Why did Delta remove the 2015 frequent flyer award chart? Could this be why?

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CAUSATION: The following is just a random guess and did not really happen. I have ZERO, NADA, NO facts to back any of this up. This is FICTION and just what is in my head and has a 1 in 10,000 chance of being right!

In a meeting at Virginia Avenue (Delta headquarter in ATL), the suits who work for Delta got together to talk about a major problem with the airline – Skymiles. It had to be stopped or fixed once and for all. The following is a “transcript” of that meeting. Names of those attending have been censored to protect the guilty.

Big Boss – We have a serious problem everyone. We know we can not remove the Skymiles program because we have sold too many Delta points to AMEX, Hertz and Skymiles Shopping. Oh sure we could just expire them like we did with Skymall but that would not look good to shareholders. I need some suggestions.

VP 1 – How about we devalue the award charts?

Big Boss – Nah, we did that twice last year. The blogs at BoardingArea will freak out if we do it again too soon. Especially that pesky DeltaPoints.com blogger René! We would have to be more sly about it.

VP 2 – What about adding expiration dates to the points?

Big Boss – No, we have too much invested in marketing that they don’t expire.

Legal VP 1 – There is another major problem

Big Boss – Oh, what’s that?

Legal VP 2 – Our award page does not match up with our award charts. Gary Leff from The View from the Wing keeps pointing out our errors. It is going to get us in trouble with the government.

Big Boss – Really. Can IT fix the problem?

IT jr. VP – No, we have been trying for over 10 years now. The Northwest page worked great but you made us stick with the broken Delta page and we can not fix it.

Big Boss – I see. Well what else can we do?

Legal VP 3 – (yeah there were a bunch of them in the room) – The simplest choice would just be to delete the award charts from existence and then we can make up any numbers we want. We can raise the award price all day long and no one will know.

Big Boss – Really? Can we do that? Will the press not freak out if we do this? Is it legal?

Legal VP 1 – We can do anything we want – it’s a frequent flyer program.

Big Boss – OK that sounds great. Let’s do that but don’t tell anyone until we delete all the charts from the web. Those darn FlyerTalkers are impossible and post everything I want kept private.

REV MGT VP 1 – We have one more idea Big Boss.

Big Boss – About Skymiles? I am all ears.

REV MGT VP 2 – Well we really hate our Skyteam and other partners like Alaska and we’ve been thinking about how to really stick it to them this year. You see, their jets are not as full as ours.

Big Boss – I see, please go on.

REV MGT VP 3 – Well we have some agreements and can insert code on the award booking site so ONLY their flights pop up at LEVEL 1 awards if our Skymiles members are trying to book from ZERO to 3 weeks out.

Big Boss – So what will that accomplish?

REV MGT VP 4 – Well if we push off all our worthless members who have the audacity to actually try to redeem some of their Delta points then we will be filling up our partner’s jets with our riff-raff and at the same time filling up their jets, making them more full.

REV MGT VP 5 – Then, as a result of this, their jets are more full and they only have more expensive tickets to sell. We can then undercut them by pushing out first class up-sells to our flyers on the Fly Delta APP or 100 other ways!

Big Boss – But if we sell all the first class seats won’t all of the HVCs who expect upgrades as part of the program get upset and switch to another airline?

REV MT VP 6 – Not a chance (evil grin by #6). Most of them are fat and lazy and booking on company expense accounts. Plus where are they going to go? United? They can not keep any jets on time to save their lives. AA is in the middle of a merger and is sure to have issues. We are GOLDEN!

Big Boss – This all sounds great. Let’s do it! Oh, last thing, what about the 2016 Medallion program?

SMs jr. VP – Uh, what about it.

Big Boss – We need to cut that too. Some fool talked me into giving away international upgrade coupons last year and I will not stand for that this year. You know how much in stock options that cost me? We must cut those this year.

SMs jr. VP – We will have to gum up the software to prevent folks from redeeming their earned perks to get that done. It will not be popular.

Big Boss – I don’t care – I am NOT going to go into the next quarterly meeting and have to explain why our stock has fallen when gas is almost free now. Cut and cut till you can cut no more! Worst case, always know we can use the BP approach, post gulf destruction, and keep advertising how we care so much and how far your Delta points will take you because Delta loves all of its loyal members. Everything will turn out to be be roses and puppies!

The meeting was then dismissed and all the suits smiled and went for drinks from the HOOU cart parked outside the meeting room near the OCC.

ONCE AGAIN – The above is a work of fiction. But if Delta folks are sweating and any of this hit close to home – I’m sorry (well not really) – René
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17 comments

  1. Absolutely brilliant! I’d be “rolling on the floor” if only it didn’t hit so close to reality. A few years from now, students of marketing will be studying Delta’s atrocious behavior as a case study in how to alienate customers and destroy a company. @srhayes

  2. For the first time in forever, I’ve become airline agnostic. Delta has all but eliminated any incentive to maintain loyalty. I sent them this letter that I’m sure will be met with a canned response:

    “Your airline has maintained my loyalty for years even after moving from Atlanta to a city that is a United hub. Your flight attendants and agents are outstanding, and your in-flight service stand out among the rest. For these reasons and others, I’ve pursued the highest medallion possible status by remaining exclusive to your airline with flights, credit cards, and even in purchasing advice to others. The vast majority of my business is of the paid (albeit discounted) first and business class variety.

    A flurry of recent changes on your side, all which make sense from a revenue standpoint, have caused me for the first time in over a decade to stray (booking travel on other airlines and cancelling my Delta AMEX cards). While other airlines are inferior in some categories, they are now earning my business.

    To be clear, you are rapidly losing my loyalty. A recent influx of “bean-counterism” on your end has ensued which makes my loyalty to Delta seem illogical.

    Specifically, the following examples are among the actions that have gradually eroded my enthusiasm about Delta Airlines:

    – Degradation of Medallion Benefits
    – Revenue based SkyMiles accrual
    – Multiple recent devaluations of award calendar
    – Removal of stopovers on award travel
    – Elimination of award chart visibility on delta.com
    – Lack of affordable award itineraries with short notice

    The trust and enthusiasm I once had are being replaced with indifference. Pardon the long-windedness but it is important to convey the cumulative effect that these series of small changes have on your most loyal customers. You have demonstrated in the past your potential to be a great airline and I implore you to consider it again.”

  3. Rene, I would say that is pretty darn close to what probably is/was happening as we speak. Very well orchestrated sir.

  4. Rene, you must have that fly on the wall at the board meeting. You hit the nail right on the head. Delta has saved over TWO BILLION DOLLARS in fuel costs yet they keep cutting and cutting. Soon, you will be loading your own bags in the baggage compartment and bringing your own drinks.

  5. Brilliant. The underlying problem here is that the government allowed too many mergers and there is no real competition any more. Secondly, I know it’s their awards program and our contract with them says they can do anything they want, but there does seem something basically illegal for them to have collected money (from credit card companies, our flying, etc.) based on one set of rules, and then change the rules after they have that money and people try to collect on our end of the bargain. Maybe not illegal under contract law (i.e. we signed away our rights), but certainly immoral, unfair, and if some government agency decided to step in — it could very well be deemed an illegal business practice — such as bait and switch is.

  6. I’ve thought for a while the strategy is to purge the roles of the DMs and PMs; I believe Delta thinks there are too many of us and that we are sucking up all of the resources. They see themselves as the biggest kid on the block and impervious to harm from a few unhappy customers (Medallions as a percentage of their total customer base). What I don’t think they considered is the possibility of us unloading millions of Skymiles in 2015 resulting in a ton of non-rev travel. Maybe that should be the mantra from the bloggersphere; “Dump your Skymiles in 2015” out of protest.

    Of course, much like this article, this is just shear speculation on my part! 🙂

  7. Rene do you have psychic ability? I have to think this could very well be close to what happens! Also they were more in a hurry to finish the meeting and get to the HOOU cart than to come to a logical action.

  8. @wes, if we did that, then DL would make themselves another trophy (see Cranky Flier) about how many awards they provided their members and how we love the changes because we are using the program.

  9. Since Delta will reimburse their partners for the partner awards booked with Delta miles, I’m sure the partners don’t mind at all – that’s not “sticking it” to the partners. Otherwise, you might be spot on.

  10. Excellent. I was a proud DL supporter for years and went out of my to fly DL, even if the fare was higher than another airline. I am so disgusted by their support of their customers that I have NO further DL reservations and have several on AA. I know they are going thru a merger and not as good as DL, but I am prepared to give them a chance. I have miles but will use them up with a first class trip to JNB.The only way that DL will listen to their customers is for their bookings to decrease.

  11. The truth is probably even stranger than fiction. This is so plausible it’s scary. I’m sure one of the VP also would have talked about how all of these “enhancements” were based on “customer feedback” too!! Brilliant piece!

  12. I love it, and maybe not far from the truth. You could also throw in two or three consultants and the Investor Relations VP with quotes from Wall Street analysts. 🙂

  13. I too was a loyal delta customer never questioning where I would buy a ticket. Now I have many flights on another airline and will use all my skymiles by overseas trips and give to the kids. No longer will I be i be treated like this. My $30000 a year I used to spend on Delta is better spent elsewhere Too bad, because delta does have good people.
    I am on an AA flight waiting for take off to shanghai as I type this.

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