My wife & I are boarding more flights than usual as we anticipate our upcoming relocation to South Carolina. “More than usual” deserves context I suppose, since so many of us skipped airports altogether the last couple of years. Flying is different now – some ways better, others not so much (and unquestionably more expensive). Regardless, I was happy to learn our favorite choice of airline before AND after the emergence of COVID just earned the label “world’s best” for 2021. Care to guess which one?
I already gave you the subtlest of hints in my blog title. With mathematics at least, the world’s best airline is also known as “an incremental change in a variable”, which makes its logo – the triangle – a fitting symbol. Its slogan is the uber-confident “world’s most trusted airline” but I prefer one of its older ones:
Maybe Delta Air Lines is your airline of choice too. If not, you’re wondering where your favorite ranks among the world’s best. I’ve never heard of Cirium (have you?) but the data-mining company spends its days converting 300 terabytes of aviation performance metrics into annual best-in-class rankings. (300 TB meant nothing to me until I crunched a few numbers. A ten-page Word doc is about 2 MB By my calcs Cirium is sorting through five million pages of data. I’d say their rankings are legit, wouldn’t you?)
- Delta (“Platinum Award” winner)
- Air Canada
Delta should put a lot of stock in this win, and not just because 9 of its 10 aircraft arrived on time in 2021 (10% better than second-place Alaska). It’s more about the impact of the passenger experience to the result. Is the boarding process efficient? Is the flight crew rested and available? Is the aircraft properly maintained? How is baggage handled? How are unruly passengers dealt with (a more recent trend)? Every one of these details number-crunches to a measure of on-time arrivals. And no one does it better than Delta.
I may be biased but my own experiences seem to back up the numbers. My wife & I have flown Delta several times since 2019 (including a trip to Europe) and every one of those journeys met or surpassed our expectations. I’m not saying Delta goes over the top to gain customer loyalty (though a warm chocolate-chip cookie would help). They simply do what I expect. Arrive on time and make the journey as pleasant and efficient as possible. Is that too much to ask?
Sadly, my affection for Delta is bolstered by my dissatisfaction with its competitors. I’m surprised to see American and United make the top five. My family and I have had several lousy experiences with American, including delayed or canceled flights and could-care-less customer service agents. Meanwhile, United may know how to arrive on time, but their coach seats should be labeled “cattle class” (not unlike Spirit and Frontier). Drop down the tray table and open your laptop. I challenge you to type comfortably.
Southwest could’ve been higher in Cirium’s rankings but I’m sure their logistical issues last year contributed to the number. Scores of their canceled flights were attributed to “weather challenges” during an unprecedented upheaval in the workforce. I’ll forgive the bald-faced excuse. When Southwest is running on “all engines” their brand of customer service is second to none – which keeps me coming back for more.
From my days in corporate America, I remember an equilateral triangle as the symbol of a successful company, giving balance to customers, employees, and shareholders. Looks a lot like the Delta logo, doesn’t it? More than just a nod to the Greek letter (Delta) or a throwback to its origins in the Mississippi (“Delta”, that is). Even the dictionary definition of delta belongs in the conversation. Positive change befits operational excellence.
If my wife & I were relocating to Salt Lake City or Atlanta (or one of Delta’s other hubs), we’d be changing planes and flying more often with the “triangle”. Just this week my wife enjoyed another Delta flight she described as “perfect except for a few inconsiderate passengers” (which seems to be the norm these days). Delta celebrates one hundred years of passenger flights in 2029 so it’s safe to say they’re guided by experience. The Cirium ranking is just a numbers-crunching confirmation of what I already know. Delta is ready when I am. Or, to put it mathematically, Δ = (S)atisfaction + (L)oyalty.
Lego Grand Piano – Update #18
(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)
Today’s section of the symphony could’ve, maybe should’ve used a stand-in pianist. Bag #18 – of 21 bags of pieces – assembled a little more than half of the piano’s top lid. I show the structure on its side in the first photo because that’s how I built it, from the ground, er… desk up. I imagined myself as a tiny mason, building a wall brick-by-little-brick, working right-to-left, then over to the right again. You – my faithful reader – could’ve handled this part of the construction easily. In Lego terms, it’s a wall made with various lengths of rectangle pieces. That’s it.
Know what I love about this adventure? (which is rapidly coming to a close!) You don’t always see what’s coming. I knew I was building the top lid, but it was hard to see how it fit the piano until I set it on its side when I was done (second photo). More to my point, I have three bags of pieces remaining. One is the remainder of the piano lid. One is the free-standing bench for the pianist. Which leaves… you see? I still have no idea what’s coming.
Running Build Time: 13.0 hours. Musical accompaniment: Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Leftover pieces: None!
Conductor’s Note: The story behind Louis-Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is more interesting than the piece itself (seriously). At the somewhat tender age of 24, Berlioz fell in love with an Irish Shakespearean actress, who kept him at bay until she finally agreed to be his – seven years later. Maybe the length of Berlioz’s pursuit extinguished the flame because the romance didn’t last. But Berlioz wasn’t left empty-handed. He composed the Symphonie fantastique to depict the idealized version of his Irish lover. I just didn’t find his music fantastique.