Delta Air Lines will be sharing the names of flight crew with passengers a day in advance of travel. Passengers will be able to recognize crew for their service.
In an internal memo explaining the program, Delta told staffers that no other identifying information apart from their first names would be shared and that the system would only forward positive comments and compliments to crew members.
Delta is telling employees,
The secure site will allow customers select from a list of the first name of the crew members (pilots and flight attendants) on flights where the customer has a confirmed booking only.
Sara Nelson’s Association of Flight Attendants, part of the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America, is trying to organize flight attendants at non-union Delta. They are blasting the plan to share first names (and there are 25,000 flight attendants at Delta!) as a violation of privacy and a risk to crewmembers, even though employees will be able to opt out. Delta isn’t sharing last names, layover hotels, or other flights they’re working. Just first names.
The union says the opt out process is “complicated” as well as “insufficient and insulting.”
Delta management claims that this program is a way for customers to recognize great service. The reality is that this is a thinly-veiled attempt to manage us without being on the aircraft, implemented without our knowledge or input.
Moreover the union also objects to it because “[n]o other airline does anything like this.” The airline, for its part, is trying to encourage great service and connect passengers to the service they’re receiving, driving up net promoter score.
At many airlines there’s little differentiation between how a front line employee is treated, whether they give their all on board or phone it in. In fact, those who do even less than what’s expected are often not penalized, adding work onto the shoulders of their more conscientious colleagues. When passengers get great service it’s the result of the internal motivation of the employee to deliver that experience, not because they’re rewarded for it or penalized for not giving it.
Showing passengers who their crew were, and giving them an opportunity to comment directly on the things that went well (and only sharing the positives!) is one way to really make that above and beyond feel appreciated, and reinforce continued delivery of that level of service. It’s not surprising that the AFA-CWA would speak out against it, even if sharing first names on an opt out basis hardly seems to present real risks. Airline crew often have name tags, and AFA-CWA doesn’t appear to have a history of fighting this in contract bargaining after all.
Delta flight attendants are well-treated, and a union won’t make them better off though I can’t say the same necessarily at several other carriers. One Mile at a Time, who describes himself as “pretty liberal, and…also pro-union” but understands that this manufactured outrage represents the “kinds of tactics that make a lot of people anti-union.”
Update: rollout of this project has been “paused.”