Delta Air Lines just made a callous admission that customers may find galling

It's painful, as well as laughable, when an airline confesses that customers weren't actually its first priority.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

They went after the money, not the customer.

(A screenshot from a Delta video.)

Chris Matyszczyk/Screenshot

It's all OK.

There's nothing to see here.

You may have endured stresses, strife, delays of endless hours, flight cancellations and even ruined vacations, but everything is now going to be just fine.

For the airlines, that is.

For you, well, you may have gained travel vouchers or bags under your eyes, but you're just the collateral damage of, well, what exactly?

For the longest time this year, airlines insisted they were enduring staff shortages, bad weather and even alleged understaffing at air traffic control.

At least, this is the sort of thing they told their customers.

I suspect, though, that the majority of those customers don't listen to what the airline tells financial analysts when they present their quarterly figures.

This could be because slivers of truth emerge that, should they reach most customers' ears, would light them on fire, with the flames searing their eyebrows.

Therefore, I found myself leaning toward the unhinged on hearing a quite galling, touchingly grotesque explanation (and confession) that came during Delta's recent second-quarter numbers talk.

Speaking to CNBC, Delta CEO Ed Bastian began: "This was an industry, not just Delta, that was starved for revenue for the last two years."

I'm sure the tears are already forming a tsunami beneath your singed eyebrows.

What it is to be starved of revenue. Especially when you've taken $52 billion of government money, ostensibly to keep your workforce intact and then, well, let quite a lot of that workforce go.

Perhaps I'm being harsh. Running an airline is clearly difficult. Tough decisions must be made.

Oh, but Bastian continued: "When the spring came, and the huge surge came, we all stressed ourselves to do everything we could to take in and capture as much of that revenue. We pushed too hard."

Some might translate this as: "We're an airline. We want to make all the money we can. So we did, without thinking through whether this might make a total and utter calamitous mess of our customers' lives."

It seems Delta didn't think of its customers, its brand or its own capabilities. It just wanted the money. And if all you could get from the airline was travel vouchers, well, who knows when you'll actually be able to use them?

What may seem even more troubling is that this is coming from Delta. It's an airline that's built its brand on reliability, customer service, and generally being more human-focused than many of its competitors. Customers paid a premium for this.

Also: A Delta passenger asked a simple question. The answer was a disaster

But here, it sounds like, of all things, Facebook. It just went for maximum revenue without considering a single potential -- and quite predictable -- consequence.

Did no one at the airline mutter: "You know what? I'm not sure we can get there from here."?

Now, Delta's pilots are picketing, insisting the airline continues to create unreasonable, unworkable schedules.

I almost forgot. Bastian wasn't done with his lyricism.

He offered: "In the past, we were talking about fights on the airplane. Now there's a fight trying to get into the airplane because people want to go."

They do, indeed, want to go.

But Delta's abject, thoughtless revenue-grasping means too many of them weren't able to go at all, even when they'd bought a ticket.

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