I generally expect airline press releases to bend the truth. I know that releases will gloss over the negatives and focus on the positives; that’s what companies do. I also know that they will find some tortured way to spin any change into being good for the consumer even if the benefits are questionable at best. Writing these releases should be considered an art.
There’s a way to say questionable things without lying, and the closer you get to that point, the more successful it seems the release can be considered. With that background, I offer my congratulations to Delta for its announcement that it will return to the Indian market. The person who wrote it deserves a gold medal for twisting and turning those words in such a way that it not only promotes new service but it slams rivals and curries political favor. Mission accomplished.
Delta used to fly to India long ago. Its most recent foray was via Amsterdam on its own metal, but that went away. Delta has blamed the rise of Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad for the death of that service. This, in fact, was a key point in the airline’s crusade to bring those airlines down and have the US government take action.
The disagreement has been settled, though it seems to me the US carriers received little to nothing of value. You can argue that point if you want, but there certainly are no additional restrictions on service. (The only contested issue, fifth-freedom flights, are in no way restricted, but that wouldn’t have had an impact on US to India service anyway.) Yet, Delta has tied these things together quite skillfully. The release starts…
Delta Air Lines will begin nonstop flights between the United States and Mumbai, India, next year, linking the U.S. with one of its strongest trading partners.
Here, Delta is just building up the importance of this new service from a US perspective. India is such a strong trading partner that nonstop service is hugely important, or so it says. Of course, if this was that important, Delta could have started, or not stopped, this previously (as United and Air India have both done). Sure, there are other reasons why this makes more sense now. The new A350, for example, should be more efficient than the 777 that would have had to fly it before. But that’s beside the point. Plus, we don’t even know if Delta will even use the A350 since none of that detail is given. All we know is…
The announcement follows agreements between the U.S. and the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to address the issue of government subsidies provided to state-owned carriers in those nations. The framework created by the agreement allows Delta to move forward with service to India, a market long impacted by government-subsidized Middle Eastern airlines.
Just sit back and enjoy how carefully that was crafted. Does it say that the flight is being reinstated because of the agreement that was reached between the US and UAE/Qatar? No, it doesn’t. It just notes that this announcement followed that agreement, so you just naturally correlate the two. That’s smart because there’s no way that the agreement between the countries should have had any impact whatsoever on the commercial viability of a Delta route to India. At all. But this way, Delta can technically make you think the two are connected even though it never actually says that.
This move will mark a return to India for Delta, which was forced to exit the market after subsidized state-owned airlines made service economically unviable.
This is probably as close to a lie as Delta tells in this release. Was it solely the Middle East carrier service that made a Delta route to India “unviable”? Heck, we don’t know. It could have been viable in the first place, but Delta used its cancellation as a political tool. Or maybe it wasn’t viable, but the market is completely different now anyway so that’s not relevant to today. Delta can make that excuse without having to prove it, and it just further makes the reader believe that starting India service is impossible without this recent UAE/Qatar agreement. But Delta never actually says it.
“It is exciting to be able to announce Delta’s return to India from the U.S. as part of our vision to expand Delta’s reach internationally,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “We are thankful to the president for taking real action to enforce our Open Skies trade deals, which made this new service possible. We are looking forward to providing customers in the U.S. and India with Delta’s famously reliable, customer-focused service operated by the best employees in the industry.”
Ah, and there it is. The obligatory ass-kissing quote thanking the president. We all know the White House loves this kind of stroking, so it’s a shrewd political play.
The service is subject to government approval; full schedule details will be announced later this year.
Note that Delta isn’t announcing any details yet except that this will be a nonstop between somewhere in the US and Mumbai. We can speculate on which city in the US will get it (I’m told Ed let employees know it would unsurprisingly be from the East Coast), what airplane will be used, and what kind of frequency we’re looking at, but that’s all irrelevant. This press release is meant to play to President Trump’s ego. The details don’t matter. Presumably we actually will see a flight to India next year sometime, but I wouldn’t even call that a given.
Delta also intends to expand its existing codeshare relationship with partner Jet Airways to provide seamless connections to other destinations within India, subject to government approvals.
This is the real reason why this service makes sense now, regardless of the situation with Emirates/Etihad/Qatar. I talked about Delta’s empire-building last year, and Jet is certainly a part of that. Jet has ended its relationship with American as it has strengthened its Delta ties. Jet has already entered into an “Enhanced Cooperation Agreement” with Air France/KLM that dovetails nicely with the Delta/Air France/KLM relationship. This is clearly heading toward tighter integration. Since Jet is based in Mumbai and has its largest hub there, it’s no surprise to see Delta looking to fly into Mumbai and get fat and happy off all those Indian connections.
There are good, compelling reasons for Delta to fly from the US to India nonstop. The A350, the Jet partnership, and general growth in trade are three strong ones. But the signing of an agreement between the US and Qatar/UAE? That is not one. Yet this press release makes you think otherwise. Do you feel a little dirty reading it? That’s how you know it’s working.