Is it really smart for an airline to make passengers despise the airline? Let’s review the #KeepDescending Delta & SkyMiles devaluations over the past few years.

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many delta cuts

Airline travel has gone from a time to “dress your best” to folks flying in pajamas. Airline travel used to be dreamy and exciting but has been transformed to now being a drudgery (for many) and to be “gotten over with” as quickly as possible. But something important has been lost and all the cuts Delta has made is much to blame for this.

I still LOVE LOVE LOVE to fly. I am at home at the airport and in the air. I love lounges and everything about travel. I daydream about travel. My heart still quickens each time I even SEE a 747 no matter whose logo is on the side of the jet. Maybe you feel the same way as I do.

Part of all of this is the experience of business and 1st class travel. It is what dreams are made of and the reason for points. If you are redeeming your Delta SkyMiles for coach travel you are simply doing it wrong in my book. First off, there are MUCH better ways to do this that are WAY better than SkyMiles from a value stand point. But beyond the clear cut and purely mathematical and economic standpoint there is the aspirational viewpoint as well.

Dreaming of your next adventure on Delta is an amazing thing. As I have said before, for a company to have cemented into your mind the stuff that dreams are made of is something a marketing major from college could only wish and hope to achieve after a lifetime of efforts. Delta had accomplished this to me. But just look what they have done over the past few years. They have made those most loyal to the airline begin to despise them.

I really did not want to make this list of cuts. I really did not want to get THIS depressed on a Monday, but thought it would be good, when Delta tosses us a few crumbs, to keep in mind just what has been lost. Let’s look at all the ones I could think of over the past few years:

1) End of Stopover on award tickets – HERE
2) Removal of open jaw at start / end of award ticket – HERE
3) Almost yearly award chart devaluations – HERE
4) Expert Flyer removal and blocking – HERE
5) EOS and move to revenue based awards – HERE
6) Skyclub $29 +1 upcharge – HERE
7) End of Skyteam lounge access on arrival – HERE
8) Charging 2-4x for what should be 1x award – HERE
9) Selling seat upgrades onboard – HERE
10) Removing transcon upgrades – HERE
11) Removing Award Wallet real-time tracking – HERE
12) No award ticket holds (even 24 hrs) – HERE
13) T-72 Rule for Skymiles re-deposit of SkyMiles – HERE
14) Playing with prices for all kinds of tickets – HERE
15) End of HOOU coupons for elites – HERE
16) End of RTW or Round The World award tickets – HERE
17) End of mixed cabin award tickets – HERE
18) Limited or no Level 1 award inside 21 days – HERE
19) Increased award miles for upgrades – HERE
20) Removal of many international third party lounges – HERE
21) Delta DieMiles, when you die so do your Skymiles – HERE
22) End to combining / transferring of vouchers on one ticket – HERE
23) Only elites + Delta AMEX get access to SkyMiles Marketplace – HERE
24) No Korean SkyMiles credit unless DL-CODE Share – HERE
25) Reduced points when crediting to Alaska Airlines – HERE
26) Ending increased award for elite status – HERE
27) Ending increased award for Delta AMEX holders – HERE
28) Cuts for Silver Medallion 2 free bags – HERE
29) End of medallion kit in mail for Silver Medallions – HERE
30) Cuts for Gold & Medallion C+ seats – HERE
31) Removal of Delta award charts – HERE
32) Endless targeted medallion gifts diluting elite levels – HERE
33) MQDs or qualifying dollars requirement – HERE
34) Increased totals of MQD spend required each year – HERE
35) End of award partnership with Hawaiian miles – HERE
36) End of earning SkyMiles from “Thanks Again” – HERE
37) Increased redemption amounts for SkyMiles Market Place – HERE
38) Devaluation of Skybonus point awards – HERE
39) $5000 MQD spend to keep Skybonus membership – HERE
40) Change to 5 employees for Skybonus membership – HERE
41) Change in Medallion year from 1March to 1FEB – HERE
42) Less upgrades due to FCM (app and Delta.com) – HERE
43) Negative changes to Same Day Changes (fare class & route) – HERE
44) End of value from Suntrust Debit card – HERE
45) End of TSA PreCheck for Delta elites – HERE
46) Reduced free checked bags for 1st class domestic travel – HERE
47) Increased GoGo monthly fees – HERE
48) Lower MQM earnings on many partners – HERE
49) Consolidator fares earn less points – HERE
50) E-Class fares restrictions for medallions / all – HERE

Gosh, that is a depressing list and I truly could have made it much longer (were there any major ones I missed of the past few years?). So why has Delta done this? We all know the answer – they can! Jets are full and despite the cost of jet fuel dropping to amazing low levels they are still charging, for the most part, as much as they ever have (and are maybe even colluding on prices with other airlines).

But how long will this last? At some point things will change for whatever reason and people will fly less. We know Delta plans to, at that point, park more jets in the desert to still keep prices high and still fly full. I guess that is a good idea from a business stand point, but not one that will make those flying happy. But what if even THAT idea does not work out so well. What if Delta needs a loyalty program to get people flying Delta again. With the list above I think many will have a long memory of what was lost.

Then there is American Airlines. Everyone seems to think it is just a matter of time before they copy what Delta, and to some extent, what United has done. They may be right, but what if they don’t. What if they just keep improving their program. What then, I ask you? Can you even imagine what a marketing bonanza that would be for AA! Think of being able to advertise that we were loyal to YOU when things were good for everyone and we are still loyal to you now (I should go to work for AA advertising).

The bottom line of all of this is one day I firmly believe the crushing choices Delta is making and the destruction of customer loyalty, trust and appreciation will one day cost the company. It is just a matter of time. – René

 

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29 comments

  1. @Ben – As mentioned before many times (and answered you before), I will be DM for at least 2 more years and soon have “annual” FO status and have a TON of $kyRubles still to burn. I will be flying DL for a while and plan to, if they will offer it, status match AA’s top level and fly AA next year too but from a Delta flyers perspective. Should be fun and no need to change the blog.

  2. Finance and revenue types are running the airline (and others) now. It was only a matter of time. We’ll see what happens when business conditions turn sour, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

  3. I agree with Mr. Jackson that finance folks (along with their consultant and wall street analyst partners in crime) are ruining I mean running DL. When business turns bad, I ecpect these guys will double down on austerity and turn the screws even tighter on ffers and the unrepresented workforce rather than expand benefits. It will take a change in management starting with Richard honesty, integrity, and respect Anderson before we’ll see any improvement in the ff program.

  4. Thanks for making me sick to my stomach just before I was going to have leftover BBQ from Black’s in Lockhart. I have never felt more betrayed for my support and loyalty to anything than I do now for Delta.

  5. #keep descending is definitely correct! I am a DM who flies JFK-LAX r/t at least once a month. I just called to see about whether I really could use RUCs for a trip next month (3 weeks from now). On outbound day, only flight with availability is 8:20 PM and return only flight is 6:15 AM. This is the case, even though on the outbound day there are currently 98 Delta One seats available on the other flights and on the return day there are 84 Delta One seats available on the other flights during the day and another 32 on the redyes.

  6. Unfortunately it is not that easy for folks just switch to AA from Delta. I am a Delta hub hostage so I have no choice unless I add a stop to almost every flight I make which is not a smart idea even if Delta keeps their mission to end their loyalty program.

  7. I don’t despise Delta for making cuts to their loyalty program. I’m irritated, yes, but I understand all the perks were just that–perks to gain loyalty, nothing that I was “entitled” to. Those perks worked to keep me loyal, even if it meant paying a slightly higher price or making an extra connection. Overall, I’ve been happy with their service, so I don’t despise them.

    United, on the other hand, has terrible service, and they could care less about burning their customers on real service issues, so I do indeed despise United and will avoid them at all costs.

    That said, I won’t be making the extra connection or paying more to fly Delta any longer–unless it means avoiding United, of course. It’s simply not worth it to me anymore. Just a couple months ago, I ended up booking tickets on Southwest over Delta, even though they cost a little more, whereas a couple of years ago, I would have gone with Delta in pursuit of status. This time, schedule was more important than price. The Southwest flight had far more favorable and numerous flight times and no connections on top of that. Next time, price may be more important, and I’ll pick the cheapest flight. It might be Delta, it might not be. In other words, now all I consider is schedule and price.

    I can’t imagine that I’m the only one starting to do the same thing, and Delta will be seeing the consequences eventually. No, I wasn’t their highest value customer, but in aggregate, people like me count for something, and in corporate land, every penny counts so that they can “beat last year.” It usually works short-term, but that mantra will come back to bite them, eventually.

  8. I should clarify that their current method of beating last year with the cuts to skymiles is what will come back to bite them once the loss of formerly loyal customers is fully realized. That hasn’t happened yet, as some die hards are sticking around, and also the cuts haven’t fully run to completion yet.

  9. Airlines seem to have it good now thanks to eliminating competitors through mergers and holding customers captive with the hub system. I know of no other industry where a business can be untruthful to, rip off and disrespect its best customers and many of those customers feel compelled to continue to fork over their hard-earned dough or their employer’s to the very business that disrespects them. Remarkable.

  10. very depressing and distressing LONG list of things taken away from us!!!! not sure Diamond is worth it anymore SADDDDDD

  11. I had a wonderful dream, turned delusion to take my 5 children their spouses and my grand Bebe away for a great little trip
    Instead tonight I booked a number of “miles” flights which hopefully have potential to generate vouchers. Seems that’s my new perspective. Who remembers that song
    “You keep me hangin on ” first by the Supremes then redo by vanilla fudge

  12. @Young_Tho®ough – Yep. I forgot that one too. There have been SO many hard to keep track. Don’t forget about SkyMall too btw. You could earn 5x points and they would match prices of BestBuy and others! 🙁

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