Watch out Delta – 1st class “consistent product” is more than a CRJ900 seat!

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delta CEO Richard Anderson talks in FEB SKY Magazine about new jets replacing 50 seats crjs

I have been a long time vocal critic of the CRJ100/200 jets and don’t need to go into all the reasons for this. In this month’s SKY Magazine in the welcome from Delta CEO Richard Anderson, he talks about the “ongoing retirement of the small 50-seat aircraft”. This is and continues to be great news as the CRJ700/900 is a much better ride in both 1st class and coach. But I see a big problem on the horizon Delta had better address quickly – regional service!

delta crj900 jets in SLC Salt Lake Utah Delta Points blog

I have been spending quite a bit of time on CRJ900s in 1st class as of late and I like the seats. They are comfortable, leg room is OK and the tray table is good size. The overhead space is so-so but as long as you are inside the “Size Check” size you can get your bag into the overhead on the “C/D” side. The lack of AVOD or IFE is not a big deal, but would be nice to have power ports. But I have two big gripes.

delta regional jet breakfast lunch and dinner cold delta points blog

The first is every meal is cold. Breakfast, cold, lunch & dinner the same. The Mexican chicken salad is quite good, but the sandwich option is often a big disappointment and the breakfast is a complete pass! Now the biggest issue that our CEO has been talking about – consistent product! But I am not talking seats.

With Delta mainline a vast majority of the time the Delta people are the best. They work hard, they “strive for five” and I am often just amazed by the hard work and kindness. With the regionals, well, not so much. My trip home from Utah on Skywest Saturday was one of the worst ever! The FAs were just awful. To start, they had to take the passenger count 4 times. No pre-flight drink was offered. Dinner was reasonably quickly served (no linen was provided for tray table) but then the 1st class FA was pretty much gone the rest of the flight; no snack basket came around and I had to use the call button to get a water. Oh, and the two spent the whole flight up front LOUDLY chatting with each other (yeah sorta “like” last trip). Coats were forgotten until after landing so passengers had to grab them on the way out the door. If this was a “one off” event no problem, but bad regional 1st class service seems to be the norm to me.

The bottom line is if Delta is going to charge a premium price for a 1st class product the service had better match the seat. For me, I will be avoiding any CRJ700/900 flights that are longer than an hour or so and look for mainline products.

What do you think. I am the only one seeing a huge difference between regionals “bearing the Delta brand” and a mainline experience? – René
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23 comments

  1. Living in Atlanta, I don’t often get to fly the regional jets. But I would even go so far as to say that consistency is a problem, even on the big jets. Let’s talk food first. I do the ATL HNL RT in F a lot. On a trip out of HNL to ATL, I had a great meal — braised short ribs. It was so good, I promised myself to order it again should it be on the menu. A few weeks later out of ATL to HNL, it was, and I chose it and it stunk. Really. Similarly, the quality of the ice cream for the Sundae in BE is much better from practically any city in EU or NRT, or HNL, than it is out of ATL. Noticeably better quality ice cream. I keep telling them this on delta.com and the ice cream quality out of ATL has gotten a bit better, but is still not the quality as it as on the return trips. (I’m an ice cream snob). In the old days, DL actually used to say on the menu, “Ice Cream Sundae using Breyer’s Premium Ice Cream.” I would write to them telling them that Breyer’s wasn’t really a premium brand ice cream, and they eventually stopped using it. As to FA, they vary quite a bit on the big planes too. Some really work hard, enjoy their jobs, and it shows in the great way they do everything and are always there. Others serve the meals and then disappear for hours. I praise the good ones on delta.com and tell DL about the ones that need a refresher course to get back up to snuff. After all, they probably don’t know about these people unless we tell them and hopefully if hundreds of people write, they will find out who the good ones are and who the slackers are.

  2. How long are most regional flights? I ask because as an MSN-based flyer, the extent of my regional flying is a short hop to MSP or DTW where they only have enough time to serve a drink and pass the basket around.

  3. Agree that service on RJs in F is spotty. On a recent trip LGA-BUF (CRJ700). I was seated in 3C holding my coat during boarding. FA waled past me at least 6X, neither taking my coat nor saying anything (no drink service BTW). Finally, when boarding door closed I asked her if she could take my coat, to which she replied “I don’t have a closet.” ??? Anyway, she had ample opportunity to say so in the preceding 20 min., and dis not.

  4. Rene, I totally agree with your CRJ200 aversion, but that is all I have FWA -DTW or FWA – MSP. A week ago I had such a great FA on my DTW – FWA flight that I gave her one of your ‘Chaiman’s Club’ certificates with a Starbuck’s gift card. She was delighted. I told her I was the one delighted; by her cheerful, friendly, outgoing service! She was based out of ATL and was ending up there after the FWA stopover. Too bad she was not on one of my mainline DTW – AMS flights in BE!

  5. A few months ago I was in row 1 of a crj9 from LGA-SAV and had a flight crew based out of STL. They were probably the best I’ve ever had and even refilled my drink while we waited in line to take off. What I didn’t know and the FA filled me in on is that these regional crews work for multiple airlines (up to five for them) at one time. She said all they do is change the color of their scarf and away they go to a different plane. I think this could be a possible root cause to some of the problems. Why would they strive for five if tomorrow they’ll be working a UA or AA flight? They can simply do the bare minimum and move on to the next airline. Just my 2¢.

  6. I’ve seen the variance between RJ crews and other RJ crews as between mainline crews and other mainline crews. Case in point: last Friday, mainline DFW-ATL, the flight lead, Nate, was fantastic. He was perfect in every way and, although there was no meal, he circulated with water and the snack basket CONSTANTLY, not one trip to two trips but CONSTANTLY. The man is a saint and I submitted an online comment urging Delta to use him as a training exemplar. Then, yesterday, ATL-ORD, there was no meal and the flight lead wasn’t bad but she circulated the basket once and only once. I, too, had to call for water and other snacks. I’ve seen the same variance on RJ flights. I’ve had flight leads genuinely concerned with doing everything in their power to make the flight enjoyable. The best experience was LGA-BGR last year.

  7. I agree with you a 100%. Recently had a leg on one of my trips out west as you did and the service was as you described. Also having no overhead spaces on one side of first class is ridiculous.

  8. Outsourced services are always a gamble since the company’s culture won’t directly affect the individuals providing the service. They are essentially actors playing the part of members of the branded company’s culture. That said, SkyWest is one of the top regionals and they do fly for Delta, American, US Airways, Alaska, and United so it is entirely possible that your SkyWest crew will be switching to another brand after serving your Delta Connection flight. I tend to avoid regionals as much as possible due to the comfort and reliability issues, but that is difficult if you’re going to or from small markets.

  9. @Don, I know what you mean about ice cream. I had the hand-churned ice cream on Etihad in 2010 and haven’t recovered yet. All other ice cream pales in comparison!

  10. Rene’, I couldn’t agree more with you! There is a night and day difference between the FAs on the Regionals and Mainline. I’ve had simialr experiences with the regional FAs chatting with themselves rather than tending to the pax. To paraphrase the DL questin at the end of call with Customer Service: In a one question survey, “If you owned a customer service company, would you hire the last FA with which you just flew? Answer 5 for very likely….” My answer would be ZERO, but think one is the lowest score.

  11. Food on an airplane? I am just glad to get a first class seat on the RJ700/900/ERJ175. I don’t care to eat the meals on most domestic flights. They are all pre-prepared and laden with salt and fat anyway. My favorite is the cold breakfast — cereal, fruit and yogurt, I can’t deal with the omelets, eggs and breakfast meat that domestic airlines serve!

  12. Couldn’t disagree more. I’m a captive of Skywest from my home airport (DC to SLC or UE to DEN), and in my 20 or so CRJ200/900 flights this year I’ve been consistently impressed with their FAs and flight crews. They have been uniformly pleasant, competent and professional. Sure, theiy’re younger/less experienced than main lines, but I’vealso had some very disappointing DL cabin crews recently (disappearing/holding hours-long galley confabs on transcons).

    I’ve lately also been impressed with Compass Air flying their EMB 17Xs on SLC to LAX/SFO routes (even though they have no closets – are we spoiled much?).

    OTOH, I’ve had less pleasant experiences with the “back east” regionals – Endeavor & ExpressJet – old planes and tired & jaded FAs.

    As for hot food – do the CRJ7/9s even have ovens? I’ll have to check tonight!

  13. @JEM – I don’t think they have ovens or if they do they don’t ever use them. Happy you have had good experiences, my last two paid CRJ 1st class trips 3/4 legs were either below par or bad. Only one was good+ IMO.

  14. Rene,
    Follow the articles on this page (http://www.topix.com/wire/business/airlines) and you can see who the regionals work for and when they have to bid for contracts. Some of the articles are great.
    I would say 80% do not care about customer service since many do not see a future with a regional. The best do come from the midwest. NYC area can be the worst!

  15. First… Loving the blog

    As a DM and almost a 1 Mil Miler (almost 100% domestic) and living in Myrtle Beach, the 200’s replaced the ATR72 and I was happy to cut my flight from ATL to MYR from 75 minutes to 46 minutes. Which means I can go weeks without a mainline plane. For example, MYR-ATL-DAL and home is 100% all 200’s.

    But, now the quality of the 200’s are way down and are just useless. The percentage of on time flights (on my routes/experience) on 200’s is less than 50%.

    The 717’s can’t come fast enough.

  16. Like Don, I live in Atlanta so I don’t fly the RJs much. But I’d like to comment on food. Last year I made PM for the first time almost all on CC spend. Last week I made my first flight this year. It was ATL – SLC. On the way out, I didn’t come close to an upgrade. On the return, I cleared at the gate about five minutes before boarding. I was thrilled. Then I ordered a red wine. It was terrible. The food choice was chicken salad sandwich or a cheeseburger. I made the mistake of ordering the cheeseburger. The meat was room temperature and the bread was hard and dry. If this is typical of Delta’s first class, I may need to get a new hobby.

  17. As an frequent passenger on CRJ’s (unfortunately), I find the service to be wildly inconsistent and more often than not on the poor side. Additionally, and more importantly, the aircraft seem to have many more mechanical issues than the mainline product. The planes are often delayed and seem to suffer an inordinate amount of mechanical issues which does not make any sense. I try to avoid them as much as possible, but flying in and out of ALB and MSO, it is impossible to avoid. After years of flying Delta almost exclusively, I have concluded Delta does not have the same level of oversight with regard to CRJ/ connection carrier service. If they have the Delta name on the side, they should be held to the same standard of service both in terms of the aircraft and the service on board. One notable exception is Compass (a Delta owned subsidiary) and their E175’s. Compass has a much better product in my opinion both, in terms of service, FA’s and pilots, and their aircraft.

  18. I flew 70+ segments on expressjet CRJ 200 last year. While I dislike the plane I can say the vast majority of the time the crew is great. Most of the time I get the best seat 1B or 1C buy checking in right at 24 hours.

    Can’t wait till I don’t fly them anymore but not because of the FA.

  19. I’m a FA with a regional airline that operates Delta connection, United Express and American Eagle. I work out of ATL on the Delta connection side, but we are sometimes sent to fly U-express or American Eagle. Most of us work very hard and customer service is very important to us. We hate the CRJ 200 aircraft because we generally work 6 legs a day and it’s exhausting. Passengers are cramped in the 200 and we wish Delta would no longer operate that aircraft. I’ve had many bad experiences with mainline Delta FA’s, and a larger plane does not automatically mean better service. I’ve had many passengers compliment me on my service, but most do not pass this along to Delta.

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