Delta customers are furious over changes: Will that anger cause them to leave the airline?

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Travelers are used to airline frequent flyer packages altering the guidelines of the recreation and transferring the ball a la Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt — and identical to with Charlie Brown, the strikes made are often not to the benefit of most vacationers.

But this time, on the heels of great modifications 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 more durable to earn and retain elite standing in the program than it was earlier than), vacationers are upset in a approach we do not often see. It’s a response that might virtually be described as visceral.

And whereas it has been lower than per week since Delta’s lounge entry and program modifications had been introduced, in a world of 24/7 information cycles the place one outrage is commonly changed with one other inside 48 hours, this one already feels totally different.

Related: Delta’s SkyMiles modifications 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 rivals by way of on-time efficiency and customer support. The airline leveraged that benefit to construct sturdy relationships with its most loyal customers. But the modifications introduced for the SkyMiles loyalty program and Sky Club entry that those self same customers have come to recognize and depend on might very properly check 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 ultimately settle and vacationers alter to their new actuality?

Here’s what we are seeing and listening to from Delta vacationers and business consultants.

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Reactions to Delta SkyMiles modifications

To higher perceive if the reactions to the introduced modifications actually are as sturdy 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 business consultants to get a greater sense of client 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 training. 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 sturdy emotions about the modifications.

“Delta may encourage us to ‘connect the world,’ but their recent decisions are instructing us to disconnect from their airline,” he mentioned. “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 modifications means that not solely would he not give you the chance to obtain Platinum Medallion standing, he would wrestle to attain Silver or Gold standing.

Experts who comply with the journey business intently are equally involved about the severity of the introduced Delta modifications, however they are removed from stunned.

Brett Snyder, president of the Cranky Flier aviation web site 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 a lot of situations 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 business analyst and president of Atmosphere Research, feels that Delta might 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 modifications creating anger as properly

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 modifications to how the people who maintain their most prestigious bank cards will entry lounges beginning in 2025. Those modifications 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.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

TPG Lounge member Heather Lowe looks like the modifications 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 modifications pinch.

“I have been a Delta loyalist for years. I travel for work (domestic) and personal (domestic & intl) extensively,” she says in a submit. “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.”

Bottom line

If you journey for lengthy sufficient, you are sure to encounter modifications to frequent flyer loyalty packages.

These issues usually go in cycles the place you will notice a number of packages make fairly large-scale shifts to match the local weather of the time, and you then’ll usually get a number of years of relative stability earlier than the cycle begins once more. While there are sometimes some winners with every change (as well as to the airline itself) and a minimum of some silver linings to associate with the modifications that harm the most, this time round, the modifications 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 in the end adapting will play out right here as normal.

Elite standing with an airline is totally different from resort elite standing. While you might discover a Marriott or Hilton in each city you journey to, no airline flies each route. And actually, many vacationers are “hub captives,” which means they are basically 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 modifications might in the end inform a unique story.

Travelers in key Delta markets — particularly in hubs like New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul — appear to have a heightened sense of concern. And a minimum of in the case of hubs like New York, they do produce other viable alternate options. Only time will inform if these customers actually grow 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 positive whether or not it’s the passenger or the airline itself that finally ends up being Charlie Brown after this spherical of transferring the ball.

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