Why Delta wants to improve at selling you stuff

Will Delta do a better job of selling extras to you? Maybe you can buy an upgrade to first class. Photo: Delta. 

Will Delta do a better job of selling extras to you? Maybe you can buy an upgrade to first class. Photo: Delta. 

We know most travelers hate airline fees. But would you be more likely to buy add-ons if the process for doing so were easier?

This is the hope of Delta Air Lines executives, who last week told investment analysts that they need to do a better job of getting passengers to buy extras. They didn't say this exactly, but I'm guessing Delta wants to make transactions more seamless. Think about Amazon, which has long made it easy for customers to buy goods because it has offered one-click shopping. There's no need to input credit card data every time, so even if you're buying something expensive, it isn't hard to make a purchase. 

Presumably, if Delta can make it easier for you to buy a first class or Comfort + seat, you will be more likely to buy it. Delta says it still only sells about 57% of all first class seats, so maybe the airline might sell you one at the last minute? (Elite frequent fliers who get upgraded for free hate this sort of thing, but it would help Delta's bottom line.)

"While it's safe to say some of the products are very, very popular with our customers, they are still very difficult to purchase from us," CEO Richard Anderson told analysts.  "So 2016 is about ... bring[ing] us to the market in a much more user-friendly environment and continu[ing] to expand our products and services...."

How Delta will accomplish this Anderson would not say, but I'm guessing part of the plan is to improve the airline's mobile applications. I suspect the airline's website will also improve. 

How important is seamless commerce? In April, I interviewed Michael Small, CEO of Gogo, the company that handles in-flight Internet on most American, Delta and Virgin America flights. Gogo has raised prices considerably in the past year, but Small said price isn't necessarily the most important thing for potential customers. 

"How easy it its to buy matters a lot." he said. "If people don't have to enter a credit card, it helps 'take rates' at least as much changing price."

What do you think? Would you be more likely to buy a better seat or another extra if it was easier to do so?