This is really an interesting time in the world of aviation. American and United seem to be chasing Delta as the airline to copy and see if they can make money too, but other airlines do not have the operational record Delta does nor the fine happy folks working for them.
But Delta and Delta’s DAL stock has some problems this year even before the Brexit vote (disclaimer: I never buy or sell airline stocks of any kind including DAL). What kinds of problems?
- The pilots contract still up in the air
- A potential flight attendants second union push
- Gas prices going up this year
- Earnings per seat down year over year
- Terrorism concerns continue
- Zika and other travel concerns
- Price pressure from low cost carriers
- Frustration over C+ “upgrades”
- Unhappy elites & SkyMiles members
and on and on….
The simple fact is there is a lot that can hurt Delta during the rest of 2016. Since I am not an airline investor, the price of Delta stock matters little to me. What does matter is how the SkyMiles and Medallion elite program reward me for staying loyal to Delta and always buying Delta tickets even if the other airlines are cheaper.
This year Delta has made a few very positive changes to the program like offering CLEAR membership free for top elites (and discounted for others). Soon to match my +1 with my Diamond status for upgrades when we fly on the same itinerary. But let’s not forget, over the past few years, the CRUSHING and DEVASTATING changes Delta has made to the loyalty program. They got away with all of this and the stock price just kept climbing. Since January 1st this year, yeah, really not so much.
So could the current environment have a positive impact on some of the cuts we have endured and even see real “enhancements”? Maybe.
We have seen in recent reports from the DOT that airlines are to be on notice about frequent flyer programs. No notice changes could get them in real trouble and Delta is truly king of the hill when it comes to frequent flyer change surprises. Often there is no notice or even ANY notice i.e. even when a change happens we have to go find it ourselves. I think this will come to an end soon as Delta needs positive press not more negative press about how deceitful the frequent flyer program can be to its members.
Award charts coming back! This could be a huge confidence builder again for Delta. The other airlines have not followed Delta down this dark ridiculous hole and for crying out loud Delta still uses the award charts so why not republish them. Enough of this stupid idea that the price is whatever Delta.dumb spits out.
Adjustments to C+ “upgrades”. The fact that Diamonds and Platinums, the top elite levels, cannot simple pick a C+ seat free when booking (they have to wait for a possible instant upgrade) needs to change. Allow them, and a +1, to choose it at booking. I can see this happening as so many are just still furious over this. Furious customers tend to not stay customers for very long.
A return to the old SDC rules. SDC is Same Day Change. Currently, as of this post, a business traveler in any paid 1st class fare can change to another flight if any seat is open regardless of the current 1st class fare for that seat. Coach, on the other hand, has to have the same fare class (or lower) seat open to change (without paying a higher fare). In the old days it was any seat in coach just like the current 1st class rules. Thus, if say a meeting time changed or ended sooner than planned, a business traveler could get home a little faster rather than sitting stuck in an airport or hotel. Again, making frequent business travelers less frustrated is a reason to keep buying Delta tickets. This would be a smart change.
Bring back award flexibility with stopvers. One of the absolute dumbest moves SkyMiles has ever in it’s existence made was dumping the ability to include a stopover on an award. Here is why this must come back to reward loyalty. Delta awards, at the lowest levels, can be really hard to find when working with partners. The ability to stopover along the way makes an award possible many times. Not just this but it also allows a loyal member to enjoy another amazing Delta or Skyteam hub city along the vacation (where they are connecting anyway). Again a reason to motivate loyalty when you go to spend your hard earned SkyMiles.
Lastly – respect loyalty. Yes, the bean counters can measure XYZ and show if we do this it will incrementally mean this much more money. The problem with this is if folks fly other airlines then the numbers don’t add up the way they were supposed to. Delta again needs to respect its elites and SkyMiles members and end the current trend of years of shameful actions. Maybe, just maybe, even work to win a Freddie award next year. Now wouldn’t that be something to brag about? – René