital channels will evolve to deliver greater relevancy to the individual customer based on past interaction, new product offerings and customer information.
This will result in a highly personalized online experience and improved delivery of existing critical features such as flight check-in options, which more than 90 percent of Delta customers utilize during their travel.
Other airlines will need to keep up, as the digitally native generation - both those born into it and those converted - expect easy, intuitive and fluid user experiences across all branded touchpoints.