What I fear most from Delta – What will be the next wave of “enhancements” or devaluations.

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What is the next worst “enhancement” you can dream of that Delta will impose on us? I mean, what one thing would make you yell, scream and question continuing loyalty to Delta? Maybe you are like me and have already had that moment (mine was the end of stopovers on awards).

Before you answer and get your brain matter going, please don’t say anything like:

“Rene, please don’t give the mothership any ideas – geezzzz”

Because, as I have said before, I am sure anything you or I could think about has already been discussed and considered and the numbers have been run. The current team, I am confident, will be making more cuts and more profits from SkyMiles for Delta. Everything must make them money including loyalty.

In case you missed it, my fellow blogger Brian learned at the Freddie awards that Delta people would have been disappointed to win anything as their goal is not to reward loyal flyers, but earn more from SkyMiles. In fact I had one Delta person all but deride me for not being happy to pay 2x for a ticket when it should cost just one (or that is at least what the hidden Delta award charts say). Really, I was so stunned I could not coherently respond.

What we all need to understand is these are crazy times. Things are what they are and we need to look out for no one but ourselves. To and from Europe, when things go wrong, we can reach out to folks like  AIRHELP   for assistance with delayed flights and more. Not so much here.

Also we need to know the new crop of SkyMiles people are trying to one-up those who were in their jobs before them and they come from “bean counter” backgrounds, NOT loyalty programs (that should fill you with fear – it does me). They care about showing they also, like the last group, can hack and slash perks and get max profits from us and give us “trinkets and beads” and hope we are happy with these “gifts” from the mothership. Yep, whenever you look at the $kyRubles program you need to think like they do, that is, how do we extract more and give away less. Think anything money that will add to the bottom line and boost profits and that could be next.

So now we know what to expect, that is, pain, cuts, fees and “enhancements” that we know are #KeepDescending events on deck next. What do I think could be next?

Rollover MQMs. I can see this ending. Please understand this, along with the rest we will be talking about, are really dumb and stupid ideas that will cause more to depart Delta for other airlines, but that is not what is important – what matters is more dollars and nothing else. So why end this very popular perk? There are too many Diamonds. If Delta goes all REV based for MQMs they will drop even more. But first cutting rollover will “thin the herd” and keep some big spenders happy.

Cheaper upgrade sales. Oh, you and I both know this is on the way. Why in the world would Delta “give away” a 1st class upgrade to a loyal medallion when they can sell an el’Cheap’O upgrade to a Silver for a few bucks. For now, this is not the norm, but it will happen. Trust me, there are only so many other things they can do to extract funds from flyers. I have see more and more seats going this way either at purchase or at check-in.

Restrictions on Global upgrade and Regional upgrade certs. I have been told there was a real FIGHT to get the perk at all (even though half as many as AA offers). For those of you new to $kyRubles, in the past, we had SWU or system wide upgrades. They were worthless for many. Why? You had to pay a HIGH fare class to use them (especially for international use). Unless you had an employer who was willing to pay for higher fare class coach seats, often as much as a discounted business class, but your company rules did not allow business class eats, then these SWU were nice. I fully expect cheap fare classes will soon NOT be allowed on GU and RU certs. Get ready to PAY MORE for the “privilege” of using your “choice benefit” you are given each year. Again, don’t hate the messenger, I think this “enhancement” is on the way. Think PAIN.

More restrictions on C+ seats. Again, facts are facts. This coach seat with all the perks is the new shiny toy Delta is selling to flyers who are buying it hook-line-and-dollar. They have, for the most part, successfully sold the same coach seat as something special and will be either restricting it more or charging more, even to elites, for this “privileged” seat. I will not pay for this “seat” & will be happy in an exit row and bring my own refreshment on-board thank you very much!

Fees for things that are now waived. Like what? SDC fees for everyone but Diamonds. I will not go through the entire long list, but just go to the medallion  perks page and pick anything that has a waived fee and expect lower rank medallion to pay for things that were free and maybe even some fees for Diamonds. When you only have cuts to make you have to look somewhere after all.

Fees for partner redemptions. We know Delta does not get along that well with Skyteam or Delta partners. I mean try to find just ONE, yes just one, KLM business class seat on award points from Chicago to Amsterdam any day all year. Why not impose yet another fee if the seat is not on a Delta codeshare award or a Delta metal flight.

You know I could do this all day long but I think you have had enough for one day. Folks, please clearly understand nothing good is on the way. Having said that, later I will post a follow-up with what would be smart things that would be #KeepClimbing ideas! – René
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28 comments

  1. i could see Delta doing the following, actually:

    1) Restructure elite tiers: Gold 50,000; Platinum 75,000, Diamond 125,000 and Global Premier 175,000.
    2) Increase global upgrade certifications: two for platinum, six for diamond and eight for global premier.
    3) Offer internal first-class award bookings for diamond and global premier.
    4) Create international business-elite lounges or reserved space in existing lounges.

  2. Arg… this just depresses me. I use to be so happy with Delta and now I find myself flying US Air (AA) more and more. My loyalty to Delta is all gone and that makes me sad 🙁

    But with nonstop flights, cheaper flights, and more miles for flying – AA is my new mothership.

    Oh Delta… why does loving you have to hurt so bad!

  3. It’s all the fault of less competition. Allowing all those mergers was a mistake.

  4. Cheaper upgrade sales are already a reality at United… MommyPoints had a comment on it yesterday

  5. @Don in ATL – Ding Ding Ding – We have a winner 🙁
    @Ben – Yep, just a matter of time in the race to the bottom.

  6. When March first hit the upgrades just dropped to a fraction of what I was getting before as a diamond. Everything is very noticeably different. The Delta people at my home airport absolutely hate what is happening. The first thing I’m doing is not renewing my Delta reserve card. It’s just not worth the $450 anymore. It’s all sad that our loyalty means nothing anymore.

  7. @Randall – It is sad the actions they are taking and sad their actions are affecting your relationship with AMEX

  8. Last night I was about to book a little weekend trip to PEK for next month to gain a few MQMs. When I woke up this morning I wondered why I would do that when I haven’t seen even 1 upgrade this year. In February I was never higher than #18 on the upgrade lists at boarding. The fare classes weren’t that low, either. Just as they prefer, it’s starting to be cheaper to just pay to be up front.

  9. Lemme see, what is the worst AMEX could do? Well, have you ever been booked to ride on AMTRAK and then AMTRAK substituted your train trip for a bus trip? I wouldn’t put it past Delta to do that to their customers next. If you see a fleet of Greyhound busses rolling towards Atlanta you are screwed!

  10. Hey Rene, first of all- love your blog. I also love loyalty programs, both the status side and the points side. However, it is basically free stuff you are getting. Nobody owes you anything. You pay for a ticket to get somewhere, and the airline gets you somewhere. You want a better seat (i.e., first), you pay more. Everything else is just a bonus.
    Loyalty programs are there to make you loyal to a single airline, but in the end they are for the airline’s bottom line, not yours. They don’t owe you anything besides transporting you. You can complain all you want, but basically you’re complaining that you’re not getting as much free stuff as you’d like. Sounds silly to me. Be happy with what you get. Or don’t, but they you’re just making yourself unhappy, it’s not the airline’s fault.

    Above is a little bit advocate of the devil, but it’s reasonably close to how I feel. Especially if you get most of your free stuff due to smart tricks. Delta runs a very solid operation, I am pretty loyal to them because they have a good product and good service. If they want to give me free stuff, that’s nice, I’ll take it, but I’m not upset if they don’t. I’ll gladly pay for an upgrade to first if I think the price is reasonable. You want a better product, you pay more. If some other airline has a vastly better connection to where I need to go, I’ll take the other airline.

  11. Sadly many of your predictions are likely to come true. The skymiles people are motivated by their individual annual incentive plans and for the higher ups, long-term incentive plans as well. These plans are no doubt primarily focused on financial metrics (reducing costs, increasing profits and share prices) for the department and the business as a whole. Reaching or exceeding these goals not only rewards the employee with a nice bonus check, it is a good way to get promoted, too. Everybody at delta is drinking the kool aid supplied by Wall Street analysts, consultants, and the internal bean counters. I can understand needing to make a reasonable profit. Delta is going about it in a way that I find insulting and dishonest.

  12. Did they just take away Delta Studio? On my flight from DTW-SEA today, the main inflight IFE was jittery so I switched to Delta Studio on my iPhone. All that showed up were GoGo passes for purchase on a new welcome screen. No movies, nothing. Even FA could not get to work on their own devices! All they did was blame the satellite and offer 15k miles.

  13. @Giel, Free stuff? I’m not sure ff perks are free stuff. Just because a business does not assign a price does not mean you are not paying for it. Kind of like free shipping. Or the “we’ll throw in an extra item for free” claim. Of course those costs are never factored into the price of the product you are paying for. Right. Before airlines started charging for checked bags, were they flying them for free, or were those costs included in ticket prices? I’m guessing that “free stuff” is stuff we are paying for or that has little or no cost for the airlines. I could be wrong.

  14. @Don in ATL and @Rene: Delta has never faced more competition. Look at American, which picked up a good number of Delta top-level elites. Sure, you can make a case that at small airport dependent on a Delta hub that the competition is weak, but for big routes from major cities there’s never been more competition. And that’s saying nothing of international flights, where a plethora of airlines are competing for best-in-air. Delta is actually cutting back internationally because it can’t compete. Instead, it’s buying shares in airlines like Virgin that offer a better product.

  15. One way that they can keep the rollover MQMs from having too much of an impact is to increase the MQD thresholds. Basic idea being that, if you have rollover MQMs enough for status next year, you have to keep spending in order to maintain it.

  16. @Giel – If an airline is telling you that join our program, fly x amount of miles with us and you will be receiving the following benefits [insert benefits here] and you meet those requirements, then you would only expect them to honor their end of the agreement. You’re correct in that their job is to transport you, but they also agreed to reward loyalty and that’s the part where they have disappointed in the last several years. I’m certainly not the type that feels I am entitled to upgrades, because if I really want one I’ll pay for one. SDC changes, removing benefits for lower level tiers, adding spend requirements, etc. if you are going to add spend requirements the least thing an airline can do is stop removing benefits when you make the decision to spend more, and arrive at a tier. “If you spent $7500 with us, we are going to give you the opportunity to change your flights (confirmed) at no additional cost, and you will receive a higher upgrade priority on all domestic flights!” Sounds good…and then when you reach the requirements, then you are told “well…actually you can change your flights (confirmed) as long as there is a seat in the same fare bucket, and while you do receive higher upgrade priority on all domestic flights, we’re going to kinda sell some of the first class seats at a lower cost to just about anyone. oh and one more small thing, you won’t be eligible for upgrades on cross country routes or hawaii routes, even though that’s domestic. But hey everything else is still good!!!” That’s called deceiving your customers, and while the program rules are always subject to change, an airline loyalty program should NOT be removing benefits, encouraging fliers to spend more to be able to get more, and then remove the benefits they thought they were going to receive.

    Also, while you say that everything else is a bonus and an airline is only required to transport you to your destination, there is a difference between what is agreed upon when a traveler purchases an airline ticket, and what is agreed upon when a traveler decides to join an airline frequent flier program. An airline ticket is the agreement between airline and customer to transport them from point A to point B. That’s what they owe me when I decide to look up the cost to travel, and choose an airline and purchase a ticket from them either directly or through a third party. A frequent flyer program is different, and is not a guarantee to transport me from point A to point B, but a frequent flyer program that serves the purpose of rewarding it’s more frequent and loyal flyers, owes its members the benefits that it says it will and not constantly try to deceive them and figure out ways to make it much harder, or squeeze more money out of them.

    Airline travel is not becoming cheaper. Delta has been producing record profits and solid financial numbers, are the benefits really better now than they were a few years ago? Does it really seem like Delta is investing back into us? Let’s think about that one.

  17. Rene, Here you talk about the new “Skymiles” people – the former bean counters – as people to watch out for. After your time in Atlanta for the Freddie awards ti seemed like you praised the same folks as people we can work with. Is it the same group of people? I’m confused.

  18. i had a sdc issue recently when i checked into my flight it asked how much for me to change flight as overbooked… so i called and asked to be on any of the 4 other earlier flight to get home… esp with the one i am on overbooked and asking for volunteers…told no availability in my fare class on amy of the 4 flights so i had to wait till later and get on same flight nuts so much for being a DM and i paid alot of $$$ for this 2 hour flight ,,,, sad but true too many not good changes for all of us esp with 54 people waitng on the upgrade list as the average lately

  19. Delta Studio update from Glenn. On 2nd segment from SEA-BOI we were on CJ700. Delta studio worked as before listing movies. I wonder if this function is disabled on planes with true IFE.

    Even still, system refused to recognize my name and seat in 1st class and I could not get free movies.

  20. @Giel- I shared your viewpoint before I started frequently flying. Now I feel differently b/c I’ve developed a relationship with Delta where they promise certain benifits if I fly with them a certain number of times. Last year I decided to fly with Delta instead of other airlines. My goal was to make Gold and I did. After I purchased those flights last year to make Gold for 2015, they suddenly took away the most important benifit I achieved: the ability to reserve those nicer seats in the first few rows of coach at the time of booking (now called C+).

    Delta is a well run airline and I appreciate that more than anything. However, it’s a shame that the SkyMiles changes were implemented in a way that took away benifits without notice and in the same calendar year in which we earned (yes earned) our status. Delta has every right to make changes and make austerity cuts to earn more profits. But if they promise something to a customer, they should make good on that promise.

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