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For now, most of these programs by airlines are meant to show how innovative and startup-friendly they are. Long term, will it bring them any benefits on improving their own services? Or getting more loyalty from the next generation of travelers?
It is becoming the in-thing with airlines now, riding on the coattails of the booming startup ecosystem.
First British Airways came up with a head-scratching program to create “innovative ideas” in flight, then Turkish Airlines launched an onboard startup pitch competition. Now Delta Air Lines has come up with a new program called “Delta Innovation Class.”
This mentoring program works like this: chosen business and creative leaders in various fields will be traveling to select events around the globe, and they’ll be sitting in the “Mentor seat.” The seat next to them will be open, and entrepreneurs can apply — through a partnership with LinkedIn, which vets these candidates — to sit next to these leaders for the duration of the flight and talk about their business.
Here’s how Delta describes it:
Our jets fill up with some of the smartest people in the world. Leaders in technology, science, the arts and more.
But why should a flight just be a simple flight? Could these leaders use this time in the air to not just fly, but to share their knowledge with an up-and-coming professional in the seat next to them? We think so.
From this idea Delta Innovation Class was born.
It’s a mentoring program – that just so happens to take place at 35,000 feet.
We will be selecting leaders in innovation on their way to events around the globe for the program. They’ll be sitting in the mentor seat. The seat next to them will be open. This is your chance to sit in that seat. We’ll fly you to the event, get you in to the event, and, most importantly, give you one-on-one access you might never otherwise get.
For now, the two conferences which these mentors will be flying to are the ongoing TED conference, where Delta is a sponsor, and the upcoming James Beard Awards in May.
Below, the video describing the program.