Home Data How Delta Air Lines Is Building Its Addressable Audience

How Delta Air Lines Is Building Its Addressable Audience


In the weeks following the US lockdown in early 2020, Delta lost more than 90% of its revenue, the airline’s CMO, Tim Mapes, told AdExchanger.

Now that travel is picking up again, Delta is collecting first-party data as a cornerstone of its recovery plan.

Starting February 1, the majority of Delta’s domestic flights will offer free Wi-Fi through the airline’s SkyMiles membership program, and all domestic and foreign Delta flights will have free Wi-Fi by 2024.

The purpose, Mapes said, is to generate sign-ups for Delta’s SkyMiles membership program – and to gather email addresses in the process, of course.

Delta plans to further sweeten the deal later this year with brand integrations, including streaming through Paramount Plus.

First-party data maneuvers

On average, four out of 10 passengers on any given Delta flight are members of the SkyMiles program, Mapes said. This is an opportunity to collect first-party data that Delta is missing on more than half of its passengers.

Delta doesn’t expect that every passenger will become a SkyMiles member. But Mapes said he anticipates growing sign-ups to more than 40% of passengers through incentives, such as free streaming content and other brand tie-ins.

Last year, one million passengers linked their Delta and Starbucks Rewards accounts after the airline partnered with Starbucks on a rewards program to dole out one mile for every one dollar spent with the coffee giant.

The more sign-ups Delta can encourage, the more data it will have on hand to support targeting beyond the basics, such as business or first-class, which, historically, was about as targeted as it got for Delta in terms of first-party data, Mapes said.

Members share some information about themselves with Delta when they create SkyMiles accounts, such as their birthday or contact information. The airline can target ads to members directly through their email or phone number, Mapes said.


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Delta is still working on aligning its ads with customer preferences based on in-flight behavior and screen interactions, which is slated for after Delta launches its latest batch of advertiser partnerships in the spring. Eventually, Mapes said, Delta will be able to categorize its customers into more advanced audience segments, such as, say, skiers or newlyweds.

Starting in April, Delta will begin displaying a new landing screen with ads on passenger devices to SkyMiles members who access the free Wi-Fi, and will extend the landing page to Delta seatback screens later this year. American Express, T-Mobile, Resy and The New York Times as Delta’s first crop of ad partners.

Retail and gaming integrations are next on the road (or, well, flight) map.

But Delta is being careful not to overdo it on the ad load.

“A curated and personal experience works best to drive purchase intent and conversions,” Mapes said.

The jet stream

When it comes to the experience, free streaming – which goes hand-in-hand with free Wi-Fi – is an effective way to attract new member sign-ups.

Beginning this summer, SkyMiles members will be able to stream Paramount Plus in-flight for free.

Delta already supports some in-flight viewing for select titles from Disney and HBO, but hasn’t had the bandwidth to support a fully on-demand streaming experience, let alone on multiple devices.

The deal is mutually beneficial for Delta and Paramount because both are looking for new sign-ups.

“Plenty of Delta passengers are already subscribed to Netflix or Hulu,” Mapes said. But a free trial of Paramount Plus content while in the air could draw in new subs that stick around on the ground.

Paramount Plus needs all the exposure it can get, because streaming competition is fierce. Similar to its integration with Delta, Paramount also recently partnered with Walmart to offer Walmart+ members a free subscription to Paramount Plus.

But beyond attracting subs, Delta’s integration with Paramount can also help the airline connect with passengers in their homes. Passengers who sign up for Paramount Plus accounts after trying out the service on Delta will be able to pick up where they left off with whatever they were watching in-flight.

Although it’s still too early for Delta to share how in-flight streaming will impact a customer’s ad experience when watching Paramount Plus elsewhere, a Delta spokesperson told AdExchanger to expect more details in the spring.

Delta is still just getting started when it comes to streaming, Mapes said, but watch this space. Streaming is a central part of Delta’s plan to use first-party data as a “currency” for more relevant advertising, he said.

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