Delta’s recent product improvements have been building a compelling case for driving loyalty to the carrier — irrespective of the quality of its frequent flyer program. Now it’s clear that improving its loyalty offering, through its new contract with American Express earlier this year, is also boosting stronger sales to the airline’s direct booking site, as revealed at Delta’s earnings call last Thursday.

Thanks to a stronger hard and soft product, Delta CEO Ed Bastian suggests that an increasing number of passengers are choosing to go directly to delta.com over searching for airfare through an online travel agent like Orbitz or Kayak.

“Our strategy has been to build something that consumers want to buy and let them chose how they buy it,” he said in the call.

Southwest Airlines, of course, has been using this strategy for years while the big three legacies let travel agents take a chunk out of their margins. But now that Delta is starting to emerge as the leading legacy carrier, it may truly have the relative value to drive direct traffic.

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

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Grant Martin [gm@skift.com] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. He is also a director of product marketing at TripActions. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

Photo Credit: In this July 28, 2014, file photo, a Delta Air Lines jet takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. The airline's strategy of investing to create more customer loyalty is paying off. Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press