Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Delta Airlines likes to think of itself as a little better than the rest.
But in airlines, so many things can go wrong so quickly.
Suddenly, the company suffered a computer outage and passengers were strewn all over the world, sleeping on airport floors and kvetching even more than usual.
Even though Delta continues to cancel flights, it insists it's slowly clearing up the mess.
It's offering passengers $200 travel vouchers. Actually, you can only get one of those vouchers if you were delayed for more than three hours or your flight was canceled.
The whole affair, though, tastes a worse than most airline food.
Here are three things that were a touch tough to digest.
1. Delta Seated The Truth In Economy.
When Delta's computers went down, it blamed a "power outage." This seemed odd. Why would a power outage in Atlanta cause mayhem across the globe? Those Georgians must have quite some power. This forced Georgia Power to slide onto Twitter and offer a delicate elucidation: "#Delta experienced an equipment failure overnight causing their outage. We are working closely w/ Delta as they make repairs." Ergo, the supposed power outage was actually a failure of Delta's computer systems. Obfuscation via your PR department isn't a good look.
2. Delta Makes Claims Of Superiority.
I don't know how to break it to you, but Delta filed a patent for the phrase "The On-Time Machine." I'm sure it sounded so good to marketing executives at the time. But the minute you make boasts such as this, you'd better have very fine computer systems. The truth is that even Google's computer systems go down once in a while. Making a promise that you can't possibly live up to (have you heard of hurricanes, tornadoes, inebriated pilots?) leaves you open to, well, giggles. Or something a touch more snippy.
3. Delta's First Reaction Was, Well, Not Entirely Generous.
When the power-outage-that-wasn't happened, Delta offered passengers a chance to reschedule. You might not find this offer altogether reasonable. It allowed passengers to re-book without penalty or an extra charge for a difference in fares. Hurrah, you might think. But wait. You had to agree to fly by August 12. Imagine if, say, you were traveling on business. You were scheduled to fly on a Monday. Are you really going to re-book the trip for a Friday and expect that all your meetings will still happen?
The essential lesson from all this is that it's worth being honest with your customers. It's also worth being fair -- in the definition of the word that allows for the customer to think it's fair.
It's not as if Delta was the first airline to suffer a computer breakdown.
United, Southwest, and American have all enjoyed recent tech meltdowns.
Indeed, at Southwest the pilots want the CEO fired because they say the company hasn't invested in technology and the management seems more fond of generating fine stock prices (and whom might that benefit?).
With there being so little competition among airlines, it's likely Delta's image won't suffer too much damage.
Still, isn't it better to treat your customers according to the promises you make them?
Oh, I almost forgot.
Two years ago, Delta applied for trademark protection for another fine slogan: "The World's Most Trusted Airline."