Delta gives the gift of free in-flight WiFi

This holiday season, Delta has partnered up with eBay and Gogo to offer travelers 30 minutes of free in-flight wireless Internet on all WiFi-enabled aircraft through January 2.

Connecting is super simple: just open your browser, enter your email address on the promotional page, click the “Give Me Free WiFi” button, and boom — enough free connectivity to check your email and reconfirm your hotel reservation.

While outside websites will shut off after the first half hour, web surfers can continue to shop on and interact with throughout the course of the flight, a part of the promotion obviously geared toward last minute holiday shoppers.

Delta currently has more than 2,500 daily flights on WiFi-outfitted planes, and inflight wireless service generally costs around $12 for a 24-hour pass. Let’s hope next year they feel extra generous and grant us free connections all year ’round.

Buy elite miles on Delta, cheat your way to elite status

The trump card when going toe to toe with the airline industry has always been elite status. Once you’re silver or gold or whatever color is associated with frequent travel, many of the airline fees go away, upgrades start to sneak out of the woodwork and travel becomes slightly less miserable. That’s why many people carefully plan their annual travel to make sure that they reach a special status, sometimes even going as far as taking a mileage run to earn the right volume.

The problem with earning elite miles at the last minute, though, was that it was usually a waste of time, space and carbon. But airlines wouldn’t sell elite miles because then non-frequent travelers could game the system.

This week, Delta has partially fixed that conundrum by actually selling elite miles. They won’t sell you many, but if you need a few extra miles to make it to the next tier then it can be actually worth your time.

2,500 points, for example, will cost a traveler $295. But once that tier has been reached, a traveler can expect a whole host of fees waived plus free upgrades, preferred seats and priority checkin. For that price, it may be worth the investment.

You can learn more about Delta’s plan to sell miles over at their site. You can buy up to 10,000 miles.

[flickr image via sacra-moneta]

Airlines dominate Most Hated Companies list

This week, The Atlantic used The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) data to compile a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America. Joining Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Facebook all with a score of 64 or more out of 100 are even lower-scoring American Airlines (63), United Airlines (61), and US Airways (61). Worst of all air carriers? Delta Air Lines scoring an ultra low 56 on the index.

On Delta, The Atlantic notes:

“Complaints include additional costs for food, beverages and baggage fees. The airline collected more than $952 million in baggage fees from flyers in 2010, almost twice as much as any other airline carrier.

Since acquiring Northwest airlines in 2008, Delta’s consumer satisfaction score has plunged. According to ACSI, a big merger in service companies usually have a negative impact on customer services in the short-term, because of organization issues. Delta’s rating dropped another 6 points this year.”

The results add to concerns noted by Gadling back in April when we reported on America’s Meanest Airlines after 2011’s Airline Quality Report came out. Those results:Meanest major carrier: United Airlines
Meanest regional carrier: American Eagle
Most complained about airline: Delta Air Lines
Most likely to be unsafe: Jetblue
Most likely to overcharge for bags: Delta Airlines/ US Airways / Continental
Most likely to bump you: American Eagle
Most likely to be late: Comair
Most likely to mishandle your bag: American Eagle

One wonders if there might be a link between companies that are hated and companies that are mean.

Are there any companies on this list that you hate? Tell your story in the comments section…

Flickr photo by Loren Sztajer

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Get free Delta miles by using their mobile app

As mobile applications take a larger and larger role in our daily travel lives, airlines are starting to respond with their own widgets and tools to make working with them easier. After all, the better that they can facilitate your transactions with them, the more likely that you’re going to return a happy customer.

To that end, Delta Air Lines just rolled its new iPhone/Android app out that should help streamline the whole mobile boarding pass process. Instead of clicking through an email or navigating to on your browser, the new tool lets you check in, download your boarding pass and keep it stored for future use — without dealing with any browsers or caches or non-Delta tools.

Big deal, right? Anyone can use a mobile boarding pass irrespective of the app, and you’re still constrained by battery life and the whims of the TSA and the equipment along the chain. Fact of the matter is, mobile boarding passes are still probably not worth your time.

Still, an engaged traveler is one that’s more likely going to return (and Delta knows this), so they’re offering a 1,000 mile bonus for any passenger willing to download and try out the app next them they go to the airport. All the passenger has to do is sign up, get to the airport and check in with the app to get the reward, which should be just about the easiest 1000 miles that anyone can earn.

You can sign up for the promotion here and download the app via your favorite app store. You’ve got until September 7th to redeem.

Airlines offer in-flight menu items at food trucks, pop-ups

In a marketing move best described as “ironic,” a handful of airlines are now offering land-bound folk a taste of the finest of what they serve in the air. The New York Times reports that Air France, Austrian Airlines, Southwest, and Delta are trying to lure potential passengers by tempting them with samples of in-flight meals “from” celebrity-chefs.

The modus operandi are primarily roving food trucks and pop-up restaurants in cities from New York to Denver (there are also some permanent vendor spots at various sports stadiums). In Washington, passerby were offered European coffee and guglhupf, a type of cake. In Manhattan, crowds lined up for a taste of buckwheat crepes with ham, mushrooms, and Mornay sauce, or duck confit.

I get it. Airline food sucks. Time for an image makeover. But isn’t the airline industry so financially strapped that we’re lucky to get a bag of stale pretzels during a cross-country flight? And just because reknown chefs like Joël Robuchon, Tom Colicchio and Michelle Bernstein act as consultants for airlines and design their menus, that doesn’t mean it’s their food you’re eating on the JFK-to-Paris red-eye.

Most ludicrous, however, is the notion that there’s any basis for comparison against fresh ingredients and made-to-order food versus even the best institutionally-prepared airline crap. I’ve had a couple of decent meals designed by well-regarded chefs when I’ve been lucky enough to fly business class, but in the grand scheme of things, they were still made from flash-frozen, sub-par ingredients whose origins I’d rather not ponder. And if food truck crews are merely nuking actual airline food, then how are they any different from the corner deli with a microwave?

I’m not trying to be a food snob. I just find it interesting that airlines are hopping on two of the hottest culinary trends of the new century–ones largely based upon local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients. Yet by all accounts (to hear airline reps tell it), the plane campaign has been wildly successful. Of course. Who doesn’t love free food?Raymond Kollau, founder of, cites social media as the gateway to this type of “experiential marketing.” “As people are bombarded with marketing messages,” he explains, “real-life interaction with products and brands has become increasingly valuable for airlines to get their message across.”

Valid point, and there’s no doubt this is a clever scheme. But truth in advertising is what wins consumers. What a catering company can pull off on-site is a hell of a lot different from what you’ll be ingesting in the friendly skies. If airlines want to use food to entice new passengers, they need to start by sourcing ingredients in a more responsible, sustainable manner, rather than supporting ecologically detrimental produce, meat, and poultry (talk about carbon offsets). I realize that’s not financially feasible at this time, but supposedly, neither are in-flight meals. As for making it taste good? You got me.

[Photo credit: Flickr user OpalMirror]