So Delta, is traveling with you safe or unsafe? Apparently, it depends upon the audience…
Visit delta.com and you’ll see Delta taking about how it is delivering a “safe, healthy, clean” travel experience. Delta has rolled out “Delta Clean”, a program which promises to deliver “a new standard’ of airline cleanliness. It is blocking middle seats and pausing automatic upgrades “for safer travel,” specifically to “ensure we’re keeping people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
There are many more examples, but you get the picture.
This picture of safety makes all the more curious Delta’s latest filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which attempts to excuse Delta from service to several airports. Why? Because, according to Delta, such service is unsafe.
“During this pandemic, airport employees and crews must place themselves at risk to staff each flight and Delta seeks to reduce this risk as much as possible. One way Delta seeks to minimize health risks to its workforce is by limiting the number of airport stations that remain open for business during the COVID-19 health emergency to reduce the total number of airport staff who must report to frontline work.”
In response, Delta requests that it suspend service to nine airports, noting that other airports are within reasonable driving distance.
This is only an issue because Delta chose to accept money from the CARES Act. As a condition of that bailout, Delta agreed to maintain service to all stations, reflecting a Congressional desire to keep commercial air service available to as many Americans as possible.
To be clear, some of this service makes absolutely no sense. Flights are going out nearly empty and other airports are indeed within a reasonable vicinity. While I cannot fault Delta for trying to excuse itself from low-demand air service, that was the condition of the bailout. Should the DOT cave in and grant these exceptions, it would become just another reason in the long list of reasons why I opposed a bailout in the first place.
But again, why? Why can’t Delta just say these routes make no economic sense. Why does Delta have to frame this request in terms of safety?
“Delta recognizes that the grant of this exemption may result in inconvenience to some members of the traveling public who will need to drive further to access Delta’s air transportation network. However, that inconvenience is outweighed by the public health and safety of the employees that Delta is trying to protect.”
Because Frontier and United already tired it the honest way and were denied similar requests. Delta deliberately steers clear of the economic argument in an effort to give the DOT plausible cover that this is not just about money.
But of course it is about money. Smaller stations and emptier flights pose less of a safety risk than consolidating people at one airport and onto one flight. Don’t think for one moment this is primarily about safety.
Delta, the airline that epitomized hypocrisy in its battle against subsidies until it was on the receiving end, is just acting in character here. On the one hand, I can hardly blame for Delta for exercising self-interest in this respect. But at the same time, such hypocrisy is just so blatant. Is air travel at Delta safe or not? Again, it depends upon the audience…
(H/T: View from the Wing)