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Delta Launches New Innovation Class Mentorship Program

by on March 19, 2014 · 9 comments

in Delta

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Delta’s brand new Innovation Class poses a (theoretically) interesting question:

“What if you could turn a 3-hour flight into a mentoring program at 35,000 feet?”

With the idea in mind that normally busy airplane passengers who are seated next to one another have a rare opportunity to make a meaningful connection, Delta has recently begun to invite mentors (leaders and up-and-comers in a variety of industries) to take a compensated flight to a special event they were already planning to attend, and leaving the seat beside them unfilled. Mentees (innovators in either that mentor’s field or a related field) who want a chance to connect with the mentor are invited to apply for that empty seat by  allowing Delta’s mentee selection committee to access the info on their LinkedIn account.

Here’s a video that spells out the Delta Innovation Class concept:

In order to see which mentors will be in the air and vie for a seat, a potential mentee has to visit the Delta Innovation Class website. Upcoming flights will be listed with a travel date, destination, event, and a link to the mentor’s bio; a potential mentee has to click the blue “Apply For This Flight” button on that listing.
Listing for the next Delta Innovation flight, on May 5th

Listing for the next Delta Innovation flight, on May 5th

The mentee will then be asked to provide the login info for their LinkedIn account (or have the opportunity to create one). Once this step is completed, you’re in the running, and within a few minutes you’ll receive an e-mailed confirmation of your application. You’ll get another email if you’re shortlisted, then another if you’re chosen for the empty airline seat.

Provide your login info to your LinkedIn account, and you've applied

Provide Delta Innovation Class with the login to your LinkedIn account, and you’ve applied

Winning mentees are given a stipend, a free flight, a ticket/entrance to the same event the mentee is attending, and a compensated hotel stay. For example, the mentee who wins the May 5th flight with Charleston, South Carolina chef/restaurateur Sean Brock, a semi-finalist for this year’s coveted James Beard Award, will be given a  $5,000 check as a stipend for participating, the flight for free, a ticket to the James Beard Awards, and a 2-night hotel stay in New York City. (Mentees are responsible for all applicable federal, state, and local taxes.)

The only future Delta Innovation flight mentioned (with, as yet, no exact date or mentor)  is to San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt, which will take place September 8-10, 2014. Potential mentees are invited to submit their email for announcement of this and other future Delta Innovation flights.

Potential mentees can submit their email address for future flight updates

Potential mentees can submit their email for flight updates

On the site, you can also sign up to be a mentor, or suggest others to be a mentor. It’ll be interesting to see who applies to be a mentor in the future – if anyone.

Originally I thought this was going to be a large scale promotion rolled out to help people in a ton of industries and not compensate them, but simply allow people to network. Though it is pretty clear that this is a big PR thing for Delta to position themselves as the airline for innovators and industry leaders. Still, the winners get a bunch of free cash and great networking, so I see this as a win-win for all involved.

Would you actually take the trip if you were accepted for Delta's Innovation Class?

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Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Dave McCulloch

    Just to be clear- it doesn’t appear you’re giving Delta your credentials — but merely allowing Delta access to your profile. Looks like an interesting program, though!

  • Danny

    This is strange to me – kind of a big distraction of actually providing good service for 99.9% of their clients who don’t fly to sit next to a particular chef or whatever. I’d rather they focus on having a FF program that doesn’t get massively devalued twice a year than distract with this crap.

  • Steve

    I saw the email for this today and checked it out, didn’t expect to see it covered here though. I was going to enter until I saw the “invitations and message” caveat. No go on that, they can see my friends and my profile but that is too far.

  • cotoneloc

    TPG, will you be joining as a mentor. I’m sure there are a lot of people, myself included, who would like to review their points maximizing strategy at 35k feet.

  • thepointsguy

    I’d rather have a better FF program too, but have to give them credit for doing something innovative

  • thepointsguy

    Ha, something leads me to believe they probably wouldn’t want to elevate someone who rips on most of their frequent flyer program related “enhancements”.

  • http://www.localontheroad.smugmug.com Cindy

    PG writes, “Originally I thought this was going to be a large scale promotion rolled out to help people in a ton of industries and not compensate them, but simply allow people to network.” – that’s what I thought too, and I was impressed with the idea until the fine print clarified. Wouldn’t that be something! That approach would be a better value-add going forward instead of a momentary flash of publicity. That type of concept itself would provide Delta an innovative way to brand themselves to have an ongoing attraction for business travelers. Since they seem to be gutting the FF program, at least the possibility of networking opportunities could be something attractive to motivate people to not move on (strongly considering following your lead on that front). Oh Delta, how I wish you would focus your energy on initiatives that benefit your core market and not a few customers for momentary headlines…

  • -

    Agreed, I dislike many of Delta’s policies, but that doesn’t mean a knee-jerk hate on every single new feature it brings to the table.

  • Steve

    Not only access your profile, but look at private messages you have sent/received. They can view anyone’s profile if they pay LinkedIn enough money, access to personal information is much harder to come by.

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