Delta Throws Southwest A Service Uppercut

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Delta has thrown the first uppercut at Southwest since their arrival into Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.

The ad, which has been all over town for the past few months, basically says you can’t have first class service without actually having a first class seat. Zing! Southwest may not have seen that one coming.

Delta’s ad is actually describing how they’ll have first class on flights of a certain duration. But I haven’t seen a single bilboard ad in the Atlanta market from Southwest, granted I’m not in the market very often or long:).


It is true that Southwest runs a boarding process similar to a cattle call. They don’t have a first class seating section, unless you count Airtran into that argument. I can attest to the process. But I’ll defer the details of that process to Alex, who catches a flight with them almost every week. What I did learn is that their most loyal members earn free booze, wifi on the plane as well as early boarding, regardless of what seat you are in. This isn’t the case with Delta. Although with Delta, I’ve founds that the “service awards” elite members can hand out to flight attendants go a long way.

I usually get good service on Delta in first class with free booze and a big seat, and those are the main reasons I fly with Delta other than the good treatment as a frequent flyer. But the benefits that Southwest offer their most frequent members (wifi, booze, early boarding) are not to shaby themselves, especially for short haul domestic flights.

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About The Weekly Flyer

The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. “It is true that Southwest runs a boarding process similar to a cattle call.”

    How is calling passengers in order – just like every other airline in the USA – a cattle call? The big difference is that they have open seating. Otherwise the top elites get the best boarding numbers and go at the beginning and everyone else goes later. And if you show up late you join the queue and get on board.

    Just like every other airline.

  2. There ads are so witty.

    I like the More First Class means More First Class Upgrades…..

  3. Seth – open seating is the big difference that makes it a cattle call. It turns “you may board at this time” to “you much board at this time if you don’t want to get stuck crammed in a middle seat at the back of the plane with a fat guy on either side. The urgency of the whole thing makes the experience significantly less pleasant.

    Your seat is always waiting with legacies. If you choose to carry on only a small item, or want to gamble on bin space, you can board whenever you want and not get hosed.

  4. My favorite is the Delta commercial that talks about loyalty- at one point says ‘more first class upgrades’ and shows people sitting down in a 777 lay flat first class.. which they don’t allow…

    Delta service is not great. I would say Delta services to elites is the same level as everyone gets at SWA

  5. A good rebuttal for Southwest would be a screenshot of a one way award trip to Europe pricing at 580,000 Skypesos posted on a nearby billboard. 😉

  6. Delta gives frequent fliers free booze in forms of coupons. Once you make certain medallion levels, every ticket you print has a complimentary drink or snack pack coupon on it (which you miss-out-on if you feel the need to check in using a bar-code on a smart phone) and every time you increase a medallion level, you get four more coupons. So unless you are a big drunk and need tons of little bottles, you should be fine.

    My relationship with Southwest is complicated. Everyone seems to love them but my flights with them are always mediocre. They aren’t that much cheaper than anyone else, every flight I’ve been on with them has been delayed, you have to go specifically to their website to get pricing, and every interaction with them is peppered with the saccharine self-aggrandizing “aren’t we so wondrous” attitude that puts me off.

    Also, Southwest coming to Atlanta is the best thing for Delta in a long time. Southwest is cannibalizing Airtran, so tons of Atlanta direct flights are being nixed (profitable routes like ATL-IAD) because Southwest needs the 737-700’s and 737-800s to complete longer routes elsewhere and they’re too cheap to fly and maintain the Boeing 717s. So a lot of the Atlanta direct business routes just got a lot more expensive because Delta has a monopoly on them.

    Meanwhile, Delta is getting all the 717’s through a really cheap leasing deal, so they can replace all those MD Super 80’s they got from Northwest.

    I’m surprised Delta is writing a love letter to Southwest on billboards at this point.

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