As we start looking into booking flight for 2016, many readers are asking me is it time to status match and begin to fly another airline? One of the big issues is clearly that American Air, who was a great choice since they not only gave full elite points but also full redeemable points, recently whacked their frequent flyer program to the point of being worse than Delta in many regards. Not only that but American award availability is starting to look scarily similar to Delta’s anemic level 1 awards as of late. Not good. That leaves you with United which is still basically a train wreck as far as performance and only an option for those basically hub-captive or route constrained.
What about Alaska Airlines then, is that a viable option? The problem with Alaska is its size. It is a fabulous reward program with tremendous partners. I still find Alaska points to be some of the most valuable travel points for any airline. The problem lies with how everyone else, i.e. their partners, treats Alaska. Let me explain. If you decide to status match let’s say with Alaska and then you put in your frequent flyer number and fly on Delta or American to be able to get credit your chances for elite perks especially upgrades are basically done. If you are currently a Delta flyer the only way you are going to receive upgrades, favored treatment, and all the other spectacular perks as an elite medallion you must put in your SkyMiles number. We have seen how NASTY Delta treats an elite Delta Platinum Medallion flyer when they even after getting an upgrade put in their Alaska number.
So there is the dilemma. If we want points as our main goal then yes status match with Alaska and put in your Alaska number. But get used to flying coach for all of 2016!
However if all the perks of elite status matter, you must continue to maintain your Delta status and put in your Delta frequent flyer number. Just forget about earning SkyMiles. Very likely you are earning a pittance of SkyMiles anyway for the tickets you buy. Just fly Delta for the perks and for what Delta provides.
So is that it? Do we just stick with Delta for 2016 and moving forward since all the big 3 domestic award programs now stink to high heaven? Not so fast. There is a Delta disaster on the horizon.
I think Delta has disastrously underestimated the effect that the 16MAY16 C+ seat “upgrade” issue is going to have on loyal business flyers. They have not cared about SkyMiles because when push comes to shove they will just pay for a vacation with the family. But the issue is that they expected to at least be able to buy a coach ticket and get some perks of the months and months of elite status. Now they have to pay for that too. I think this will really impact their attitude about Delta in the later half of 2016. So for 2017, there is a real opportunity for American and United if they don’t just follow Delta with all the same dumb choices for their elites.
For me personally, for now, I still have a ton of SkyMiles to burn in 2016. I have about 50k of flying Delta to reach my Million Miler status. But I still plan to test the waters a bit with other carriers.
Delta should keep in mind what I did with SPG. I had locked in my Platinum status for 2016. I have dropped SPG like a hot potato for Hyatt for 2016 and have already booked a number of nights. I may stay a night or two at SPG hotels but that is it. I have made the move. I think by this time next year many others will make the same move away from Delta – and all over the family unfriendly move of C+ seats. THAT is just shocking to me but that is what I see! – René