Delayed bags are a rare occurrence for Delta (NYSE: DAL) customers thanks to award-winning programs like RFID bag tags. That hasn’t stopped the global carrier from investing in innovative ways to more quickly and conveniently reunite owners with bags that don’t quite make their intended trip.

“At best, any delayed bag is a hassle for a customer,” said Gil West, Delta’s Chief Operating Officer. “We get that, so we’ve made investments and developed some out-of-the-box partnerships to take some of the stress out of that hassle by making the process of getting that bag easier.”

Skip the bag service office visit with new Fly Delta app feature

One way the global carrier is doing that is by integrating everything a customer needs to file a delayed bag claim into the popular Fly Delta app. The new mobile bag service feature allows customers to file a bag claim at their final destination through the Fly Delta app, instead of having to visit the local Delta baggage service office, when Delta sees the bag has missed a checkpoint. The airline does this by linking Mobile BSO to its industry-leading RFID bag tracking technology to proactively notify customers if their bag will be delayed, and provide a link to complete a delayed bag file with the app.

The tool is currently available to many Fly Delta app users with all users having access by the end June.

“This is one more way we’re putting the power for a customer to control their experience in the palm of their hand,” West said. “The last thing a customer wants to do when their bag is delayed is to go in person to do something that can be done with a few taps on their phone; knowing that we’ll deliver their bag directly to them when it arrives.”

So what happens once the delayed bag is filed?

Delta’s clever partnership reunites bags with owners more quickly while boosting Roadie’s bottom line

In 2015 Delta paired up with Roadie, an Atlanta-based startup that built the first “on-the-way” delivery service by connecting businesses and everyday people with nearby drivers to make local, regional and long-haul deliveries faster and more efficient. Since then, Roadie has seen its popularity and bottom line climb as the airline expanded its use of the service from 12 cities in 2016 to more than 50 by June of this year in its domestic network.

“The response from customers and employees has been overwhelmingly positive,” West said. “We knew we were on to something when we saw delivery times drop by around 65 percent compared to traditional delivery services, and baggage service customer satisfaction scores jump dramatically.”

In addition to faster deliveries, customers in areas where Delta and Roadie partner receive real-time status updates and the ability to track their bag once it leaves the airport. By tapping into unused space in passenger vehicles already on the road, Roadie provides faster, more efficient delivery for senders and rewards drivers for making deliveries on trips they’re already taking with cash and roadside benefits.

How Delta’s innovative mindset helps grow startups like Roadie

“Delta has been a true partner in expanding our delivery network nationwide,” said Marc Gorlin, Founder & CEO of Roadie. “We’re proud to work with them not only to make significant, measurable improvements to their customer experience, but also to reimagine the future of logistics.”

West said the key to Delta’s startup strategy is to partner with nimble companies to solve a specific customer or business need.

“Working with a startup like Roadie gives Delta the flexibility to try new and creative ways to solve customer pain points,” he said. “We get to think big, start small and learn fast, as new technologies and processes emerge and actually solve for a real need.”

Creative bag delivery is one example in a long list illustrating Delta’s commitment to developing innovative solutions to common customer challenges. Over the past couple of years, Delta has also led the industry on a number of innovations in the customer experience from curb to gate, like launching optional biometric check-in at all domestic Delta Sky Clubs, replacing ID checks at touch points with fingerprint scanning, testing a redesigned gate and boarding experience, biometric-based self-service bag drop, RFID baggage handling, automatic check-in and bag tracking via the Fly Delta mobile app, more efficient and high-tech automated screening lanes and a groundbreaking app that helps Delta pilots avoid turbulence for a more comfortable flight. Much of this led to Delta being named among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2018.

Expanding the Atlanta Innovation Ecosystem

With Delta and Roadie both based in Atlanta, the partnership only helps bolster Atlanta’s innovation ecosystem – something both companies are invested in.

“This partnership is proof that the west coast doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation,” West said. “The kind of startup development we’re seeing happen right here in Atlanta is really exciting. Between Tech Square, universities and the startup scene, Delta can go to our backyard to partner with and invest in companies to come up with new ways to make the Delta customer experience better – I think we have a leg-up on Silicon Valley because of the incredible partnerships being fostered between Fortune 500 companies based in Atlanta and the community.”

“Atlanta has long been one of America’s most important transportation hubs,” said Gorlin. “And when you bring a logistics powerhouse like Delta together with some of the latest innovations in mobility, data science and crowdsourcing, you suddenly have the power to disrupt a one-hundred-year-old industry. As Gil points out, the technology innovation sun doesn’t just rise and set in the west.”

Delta in 2017 announced a $1.5 million investment to support development of Atlanta’s innovation ecosystem and Delta’s innovation strategy through the Engage accelerator program. Through Engage, Delta recently launched a partnership with Bee Downtown to improve the bee population and environment around its headquarters near the Atlanta airport. The investment comes after the airline has become a key player in bolstering the city’s innovation ecosystem through its space at “The Hangar” at Tech Square that works to develop start-up partnerships and engage students to figure out customer challenges with innovative solutions.

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