Delta Just Made Flying With SkyTeam Partners a Lot Easier
Delta introduced on Thursday the SkyTeam Rebooking feature, which will enable Delta’s frontline reservation agents to assist with irregular operations and flight changes across Delta's vast partner network. For Delta flyers connecting on partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Aeromexico and Korean Air, this change could save quite a few headaches when plans go awry.
Going forward, anyone facing a flight delay, cancellation or diversion on one of the 19 SkyTeam member airlines can phone Delta to sort out a solution. It doesn't matter if you booked through Delta, a partner airline or an online ticketing agency (OTA) like Expedia or Orbitz. Even if there's not a Delta leg in the journey and it's operated purely on SkyTeam partners, Delta is now equipped to lend a hand.
For Delta loyalists who routinely lean on partners to reach international locales, this has the potential to be game-changing. I've long since shied away from partner airlines if I could opt for Delta metal the entire way, mostly because I trust Delta to get me out of a jam on its own aircraft. Through this new program, that burden will ease, and will make me more likely to consider flights on SkyTeam partners.
Previously, those who found themselves in a pickle on a SkyTeam partner flight could call Delta, but Delta's agents would either redirect them to the operating carrier or place the person on hold while they rang the partner airline. Now, the first agent can access, rebook and reissue tickets for customers flying with any of SkyTeam’s 18 other members in a matter of minutes.
The system has been phased in by region, with North America completing the rollout. The feature is now available across all of SkyTeam’s 19 members and is offered at over 70 airports, with the rollout continuing throughout the year to 100 airports. That includes all of Delta’s hubs and top five partner hubs in London-Heathrow, Mexico City, Paris-CDG, Rome and Seoul.
I spoke with Perry Cantarutti, SVP Alliances, and Jeff Moomaw, Managing Director Alliances, in advance of the announcement. Both said that their research on the customer satisfaction side of the house led them to this solution. "Passengers who travel on Delta plus an international partner pay us more than those who travel strictly on Delta, yet satisfaction scores for these passengers were lower by double digits," said Moomaw.
The team began to dig into this data a year or so ago, identifying where Delta had big gaps in customer experience when traveling on partners. "The moment of service recovery is a real moment of truth," said Cantarutti. "We have a big opportunity to demonstrate customer centricity, and all of Delta's SkyTeam partners are aligned in this and are helping to make it possible."
Important to note: it also works in reverse. For example, Air France–KLM Flying Blue members who depart Europe and connect on Delta in the US will be able to call in for help as well. Rebooking is just the first step in making a trip on a SkyTeam partner feel less unusual than a trip purely on Delta metal, with Moomaw and Cantarutti alluding to "further enhancements" on the horizon.
SkyTeam Rebooking is available now via Delta's phone agents, regardless of which local number you use to dial in. In 2020, customer service agents working within airports will be able to help in person, removing the need to make a call when you're already in transit.
Featured image of an Air France 777 in Papeete, Tahiti, by the author.