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USA: Delta's Vinum Wine Academy Makes Employees 'Top Flight' Wine Ambassadors

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It's not every day that a select group of flight attendants receives an opportunity to travel to France and experience wine tastings with some of the world's top vintners such as Remi Krug of the Krug Champagne House and Jamie Sichel of Maison Sichel. In fact, it had never happened until Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL - news) introduced an innovative employee education program -- the Vinum Wine Academy.

Delta's Vinum Wine Academy is an extension of the award-winning Vinum(TM) wine program available through Delta's international BusinessElite(TM) service. The Academy benefits not only Delta's flight staff; it enhances the level of customer service that BusinessElite passengers experience.

"The Vinum Wine Academy educates flight attendants about all aspects of wines such as different grape varieties and vintages, in turn making them more confident about recommending wines to Delta's BusinessElite customers," says Ken Chase, Delta Wine Consultant and designer of the program. Developed as an employee incentive program, attendance to the Academy is highly competitive with only a limited number of slots available each year. This year's select group traveled to the south of France for a week-long, interactive training session hosted by Krug, Sichel and other elite vintners.

The first annual Vinum Wine Academy was held at a vintner's chateau in one of the oldest and most famous wine-growing regions in the world, the Cote du Rhone region near Nice, France. Academy participants are taught through a mix of lectures, tastings, textbook learning, discussion groups and winery visits. Following extensive training, students are then put to the test when they reverse roles with the teachers and act as experts in pairing and serving wines with menu items.

After training is complete, each flight attendant becomes a "wine ambassador" and takes on a teaching role. A Vinum pin worn on their uniform distinguishes them as someone who is well versed in wines and is able to confidently share his or her knowledge about the various vintages with customers and co-workers.

"Delta's Vinum(TM) wine program is recognized worldwide by its customers and peers as one of the best in the sky," said Vicky Stennes, Managing Director, In-Flight Customer Service. "The Academy adds another dimension to Delta's commitment to provide quality onboard service to its customers."

The uniqueness of the Vinum Wine Academy and the fact that participation is limited give Delta flight attendants something to strive for. "It's like getting a feather in your cap to be selected to attend the Academy," explains Chase. "The program acknowledges those employees who continually demonstrate a dedication to excellence in customer service." All Delta flight attendants and supervisors are eligible to participate. The first group to attend the Academy was selected from among 1,000 entries by a panel of outside judges from the food and hospitality industries.

To achieve even broader reaching benefits from the Vinum Wine Academy program, Delta is developing an interactive CD-ROM training module. "Packaging the Vinum Academy curriculum on a CD-ROM allows all of Delta's flight attendants to take advantage of this unique program, and furthers our efforts to provide quality customer service to our passengers," said Chase. "Ongoing training is crucial to the company, and there has been tremendous interest in taking part in this program. By completing the module, employees earn training credits and qualify as candidates for the next Academy."

Delta, named "Best-Managed Major Airline" for 1999 by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, is the world's most flown carrier. A record 106 million passengers traveled on Delta in 1999. Delta, Delta Express, Delta Shuttle, the Delta Connection carriers and Delta's Worldwide Partners operate 5,465 flights each day to 364 cities in 61 countries. Delta's Web site is www.delta-air.com.

Vinum(TM), Vinum Academy(TM), and BusinessElite(TM) are trademarks of Delta Air Lines.

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