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There are few businesses with a more volatile customer experience these days than commercial airlines. The social space, the competition and the demand for more value by consumers, juxtaposed with skyrocketing costs, security concerns and the need to squeeze every dollar out of every seat for stockholders has made “The Friendly Skies” as one airline used to use as its slogan, quite unfriendly for many especially as we reach peak summer travel season. It’s no wonder that AAA reports that many families will be hitting the road in their electric cars and SUV’s more this summer than ever before. Quality time in the car may be beating the perceived quicker time in the air for more and more.

However there appears to be a break in the pressure for at least one of the big carriers, one that seems to be reverberating on the street as much as in the air as we get past July 4th and into the dog days of summer, and it all has to do with listening, and maximizing vs minimizing the customer experience.

The airline is Delta, and as reported in multiple places including this story in airline geeks, they are putting the rewards back in their rewards program starting this fall. Are they doing it with smaller seats and charging less for meals? Nope. They are doing many of the little things many of their long-haul customers used to enjoy but went the way of the free meal; elements like hotel towels, newly designer healthy meals and even a free drink, in yes, ECONOMY, for flights of six hours or more. New “Welcome Aboard messages, and other little perks will also be fit in, and it all comes from listening and talking to consumers and seeing what makes the customer experience just that much better.

The best of all is that by listening Delta is really able to do these little things for next to nothing per consumer and have even been able to find a brand to offset the cost of the “Welcome Cocktail” for an even better ROI. Making each harried traveler feel just that much better is hopefully a trend that others will also follow, as the cost of a smile and doing those “little things” is almost priceless when you weigh the amount of disposable money that can flock to other airlines.

Oh and there is also the bottom-line help for the airline overall. Those little perks which start in November but were announced the past few days resulted in a big thumbs up from Wall Street, as Delta stock rose the past few days and the story of a beleaguered airline that was becoming tone deaf to the consumer was starting to reverse.

A few low-cost drinks, a warm towel and a few smiles, amazing how the little things from a big airline can yield large results. Amtrak, United, are you listening too?

Read more in Airline Geeks.