DELTA FOLDS SONG INTO ITSELF

Song President Named Delta Consumer Marketing VP

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a move that is more an assimilation than a shut down, Delta Air Lines announced this morning it will fold its low-fare subsidiary Song into Delta’s regular service, and re-launch Song as a long-haul domestic service.

The move will be complete by May of 2006.

Photo: AP
Many of Song's acclaimed marketing tactics are being deployed across Delta's operations.
Bankruptcy filing
Delta, the country’s second-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy Sept. 14. It has long been speculated that Song -- which began in 2003 as a competitor to low-cost carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue -- was a financial burden for the parent company, although Delta never released financials about the subsidiary.

But the marketing successes of Song, from its gourmet food to Kate Spade-designed uniforms, apparently made an impression on Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein. In a statement, Mr. Grinstein said Delta will incorporate some of Song’s best features, including live TV service, 10 video-on-demand channels and MP3 players, into the parent airline's operations.

In fact, Song President Joanne Smith will be VP-consumer marketing for Delta, effective immediately.

'Marketing expertise'
"Joanne Smith brings the energy and marketing expertise to our consumer marketing team that we need to continue improving the customer experience on Delta," said Paul Matsen, Delta's chief marketing officer. "Her leadership will ensure the efficiencies, service enhancements and innovations of Song are integrated into Delta's ongoing transformation.”

Until Song stops taking reservations, Delta plans to include first-class service on Song's 48 planes in an attempt to make the flights more attractive to business travelers and to conform with Delta's regular service.

“As part of our restructuring, we have the opportunity to deploy Song aircraft seasonally to more profitable flying -- including into our hubs -- and to further simplify our operations while expanding the great travel experience on Song to more Delta customers,” Jim Whitehurst, chief operating officer for Delta, said in a statement. “We’ve learned a lot from Song and have already incorporated many of its positives into Delta. Features like new leather interiors, new uniforms, a simplified fare structure and faster turn times have resulted in 11 consecutive months of year-over-year improvement in customer service ratings at Delta.”

May 2006 end date
Song will continue to fly as a separate brand and customers will be able to book flights on Song until May 2006. The aircraft will then be scheduled on high-demand routes throughout the Delta network during the transition, replacing wide-body aircraft that will be re-deployed from domestic to international destinations as part of the largest international expansion in Delta’s history.

Through the end of 2006, Delta will reconfigure the Song fleet into the new two-class (business and coach), long-haul standard and introduce them on transcontinental routes.

Delta spent $5.7 million in media buys on Song in 2004, and $5.5 million through the first six months of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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