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A review of Delta's behavior toward elites vis-a-vis fares and benefits over the last few years.

First, Delta attempts to discourage purchase of its lowest fare class (L at the time) by making it non-upgradable. Over the next few years, Delta adds two more non-upgradable fare classes (U, then T), yet slowly rachets up the cost of upgradeable seats. This policy has the apparent aim of luring the frequent flyer into paying more money for fares, since everyone wants to sit in F/J, right?

At the end of 2000, Delta eliminates SWUs and introduces PMUs and NAMUs. Gold Medallions and Silver Medallion members now have no choice but to pay for international J, pay M+ fares and burn miles, or use miles for an outright purchase international J. A further attempt to lure FFs into paying more for fares.

During this time, Delta refuses to allow same-day international upgrades. This is the stick with which Delta hopes to force/encourage more frequent purchase of higher fares.

In 2002, Delta slaps elites again by offering to upgrade anyone -- even non-status flyers -- upon payment at the gate. Another revenue-grab from Delta, but one aimed at infrequent flyers.

In 2002, Delta also begins to openly advertise comps to any flyer who can demonstrate that they are an elite on another airline. Another slap to Delta elites who worked for their recognition.

Now Delta says that all fares aren't created equal, and that those who are value-conscious (or who work for employers who are) simply aren't worth rewarding. Those who regularly fly on deeply-discounted fares are going to have to manage as much as 200,000 miles of flight next year in order to acheive Platinum Medallion status. This is the greatest slap of all.

A summary of the recently implemented changes:

The good (more generous):

  • New Million-miler recognition program -- 2 million miles gets you lifetime Gold status and 4 million miles gets you lifetime Platinum Medallion status.
  • The cheapest fares (L, U, and T booking classes), which were previously not upgradeable at all, are now upgradeable by elite members on the day of departure.
  • The ability to upgrade a companion with points.
  • Travel on SkyTeam partners counts towards elite status.
  • Gold members and Platinum members can give status to a friend when they reach certain mileage thresholds.
  • 50% bonus miles instead of 25% bonus miles for flying paid business class.
  • Elites will not decrease status by more than one level in 2004 from their 2003 level.

The bad (less generous):

  • Platinum Medallions may only confirm upgrades at purchase for M fares (nearly full fare) and higher. They used to be able to confirm on H and K fares.
  • No more North American Medallion Upgrades (NAMUs).
  • No more elite qualification by segments.
  • The cheapest fares (L, U, and T booking classes) only count for half-credit towards elite status. If you fly on these fares exclusively, it will take you 50k, 100k, and 200k miles for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status instead of 25k, 50k, and 100k miles.
  • 800-mile upgrade certificates will become 500-mile upgrade certificates in May, 2003.
  • Price increase for purchased upgrades ($40 for 800-mile certificate becomes $50 for 500-mile certificate -- that's a doubling -- five cents/mile to 10 cents/mile).
  • The cost to purchase blocks of four upgrades at a time has also increased. It has gone from four 800-mile upgrades for $120 to four 500-mile upgrades for $160. In addition you used to be able to receive four 800-mile upgrades for 10,000 miles, now you have to redeem 25,000 miles to receive only four 500-mile upgrades. This is disgraceful considering the fact that you now have the option to earn 5,000 bonus miles for every 10,000 miles flown in lieu of the four 500-mile upgrade points.
  • Platinums no longer get unlimited upgrades.
  • All elites will only receive four 500-mile upgrade points for every 10,000 miles flown, regardless of elite status. That means that Platinums have gone from unlimited upgrades to only four 500-mile upgrades per 10,000 miles, and Golds have been reduced from eight 800-mile upgrades to only four 500-mile points per every 10,000 miles flown.

Read closely, Delta: Elite benefits are worthless if they aren't realistically attainable. In addition, once you achieve your elite status in the new program, the rewards have diminished to the point where they are laughable, insulting and definitely not worth achieving.

The fact of the matter is that Delta has been trying to discourage the purchase of discounted coach fares for several years now, and the customers aren't going for it. Since Delta's carrot-and-stick approach hasn't worked, it is now going for the stick-and-stick approach, with the promise of a possible carrot sniff later, if passengers promise to shell out enough cash.

We hope Delta will realize those involved with this petition effort represent a much larger population of customers who are unhappy with the new changes. This forum represents a grassroots effort by dissatisfied Delta flyers who aim to speak out, educate Delta travelers and Delta management alike, while making all possible efforts to combat these negative changes. Lend your support to this campaign by signing the online petition and spreading this message. This fight cannot continue without your help.

Note: This page will be continually updated to include program comparisons, any changes to the SkyMiles program and to present issues that are relevant to the platform of suggestions that is presented here.

Special thanks to the many members of FlyerTalk whose efforts were instrumental in compiling the information presented on this page.

Links:

SkyMiles Medallion Program Changes

SkyMiles Medallion Changes FAQs

Medallion Qualification Changes

Medallion Qualification Changes FAQs

Upgrade Program Changes FAQs

Additional Rewards & Recognition


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