News, Opinions on Recent SkyMiles Changes

Excerpt from The Ticket Newsletter

DUMPING DELTA? By now, most readers of THE TICKET have had a look at the recent changes to Delta's SkyMiles program, which were announced in December, and went into effect earlier this month. Hundreds of readers have taken the time to sound off to THE TICKET about these changes. So many of you have responded, in fact, that we have had to stop posting them on our feedback site as it has grown way too long to read. The lowdown: we've rarely seen such blanket condemnation of anything that Delta has done (except maybe its hopefully futile attempts to charge us for standbys). Despite this, Delta is still claiming that most of its feedback has been positive. (Yeah, right.) The overriding theme of your feedback to us is that this is something of a final straw, and that many of you are going to jump to other airlines since Delta seems to be asking too high a price for loyalty. (If you are truly jumping ship, we'd like to hear about your experiences on other airlines.)

BUSINESS SENSE. Despite the howls, many readers are able to see the business sense behind Delta's decision to reward those paying higher fares, and snub those who don't. Finally, it seems, there is some justice for those who pay $2000 to fly from ATL to California, and have to sit next to kids on a $218 fare headed to Disneyland.

BURN OUT. What does not make sense to us, though, is how complicated it has become to be a loyal Delta flyer. First of all, it took an eight page press release to explain these changes. (Which we have yet to completely digest.) Second, the core change was a shift to "multipliers" of 0, .5, 1, 1.5 or 2 which will be applied to a Byzantine hierarchy of 21 different fare codes. (Do they really expect us to be able to understand this? Please!) Then they even go so far as to try to explain how 800 mile MSU's will be converted on May 1 by multiplying your balance by 1.3, then rounding up, etc etc etc. This is worse than the US Tax Code, or trying to muddle through Saddam's recent weapons declarations. Perhaps it was no mistake that Delta dumped all this on us just as we were already on information overload during the holidays. (In case you, like many others, have simply tuned it all out, here's our brief overview of changes.)

THEY ARE WATCHING. This newsletter and its feedback pages are well known within the walls of Delta. As a matter of fact, our web statistics show that over the last month those from delta.com are some of the most frequent visitors to the pages pertaining to the latest SkyMiles changes. Also, our mailing list has nearly 100 readers with delta.com addresses, with more signing up every month. So we know that they are watching and listening to TICKET readers ...

DEMOTION HURTS. Have you ever lost your Medallion status? It really hurts. When do you notice it most? When you call to make a reservation, and you are not longer connected to a "special members services" agent ... When you are no longer allowed to board before everyone else, and must stand in line with the masses, hoping your carry-on will fit ... When you log on the delta.com site, and are no longer given the option of using your 800 MSU's to upgrade ... When it is nearly impossible to upgrade... And possibly, having to pay $25 to standby for a same day flight. Arrrrrgh! American Airlines has just launched a novel idea that Delta may want to consider once people start falling off the Medallion rolls: AAdvantage is offering Gold and Platinum members unable to requalify the option of paying $395 or $595 respectively to retain current status for one more year. (Would you pay Delta to extend your Gold or Platinum status? Let us know.)

POINT: "Delta has got to be kidding! Eliminating qualification based on number of segments is a disaster for folks like me who commute between ATL and DC (i.e. lots of flights, but shorter distances). And the so-called multiplier only adds insult to injury. I'm glad they're telling us now. I'll use my Gold Medallion status that I have just re-earned for the 4th year in a row for the occasional upgrade on a Delta flight to somewhere that AirTran doesn't fly. Otherwise, hello AirTran. Their new 717s are sweet and their upgrades (now $35 instead of $25, which Delta is now trying to copy) are actually available." --Dave Baker, Atlanta.

COUNTERPOINT: When you read the whole thing, it's not so bad. Several good things: (1) Higher fares will earn more miles, lower fares less, but still at least 250 per flight on every flight. (2) Segment upgrades will apply on all fares, but only confirmable on the day of departure on the very lowest fares, and they currently don't apply on those at all, (3) Segment upgrades can be used for companions and they currently cannot, (4) Instead of accruing segment upgrades you have the option to accrue more miles, (4) Transitionally, they guarantee any qualifying Gold and Platinum members for 2003, that they will not be downgraded more than one class for 2004 even if they don't qualify. Taken as a whole, this could be okay. Time will tell. In general, it seems fair. --George Priester, Atlanta.

VENT YOUR FEELINGS. A web site set up the LAST time Delta made major changes to SkyMiles is back. This group is hoping to pressure Delta into reversing some of the changes. Unlikely, but it makes you feel good. See www.saveskymiles.com.


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