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Loren Neuenschwander

MD, Atlantic Region (Europe and India) | 29 Jun 2005

“Our brand stands for the same values across the world. The brand has had different taglines across the years. But the connect has always been to service. In the 70s and 80s, we said ‘We love to fly, and it shows’. Later in the US, we said, ‘Good. Goes Around.’ The brand has always communicated the service aspect. Delta stands for the common courtesy, the unexpected acts of kindness. The concept is universal, but the campaigns are adapted internationally to suit specific markets.”

Loren Neuenschwander, MD, Atlantic Region (Europe and India), Delta Air Lines, has developed many successful alliance strategies and programmes for Delta. Recently, he has spearheaded the three-way partnership with Delta, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines.

Delta Air Lines started its operations 75 years ago. Now, the airline boasts of being the leading US carrier across the Atlantic and the world’s second-largest airline in terms of passengers carried. It offers daily flights to 490 destinations in 85 countries.

On a visit to Chennai to launch the airline’s direct service from Chennai to NYC via Paris, Gokul Krishnamurthy of exchange4media caught up with him for a chat. Excerpts:

Q. What does the brand Delta Air Lines stand for?

Our brand talks about service and hospitality from the heart. The idea is to make the link with customers from the heart. Otherwise, how could what started as a crop-testing plane go on to carrying mail, and then move to passengers and be among the best in the world?

Q. How has the airline fared in recent years?

We’ve been constantly expanding, across the global. We carried 110 million passengers in 2004.

Q. How do you view the potential in India?

Our Mumbai operation has been highly successful and Chennai will act as a gateway to South India. Since we fly via Paris, it serves as an ideal gateway to European destinations too. With a high degree of economic development happening here, we see travel going up a great deal in both the business and the leisure segments. The growth rate in terms of tourism is not proportionate to the economic development. There is a huge potential here. We have been operating in India from 1991.

Q. Do you feel other operators share that view?

Yes. Other players too are looking at the Indian market keenly after the agreements have come into place. For example, later this year Continental is set to fly from NY to Delhi and Air France is to fly to Bangalore. There is enough in the market for all of us.

Q. Most airlines speak of service as the differentiator. What’s your take on that?

That’s where you can bring in the difference. All flights are the same but for the service. The best way to communicate this service is through in-flight treatment. I think we are the only airline to offer an all-Indian cabin crew on the segment. It works for travelers from abroad, too, as it gives a flavour of where they are going.

Delta Air Lines is an airline that has built itself on service over the last 75 years. Every market is different. We need to figure out how we can connect better with the travelers. For example, our all-Indian crew, four different local dishes, 12 different publications in Tamil, and other efforts at customisation will help us connect better with the travelers from South India. Through this customisation too, we offer a differential service that sets us apart.

Q. But is your communication universal?

Our brand stands for the same values across the world. The brand has had different taglines across the years. But the connect has always been to service. In the 70s and 80s, we said ‘We love to fly, and it shows’. Later in the US, we said, ‘Good. Goes Around.’ The brand has always communicated the service aspect. Delta stands for the common courtesy, the unexpected acts of kindness. The concept is universal, but the campaigns are adapted internationally to suit specific markets.

Q. Who is the primary target audience in India?

We do try to target the business travelers, definitely, but there is a growth in both the leisure and the business traveler segments. Our primary target would be the businessman/businesswoman who travels the route three times a year or more. The business travelers do comprise a large chunk of our business. As the economy grows the spending power of the people also goes up. We therefore envisage a growth in both segments from India.

Q. Could you compare the Mumbai and Chennai markets?

People in the US are more aware of Mumbai as a travel destination now. It is a question of awareness. With the rapid economic growth and development in this part of India, we are sure this sector will also do well in due course.

Q. Which cities in India have high potential?

Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad in my opinion would be the key cities. We used to fly to Delhi till 1995. We still have rights to fly there. Now Air France, our Sky Team partner flies to Delhi. We think there is a lot of scope in these cities. We do think that the Chennai market is being underserved. We’ll have to wait and see the result.

Q. How is Delta being promoted in India? How do you plan to promote the new sector?

We keep doing promotions for the trade. We advertise in the business magazines and other relevant media. We also advertise in in-flight magazines of operators like Jet and Indian Airlines. For the Chennai flight, we also have a tie-up with Hindustan Petroleum for hoardings in the city.

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