Has Delta “FINALLY” pushed it too far with 2019 Medallion year Enhancements? Maybe!

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There is always a tipping point. It is hard to say where that tipping point is in most business until you reach it. Sometimes you can quickly adjust when you know you have gone too far – but sometimes you can’t. Yesterday I posted my PERSONAL plans to knock out 1/4 million in Amex card spend to be Diamond Medallion MQD exempt for 2019 (in 2018). Reactions were interesting to say the very least (see comments).

Delta has been on a tear in the past few years cutting perk after perk (it is a mind numbing long list fyi) and yet due to any number of circumstances folks have stuck with Delta and keep flying them and paying higher and higher prices. It has been great for $DAL shareholders over the years (disclaimer I never buy or sell any airline stocks).

But is the joy ride finally over? Has Delta, in their either infinite wisdom (or unabashed arrogance), pushed it just that much too far now? In my post a few weeks ago about Delta sending out “free” LSTN headphones notice what one reader JDW recently commented that I just had to share with you:

While I was pleasantly surprised to receive the headphones (and they are quite good at noise canceling), I am sad to say that this is likely my last year as a Diamond and my last year as an exclusive Delta customer. I attained this status with a combination of flying and AMEX spend. My employer will only pay for coach, making it difficult to spend $15K per year, although I fly to Europe at least 4 times per year and at least 10 domestic flights per year, frequently coast to coast. My husband, also a Diamond for 6 years, flies more than I, but under the same employer – mandated coach restrictions. The regional and global upgrades have made flying Delta our only choice, until now. My children have never flown on any airline but Delta, and they are now teenagers. With the new 10X increase in MQD requirement for Diamond status, my husband and I will drop our Delta AMEX cards (keep our [non-Delta] AMEX Business Platinum Cards) and our family will now begin to fly Southwest domestically, and any airline that has the best, most affordable fares to Europe. Such a shame: Delta has not only lost our loyalty, but that of the next generation, who saved their miles for our family vacations.” – Reader JDW from Kentucky (BOLD MINE)

I hope the folks at Virginia Avenue who are getting paid mega bucks are making the right choices when it comes to SkyMiles and the Medallion program. From my end it sure does not seem this way and I think JDW’s comment sums that up – Delta has now pushed things too far and it is going to cost them long term.

You tell me. Are you sticking with Delta no matter what changes they make? Or, are you feeling like JDW that it is time to break from loyalty to Delta and simply move on for 2018? – René

 

 

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47 comments

  1. Currently sticking with DL but wide open to reviewing every year if not more often. Benefits are limited for those buying premium class already. RDM value is relatively low, no first class redemptions on partners, SC and partner lounges are not competitive. If the GUCs get any harder to use then I’ll stop being DM. And I’ll either be DM or I’m out. That’s a pretty fine line to keep my business. With the highest requirements to make elite and the recent “thinning of the herd” they better start looking at adding some value back in or they’ll find that other loyalty programs have passed them by.

  2. Delta(and their large institutional shareholders..Vanguard, Blackstone, Fidelity etc…) care only about the next quarter, not the next generation.

  3. Last year, after decades with NWA and Delta, we moved to “lowest fare” options domestically. What “loyalty” gets anymore isn’t worth the $. I can purchase bulkhead seats on some AA flights for less than what Delta wants to charge. And SWA is just so FUN to fly anymore and it’s “one flight and we’re there” from MDW. It’s sad, really, I want to stay with Delta exclusively, but they’ve forced the issue and AA and SWA have benefitted.

  4. @Geoff, If Vanguard, Blackstone, Fidelity etc… care about the performance of their holdings it is because the investors in their funds (ie nearly every single American) care about how their portfolio with said companies is doing. If you have any investments at all in the market then I suggest you pull out of the market now.

  5. Grass isn’t greener on the AA side. I am in the very same boat. AA Platinum and this is my last year. The EQDs are just way too high now with my business travel all being domestic and fares being so cheap these days. I do a ton of travel to Florida for leisure but the flights are dirt cheap, like $100 cheap so before tax those $70 EQDs don’t mean diddly.

    I’ve hit AA Gold next year and we are burning all my AA miles on first class to Europe for a trip next summer.

    Being a Chicago hub captive, AA or UA will likely always come up the cheapest so it will just come down to schedule I suppose.

    Southwest is never reasonably priced out of Chicago so I rarely even bother to look.

    It’s such a bummer it’s turned into a pure money grab for the airlines to get whatever they can out of passengers and provide less in return.

  6. For most of us, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a way they’re kinda acting Trumpian these days under the guise of good business practices.

    1) Rewarding high spend flyers while thinning the herd of people that probably make Delta the other half of its strong revenue picture in the face of a somewhat strong economy. That’s sort of like the push to couch healthcare changes as enhancements even though it hurts the middle class and promise tax cuts that still only really help the richest all when a market correction is probably in the near future and will burn the US consumer and US business. They’ll regret it.

    2) Dogged pursuit of ME3 is bit racist especially on an incredibly lackluster set of facts. They’ve invested lobbying money and even produced propoganda to convince their rank and file of the unfair advantages of airlines that barely even fly their routes. It’s gross. If I was a shareholder I’d have a couple ideas on what to spend that money on – maybe customer retention?

    3) Devaluation of currency – Gary Leff puts this best when he describes Delta as creating the company store except they’re extending it all the way out to their consumers. The lack of transparency for no other reason than to take advantage of the novice award shoppers. This idea of wrapping the excuse of giving us more ways to spend Skymiles as if the survey data says we want to spend on merch or drinks in the lounge or change fees – yeah right. I could say much more obviously but I’ll end here.

    So yeah I think the strategy is, if you’re a small biz like me, you still pick an airline that returns some value to you and go for a status that’ll help make the work travel a tad comfortable and the pleasure travel a little less thankless. But no longer spend top dollar just to be on capacity controlled Delta where literally the surcharge to fly them vs some else on the same route can be a spread of $100. Price shop around because Delta doesn’t care about your retirement. Pay for the fare you want and if you can afford it just want the cheapest economy ticket above basic. They don’t show you loyalty why bother? Only spend as much as the value proposition.

    I think this year will be the year I try out Jet Blue Mint for my transcon biz because why spend $400-$600 more on delta when I don’t get much love back?

  7. The Conslutants advising and staff executing Delta are the same ones that destroyed other Atlanta “fan-based” decisions. (To get a job at one, you had to work for one of the others). IHG, Focus Brands, Home Depot, AT&T, Coke, UPS. None of the sports or entertainment venues reward subscribers any longer either, just corporate buyers.

  8. Here’s the problem. We are down to 3 legacy carriers from the 6-8 of just a few years ago. There is no real competition. Each of them is devaluing in approximately the same manner. So for benefits, this is not a healthy competitive market. It is possible that there will be a competitive market based on price (and number of connections) – and then the Big 3 will regret the day they killed loyalty. For me, I will give Delta one more year. The breaking point will be if I can use or not use my GUC’s in a “planned manner” (when buying the ticket). If Delta were smart, they would initiate a policy that GUC’s and RUC’s can be applied at the time of ticket purchase if more than half the seats in the cabin are still open. For me, I will gladly pay Delta’s higher fares, if they would do this.

  9. Have to agree; looks to be my last year with Delta after just reaching the 1M Miler mark & Delta Diamond status for the past 4 years. I hover around $12K spending on Delta as my employer also mandates coach class – but – I spend another ~$12K on my wife & two children when they are able to join me on my travels. While I’ve not fully decided, I think changing to Alaska Airlines or the “lowest fare option” seems to be better options. One other point – whatever the decision, I will also cancel my & my wife’s AMEX Delta Reserve Credit Cards and re-think my loyality to the HHONORs program.

  10. Fly out of JAX and only ever make Gold anyway. I’ll stick with DAL for now due to the number of smaller markets that they service. I do fly AA maybe 6 times a year and I’m just not feeling it with them – yet.

  11. I had already made the same decision. I am done with Delta as of 2019. I have been Diamond for 4 years on Delta. UA’s bad customer service pushed me to switch from UA, on which I had been Premier 1K for 4 years, to DL. Now I am done with DL and will just fly Southwest domestically and the cheapest business class I can find internationally.

    I run a small business and could spend $250K on my Delta Amex Reserve, but find putting the spend on other cards to be more valuable, I have various cards that bonus most categories of spend done by the business. I could also spend $15K per year on DL for my business travel, but it seems ridiculous to try to spend $15K. So, I am done.

    For some reason the decision felt liberating, not playing the status game anymore for the tickets I am already buying for travel in 2018.

  12. I think it will be a delayed reaction. B/c I will probably be Diamond next year (under the current rules), I will want to use those benefits. However, that’s when I’ll need to decide.

    Also, another option is simply flying less. It’s bizaare to think that an airline would actively encourage long time customers to use their product less, but the execs in this business have come to that conclusion .

    In the end, this delayed customer reaction to Delta’s downgrades will be like the frog in boiling water. By the time it realizes the water is too hot, it’s too late jump out. Delta will have killed demand for its product from its biggest fans.

  13. I am very similar to JDW and could never hit $15k since my travel is coach to Asia (personal and business) with CC spend to make Diamond. Though I will keep my Reserve until the end of the year (for the companion ticket), I’ll switch that spending back to Business Plat. I would have increased spend to $150k, but not $250k. Amex will still get the fees, but none to Delta. Also, with no hope of getting Diamond, I feel liberated to fly other airlines domestically with lower fares as long as I can maintain Plat on Delta. The Econ Comfort on those long flights are the reason I keep status. Even as a diamond I’m rarely upgraded to FC domestically.

  14. Left Delta two years ago, after decades with them. Mostly AA now but whatever airline that can get me to Prague cheaply in Business will do.

  15. Pretty much the same for me. Diamond for 12 years, and have booked dozens of trips, domestic and overseas travel, for wife, 3 kids, and 6 parents/inlaws exclusively on Delta. Still love the Delta people, and the on-time performance is great, but the program has been effectively devalued so far for me that it has no impact on my choices any more. Southwest is cheaper, good people, and decent on time performance. Loyalty is a two way street….

  16. My fiance and I have spent the last 17 years flying Northwest/Delta RECREATIONALLY as our airline and have been Diamond Medallion for the last 4-5 years and Platinum before that. This amounted to a lot of dollars and over 1.5 MILLION miles as their customers without the help of an employee ffoting part of the costs. The newest “Keep Cimbing” (Decending Policies) have put us over the edge. There is no way either one of us have the spending power to reach the now impossible $250,000 figure. We do not feel valued by Delta nor appreciated. It is next to impossible to actually book a ticket using the hallowed GU certificates and often are treated “like dirt” by the airline staff both on the ground and in the air. Oh yes, every once and awhile there is a Purser who will recognize your status and thank you but generally you are just part of the herd they are expected to service, even in Delta One.
    I am sorry to say, it will be whoever has the best deal where we want to go and a “not so fond” farewell to Delta in 2018. The last straw finally was added to the camel’s back.

  17. Dropped the Delta Reserve card and picked up the Platinum one. Was loyal to Delta for 20+ years, but now I am tired of chasing the “Diamond Ring” and will fly whoever gets me there at the best value. I tried to stick with Delta, but they have made it impossible now.

  18. I spend about 155K a year on various AMX Delta Cards (have no plans to mfg spend for 2019) – Currently a Diamond and I’ve made Diamond for the 2018 Calendar year – Looks like that will be the last year as an “incentive” flying Delta. Flying from SFO – I have so many options with Airlines that have “real” first class seats. A Fact: I had to beg for a food box from economy my last flight from ATL-SFO- Of course, I should not have been hungry after 8pm 🙁

  19. I’ve found Southwest A list and Companion Pass perks beats Delta Platinum status. I’m done chasing Diamond Medallion after 2018.

    Years ago, Delta devalued its program to the point that I did a status match to NWA. Enough people left that Delta had to restore the ability to upgrade from any fare.

    No amount of complaining will get their attention. Only when Delta starts hemorrhaging business flyers will things change.

  20. Justin B wrote: “Dogged pursuit of ME3 is bit racist …”
    I disagree, it is not a racist move on the part of Delta. It is simply a common distraction tactic that corrupt politicians and magicians use while trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
    For example: Argentinian leaders in the past used the Falkland Islands/Malvinas as a ruse to distract the Argentinian people from their failed domestic policies. Politicians and company leaders find “bogey men” all the time to distract their constituents.
    In the case of Delta, they are using the ME3 as bogeymen to justify their terrible treatment of their loyal customers, to raise fares, and do all kinds of things to improve their short term profits at the expense of their long term profitability. Their actions to hurt their customer base will lead to negative consequences for the company that Delta will happily blame on the ME3. It’s disgusting and shameful.

  21. This time the bean-counters blew it. They failed to understand the loyalty equation for many of us frequent flyers. Definitely dropped one of my Delta Amex cards and weighing other airline options, maybe even status match for 2019.

  22. I will be sticking with them, but my employer pays for domestic F and international J so I’m not overly worried about spend and status as I once was. I also have AMEX Platinum for lounges.

    I status matched in July from years at United as a 1K as I was tired of their BS. Their PQM system sucks much worse than Delta’s when flying alliance airlines.

  23. If I were in JWD’s position, I am sure that I would feel the same. However, for me, the “too far” moment was Bastian’s chuckle at the principle that loyal customers should expect complimentary upgrades on domestic flights.

    If he wants to shred that model which has served Delta well for decades, then I will shred my status and buy first class from American or Delta. Most of the time, doing so would work out cheaper than flying Delta coach exclusively and solve the problem of FCM.

  24. It all depends on personal situation. I don’t like Delta, I don’t like their management decisions, I don’t like what they have done with their loyalty program. However, I live on a Delta hub and quite a big one (MSP). I travel mostly for business and my company allows me to book business class for overseas which I fly at least 10 times a year to Europe. I fly almost every week domestically. Delta puts me almost everywhere I need to be on a non-stop flight. Yes, they charge a lot for that benefit but my company pays for it. I would not trade the hours I save flying non-stop to connect elsewhere to fly AA or UA. Here is the point: like it or not but Delta is a better airline than AA and UA so why would I change? If it was my personal money and I was flying for leisure that would probably be very different but when you fly 150k MQM for business I don’t really care in having my company give Delta way over $50k in MQD so I can spend more time with my family.

  25. After 20+ years of flying Delta exclusively and a DM for the past 6 years, I’m done after 2018. Havent thought about alternatives but being a free agent is intriguing. I may go out of my way to avoid Delta similar to what I’ve done with Comcast.

  26. Headset? I’ve consistently spent $20K++ in last 9 years of Diamond and on target for $30K++ this year. I’ve given up on Porsche’s and Delta 360 treatment. Now I don’t rate a headset? Despite, I’ll stick with them as I’m interested to see what’s going to be left and don’t see alternatives.

  27. Four years ago I became Silver Medallion and started playing the game reaching and maintaining DM by taking advantage of the Am Ex Delta Reserve DM spend waiver, bumportunities, and #TeamBoardLast. All on my own dime for $3K a year.
    Being forced to do dummy bookings to view seat maps and to spend $15K a year on tickets spoil the fun. Hiding seat maps is a slap in the face and although I could reach the MQD threshold annually the joy would be gone.
    On Oct 1, 2018 I’ll top-tier status match with Alaska. I’ll keep the Reserve card for PM status and thereafter I will fly on Delta metal only as a last resort.
    I’m a proud outlier. The game can be played anywhere. Regardless of the airline, it ain’t over till the fat lady sits in your seat. And then it’s REALLY over!

  28. I still prefer Delta to United and American, even though I am a 1K and Million Miler on United. I use miles for kids and others, and United’s program is far better than Delta’s. Still, I would rather fly Delta than United. I also have mandated coach but my choice of airlines. I would not be surprised if others have a second airline that they use as well. To be honest, United and American stopped their “top tier” spending status using cards a while ago….it’s a toss up.

  29. I’ll continue to fly Delta. Status, upgrades, skymiles and pricing aside, I think they have a wonderful product. When I’m sitting at the airport and the weather is terrible, I don’t get anxious wondering when my flight will be cancelled. I may have to wait quite a bit, but I will get to my destination the vast majority of the time.
    That said, I will most likely drop my 2 Delta Amex Reserve cards.

  30. DM since it was started and million mile flyer. Have started to fly AA again (also million dollar miler) more often – better mile deals at times (e.g., 57.5K business to Brazil), and better RTW options. Already DM for 2018, and half way mileage wise for 2019, but may not bother. Having GU status unknown till shortly before flight, devalues this one most significant perk.

  31. I feel like a dang drug addict that needs to go to Diamond Medallion rehab…

    I can’t imagine life without it. I don’t want to live without it…

    Yep, that’s what a junky would say.

    $15k shouldn’t be an impossible task for me, but my MQDs have gone down over the years($30k+ > $19k > ~$15k this year). I’m just gonna need to get creative. It does have me concerned.

    I also feel like I have a golden parachute sitting on 2 million skymiles in the bank. I definitely can’t have less than Platinum with that many to use and I don’t want less than diamond for good domestic upgrade percentage on those rewards potentially.

    The decline in benefits has been extreme as time passes and I keep trying to match the old high but I can’t. Delta, like a good dealer, has given me a taste and now I’m hooked. Only now, they are lacing/diluting the program with less and less upgrades and perks, at the same time as hiking the price and killing off the competition.

    What’s a loyal user to do?

    -Delta Anonymous

    I may have taken that analogy a bit far…

  32. Exactly the same as the person you quote. Diamond to platinum and now on track for nothing in 2018. Ditched Delta Amex. Fly like most people: cheapest and most convenient.

  33. I also fly coach exclusively and fairly easily hit MQD of $15k+ out of Atlanta. I don’t even travel every week. I should make Diamond this year due to the MQM’s from the Platinum Delta AMEX card I applied for through this site. I’ll be sticking with Delta for now due to no better alternatives.

  34. I think I identify with Adams comment the most…i am a diamond junky..thanks to Renee and Juicy Miles I have been Diamond for two years and have 2018 locked in….but now for what?? Im most interested in the GUC and barely I mean barely got to use them last year and with the demise of the 747 the A350 has half the available seats there will be no way to use them on asia routes….China Eastern is not perfect but they are better every trip…im using them now for business seats to asia and enjoying every trip. I will give them 2018 to decide if they really mean they dont care about elites and see then what to do, mean time Delta is off the radar for international for me.

  35. I’m staying with DL mostly due to a lack of a better option. I’ve made DM for 2018 and to qualify for 2019 I’ll make at least 8 trips to Asia plus another few to Europe and a handful to NYC – all from LAX. If all goes as planned I should hit my $15K spend for my MQDs pretty easily.

    The bummer here is lack of a better option. I can’t imagine going back to no status, and Southwest is a non-starter for me. I generally get OK redemption on my Skymiles – including UG with points to HKG; which all things considered 60k points to UG for a 15 hour flight on a K class ticket ain’t bad.

    I’m willing to keep my options open though. However, at this point AA is a nonstarter for me and UAL is just a crap airline – albeit one could argue their top tier status delivers better value.

  36. I’ve also been a 10 year Platinum/Charter Diamond and made Diamond every year since, 1.5 million miler. I work for the Gov’t, so my tickets are always coach, many times deep discount coach. I fly international every month. My routing has assured Skyteam travel 90% of my trips. The new CEO, Ed Bastian has left a bad taste in my mouth, quite obvious that Ed doesn’t appreciate my loyalty. The 2018 flying year will be my last as a Diamond. I don’t need the status to use airline lounges anymore, AMEX Platinum provides free access to Priority Pass lounges. I anticipate $0 spend on my Delta Reserve card which I’ll keep for 1 more year, the companion cert pays for itself. Sad to see Delta race to the bottom, great customer service from Delta used to make me overlook some things but now that aspect of flying with Delta is no different that the other legacy carriers. Sign me NO longer loyal to any airline.

  37. One last comment. I know Delta is a business but Richard Anderson had a way of making us (the customers) feel like we were part of the Delta family, Ed Bastian instills none of those qualities.

  38. I have been a DM for the last 5-6 years. I switched over from Continental. I am a Million Miler who is very loyal to the brand. I hold two Reserve Cards and have been know to take the Elite Mileage Runs to maintain my status. I plan to cancel both cards – no more mile runs. Just not worth it. I wounder how much business Delta will actually loose from people like me who fly just for the rewards.

  39. I have been a DM for the last 5-6 years. I switched over from Continental. I am a Million Miler who is very loyal to the brand. I hold two Reserve Cards and have been know to take the Elite Mileage Runs to maintain my status. I plan to cancel both cards – no more mile runs. Just not worth it. I wounder how much business Delta will actually loose from people like me who fly just for the rewards.

  40. There will be a lot of DM hangovers into 2018. 2019 will be the year to watch. I’m sure the bean counters are. The changes especially hurt business, non-profits, and relief organizations that book the back of the plane. Delta flies (via KLM) where I need to go, so it will be hard to deviate. But for the first time I’ll be checking other routes and companies. I’ve put away the Amex card as well. Called them and told them as much. My wife’s card has been cut up.

  41. Unfortunately not enough domestic competition, but it’s time for Diamond Medallions who fly internationally to break the MQD chains and wake up to what you have been missing. Once you get used to the way the people at Singapore, Etihad, Emirates, Lufthansa or Qatar make you feel, your whole frame of reference will change. No wonder Ed Bastion is so scared of (fair) competition from the ME3.

  42. Diamond MM here and diamond next year. This year I stopped flying Delta internationally altogether. Their business class offering in Delta One vs. the Asian and European carriers do not compare both in quality and price. If I do fly premium economy it just seems ridiculous. I’m not going to wait for them to introduce premium seating which most of the international carriers already have anyway. So for now on I will fly Delta domestically and position myself at JFK or LAX to switch to Air France or ANA.

    Thank god Delta’s on time performance is the best in the industry, it makes these 2 ticket connections far less risky.

  43. Here’s the problem – we are now down to three comprehensive global airlines in this country. For every 50 blog commenters here, there are 50 at AA doing the same thing and thinking about going to Delta. Same goes for UA. While I never subscribed to the theory that we needed 15 big airlines in this country, one could be forgiven for concluding that we’ve consolidated beyond the point of a healthy market.

  44. I, like many fully agreed that the ease of obtaining Platinum and Diamond status had effectively negated their intended premium value. The policies that permitted this to happen, to use the simplest of terms would be called abject stupidity. People do not suddenly have intellectual epiphanies much as we would like them to. Delta management is simply acting exactly the same, i.e. abject stupidity, merely as an extreme over correction. To put this in perspective as so many other posters have, I am a multiple year Diamond, Million Miler, loyal from NW days, spend @$150K a year on my Amex card, fly over 150,000 miles a year and routinely spend @ $10K on Delta. I am no longer a top tier Medallion with this profile. Seriously? Despite what you might think, I am fairly certain that the titans of business who made these decisions and formed this strategy don’t actually make enough money to drop $250K on a single card. They certainly do not know how people inn this income bracket think and how we got to this position in the first place. I could spend $250K on just Amex but resent being strong armed into doing so. I will just have my assistant use Google Flight Search and get me the best deal. As I say, stupid is stupid they have just switched flavors.

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