Delta Airlines recently angered customers by making dramatic changes to its Skymiles and lounge access rules, to the point where Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, had to announce that some of the changes will be rolled back.
I recently wrote a column on why Delta Airlines’s decision would most likely cost it significant brand equity and alienate its best clients. Despite the service getting worse — and I can testify to this as a Delta Diamond member for almost a decade and a million miler — the prices keep rising while the perks have been reduced. That is not what luxury travel should feel like.
I recently traveled with my wife to Europe on Delta One, what should have been a luxury experience. But it was far from that. The plane, an over 20-year-old 767 veteran, had seen better days. The cabin was outdated and worn down.
And the service was a catastrophe. My wife and I wanted to have a glass of champagne, sitting next to each other in the center seats, but the flight attendant snapped at her and told her she would only serve her and not me. I would have to wait for the flight attendant on my side of the aisle. This is the reality that many first class travelers encounter today.
Unfortunately, many large airlines confuse larger seats with a luxury experience. What many don’t understand is that luxury is always an end-to-end client experience where the client is at the center. When airlines like Delta try to maximize revenue while shortchanging customers in terms of service, it’s clear why there is such an uproar when lounge access gets further restricted or other perks are taken away. The root cause is a lack of fundamental customer-centricity putting yield management at the center.
Frustrated with Delta, I decided to book a flight with Set Jet, a Scottsdale-based private jet company, for our recent trip to Cabo, Mexico. The price was comparable with a first class ticket on Delta but the experience was on a completely different level. For starters, the door-to-door travel time was just over two hours, whereas on Delta it would have taken at least six hours depending on security and connection time.
The wonderful service started well before the trip, with personal interactions with the staff when we uploaded our passports and documents to ensure a super smooth immigration experience. Upon arriving at the company’s facilities at Scottsdale airport, a valet driver took care of the car and our luggage without us needing to identify ourselves. The luggage was delivered directly from car to plane.
A few minutes later we boarded and departed immediately, without any significant wait. In the air, we experienced the most attentive and personalized service by the flight attendant, making the trip one of the most wonderful flight experiences we ever had. And of course, the full private jet interior offered a level of comfort that would make any commercial first class product pale.
We were served Veuve Clicquot the moment we boarded and were taken care of incredibly during the entire flight. Upon arrival in Cabo, immigration was a breeze and a car was waiting next to the plane to take us to the hotel.
What a difference in terms of experience. While established airlines like Delta have paved the way for commercial aviation, their first-class offerings, though comfortable, often lack a personal touch. They are, in many cases, just luxury in ambition. These services, standardized to serve thousands, can feel impersonal and simply functional. In contrast, Set Jet was able to elevate every aspect of the journey, turning it into a curated and unforgettable experience rather than just a flight.
The real competition isn’t about matching the standards; it’s about setting them. While airlines like Delta continue their legacy in the realm of mass market, Set Jet is crafting a niche of its own. It’s not about the mere act of flying but celebrating the art of travel.
What is extremely concerning is that some larger airlines are trying to lobby against niche luxury competitors, as they see them biting into their best customer base. Instead of improving their own product quality, their strategy seems to be pushing regulatory restrictions on smaller rivals.
In the vast skies, luxury air travel isn’t about grand gestures, lounges or status, but about those intricate, personalized details that make every journey unique. In this aspect, Set Jet is an inspiration, showing us that in the world of luxury, the sky is not the limit but jut the beginning.