Delta Air Lines just gave customers something they never believed possible

Naturally, it's all thanks to a lovely new algorithm.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Home of the helpful algorithm.

Screenshot by ZDNet

Airlines are, by nature, entirely consistent.

They want free money from the government and they want customers to pay for every little thing that used to be, well, free.

Oh, you have a bag? Please put $25 into our CEO's retirement fund, thank you. 

One of the more galling 'service' changes airlines made was to charge passengers for every seat on the plane.

The sliding scale that began with the best seats near the front or by a window or aisle, and ended with the seats you easily slide off near the back.

There's nothing so delicious as using technology to annoy customers during the purchasing process.

Oh, you want seat 26A? Aw, that'll be another $75, thanks. Our CEO has two yachts, you know.

I was moved, therefore, to contemplative teeth-chattering on hearing that Delta Air Lines was introducing something that passengers have actually craved for so long.

Particular passengers, that is.

For many a year, traveling with a group of any size involved additional expense, as well as the additional concern that you won't be able to sit together.

Airlines tended to be merciless about this. You're a family? Aw, that's going to cost you, isn't it?

Delta seems suddenly to have recognized the cruelty of this. So, as the Points Guy reported, Delta borrowed a word from Uber and introduced "dynamic' seat maps.

No, this isn't a seat map that jiggles in front of you, making it even harder to select a seat.

Instead, it's a service that blocks certain rows on each plane so that families -- and, who knows, groups of adventurous nuns -- can actually sit together in perfect harmony, while each staring at some kind of screen.

Behind it all, you'll be glad to hear, is an algorithm.

This tries to gauge what kind of flight it is and what sorts of people tend to book that flight. Then, the algorithm constantly updates itself. So that, if no families are flying to Disney World that day for political reasons, it releases the reserved seats to single people looking for love in the Mousehole.

Delta explained this is all part of its brand essence: "Being a customer-centric brand means we're constantly working to offer optimal experiences across travel. Taking a dynamic approach with our seat map displays is one way of doing that by providing preferred seating choices in all cabins -- at the time of booking or at the gate when working with an agent – for customers traveling alone or with a group."

To which more than one grizzly traveler might murmur: "Oh, yeah. If you're so customer-centric, why didn't you do this before?"

The answer, I imagine, is that the perfect algorithm hadn't been built yet.

There's another aspect to all this, of course. One that favors the airline. Families can be a dreadful nuisance when they can't all sit together. They get on the plane and beg resistant passengers to switch seats. This delays the flight, something airlines abhor.

With this dynamic algorithm, Delta might be able to boast of better on-time departure numbers.

Oh, you thought this was all just for you, dear passenger? Who do you think we are?

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