We are heading toward the end of 2019 (what a year). 2020 is shaping up to be an interesting year and even more so in the frequent flyer world. I thought today I would cover the bit that really surprised me as well as things I predicted that did in fact happen. First the surprises.
- 757 damaged landing in the Azores is being repaired and going back into service. Wow did I not see this happening from the photos but is a credit to the strength of the 757 airframe. In case you missed it, a Delta 757 landing in the Azores had a rather brutal landing (I have been here once, but on a cruise ship). Again, all speculation was it was going to be a write-off. But lo and behold they chose to fix it (enough to be safe to fly) and then to fly it home. It also seems Delta is going to finish repairing the bird at an MRO facility in Jacksonville Florida and it will be flying passengers again. Amazing! Sadly Delta will end the New York to Ponta Delgada direct flight next year.
- Bragtags for Gold and Silver Medallion (and BYOB buy your own #bragtag). When Delta dumped tags for Silvers I was not shocked. They are not “really” part of Skyteam elites and when Delta added the top Diamond level, Silver became so much less valuable. But I was surprised when they dumped Golds from getting tags. Maybe the backlash was such that it was simpler to add them both back.
- Selling Group 1 access. Keeping the above in mind, I am really shocked to see Delta selling what has been one of the biggest advertised perks of the Delta Amex cards, that is, Group 1 boarding (sounds like you board 1st but you really don’t). All this boarding perk gives you is space for your bag in the overhead. I promise you, very soon, all in Group 2+ will be forced to gate-check their bags on most flights.
- Not offering 5x points on Delta tickets. We all know Delta has totally revamped the Delta Amex cards in what they earn and perks starting early in 2020 (Chris did a great job in his review). What really surprised me (and that I had forecast) was that Delta did not go to 5x SkyMiles when you buy a ticket with a Delta Amex card. Granted, they are offering 50% more than they did before but it is just not enough to motivate me to pay for my Delta tickets with my Delta Amex cards (I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve card fyi). And before you ask, no, you do not need to pay with your Delta Amex to get the free bag perk (like other airlines).
- Offering 1 Million Plus SkyMiles awards. I really did not see this happening. Now sure you could, for a while now, string together two one-ways to end up over 1 million miles for one award but NEVER have we seen Delta brazenly offer a 1 million SkyMiles single award ticket. Sure it would be insane to spend even close to 1 million – but over 1 million? Mind blown!
- Still flying so many CRJ200s (with no end in sight). It is not a secret that I HATE these birds. The “youngest” of these evil jets is now almost 14 years old. In jet years, that is not “that” old (considering the average age for a Delta mainline jet is 15.2) but it is for a jet that makes so many cycles, that is, a take off and a landing. Then again Delta 757s, 767s and MD-80/90s are all well into their early to mid-20s.
So that covers a bunch of topics that were in fact a surprise to me during 2019. There were a number of changes that did not surprise me all that much. Let’s take a look.
- 20 x 2020. For years the leaked insider info that Delta wanted to reach only 20% of 1st class seats open for “free” medallion upgrades was the goal. We are now about to enter 2020 and I thing they are just about spot on that target goal. Like the frog in the pot you slowly bring up to a boil – medallions now tend to buy upgrades. Delta wins – we lose. Sad, but called it.
- Amex Reserve bonus levels at higher cost. All year long elites have asked me if Delta / Amex was going to bring back the 3rd spend MQM bonus. I said I expect it to happen but for Amex to raise the annual fee for the cards. And, it happened. The only thing that surprised me was the 4th spend level, but that was a welcome surprise.
- Delta Medallion Private Jets rides gone. This silly marketing ploy by Delta was swallowed hook-line-and-sinker by the main stream press. Elites have a chance, for a tiny cost, to fly Delta Private Jets. Riiigggghhhtt! It all but never happened. I diligently tried to get on a flight, even early on, but since it really never was a “real” program it did not happen. I am happy that Delta, with much less PR fanfare, ended this idea.
- Sky Club changes. Not shocked. Not even a little. Sky Clubs have improved a bunch over the years. Better drinks. Better food. Faster Wifi. Tons of power ports everywhere (even if some provide low power). But as a result of improvements (and maybe other factors as well) they have become PACKED. All small attempts to reduce failed. The draconian move to block even members from access unless they fly Delta was sad but expected. I fully expect even more restrictions like the Amex Centurion and Priority Pass lounges have implemented (i.e. only a few hours before flight).
- Not winning at the Freddie’s (again). Delta has for years and years now pushed their #2 spot with US News as “an” or “A” award winning program when they have never won (Alaska always wins). SkyMiles has become such a joke at the Freddie’s that Delta is never even nominated – let alone winning. The last win, years ago, was a made up award for the SPG Crossover Rewards program that is, like SPG, gone.
- Global Entry dumped as Choice Benefit. Should have come as a shock to no one. Almost any quality travel credit card (and most times even the AU cards as well) come with this perk. I can not dream that any elite ever used a Choice Benefit for the Global Entry credit (and if they did, shame on them).
What do you think of my list? Have any of these changes surprised you? Are you happy about any of these changes? Also, what do you think Delta will change for 2020? – René
Cover image: ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now
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