Is loyalty really a two-way street, as Delta points out here in a recent ad campaign?
Delta really raised the ire of its frequent flyers this month with a last-minute, poorly announced rule change. Starting August 15, if you want to change or cancel a SkyMiles award flight within 72 hours of departure, your miles will be forfeited. You read that right: If you must change or cancel your award flight within 72 hours of your trip, you now forfeit the miles. Poof! Gone! Buh-bye…
SkyMiles can still be redeemed for flights within the 72-hour window (without a close-in booking fee), but all awards now become non-refundable and non-changeable within 72 hours of the departure flight. There are no exceptions to this rule for Platinum or Diamond members. Delta “announced” the rule change just this week (see below)–only six days prior to its effective date of August 15.
This means, for example, that if you redeemed a ticket for a flight at the high level and it drops to the lower level two days before departure– too bad, you are stuck paying the higher amount of miles.
Delta claims this is to prevent misuse by members who have been booking award seats and then not actually traveling on them (later requesting a change or refund) and causing as many as “a million seats” to fly empty.
Limiting cancellations with this policy might hold some weight…but we feel Delta’s very best customers– those who have shown enough loyalty to earn award flights– should still be allowed to at least change their ticket within 72 hours.
We at The TICKET were as stunned as everyone else when we received word of this most recent, radical change, and contacted Delta for confirmation. The news was indeed confirmed, and we were told to find Delta’s explanation for the change on social media channels…interestingly, the change was not officially announced anywhere on Delta’s web site. [Update: We found it on Delta’s site today.]
On Milepoint.com, we found the following (surprisingly smug and somewhat condescending) post from Delta’s social media maven:
Late last month, I posted information about recent changes to our Award redeposit policy. The changes were made after we reviewed the number of award seats that were going out empty and the number was large – massive, in fact. So we made some adjustments to help address the situation and increase award availability.
In response to that post, members asked if we were looking at making changes to the policy for any time prior to departure. In fact, we were. During that review we determined that there are more than 1,000,000 award seats that were going unused at the 72 hour mark prior to departure. That is 3 days in which those seats could otherwise be sold or used for other SkyMiles members who truly intend to sit in the seat and travel.
As a result, we’re updating this policy once more. So, effective August 15, 2011, SkyMiles members who wish to cancel or make changes to their award ticket now need to do so at least 72 hours before their flight departure (for changes, this applies to each flight segment – outbound and return). This change will make those seats available to other members and ultimately increase award availability. Miles for tickets cancelled within 72 hours will be nonrefundable. Taxes and fees for award travel cancelled within 72 hours will be refundable upon request. Same-day standby options will remain.
For changes or cancellations made at least 72 hours prior to departure, Diamond and Platinum Medallion members will continue to receive reissue and redeposit fee waivers. Reissue and redeposit fees will continue to apply for other members.
We will be sending out an email to customers with advance award travel booked later today – delta.com is being updated with this information as well.
Because it was a trending theme in last month’s thread, let’s address another issue head-on. We understand that extenuating circumstances do happen and our agents are equipped to review those situations on a case-by-case basis to determine if an exception is warranted. (Just do us a favor and try to make sure it’s not the 8th time your great uncle has passed away.)
Candidly, we expect that this change may be unpopular with some – and we will hear all of your concerns related to it – so we are communicating this early and will be sending a variety of communications to customers later today. When program changes occur, we want our members to be aware of them so that they can adapt accordingly.
Now let’s start the conversation. I’m gathering your comments and bringing them all back to the team…
Michelle, SkyMiles | Delta Social Ambassador
A Delta 2-Million Miler wrote to The TICKET in disbelief, but thankful that he made a last-minute change last week, before the policy went into effect, “I was one of those last minute changes just last week when an unexpected business meeting caused me to cancel plans for AMS and CDG. But these things do happen, and to lose your miles is just harsh, very harsh.”
[Update:] On the other hand, another TICKET reader from Dallas writes: “Diamonds were booking business/first class seats using miles but not putting in their Skymiles number (since you can book a seat using miles for anyone). Then, the same Diamond would book a coach seat in hopes of getting an upgrade to business/first -naturally this reservation contained the sky miles number. The net result is a double booking of this person. Once they get the upgrade on the coach booking, they would call and cancel the second reservation booked in business/first with miles – sometimes while at the gate – which caused seats to go empty. I find it hard to believe that it resulted in one million going empty – but I see Delta’s point. A few people found a loop hole, exploited it, and we are all paying for it.”
So, TICKET readers, what do you think? Is this fair? Will it affect you? Is Delta making a smart business decision that will improve SkyMiles for everyone? Or is this just one more of the proverbial 1000 cuts? Does it make you feel more like checking out what Southwest will bring to the table next year? PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!
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