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Delta Air Lines just gave customers something they never believed possible

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Helpful algorithm home.

Screenshot by ZDNet

Airlines are, by nature, entirely consistent.

They want free money from the government and they want customers to pay for every little thing that was, well, free.

Oh, do you have a bag? Please put $25 into our CEO’s retirement fund, thank you.

One of the most infuriating “service” changes made by airlines was charging passengers for each seat on the plane.

The sliding ladder that started with the best seats near the front or near a window or aisle, and ended with the seats you slide easily near the back.

There’s nothing sweeter than using technology to annoy customers during the buying process.

Oh, you want seat 26A? Aw, that’ll still be $75, thanks. Our CEO has two yachts, you know.

So I was moved with contemplative teeth chattering when I learned that Delta Air Lines was introducing something that passengers have actually been craving for so long.

Particular passengers, that is.

For many years, traveling with a group of any size meant extra expense, along with the added concern that you won’t be able to sit together.

Airlines tended to be ruthless about it. Are you a family? Aw, this is going to cost you, isn’t it?

Delta suddenly seems to have recognized the cruelty of this. Thus, as the The dot guy reported, Delta borrowed a word from Uber and introduced “dynamic” seating plans.

No, it’s not a seat map waving in front of you, making it even more difficult to select a seat.

Instead, it’s a service that blocks off certain rows on each plane so families — and, who knows, groups of adventurous nuns — can actually sit together in perfect harmony, while watching some sort of screen.

Behind all of this, you’ll be happy to hear, is an algorithm.

This tries to gauge what kind of flight it is and what sorts of people tend to book that flight. Then the algorithm constantly updates itself. So if no family is flying to Disney World that day for political reasons, he frees up the seats reserved for singles looking for love in the Mousehole.

Delta explained that this is all part of the essence of its brand: “Being a customer-centric brand means that we are constantly working to deliver optimal experiences throughout the journey. Taking a dynamic approach with our map displays cabin is one way to achieve this by offering preferred seating choices in all cabins – at the time of booking or at the gate when working with an agent – for customers traveling alone or in groups.”

To which more than one grizzly traveler might whisper, “Oh, yeah. If you’re so customer-centric, why haven’t you been before?”

The answer, I imagine, is that the perfect algorithm had not yet been constructed.

There is another side to all this, of course. The one who favors the airline. Families can be a terrible nuisance when they can’t all sit together. They get on the plane and beg the resistant passengers to change seats. It delays the flight, which the airlines hate.

With this dynamic algorithm, Delta might be able to boast better on-time departure numbers.

Oh, you thought this was all just for you, dear passenger? Who do you think we are?

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