Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a piece of news that seemed to drift by like a contrail of marijuana at a Jack White concert.

Well, it came out on Friday, so you'd think even Delta Air Lines might think it wasn't important.

The words, though, seemed meaningful:

"More screens, more choices: Delta equips 600th aircraft with seatback entertainment."

Wait a minute.

I thought many airlines were stripping seatback screens out of their planes.

These entertainment sources add to the weight of the aircraft, thereby impacting fuel costs. The maintenance bill can be significant, too.

At least those are two of the justifications presented by American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, whose airline is progressively removing all seatback screens.

Parker believes ultimately people will prefer to bring their own devices. The airline's job will merely be to give them great Wi-Fi and content they can stream.

Delta's announcement, though, shows the contrary approach. The airline's senior vice president and chief marketing officer Tim Mapes explained:

"We continue to invest in seatback screens because customers continue to tell us they're important. With seatback screens, customers don't have to choose between using their phones or watching a movie. Whether they want to work, relax, or a little bit of both -- we want to give our customers the ability to choose and make the most of their time in flight."

Sadly, it's a multitasking world, which means too many people are used to -- because they're often forced to -- using two screens at the same time.

And it may be that ultimately Parker will be right. We'll all be carrying around vast numbers of screens, all synced with the chips in our heads.

Perhaps only then will Delta begin to dismantle its screens.

However, Delta went on to explain that its entertainment system provides customers with a qualitative depth and breadth.

How often, indeed, do you get on a plane with good seatback entertainment and find movies that you'd love to see but had forgotten about? Or movies that you simply hadn't heard of, but turn out to be wonderful?

The fact that an airline bothers to offer this suggests it's got at least some understanding of customer service. 

Customer service doesn't just mean smiling and being pleasant -- though goodness, does that help. 

It means anticipating a customer's needs and bringing them a little delight -- hopefully, unexpected delight.

American's approach implies that a family of five will actually bring five devices with them in order to remain entertained. 

How likely is that?

Google recently published some research it did in the travel sector. It found, indeed, that customers' greatest wish when booking travel wasn't a fine loyalty program. It was customer service. 

Some airline executives simply don't see the immediate return from giving something to customers for free. 

Soon, though, you might find them bemoaning the state of their business. 

Why, just last week, an airline president said he was concerned his company was falling behind in attracting premium customers.

And which airline did he reference as being ahead of American? Why, Delta.  

Published on: Aug 19, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.