Relief For The Rankled FlierAixa M. Pascual
Face it: flying these days is miserable. Huge delays, canceled flights, and lousy food make travelers often wish they'd just stayed home. Delta Air Lines is a bit better than average at getting travelers there on time. But with the help of the Internet, the carrier is far better than others at soothing some frustrations.
Since 1998, CEO Leo F. Mullin has poured $2 billion into information technology, transforming the onetime tech laggard into one of the Web-savviest airlines. Today, Net-linked card readers scan boarding passes. Customers can check for delays on a Palm-enabled Web site. And at gates, Delta is installing wireless networks that let waiting passengers log onto the Net from their laptops. Delta's savings due to tech: $20 million this year, growing to $150 million a year by the end of 2002.
And, to instill the Net credo in his troops, Mullin is offering Delta's 75,000 employees free Internet access and a subsidized home PC--the first airline to do so. Mullin says the plan reinforces the message that tech will drive Delta's success. Now if only he could give us all a little extra legroom.