SkyMiles really is the program you love to hate. Delta has the distinction of leading the charge to the bottom of destroying frequent flyer programs. As René calls it #KeepDescending and has written numerous posts over the fall of the program.
As we have seen the move to a revenue-based reward system, award charts removed, First Class Monetization (FCM) of potential upgrade seats and now all the changes coming over Comfort+ seats, fares and selection…Delta has even more negative changes planned for its loyal members of the SkyMiles program.
Before I get into those upcoming changes, let me thank René for allowing me the opportunity to write this Sunday’s post. My name is John and I am better known as Laptop Travel (my blog) and recently I have become a contributor at RenésPoints, specializing in Mileage Runs for the EliteMileageRun part of the blog.
Today’s article is one that is very dear to my heart; Delta Air Lines’ new Comfort+ Fare Class and what you can expect going forward with this latest “enhancement.” By the way, I feel that Webster’s dictionary may have to include a new alternative definition for the word enhancement based on Delta’s use of the adjective; “a purported benefit, when analyzed with close scrutiny actually reveals a significant detriment.”
Since 1963 the wings of Delta Air Lines have carried me and my family to all corners of the world so I feel a bit entitled to comment of the newest developments in a third class of service; Comfort+ (or ComfortPlus) and how I believe it will destroy the SkyMiles program and your chances of Complimentary First Class upgrades in the future.
Over the past year and a half we have experienced significant degradation of the Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles frequent flyer program. They notified members with ample time that they were going to revenue-based miles earnings (based on the fare price of a ticket). However, significant program ‘enhancements’ have recently come with less lead time and certainly a reduction in explanation. The removal of award charts, the loss of Silver and Gold Medallions to get Comfort+ seats at booking, the removal of the ceiling for award travel and now W-Fare Class.
Okay, what is a W-Fare Class? This is the classification given to Delta’s Comfort+ when it is either purchased at booking, purchased sometime after booking (you know those screens prompting you to buy an upgrade) or you are ‘upgraded’ into those seats.
Why does a new fare class matter? Let me tell you it matters since it affects you in several ways.
First, during booking and searching for flights, the Comfort+ (W-fare) is broken out in a new pricing column reflecting a significant increase in price (sometimes as much as 30%, maybe 40% premium to the base coach fare.)
Secondly, unless you actually buy the W-fare, you will not have access to seat yourself in a Comfort+ (W-fare class) seat at the time of booking (before you make a purchase.) Not even a Platinum or Diamond can just get a seat in Comfort+ before buying the ticket, even though anyone can view the seatmap ahead of time.
Thirdly, if you purchase a coach fare, you must select a “request for upgrade” to Comfort+ and await an email from Delta allowing you to go back into your “Manage Upgrades” and then select a Comfort+ seat, but only for Diamond and Platinum Medallions if you are outside of 72 hours before the flight’s departure! If you are Silver or Gold Medallion, you must still wait until your “upgrade window” opens (24 hours and 72 hours, respectively) for that opportunity.
Next, if you are a Diamond or Platinum traveling with a companion who is Gold, Silver or no elite status…well all of you in your traveling group will have to wait until the lowest traveler’s “upgrade window” opens for any of you to even have the opportunity for the email from Delta to tell you of an opportunity to select to a Comfort+ and from there you can select from the “leftovers.” Ugh!
Lastly, and perhaps the most worrisome; Delta processes Complimentary Upgrades based on a set of criteria, the first two being elite status and fare class purchased! Wait a minute, did I say “fare class”? Do you see where this is going?
After all, unfortunately I think we already know how this will end. Perhaps taking a cue from American Airlines policy they have now. Per American’s webpage for system-wide upgrades:
“If you’re traveling on most Business and Economy Class fares and an upgrade is available at the time of booking, you or anyone you choose will enjoy a confirmed upgrade to the next class of service.”
A lot of folks had been hoping that American Airlines’ delay in announcing any move to revenue-based miles earning programs was holding Delta back from pushing harder with their SkyMiles program destruction.
American Airlines, who was holding the “wolves” at the door, has now joined the party with their announcement of an eerily similar frequent flyer program mirroring Delta’.
Comfort+ was a ruse…a dangled carrot…a promised treat only to lead poor Medallions into the trap…
Similarly, other carriers are getting into the swing of things. Air Canada has recently announced the introduction of AQD = Altitude Qualifying Dollars.
So these changes within the industry are giving Delta the green light to push forward their agenda.
Yes, you can expect the next step in Delta’s never-never-never ending story of ‘enhancements’ to at some point announce complimentary upgrades will only be for a one class upgrade! Uh oh! That has not happened, yet, but you can be sure the folks on Virginia Ave at Delta’s “revenue management” department are about to make the call on this one once you get used to standing in line waiting for your Comfort+ upgrade available email to arrive in your inbox.
Delta is about training you to expect less. Their slogan right now is Keep Climbing, but that is for them and their shareholders; that is not for you as a flyer. Unless you consider keep climbing for a higher fare, then yep, I guess they got that right.
I am telling you right now, I think in the not too distant future you are going to lose your Complimentary First Class Upgrade if you do not buy a Comfort+ seat. Some day a gate agent is going to look you square in your disbelieving eyes and say with all sincerity; “Valued Medallion, you got your Complimentary Upgrade, into the next fare up from your main cabin coach fare class…right into a Comfort+ seat. It’s our newest fare class and travel experiance and you’re welcome. Thank you for being a loyal Medallion.”
From this recent tweet conversation Delta clearly is aware that they are upsetting Medallions and it’s an “Oh Well” sort of thing.
So, be aware of this. Know what is coming. I cannot tell you what to do. Certainly the options for Elite status with another major US carrier are very limited. How many airline choices have we lost in the last decade? Way too many to count. And with them the remaining powerhouses led by Delta, American and United have all adopted the same blueprint for their frequent flyer programs? Coincidence? Hmmm… you be the judge. Record profits and full aircraft have bolstered the arrogance and seeming belief of impunity by the Big 3.
I also see major changes coming to Skymiles 2016/17
So what else should loyal Medallions expect in 2016? Well, although Delta seems to be fond of dropping changes throughout the program year… they still have to announce if there are going to be significant changes with the 2016 qualification year for 2017 Medallion status very soon.
Here is a quick rundown of what I think we have to look forward to:
- Medallion Qualification Dollars – Expect a significant increase in the spending requirement to get (or keep) that valued Medallion status with the next round of ‘enhancements.’
- Upgrades with SkyMiles – Expect Delta to actually offer even more opportunities to cash in your SkyPesos for upgrades to Comfort+, Business and DeltaONE seats. After all, that works hand in hand with their goal; to wipe the SkyMiles currency from the landscape! Might as well just start throwing them away at everything, right?
- Rollover MQM’s – Well, SkyMiles don’t expire, unless you do, but Delta is the one program that allows a surplus of MQM’s to rollover once you’ve met a Medallion level.
Expect that last one to end sooner rather than later. After all, the Big 3 are now running their frequent flyer programs from the same (Delta) playbook. Why differentiate at all? – John Laptop Travel
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