My Comments to Delta

One of the changes the world is getting used to with Twitter, YouTube, and ubiquitous cameraphones is that one person’s experiences can be shared with the entire world, immediately, and unfiltered.

Arthur C. Clarke predicted this (can’t find it with a quick Google search, but it’s probably in one of my copies of When All the World Was One). He was thinking of war correspondents behind enemy lines, uploading footage directly to comsats. That happened in 1991 during the first Gulf War.  But now it’s available to basically anyone.

Like these soldiers returning from Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/kg9beD

I tweeted about it last night, read a bunch of comments, and finally registered on Delta’s blog to state my disapproval more fully this morning.  Turns out that my comment didn’t pass muster with Delta’s moderation police. In the unlikely event that anyone cares, I’m capturing a screenshot of it here for posterity, typo and all:

Here’s the 2008 policy I referred to: http://bit.ly/k6lbZ2

And, yes, after a day of public outcry, Delta publicly reversed themselves. http://bit.ly/lp9DVz. But the reversal should never have been necessary, since the front-line employee should have been empowered to interject some common sense and say “You know, policy is you only get three bags, but I’m going to waive that in your case. Thank you, and welcome home.”

Yes, there could be some abuse. As I shared with Monday morning breakfast companion Joe Landon,

@joe_landon The cost of checking a 4th bag for every soldier, forever, doesn’t approach PR cost of this screwup. THAT’S “running a business”

And my last tweet on the topic was:

@joe_landon Bingo. Empower your employees. If you don’t trust them, hire better employees.

More companies will find themselves vulnerable to the instant-firestorm that Delta just experienced. If you create the right corporate culture, you have nothing to fear.

Update

“It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.”

Wondering about the broken link at http://bit.ly/k6lbZ2 ? Since I posted that an hour ago, Delta has removed from their website a 15 August 2008 release waiving all baggage fees for returning military personnel. Scrambling for damage control?

Luckily, a contemporaneous WSJ story still exists: http://on.wsj.com/lO9ILi

And I was able to snag a screenshot from the Google cache:


(Click the image to embiggen.)

Because I want the text to be Google-searchable, I’m reproducing the first two paragraphs here:

Aug 15, 2008

ATLANTA, Aug. 15, 2008 — Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) today announced that effective immediately it will waive all excess baggage fees for active military personnel travelling on orders. The fee waivers apply to baggage quantity, weight and size, allowing active servicemen and women to travel with optimum flexibility.

“Delta has a long tradition of supporting our troops and it is important that they find travel with us welcoming and flexible,” said Steve Gormen, Delta’s executive vice president – Operations. “We respect the courage our military men and women display every day and the people Delta find it an honor to serve them.”

Except for a little bafflegab around “optimal flexibility,” this is a straight, admirable, and to-the-point policy. What changed at Delta between summer 2008 and spring 2011?

And who removed this press release from their website today, and on whose authority?