Delta CEO at CES: Airline uses data to personalize service, fly around storms

During an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the company is increasingly using data to personalize service in-flight and reduce flight disruptions from storms.

Bastian appeared as one of the guests of keynote speaker Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, which is a Delta IT partner. Rometty and Bastian held an on-stage conversation about technology developments at the airline.

Bastian said the airline added 30 flights a day to Las Vegas for CES, including flights from Shanghai, Seoul, Amsterdam and Paris.

He s about how the company is working to use data to improve customer service.

Among the biggest frustrations for travelers is when they feel they have been loyal customers and they are not treated like it.

“Just imagine you’re sitting on an airplane... and you’re recognized by your flight attendant,” Bastian said. “Ms. Rometty, thank you for your business.... What can we serve you today? Would you like your favorite glass of wine?”

Flight attendants can also see if an important customer had a delay on a recent flight and offer an apology, he said.

In 2015, Delta rolled out "phablets" for its flight attendants to allow them to greet customer by name, see their SkyMiles Medallion status, recognize "high-value customers," and help those who need extra assistance.

In 2017, Delta said it was using "big data" to give flight attendants on their handheld SkyPro devices a "targeted recognition feature" -- a prioritized list of customers to recognize based on their Medallion status, milestones, recent flight interruptions or standing as a corporate traveler.

Bastian said the airline has also started gathering historical data from storms to learn from them for future operations.

“We just finally in the last year built the ability to access that data,” he said. “It’s not only making for a smoother ride in the air,” but can also reduce cancellations.

Last November, Delta said its 25 meteorologists are using a new weather information tool to track and forecast weather, and push out information to others at the airline who handle flights and manage delays and cancellations.

At CES, Bastian also said Delta recently got approval to carry certain temperature-sensitive cargo such as pharmaceuticals on it planes, and blockchain technology allows it to track the items.