ONE FEE DOWN. Many more to go… Finally, a little bit of good news when it comes to airline fees. Matching a recent move by United, Delta recently eliminated its irritating $75-$150 fee for award trips booked within 21 days of departure. It was one of those fees that you paid and thought, “Now wait a minute here…how can it possibly cost Delta more for me to book a trip inside that window?” (In typical fashion the email from Delta said that it did this “based on customer feedback”…but to me it was clearly a competitive move as Delta sees the combined United/Continental breathing down its neck…)
ANOTHER FEE UP. At the same time that Delta nipped those fees for close-in award bookings, it RAISED its fee for changes to frequent flyer award itineraries— to $150 from $100. Grrr.
SEATTLE: DELTA’S NEW PACIFIC HUB. Remember when you had to fly to Portland to get across the Pacific on Delta? That changed a while back, but the idea of a trans-Pac hub is back in vogue. Delta recently inaugurated new 767 nonstops between SEA and both Osaka and Beijing and plans on adding more destinations.
DETROIT: ONE STOP TO ASIA. If you are trying to get to Asia from Atlanta on Delta (and you can’t get routed via Tokyo on that nice new 777 with lie-flat biz class seats), it’s increasingly likely you’ll be routed through Detroit where the carrier now offers nonstops to Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. Good news: The international terminal the Delta inherited from Northwest at DTW is state-of-the-art and not a bad place to change planes at all. Plus, it’s got a really nice on-terminal Westin in case you get stuck there during a bad storm like your TICKET editor did last year.
DELTA/AMEX MEMBERSHIP REWARDS BONUS. Don’t forget that through June 30, American Express Membership Rewards members get a 25% bonus when converting their rewards points to Delta SkyMiles. Registration is required. (Note that Delta and Amex periodically offer this promo….offering anywhere from 15% to 40% bonuses. So no biggie if you miss it this time. It will be back.)
BAG FEE WAIVED. Delta recently announced that it’s waiving the first bag fee for those who charge tickets on Amex/SkyMiles Gold or Platinum credit cards. That’s a nice bone to throw to the masses angry about the new fees, and is especially appealing to families traveling together when those per bag fees really add up. A family of four checking four bags saves $200 round trip…more than enough to cover the annual fee for the card. Don’t think that Delta’s doing this out of generosity, though…insiders tell us that American Express is paying Delta the bag fees and charging it off as a marketing expense for obtaining new cardmembers. So I guess everyone wins!
MQM MILEAGE RUN ALERT: DELTA SHUTTLE 3X. Delta’s pulling out the big marketing guns in its battle to win over flyers on the high-volume business route between New York and Chicago. Here’s what I mean by big guns: It’s offering TRIPLE bonus miles AND triple Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) on its hourly shuttle flights between La Guardia and O’Hare from June 14-August 31. Let’s see, that’s 733 miles times 3, round trip …a whopping 4398 MQM’s. Not bad! (These Embraer 175 flights operate from Delta’s Marine Air Terminal at LGA.) It’s also offering the triple miles on shuttle flights between BOS, LGA and Washington National. Registration required.
REDEEMING ON DELTA. Delta’s taken a lot of flack recently for placing dead last among major carriers when it comes to success when redeeming frequent flyer miles. (To be fair, the much-discussed study by ezRez/IdeaWorks took only a small snapshot, June-October 2010.) Since Delta, like other airlines, won’t come out and say how easy or difficult it is to redeem its miles, it’s interesting that Delta inserted the following paragraph into a recent press release: “Last year, frequent flyers redeemed more than 230 billion miles in the SkyMiles program for more than 11 million award redemptions. In 2009, 8.5 percent of revenue miles flown on Delta were for award travel, among the best of U.S. network airlines according to data filed in airlines’ 10-K annual reports. Delta offers more ways to redeem frequent flyer miles than any other airline – including airline tickets, mileage upgrades, car rentals, hotel stays, Delta Sky Club memberships, merchandise and more than 30 types of gift cards.” Agree or disagree? Is Delta really the worst when it comes to redeeming miles? What’s your experience? Do you have any comparisons? Please leave your comments below!
Like what I’m doing here? Then follow me on Facebook!
Don’t Forget! BOOK ALL YOUR ONLINE TRAVEL VIA LINKS FROM THE TICKET!
airtran.com | delta.com | Hotwire
Frequent flier programs are the big casualty of the recession. Airlines seem to have given up on the individual to concentrate on corporate relationships. I’m a member of one US and one UK airline’s programs, but have not seen any benefit from either for the last 2 – 3 years. On the plus side that means I flew with Emirates, Air New Zealand and a couple of different UK airlines in the last 12 months, as I have no loyalty to them currently either !
Al da Costa says
It took three tries, but I finally embarrassed Delta into responding to my request for an explanation of why someone who has a lifetime silver medallion status has to start all over again at “0” miles to gain gold or platinum status.
The answer was: Too bad, we have no plans to change.
I am going to take my 75K miles a year and go elsewhere, particularly when a coach seat to Europe is now 120K miles with Delta.
Shame on Delta for dissing its former loyal customers.
Pam W says
Yeah…right! I have a meeting in Peru in September and wanted to purchase a ticket for my husband to go along…..for a whopping 110,000 points …in coach no less! That wasn’t even for a difficult date when flights are full. It was for “Medium”. The lower tier is never available. I looked at American and for the same dates I could get him a ticket for 17,500 pts. for the same thing. Their Business Class was only 30,000 pts. I am really, really thinking of changing aliances. I love non-stops and my Medallion status…but I am growing weary of never getting anything that is promised for “my loyalty”.
Paul G says
Delta’s website for Skymiles is a total sham. I am retired with ultimate flexibility. I look 300+ days out and if I see “low” days on the calendar it isn’t low but medium. False advertising I would say, or the old “bait and switch’ Any low redemption you do find often requires a 3 way connection or ungodly layovers. I have been Medallion level for the last 6 years but its time to start looking at AT. BTW they beat DL in the complaint dept too.
Douglas Astrike says
My greatest challenge with Delta is the Awards Calendar. I booked Economy seats to Europe in July, which I was elated I found, but all through checking one way tickets, then building the itinerary.
The award calendar shows “low” for a day, you click on it, and it’s medium. Yet on Medium dates, it never occurs to bump up to High. The low tier is never available, despite the calendar. Coming from UA 1K the experience is subpar in terms of recognition and ease of bookings. When I flew UA, I only had to call for *A flights, but never for the things I call Delta for. Seems they could save a tone of heartache if they would just fix the booking engine.
Delta.com/blog has a developer posting that they know it’s an issue and will fix, but that was in 2008, no change…
Sent via email from RJS
Frequent Flyer redemption in Delta’s “New” Skymiles program is no harder is just cost a LOT more points for an ordinary round trip. Take Arizona for during the summer (even off peak days or times) now costs 40k points rather than 25k. There are only 2-3 days in July and August marked for lower fares. This has been true of many destinations. Many of these planes are more than 3/4 empty and still no seats allocated at the lower levels. Tuscon and Phoenix are very, very hot and undesirable for most in July and August and on a Tues, Wed or Thurs, etc.
I fly to Cabo San Lucas Mexico a lot as well and there are rarely any seats at the lower level until just a few days before the flight. I cancelled my Skymiles credit card and just use an AMEX card and accumulate Membership Miles so that I can use them on Continental/UA, Delta, Airtran or whatever airline actually has a seat when I want it and for a reasonable price (that never turns out to be Delta).
I am a Million Miler and a Silver Medallion for life according to the Skymiles program; however, Delta makes those of us who start at Silver Medallion earn it all over again (yes 25k) every year before they will use our miles to advance to Gold status. They also do not carry over these miles to the next year for us to use to advance our status. It is a negative incentive and makes me fly any airline that offers a good deal. In fact, I often get upgraded for a small fee on other airlines when I fly them and the cost of both the fare and the upgrade are usually less money than the Delta ticket on which I almost never get upgraded.
A few weeks ago I was entered the premium security line with my Platinum AMEX card (not platinum Skymiles). This card allows you free entry into the Crown Rooms, Continental’s clubs and American’s clubs and usually was good enough for entry into the premium security line given that club room members can use this line as well. Delta’s agent very nastily informed me it was no good to them any longer. Delta’s attitude and customer service is back to the snotty level it was before they went bankrupt.
Sam (Costa) says
I have to give Delta props on this one. Last week I had to fly to Philadelphia due to a death in the family. On wednesday afternoon I was able to book a Thursday morning flight to Philly for 12,500 and a return to ATL on Saturday morning for 20,000 (and there was one available for 12,500 but the time didn’t work for me). So I got a round trip ticket for travel less than 24 hours away for 32,500 miles and could have had it for 25,000–for $5.00. Granted it was coach but 1st class only would have been 60,000 miles if I wanted it. We have flown that route on miles at Christmas time the past several years and we usually get 1st class tickets for three for 45K each–which I consider reasonable.
I quit a LONG time ago trying to redeem miles for any trip that is considered a “premium” route. Now I’ve even found that piddly routes like Atlanta to St. Louis are ridiculously hard to book at anything but “medium” grade. Couldn’t agree more with Shindig’s comments. I select my dates as flexible so I can view the calendar and then choose the “low” option. The next page shows that that “low” option is only available on the 6:00 a.m. flight or you have to make a stop even when most flights are non-stop. Or, even wonders of wonders, it’s a decent departure time but low and behold the return flight is only available at 6:00 a.m. so you have to start to whole process all over again. I can even say that when I went to the site in April to book a Jax to Louisville flight, the calendar for the month of July was ALL “medium” or “high”. Guess Delta only had one flight the whole month of July that was considered a “low” seat and I missed it. Every time I get on Delta’s website, I end the session with the comment, “I hate Delta.” Shouldn’t be so considering my husband is close to 2 million total miles with Delta. Flying has become such a chore that if a destination is 8 hours of drive time or less, we choose driving.
I have found it impossible to secure any flights to Asia unless I am forced to use maximum miles. I have been extremely flexible and have searched 330 days out and still no success. Delta no longer has my loyalty.
Chris – JFK – Rome Business Class: 2008 – 90,000; 2009 – 100,000; 2010 – 200,000. That really gets me ripped until I rmember that you earn points on everything from a cup of coffee to a car. That doesn’t make it any easier, but it’s obviously a business and not a customer care (?) decision.
Sent via email from Suzie
No longer eligible for upgrades, not boarding in Zone 1, competing for seats in the front of the aircraft…because of competition with Northwest frequent flyers who are now part of the program. For a 25,000-30,000-mile flyer there are really no perks for me to stay loyal to Delta especially now that the cuts at CVG have vastly decreased my ability to conduct business on a one-day round trip flight. I’m thinking of checking out United and USAirways. If I’m going to have to connect out of CVG to my final destination anyway I might as well fly on an airline that’s going to value my loyalty even if it’s not at the 50,000-mile level.
Sent by email from Ivan:
Not only am I silver medallion for over 14 years running, with some
years making gold o platinum I’m a million miler as well. What does
this get me? Nada. I have to board with everybody else. Hmmm, silver
translates to so what suckers.
Sent from reader RS
Just my 2 cents worth. I get most of my skymiles via my Amex card and only fly about once a year. I was able to use my Skymiles to get a TLH – SXM ticket last year that fit right in with the rest of my vacation plans. Hoping to be able to do the same next summer to either SXM or BON. In August 2008 I was able to get first class seats skymiles seats for both my wife and myself to Colorado Springs/Denver without too many gyrations.
Jon Sinton says
Delta is easily the worst major when it comes to awards travel. I’ve got over three million miles and get treated like pond scum whenever I try to redeem. You’d think that spending $50K+/year for twenty five years would be good for something, but it is not. I have not found a simple coach roundtrip domestic to anywhere for the advertised 25,000 miles in years. And the fees! Please, Delta, I know I’m stupid for having used you exclusively for two and a half decades, but do you have to rub my face in it when I try to redeem the points?
The real trouble with redeeming Skymiles isn’t that they don’t make them available; it’s that for almost everything other than domestic coach they want far more than the minimum amount they tout in all their come-ons. Try to get two international business awards to popular spots like Paris, Rome or anywhere in Asia for the 100K or 120k amount, even 300+ plus days out, on Delta or their partners. Or, try to get three of any awards on the same itinerary internationally anywhere near your preferred dates. This includes not only using the Delta Skymiles web site but also talking to an agent by phone. Frustrating? You bet!
Flynn Wilson says
I quit flying Delta because they would not redeem FF points for 1st class travel. I have over 930,000 lifetime miles with them. Several years ago I sent a complaint letter about this. They never bothered to respond.
I am now a Million Miler with Continental and Platinum (over 120,000 miles last year) with them for the last 5 years in a row. Delta is more convenient, has more flights but I refuse to fly them.