Travelers are used to airline frequent flyer applications altering the guidelines of the recreation and shifting the ball a la Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt — and similar to with Charlie Brown, the strikes made are normally not to the benefit of most vacationers.
But this time, on the heels of great adjustments coming to the Delta Air Lines frequent flyer program, as an alternative of simply adjusting to their new life down in the mud (the place it is tougher to earn and retain elite standing in the program than it was earlier than), vacationers are upset in a method we do not normally see. It’s a response that may virtually be described as visceral.
And whereas it has been lower than per week since Delta’s lounge entry and program adjustments had been introduced, in a world of 24/7 information cycles the place one outrage is usually changed with one other inside 48 hours, this one already feels totally different.
Related: Delta’s SkyMiles adjustments have satisfied me to cease chasing airline standing, and that’s liberating
For a lot of the final decade, Delta Air Lines has had an obvious benefit over its opponents when it comes to on-time efficiency and customer support. The airline leveraged that benefit to construct robust relationships with its most loyal customers. But the adjustments introduced for the SkyMiles loyalty program and Sky Club entry that those self same customers have come to recognize and depend on could very nicely take a look at the energy of these bonds.
Will the outrage from vacationers lead to a change of their habits and a shift to different airways — or will the mud finally settle and vacationers regulate to their new actuality?
Here’s what we are seeing and listening to from Delta vacationers and trade consultants.
Reactions to Delta SkyMiles adjustments
To higher perceive if the reactions to the introduced adjustments actually are as robust as they seem on social media, we reached out to TPG readers and neighborhood members discovered on the TPG Lounge on Facebook and elsewhere. We additionally reached out to journey trade consultants to get a greater sense of shopper sentiment in regard to Delta’s actions.
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Damon Jacobs, a TPG Lounge member who lives in New York City, works in well being care schooling. Along with a 21-year tenure as a Delta SkyMiles member, he is additionally achieved Platinum Medallion standing for the earlier eight years. He has robust emotions about the adjustments.
“Delta may encourage us to ‘connect the world,’ but their recent decisions are instructing us to disconnect from their airline,” he stated. “They have dismembered their loyalty program in a way that makes affiliation essentially useless. No longer will our flight miles be counted toward rewards, and they will only count 1 point for every $20 spent on other purchases. That renders their tier system, and my 21 years of membership, irrelevant. It’s a slap in the face to those of us who have loyally and enthusiastically supported Delta over the years. No more.”
Jacobs went on to say that the severity of the new adjustments means that not solely would he not have the option to obtain Platinum Medallion standing, he would wrestle to attain Silver or Gold standing.
Experts who comply with the journey trade carefully are equally involved about the severity of the introduced Delta adjustments, however they are removed from stunned.
Brett Snyder, president of the Cranky Flier aviation website and Cranky Concierge journey service, wasn’t fazed by the announcement, saying: “Anyone who put value in SkyMiles and expected that to remain, what have you been watching the past few years?”
He provides the airline has had quite a few cases in the previous the place it has promised one factor to SkyMiles elite members and delivered one other.
“Delta believes it offers a premium product and a valuable slate of elite benefits that they can only offer to a set number of travelers,” Snyder says. “They have long subscribed to the belief that ‘if everyone is elite nobody is elite’. Upgrades, which are one of the holy grails of elite benefits, are more scarce today and the airline will likely continue to sell more premium seats.”
Bob O’Connor, a TPG Lounge member, feels the ache of chasing elite standing with out a lot in return.
“I have been pro-Delta since 1992. Million Miler and Diamond the last six years before that, Platinum for 8 years. I have had the Platinum Amex since ’97 and have enjoyed the lounge access. I had to earn my status by flying weekly not with high dollar international flights. So it is a job to keep it,” O’Connor says. “They have raised the spend over the years and now they jump to $35,000 from $20,000 for Diamond. Overall I have Diamond for ’24 already but it is time to look at what else is out there. It sucks that they think so little of the people that kept them going all these years and especially during COVID. I hope they wake up and remember who got them here.”
Henry Harteveldt, a journey trade analyst and president of Atmosphere Research, feels that Delta could have gone too far with its damaged guarantees this time. “Delta has gutted the SkyMiles program, showing blatant antipathy to its Medallion members by failing to deliver on the most important benefits, namely complimentary domestic upgrades when seats are available,” he says.
“In some ways, what’s going on now at Delta reminds me of Continental Airlines in the early 1990s,” he continues. “Delta’s on-time performance is not as good as it once was, it’s flying dozens of aging, ratty 767s without a plane to replace that fleet, and their onboard service is not as good as it was before the pandemic began. In the early 1990s, Continental had alienated many of its customers and I’m concerned Delta is about to do the same thing.”
Harteveldt’s ideas are backed up in a lot of the feedback from offended Delta flyers. Christina Arendt, a lifetime Delta loyalist who lives in Richland, Washington, pulled no punches.
“Delta just gave a giant middle finger to the little guys like me who have earned low-tier status through butts in the seats for mostly domestic flights,” she says. “When given the choice between a slightly cheaper other flight and Delta, I’ve chosen Delta. That won’t be happening anymore. I’ll always be choosing the cheapest flight now.”
Sky Club adjustments creating anger as nicely
It wasn’t simply the frequent flyer program that took a direct hit final week. Delta swung for the fences and in addition made substantive adjustments to how the people who maintain their most prestigious bank cards will entry lounges beginning in 2025. Those adjustments are additionally being passionately criticized by many customers.
Loyal Medallion members have invested in premium bank cards with excessive annual charges to achieve entry to Sky Clubs.
TPG Lounge member Heather Lowe seems like the adjustments actually harm loyal customers like her.
“I frequently talk to people who say how much they hate flying. When it comes down to it, most of them hate it because of the wait in the airport. I, on the other hand, absolutely have loved flying, but only when I fly on Delta because of the Sky Club access,” she says. “It’s a much different travel experience when you know that your vacation starts as soon as you finish getting through security. With these new changes making it unlikely that I will be able to enjoy that full experience often, I do not plan on keeping my AMEX Reserve card or flying as often after the changes go into effect. These changes are a slap in the face to Delta’s loyal, middle-class flyers. These changes are only rewarding the already elitist group of customers who look down on the rest of the world. The rest of us hard working, but not in the top 3% customers are now seeing what we’re worth to your company Delta. It’s a shame.”
Marisa Sutherland, one other TPG Lounge member, additionally says the adjustments pinch.
“I have been a Delta loyalist for years. I travel for work (domestic) and personal (domestic & intl) extensively,” she says in a publish. “I was one of the few on a Delta flight multiple times a week during the early COVID days. I have already re-earned Platinum for 2024. I have the Delta Reserve card to make travel bearable and to provide access the SkyClub. The companion pass is a plus … if able to actually book it. I will be keeping the card until the fee is due in 2024 and then downgrade my AMEX. Ten visits is a joke for the amount that I travel. Too early to tell where my loyalty will lie in 2025 … but unlikely to be with Delta.”
If you journey for lengthy sufficient, you are certain to encounter adjustments to frequent flyer loyalty applications.
These issues usually go in cycles the place you will notice a number of applications make fairly large-scale shifts to match the local weather of the time, and then you definitely’ll usually get a number of years of relative stability earlier than the cycle begins once more. While there are usually some winners with every change (as well as to the airline itself) and at the very least some silver linings to associate with the adjustments that harm the most, this time round, the adjustments are so substantive and widespread that it is powerful to discover any silver linings.
That raises the query of whether or not the regular sample of vacationers complaining a bit however finally adapting will play out right here as regular.
Elite standing with an airline is totally different from lodge elite standing. While chances are you’ll discover a Marriott or Hilton in each city you journey to, no airline flies each route. And in actual fact, many vacationers are “hub captives,” which means they are primarily compelled to commit most of their enterprise to one airline as a result of it is the solely actual recreation on the town. However, the outrage over current Delta adjustments could finally inform a distinct story.
Travelers in key Delta markets — particularly in hubs like New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul — appear to have a heightened sense of shock. And at the very least in the case of hubs like New York, they do produce other viable alternate options. Only time will inform if these customers really turn out to be “free agents,” reserving that subsequent airline ticket simply due to worth or schedule, as opposed to the airline they maintain elite standing with.
Only then will we all know for certain whether or not it’s the passenger or the airline itself that finally ends up being Charlie Brown after this spherical of shifting the ball.