Recently in an article Delta’s CEO said one of Delta’s biggest faults in the past was competing against low cost carriers. The error was trying to become, not a world class airlines worth the cost, but one that can compete in the basement of the low budget airlines. That was not Delta then nor is it Delta now.
Mr. Bastian also talked about how the Delta “tank” was not empty when the last CEO left. But everything he did was not the smartest move when you think long term and I think, like competing against the bottom feeding airlines, all but destroying SkyMiles was just as dumb a move.
Delta wants to prove they are worth being the only airline you will ever think about spending money on. They want to be “it” that is THE airline compared to all the rest. They are doing this by, with religious fervor, completing all flights and mostly on time. Impressively so, in fact, and the results speak for themselves. But a huge part of this “perfect world” is missing – SkyMiles!
If you lined up 100 Delta elites from 5 years ago, and asked them, “When you are going to fly, who would you book with?” I bet 99 of them would have said Delta. I bet 100 of them would have said something to the effect:
“Well, first I would look at Delta.com for my flights for my trip.”
Now when you build on this, and look at the comment from @GoldboxATL from twitter above, you see a fatal flaw that Delta has created. Notice the final few words? He ends with:
“…best to be a free agent”
This comment is from a Delta Diamond who says he owns Delta stock and all but exclusively flies Delta. But even he clearly understands that every single flyer should no longer just book Delta. Think about that for a bit. This means for some people, rather than buying say a first class ticket on Delta by “default” if another airline has a cheaper first class ticket you should buy it on that airline (or if that airline has a better route or schedule no matter what the price). Loyalty sure is not what it once was. What company would ever want customers to go to another company to serve their needs?
If I were Delta’s CEO I would be YELLING “911” to everyone who would listen that the current foolishness of SkyMiles is not working and trying to match “Spirit Air” in terms of a frequent flyer program is not a wise move like the old moves of years past the airline has made.
Look at this next tweet where PointsHackr commented to my tweet. Also peek at both Starbucks stock and Delta stock since April. Notice anything similar. Yeah, down, down, down from the highs. I think, and those in the investment community as well, think only negatives are on the way. I agree (disclaimer: I never buy/sell any airline stocks). What could help fix this? You betcha – loyalty and loyal customers who always and only buy Delta tickets.
But wait – I personally never want to EVER spend a penny ever again on Starbucks. I used to always pass a Starbucks and think: “Hey, a Starbucks, let’s get one. If nothing else we get a few stars”. Yeah, when I thought about a nice drink I thought about Starbucks. Now, I have personally not spent a penny since April’s crushing changes. I have even switched from buying my Delta folks gift cards from Starbucks to Amazon cards. When it comes to Delta changes I know a number of readers who have done the same and they fly other airlines.
Now because the other airlines stink SO bad I know some are back with Delta, not due to loyalty, but simply because Delta works better than the others. So, as long as the others continue to stink so bad then Delta is in great shape. But what if they start doing the simple things right like flying on time and providing good service? If all the loyalty programs stink then why be loyal to Delta vs. the others. See my point? SkyMiles needs to stand out not stink like the rest or worse than the rest.
Now think about this for a bit. What if Delta, as they have VERY slowly started to do this year, gets the fact that if they have an AMAZING loyalty program AND they offer the same great service as the other airlines then Delta becomes the obvious choice and not just that – they again become the choice you always look to and look to first!
Let me say this plainly: FREE AGENT THINKING MUST END
Free agent flying mean zero loyalty to Delta. It means simply booking and doing whatever works. It is not a default thinking that there really only is one choice. This is what Delta must fix and can fix with SkyMiles and the Medallion loyalty program.
Please know I am not saying Delta must simply flip a switch and go back to what they had but many of the old program parts worked to drive this unquestioned dedication. Some of those must come back. But other new bits can also drive the psychological devotion back to Delta as it once did.
What would be a great start? Republishing the award charts (and the upgrade charts) is a great first step. Bringing back stopovers on awards would be huge. Allowing at least Platinum and Diamond medallions to upgrade on E BASIC fares would say “you are not your fare” but your spending every dime on Delta and flying Delta matters to us. Giving BIGGER bonus points for elites than now to bring them somewhat back in line to what once was. Since Delta “feels” C+ seats are a total new experience (unlike the rest of us) then they need to add some free C+ upgrade certs to ALL elite levels (similar to Global Upgrade and Regional Upgrades). All of this would be simple and quick workable improvements.
The way NOT to win is what they are doing now. The SkyMiles people (and Delta) brag about their cheap coach award sales (how can you have a sale without an award chart btw). So Delta is trying to show how cheap they are. Really? How about you instead brag and do more business class sales domestic and internationally (they have done one over the past year or so and are to be commended for that). Again, SkyMiles should not be a “budget” frequent flyer program.
The bottom line is simply this – at some point the other airlines will improve what they do. Delta needs to, by that point, have the loyalty program fixed and improved by then or the free agents will simply say bye bye to Delta in a heartbeat! – René