Frequent Miler sets forward a reasoned defense of Delta, arguing that “the truth…is complicated” and even while loyalty on the redemption side has taken a hit, Delta is great to fly and rewarding to high-value elite fliers. I will not dispute that characterization, but I think that misses the point.
The Point is Transparency
Delta runs a highly profitable airline with strong operational performance and a competitive product in both business and economy class. Skymiles is not a worthless program when you consider the exceptional redemption opportunities available on partners like Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia which, as of yet, remain competitively priced. Even partners Air France an KLM offer tremendous availability and value when booked 10 months out (for example, booking a one-way business class ticket from LA to Johannesburg via Paris is 80K Skymiles and about $70 in taxes versus 100K Flying Blue miles and $700 in taxes in Air France’s own program).
But here’s the thing — no one really disputes what Delta does well. I don’t even begrudge Delta for charging 750K points for one business class ticket. I am skeptical the market will bear such a price, but Delta has also introduced reduced price off-season awards dropping a business class ticket to Europe to only 87.5K round-trip. Flush with profit in an era of consolidation, Delta has earned to right to devalue. The problem is notice.
Delta has not earned the right to devalue its program without notice. I use the term “rights” in the loosest sense, as Delta would likely prevail in any legal challenge against it, but Delta has been hit hard lately because of its duplicity — spinning good as bad and bad as good and most fundamentally, failing to give any notice before enacting each successive devaluation.
Delta claims that because the latest round of devaluations do not take effect until June 2016, consumers have time to adjust and were given notice. Little good does that do for those looking to book beyond 01 June 2016, bookable now but devalued immediately, and finding their Delta points are worth less than a penny each.
A Plea to Delta SkyMiles
Delta threw us a bone by introducing reduced-price business class awards to Europe during the off-season and Delta deserves recognition for this, but Delta has a trust deficit and continues to live in willful oblivion of it. I do believe these off-season discounted awards are in direct response to a scathing NY Times Story featuring Gary and even my recent attack on Fox News, the same trust deficit charge which has been repeated many times over by many people in many places.
Delta once argued that it would be unlawful to announce devaluations before they occurred (totally odd and incorrect) then argued it was giving us notice prior to the last few devaluations when it really did not. People see through this and Delta’s corporate image has taken a hit — my 88-year-old Uncle recently asked me if had “heard about how bad Delta has become” and the fact is the news is getting around.
No one is asking Delta to sacrifice profit to maintain an imbalanced loyalty program favoring scheming frequent flyers; all we are asking for is notice…preferably more than a few weeks.
Delta owes that to us, as a sign of good faith and an acknowledgement that many customers (including families that I work with all the time at Award Expert) save for years for a trip and pulling the rug out from under them is the hallmark of unethical bait-and-switch business practice. Right now investing in Delta miles is like investing in Zimbabwean dollars…not a good bet. The solution is not a good program, for we cannot turn back time. The solution is merely honesty and advance warning.
Surely that is not too much to ask and that is really the only bone I have to pick with Delta.