Delta Air Lines wants to sell its passengers more than transportation tickets: it will begin serious marketing to customers to offer them various alternative services.
Critics of that plan wonder whether the American air carrier will provoke the type of protest its European counterpart Ryanair encountered when it floated the idea of paying to use the bathroom.
To save passenger’s money, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary proposed that bathrooms on each of the budget airline’s Boeing 737-800 jets be replaced with seats. Whether or not he was serious is questionable because O’Leary has been known in the past to be facetious.
He proposed that flyers on Ryanair, known for charging for all extra services after a seat is bought, should pay to use the bathrooms. “It would fundamentally lower air fares by about 5% for all passengers, cutting $3.15 from a typical $63 ticket,” O’Leary told The Independent.
The suggestion brought predictable outrage but also some humor. “Don’t cross your legs on Ryanair,” wrote one blogger.
There was no mention of pay toilets but the Atlanta-Journal Constitution not long ago wrote that “Delta Air Lines doesn’t want to be just an airline anymore. It also envisions itself as a retailer, selling extra services for flights through a virtual cash register at your airplane seat and a digital storefront when you book a flight on the airline's website.”
The news from Delta comes at a time when it has also announced high-flying and massive flight expansion out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, ”hoping to improve its competitive edge against its two biggest rivals in the nation’s most important air travel markets,” writes the AP.
Delta said that the additions make it the biggest airline between the New York area and other cities in the US. It is also adding routes that target American Airlines, which puts it in a better position to compete against United Continental.
“That should help it grab more high-paying business travelers, a critical passenger segment in major cities like New York,” writes the AP.
But Delta also has a captive audience of millions of passengers. The implication is that passengers, with or without pay toilets, could be subject to a plethora of sales pitches and ad “opportunities” that would start when passengers buy a Delta Airline ticket.
But for Delta, this could be a billion dollar opportunity that paves the way for other airlines to imitate it, airline observers say. The airline reported making $600 million in revenue already coming in from various “paid” sources, such as Wi-Fi fees and other charges.
Delta expects to post an $800 million profit this year, or $1.1 billion excluding special items. "There are a lot of ways to make money beyond the basic sale of a seat between two points," Tim Mapes, Delta's senior vice president of marketing, said during a Delta investor day.
In the past, the company has been “singularly focused on selling airline tickets, and forgetting that we can sell customers other things," said Delta executive Glen Hauenstein.
Of course, the company risks alienating passengers - as all airlines do - when adding “fees” to services such as baggage that have historically and customarily been provided for free.
It is way too early tell just how passengers will respond to these new offerings. But if Delta is successful in broadening its marketing changes, and it was good enough for Ryan, it will almost certainly be good enough for other American carriers as well.
Key Statistics - Global Airline Industry (source: MarketLine)
- US carriers collected 10% more fees last year in baggage and ticket changes for a total of $5.7 billion in overall fees, according to the US Transportation Department.
- Cutting back on bathrooms could lower air fares by about 5% for all passengers, cutting $3.15 from a typical $63 ticket, according to Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.
- Delta expects to post an $800 million profit this year, or $1.1 billion excluding special items, according to the airline.