I don’t envy those who work in social media for US airlines. It’s a pretty thankless job, and you’re dealing mostly with angry people. That’s why I find yesterday’s situation between the USA Curling team and Delta to be especially interesting, since it wasn’t inherently a negative interaction. Yesterday the USA Curling team Tweeted the following:
@Delta our Olympic #curling champions are flying home on Monday. Upgrades?!? 🙂
Delta responded as follows:
Hi, there. Congratulations, gold medal champions! We are honored to be your ride back home! While we don’t have any upgrades to offer, we look forward to seeing you on board. Thanks for flying with us!
Hi, there. Congratulations, gold medal champions! We are honored to be your ride back home! While we don't have any upgrades to offer, we look forward to seeing you on board. Thanks for flying with us! *AJL
— Delta (@Delta) February 24, 2018
This has caused a lot of people to respond in an angry way to Delta (and it’s being combined with some backlash regarding their stance on the NRA — or perhaps their lack of a stance). Like these Tweets:
First you cut ties with NRA, then you don’t offer upgrades to the Men’s Curling Gold Medalists. I get it now. You hate America. Thanks for clarifying. #BoycottDelta 🇺🇸
— Sharon 🇺🇸😃🇺🇸 (@Red4Liberty) February 24, 2018
Shame on Delta, this was a chance to show off their National pride!
— Sue Bennington (@sueb1233) February 25, 2018
Here’s the thing — Delta doesn’t deserve any backlash here, though I do think the did a poor job communicating . Upgrading the curling team wouldn’t be just upgrading one person, but presumably we’re talking about a team of 5-10 people when you include coaches. Having looked at the inventory on Delta flights out of Seoul Incheon yesterday, no flight had more than a few business class seats remaining.
Personally I think Delta should have said they don’t have any upgrades available, rather than that they don’t have any upgrades to offer, which sounds more like they have them but aren’t going to give them.
The way I see it, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for an airline to upgrade those who win Olympic gold medals from their country, space permitting. For example, in the 2016 Olympics, Singapore Airlines gave a gold medalist one million KrisFlyer miles, Gold status, and an upgrade to first class on the flight home. That’s of course an over the top reward, but certainly generated a lot of goodwill, and wasn’t out of line for a small country like Singapore.
So the only thing I blame Delta for here is how they phrased their upgrade denial, as I think they could have avoided some of the backlash by making it clear that upgrades just weren’t available, rather than saying that they had no “upgrades to offer.”
A lot of people are flying back from Korea to the US following the Olympics, and flights are packed. I don’t think anyone expects Delta to downgrade paid business class passengers to make room for Olympic champions.
Was the question tacky on the part of the US Curling team? I don’t know. I don’t think they were meaning to “trap” Delta, but rather they were just going by the philosophy that it can’t hurt to ask, and I can’t blame them. I feel like if Delta had responded differently, no one would be talking about this.
Lastly, United is the official sponsor of Team USA at the Winter Olympics, so am I the only one who assumed that the athletes were flying to & from Korea with them?
What do you think — did Delta do anything wrong here, or is it this a non-story?