Delta Apologizes For Creepy Inflight Napkins

Delta serves Coke products because Atlanta, and their napkins advertise Coke products because money. Ads try to be clever to get your attention so they aren’t ignored, in order to get better value for that money.

However the napkins Delta was boarding last month didn’t go over well. They encouraged passengers to give fellow travelers unsolicited phone numbers in hopes of… well, you know what it’s in hopes of.

They had a space to write in your name and number, and encouraged you to give it to “your plane crush.”

be a little old school, write down our number and give it to your plane crush. you never know…

because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey… you never know.

The promotion was all in good fun, but not everyone (or probably very very few people) is interested in getting handed phone numbers by people they don’t know. If people want to chat with each other, they can strike up a conversation, but if they don’t they can put on their noise cancelling headsets.

People find love (for at least a fleeting moment) on planes all the time. But it’s clearly voluntary.

Plenty of passengers objected to turning the aircraft, a big metal tube you can’t escape from, into a pickup joint.

Delta has apologized for the napkins.

We rotate Coke products regularly as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one..We are sorry for that and began removing the napkins from our aircraft in January.

…We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended. We worked with our partners at Delta to begin removing the napkins last month and are replacing them with other designs.

On the other hand I’d sure love to hear any stories where the napkins… worked?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I thought it was cute. We live in a snowflake society and Delta and Coke are buying into it. Why apologize???

    Starbucks offends me. I don’t complain. I just don’t frequent their living rooms.

    If you don’t like the DL napkin, just throw it away. Or spit at it.

  2. What a dreary, joyless world the left is dragging us into for being offended by anything and everything. To me the napkins are silly, but if someone likes them, who am I to tell them what to do and how to think?

  3. I think it’s clever and funny.

    20 years ago it would have got a good laugh. Now, everyone is offended by everything – SIGH. This being said it’s genius because there is no such thing as bad publicity. I bet this was all by design to spark the social media waves. It worked, we are all talking about Delta today. Talk about free publicity!

    Side note. I do wish people would lighten up. Everything is over-analyzed, over-interpreted and thrashed for assumed intent. I too get offended by things but so what, that’s life

    Nice article! Nikki

  4. Dear old geezers who have fallen behind on the social zeitgeist:

    You may think this napkin is cute, but your sons and daughters think it’s creepy, and they’re the ones whose opinions matter as they’re the ones sending or receiving these napkins.


    A twentysomething

  5. @Jason
    Dear 20something: If your entire joyless generation collectively decided to find them so creepy, then why are you the ones sending them? Just because you are in your 20s does not mean your are smart, better than everyone else, or contribute anything meaningful to society. Your post illustrates that.

  6. @WR2: if your generation thinks murder is wrong, then why does your generation still have murderers?

    Second, I never said I’m smarter than you (even though I probably am) but the Flynn effect holds that subsequent generations are smarter.

  7. @Jason

    Since you find them creepy, why are do feel entitled to bitch, whine and complain about it?
    If I found your existence creepy, should I bitch, whine and complain about you??

    A mature human being can deal with life’s minor inconveniences like hostile paper napkins or brittle little Jasons. See, I don’t call for your posting rights to be revoked. You are more than welcome to demonstrate your narrowmindedness to the entire world.

  8. Deltahater, have I called for anybody’s rights to be removed?

    Mature human beings aren’t misreading my comments.

  9. @Jason wrote: “You may think this napkin is cute, but your sons and daughters think it’s creepy, and they’re the ones whose opinions matter as they’re the ones sending or receiving these napkins.”
    To test your comment, I showed the photos of the napkins to both of my kids who are in their twenties and they both did NOT think it was creepy. In fact, when I told them about what you wrote, their reply was “who is this d…bag who thinks he can speak on behalf of other twenty-year-olds ?”

    Your other comment about murderers is so off the wall that it is imbecilic. From napkins to murderers? lol…you must have such low intelligence to make that comment.

  10. @Jacob it’s too bad your kids were raised improperly. Maybe you can get a refund from your babysitter. Surely their lack of worldly knowledge is not a function of your own parenting.

    Alternatively, your kids may have simply be raised to be sycophants.

    The message is simple. These napkins are not appropriate which is why they are being pulled from service.

  11. >I wonder who the brainchild was behind that awkward marketing concept…

    Not sure, but I think we can say with a high degree of certainty it was not @Jason.

  12. I think the interpretation of the issue has someth8ng to do with the brand it’s representing. For example, if I saw this on Virgin America or at W Hotels, I really wouldn’t think twice about it- as fun, flirty, “forward-ness” are part of the brand. If I saw this on Saudia, it would catch my attention immediately (though I’m not who they’d have to worry about). Delta is a mass market and somewhat conservative company; so while I wouldn’t be offended, I can understand why they would end this particular campaign.
    @Gary…to answer your question…I can’t say anything like this ever worked (or that I would ever try). The only thing that has worked for me is being stuck on a tarmac delayed plane with no IFE or internet and starting a conversation with a WILLING seat mate..

  13. @jason wrote: “…it’s too bad your kids were raised improperly.” Also wrote, “Alternatively, your kids may have simply be raised to be sycophants.”
    LOL… so if someone disagrees with your opinion, they are sycophants. I see. It’s sad that you don’t have the intelligence to respond in an intelligent manner, that you are only capable of responding with insults.
    Warning everyone: If anyone disagrees with Jason he/she and their kids will be insulted because Jason is not capable of defending himself with logical arguments. He can only respond with insults.

  14. Like I get it, we live in a world where people are offended by commercials for razors bc being told to be nice is a bridge too far for some folks, but this napkin thing? It may be stupid but I don’t see how anyone could be really upset by this. Annoyed maybe but I don’t think I would need or want an apology from Delta for it.

  15. Every one of my female relatives is somewhere between cautious and outright paranoid about being seated next to some variety of scuzbag on a flight. These women range in age from teens to fifties, and collectively they have have a lot of stories that make me wish I was there for these incidents. Repeated “accidental” contact, wildly inappropriate topics of discussion and/or questions, outright groping. These men (it’s always been a man) need counseling at least and prison at most. Doing anything to empower their scumbaggery further, such as these napkins, is obviously a terrible idea if you’re not trying to exacerbate the problem of sexual harassment or worse on flights.

  16. My vote: nice marketing. Delta and Coke now have people blogging about their products.
    Does it cross the line? Not even close. I can already see a Tom Hanks film in the works.

  17. @Jacob, at no point have I insulted you. You may want to review the dictionary definition of insult.

    @Joey, the razor (Gillette) thing is different. Telling people to be nice is actually quite condescending and rude in and of itself, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the ad played on negative stereotypes of men. That’s bigoted. Can you imagine if I made an ad telling people not to shoplift…but all the actors in my ad are black? It would be heretical, even though the underlying message “don’t steal” is valid.

  18. I once read a study that said one third, believe it or not, of people who fly are hoping to meet someone. So no, I do not think the joke on the napkins is anywhere near the line, let alone being so “offensive” that Delta should apologize. As someone wrote above, this could be a Tom Hanks movie. Ever seen The Terminal?

    As for Jason, Gary, why do you allow this? It only takes one jacknut like Jason to ruin your blog for everyone else.

  19. @Joseph N.: it’s unlikely you have the scientific background necessary to interpret a study, or to even determine whether a study was scientific to begin with (hint: the one you mention wasn’t). also please read Christian’s comment above yours. You’re essentially standing for sexual harassers. Call me a jacknut all you want. I don’t support sex harassment.

  20. Well I thought the napkins were funny and a great way to get a smile out of a nervous flier like myself. I agree, people need to lighten up. It can’t be fun to be offended by everything.

  21. @Jacob, “at no point have I insulted you. You may want to review the dictionary definition of insult.” Do you think before you say something?
    Saying that my kids were raised improperly is not an insult to me as their father? lol
    Saying that “your kids may have simply be raised to be sycophants.” is not an insult? lol… you are hopeless.
    I guess you don’t have kids, so you don’t realize that many parents would be insulted if a stranger called their kids “sycophants”, or that their kids were raised improperly based on disagreeing with someone else’s opinion.
    I challenge you to make similar condescending statements about the kids of strangers in your daily life and see what happens. Seriously, I challenge you to do that in person instead of behind the cloak of the internet.
    OMG…it’s been a long time since I got suckered into a conversation with a troll. Oh well, it was cheap entertainment.

  22. Unfortunately @Jason seems to reflect many of the worst qualities among so called “millennials” (I’m included in this group too, although just barely).

    He doesn’t back up his arguments with logic or facts, but just resorts to insults and insinuating people support bigotry and sexual harassment if they don’t agree with his view point.

    In fact @Jason is so used to this kind of thinking and interaction that he doesn’t seem to know when he is insulting others (I.e. @Jacob).

  23. Wow, I am really surprised at the number of commenters who think you have to be a ‘snowflake’ to get offended by this. I am a very frequent flier and would consider myself neither a snowflake nor a millenial, and I find this concept idiotic and very creepy.

    I dislike people trying to enter long conversations (or frankly any conversations beyond basic politeness) with me when I am trapped in a metal tube on a long flight. If someone gave me their number on a napkin I would find it awkward at best, and yes I would be very annoyed at the airline for facilitating/encouraging it.

    The people who need to lighten up are the folks on here shouting ‘snowflake’ at anyone who objects to their privacy being invaded via a cheap and idiotic corporate marketing stunt.

  24. @kerry

    If you find it idiotic and creepy, fine, no problem. But would you raise hell to DL and Coke about it? The latter part is what makes a snowflake a snowflake.
    Grown ups can deal with things they disagree with. Snowflakes throw a fit and demand that the world around them changes to their liking.

    Also, nobody invaded anybody’s privacy. If I volunteer my cell number to you, my privacy is not invaded and neither is yours. If DL published your cell phone number on napkins, then you would be right

    @Jason. You may want to befriend the Indian man who is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. Philosophically you guys seem to be aligned on many issues.

  25. As a single female business traveler – on planes 3-4 days a week, most weeks – the absolute last thing I want on a plane is for the guy next to me who just threw back three Woodford on the rocks to have any encouragement to engage me in drunken conversation. I don’t want to be anyone’s “plane crush”. My open laptop and QC35s barely give me enough buffer as it is…

    (Cue the derogatory comments on my age / weight / appearance / relationship status in 3… 2… 1… )

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