Delta Air Lines has started replaying its old Song unit nationwide --- it hopes to a better tune.
In a move to try to get an edge over competitors on long-haul flights, the airline has begun remodeling about a fourth of its fleet to incorporate the former Song's most customer-friendly features --- extra legroom and video screens at each customer's seat.
By the time it's done, possibly late next year, Delta expects to have the nation's largest fleet, 117 jets, that has both first-class and coach cabins equipped with seat-back entertainment systems featuring live television, games and music for every customer.
Many of the jets will also have about 2 inches more legroom in the economy cabin than most Delta jets.
A handful of airlines around the world offer live TV and other entertainment at each seat. But JetBlue was the first and still has the largest fleet, currently 113 jets with all-coach seating.
Delta's move means Atlanta travelers who rarely flew on Song or JetBlue, which were both launched out of New York, could soon have more comfortable knees and more entertainment options than "Nacho Libre" or "X-Men: The Last Stand," the two movies currently showing on Delta flights.
Only weeks after filing for Chapter 11 last year, Delta announced it was ditching Song, a low-fare knockoff of JetBlue Airways. Delta folded Song's 48 white jets with lime green swooshes into its regular operations last spring.
Delta is redoing the former Song jets, first by adding first-class cabins and muting the jets' once-garish interiors with traditional Delta colors.
The first two remodeled jets went into service late last month. Delta plans to add first-class cabins by Thanksgiving to the remaining 46 former Song jets that already have in-seat video systems and extra legroom. Delta then plans to add entertainment systems to all seats in 69 other aircraft by late next year or early 2008. It hasn't yet decided whether to add the extra legroom to those jets.
Delta is targeting the jets for routes of three hours or more, but they will sometimes show up on shorter flights.
In coming months, Delta plans to flag flights in its reservation system so that customers booking trips can tell whether the jet is equipped with the entertainment systems.
Delta also hopes that installing a first-class section in the former Song planes will attract business customers who shied away from Song because it only had coach seats.
The carrier is betting the moves will bolster its turnaround efforts by giving it a leg up on competitors in transcontinental markets. Delta's restructuring plan, including thousands of job cuts and terminating its pilots' pension plan, has grabbed the most attention.
But the carrier has also been working to improve passenger service in several areas with cleaner, remodeled aircraft, an upgraded lobby at the Atlanta airport and new designer employee uniforms.
"This is part of a broad strategy," said Delta Chief Operating Officer Jim Whitehurst, that incorporates lessons learned during Song's 2 1/2-year existence.
"Song was actually a very good product for us both from a learning perspective and keeping some share in some key markets," he said. But many Delta customers continued to take Delta flights even when Song flights were available, he said, because they wanted a seat in the first-class cabin.
Industry watchers lauded the move but said it won't be enough to set Delta apart unless it also improves its overall customer service and perhaps upgrades its entire fleet.
"As a million-miler and very frequent Delta customer, I'm very excited about this," said Ken Bernhardt, a Georgia State University marketing professor who runs a roundtable for marketing executives at airlines and other local companies. "Anything that Delta can do to improve the customer experience will begin to bring back the customer loyalty that has been lost."
NEW YORK, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- This Halloween's eve customers passing through JetBlue Airways' (Nasdaq: JBLU) Terminal 5 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) will...
Comair has received the first two of 14 Bombardier CRJ-900s aircraft that the regional airline is counting on to boost revenue. The new jets are scheduled to begin passenger service late this...
NEW YORK, Sept. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU), is pleased to announce the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) has awarded the value airline with Best Cabin Ambiance...