Delta Air Lines is spending a fortune to ensure you get the same experience you expect on Delta even when you fly a small regional jet operated by one of its partners. But there's one aspect of the program that a Delta executive told me is not quite right.
It's the personal touch.
Delta Connection flights are operated by partner carriers, like Compass Airlines, Endeavor Air and SkyWest Airlines. They set up their aircraft how Delta demands, which is why you get internet and a first class sections on most flights. The regional airlines even clean their aircraft as Delta requires and replace items like seat covers and carpets according to Delta's specifications.
But people are harder to control. Most Delta Connection regional partners also fly for other airlines and and even though the regional aircraft are assigned only to Delta -- it would be hard for a plane painted as Delta Connection to fly as United Express -- the crews are more fluid. A SkyWest Airlines flight attendant could work on a United Express plane one week and then a Delta Connection flight during another.
That doesn't mean the service will be bad, or the flight attendant unfriendly. But it could mean the flight attendant doesn't do the little things Delta would like to see.
"At Delta we train our flight attendants on soft skills," Don Bornhorst, Delta' senior vice president in charge of Delta Connection, told me. "It's been more difficult to roll that out to the [partners.]" That includes making sure that flight attendants take especially good care of high value customers, which is especially important on key routes, like San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Clarification: I want to make clear that Bornhorst wasn't criticizing Delta's regional operators. It's just that their flight attendants aren't trained by Delta, so sometimes little things the flight attendants do aren't quite the same as they are on mainline jets. Delta is doing its best to make those differences as small as possible.