Reader Dustin e-mails me – “I am curious why [fly] Delta?” It is not as hard as you may think!

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We will receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertiser Disclosure, and advertiser partners, such as American Express, CreditCards.com and others visit this page.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
 

delta-on-jet-wall-renespoints

I get about 100-200 e-mails a day. I try to always get back to folks the same day the mail comes in because if I don’t they end up buried in days past. I always tell myself I will get back to a mail if I don’t respond right away but it just never seems to happen. So if this ever happens to you please cut-N-paste and resend (I will not be offended in the least bit).

The other day I was cleaning out my spam folder and this e-mail from Dustin got stuck. It has been a few days since it landed in there but I think Dustin’s e-mail deserves more than just a mail back. Notice what he asks:

Hi René,

I am curious why Delta? I am new to the points/miles travel hobby and live in Portland, OR. The Delta AMEX gold was one of the first cards that I picked up but have since converted that to a no fee Hilton. I found the miles somewhat hard to use (read, get good value). I’m assuming you are in a Delta hub, but curious as to your preference for Delta. If you have an article that explains this, I’d be appreciative if you could point me to the link.

Safe travels,
Dustin

Thank you Dustin for the mail and sorry G-Mail sent you to spam. Let me first help you with one mistake you made – never downgrade or upgrade an AMEX card EVER unless you have had that card before. Now that AMEX is 1x bonus in your lifetime (per card) you always want to apply for a new card, get the bonus points, then cancel the old card.

Now on to your question as to if there is an article that explains why I choose Delta as my preferred carrier. First off the reasons I do NOT choose Delta. It is not for:

So those are the three glaring negatives about Delta. The award program is all but trashed and the award booking page I feel is intentionally busted. Sure there can still be some value extracted and I do that each time I spend SkyMiles but I do not fly Delta for the award program and no one else should either. It is a component that I “enjoy” (maybe not the best word) but way down on the list of choosing Delta. Lastly on the “con” side is the lack of a real 1st class seat. I like the Delta business class domestic and the international business class ones called Delta One but they are nothing like many other airlines 1st class options. I am fine with that.

Now on to the reasons why I do choose Delta as my airline of choice since I am not really a hub captive.

  • Impressive elite program including awards
  • Ridiculously good performance
  • Reliable and consistent product
  • Decent wifi and getting better
  • Delta people and service
  • Technology that works well
  • Skyteam fits my travel needs

There is the short list of why, IMO, you should choose Delta as your preferred airline. Let’s touch on them one by one.

First off I really like the Delta elite program. No matter what level you attain Delta does treat elites well. Sure upgrades are MUCH harder to get than in years past, but I still get a bulk of mine as a Diamond and know how to work the system for max advantage. Same goes for awards. Delta does make them hard to get at good value but with such flexibility to change and tinker free of charge as an elite when I do book them I can work them as I see fit. There is value there.

Next up you have performance. Now I am not saying every single flight is perfect but a bulk of the time they are not just on time but early. And you can rest assured, almost no matter what, Delta will at some point complete the flight. I know Delta will get me where I want to go – at some point. Worst case, they will make it right. I never ever buy travel insurance because there just is no need when I fly Delta.

In the world of slim-line and cut to the bone products I like the Delta choices. No, they are not perfect but I like the choices they have made. The seats are comfortable and, most times, I expect and do have power and IFE and worst case if there is none of the latter there is Delta Studio beamed free over the in-flight wifi to entertain me. Nice.

Speaking of wifi, Gogo (or as many call it SlowGo) is consistent on Delta jets. Sure the older system is buggy, can be very slow (or almost unusably slow at times) but it is normally there and works enough to get by and Delta is working hard on upgrading the wifi to much faster speeds. Sure I wish it would happen faster i.e. the upgrades but they are pushing this so more good is to come and what is there, for now, does work. Again, unless you are talking a CRJ200, I expect to find and do find wifi when I get onboard a Delta jet. Very important and trustworthy.

Then we have Delta people and I am not just talking about the flight attendants. I am talking about the gate agents, the Sky Club people and more. Just about everyone who works for Delta is amazing (not talking VP level here I am talking about the real Delta people). They respect me and appreciate me as a frequent Delta flyer and often go out of their way to show this. This makes me fiercely loyal to Delta.

After that we have technology that works. Now clearly I am not talking about the award page. I truly in my heart feel it is intentionally broken and busted (and almost worthless). I feel and believe this is done from command on high as in the old days it was amazing and really worked – not so much now. But that is not my point. Let’s talk about the Fly Delta App. Amazing! Period. It really works and provides just so much information I need. Delta.com, when it comes to normal things like booking and using the tools inside, just works and works very well. Not perfect mind you but solid for my needs.

Lastly on my list we have Skyteam (deep sigh). I debated if I really wanted to include this on this list of great things Delta does because really Skyteam is not really one of them like the others. Delta loves Delta. All the Skyteam members know this and get that Delta does not “really” love them at all. However, they fake it well and that works for me. Plus, the alliance flies where I really need them to go and I can work with the partners to get where I want to fly. Clearly very important.

So there you are, Dustin. Does this help. To me Delta is a great choice for the reasons described above. They are a great operational airline and if you are willing to not let them run “rough shod” over you and bamboozle you with ways to fleece you when it comes to awards, you can even enjoy those perks (with a lot of work) as well.

Have I sold you, Dustin, on flying Delta? You tell me! – René

 

 

11 comments

  1. Sorry Rene – I have to disagree. While Delta does have good operatinal performance, it is not THAT good. I have had plenty of delays and cacellations that cost me big time. Atlanta can be a tough place to connect. The people that work at Delta are much better than AA and UA but that is not a high bar. Add in a gutted frequent flier program and consistently more expensice tickets, fake upgrades to comfort plus middle and an inability to find good value in redemptions and I find that Delta is not the best choice. I find that buying the best non-stop flight that fits my schedule and buying the upgrade costs less in the long run and you know exactly what you are getting. Conseqently, I have mid tier status with ALL airlines and top tier with none. Again, it works for me. I minimize connecting for the sake of loyalty and I ened up in first as often as I would anyway. 2016 and beyond = free agent all the way.

  2. @Rene – Agree with the list! As far as SkyTeam goes, do you have direct experience or user reports on how well the GUCs have been working for KL/AF upgrades? Do they clear at booking a reasonable percentage of the time? Thanks!

  3. @skdelta – Have not used on KLM yet but plan if I can. Keep in mind KLM allows all but E fare but AF is still YBM so doubt many use that way.

  4. RJB makes a good point: different strokes for different folks. I like the award program. Gulp! Yes, I plan way ahead and I usually get low bucket seats on Partner Airlines. I have 4 Business Class seats, @80k each one-way, taking my son and 2 grandsons from JFK to Guangzhou on China Southern in June. I follow Rene’s advice for racking up as many miles as possible very early in the year. Both my wife and I have the Reserve Card and I charge a ton of future expenses in January. On alternating years we gift the MQM’s to the other person, thereby maximizing one person’s future Medallion status while the other enjoys Diamond for the current year. Keep up the great work. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone…. and PEACE to all.

  5. Great article. Interesting facts.

    I’m in the southeast close to ATL, so…they could easily be considered the best at my local airport since they offer the most flight options (by far), shortest travel times, and most seats. They run from 5:30 outbound to 11:30 inbound here. They only offer non-stop to ATL and Detroit from here, but the direct flight choices and frequencies they offer out of ATL are pretty amazing.

    Although…I probably prefer United a little more for my leisure travel and my CC’s earn their miles.

  6. Regarding SKDelta’s question about using global upgrades on KLM, I was able to confirm business class from USA to South Africa via Amsterdam at time of booking a couple of months prior to the flights. It took the Delta agent a while to find and some flexibility on dates, but I can attest that global upgrades are accepted on KLM. I would not take a chance if the upgrades cannot be confirmed at time of booking, however, as I have no idea about the upgrade clearance process on KLM Also, my understanding is that AF will only upgrade to premium economy, which I have not experienced but is probably not as good as KLM business (which itself is not that good either, in my experience).

    My only disappointment is none of the four aircraft is a 787, which I am dying to fly.

  7. Sorry, I meant to say that AF business class is not that great, based on my experience a few years ago with slanted seats, widely varying service, and unremarkable food. Haven’t flown KLM for many years, but the planes I’ll be taking, 747s and 777s, have full-flat “new world business class” seats on all four legs — probably similar to Delta One but without direct aisle access for window seats.

  8. Hi Rene, Dustin here. Thank you for posting my question on the blog and for the detailed pro’s and con’s of Delta and the Skymiles program.

    When I did the PC from Delta to Hilton, my Delta was backdated to when I opened my first AMEX card. I opened it probably the last month AMEX did this. I was solely thinking of preserving my AAOC and didn’t know I would be pursuing credit card sign ups. In hindsight, I would have just let it go like you said.

    I’ve only flown Delta once. The outbound flight was the best flight I’ve ever had (at the time) and the return was the worst. Any airline can have a bad day though. You do bring a lot of good points about the quality of the product to consider in the future. While I don’t see myself participating much in Skymiles, I probably would consider a paid flight and or trying to redeem a partner award on a Delta flight. I don’t fly/spend enough to gain status on any airline so I’m pretty much a free agent to the best deal available. Being in the PNW, I really like Alaska. Their service is great but my one complaint is the product is dated. Thanks again for addressing my question with your analysis and experience.

  9. @Dustin – I’m also in the PNW and also fly Delta for their operational efficiency. It’s almost like I can guarantee I will get to where I’m going. Sure there are always going to be issues with irregular operations (weather, mechanical, delays, and sure cancellations) but Delta does their very best to complete the flight. I’ve had issues where it’s my fault too, and they have helped me out in those times as well. The Delta people are excellent and are a good reason why I continue to fly them.
    I find that status or no status, on Delta you are generally treated well.

    Alaska is also another great airline choice that we have the PNW. Some of their planes are older, but their new ones are quite nice. The advantage with Alaska is the amount of non-stop flights they have out of PDX and SEA. Their merger with Virgin America will also increase the route network. The Alaska MileagePlan also provides a ton of good award redemptions domestically and internationally with their partners.

  10. @AjayLA – Thanks for the data point, good to know that confirmation at booking is possible on KLM. I agree about not trusting the upgrade process automation at KLM after booking — hopefully between Rene and others, can collect some data points on that.
    @Rene – thanks for the reminder on the YBM on AF — same as the old SWUs, makes GUCs not that useful on AF. Hopefully works out on your KLM flights when you get to try them!

  11. GUC on KLM are rarely available and Delta cannot put on you a KLM wait list. (Do they even exist?) You can, however, go with your up-grade number (provided by Delta) and check in at the up-grade desk in AMS. (Do not try this at the gate.) If there are open seats they might up-grade you. You must, have the up-grade number, not the certificate number. I’ve rarely been able to up-grade on all the legs to and from East Africa (ATL or DTW to AMS and then on to Tanzania, Nairobi, Rwanda or Uganda, all direct connects on KLM through AMS.) KLM is a great airlines to fly internationally, but they are sometimes not too friendly to Delta folks. The exception is the great FA service on board.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *