RUMORS FLY ABOUT BIG CHANGES TO SKYMILES. Everyone (except Delta) is talking about the rumors of a major overhaul of SkyMiles program underway at Delta. From what we’ve picked up from various blogs, boards and emails from alarmed TICKET readers, Delta could be changing SkyMiles from a program based on how many miles you fly to one based instead on how much money you spend—a “revenue-based” program. Generally, these programs award “points” instead of “miles” based on the price of your ticket. When it comes to redemptions, points are used to “buy” tickets based on the fare available at the time of booking.
TIGHT LIPS. The rumors about SkyMiles changes are replete with “leaked internal documents” and links to job postings related to the new program. When The TICKET queried our Delta contacts, the response was stone cold: “As a rule, we don’t comment on rumors. Thanks for your email.” Delta’s reticence and stonewalling on the rampant rumors leads us to believe that something may indeed be up down on Virginia Avenue.
INDUSTRY TREND? We think that this could be the continuation of an industry-wide trend that’s been in the making for years. For example, last year Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards moved to a revenue-based model, which ticked off members who fly on cheaper fares, but pleased those who pay more for last minute, less restricted fares. And when fellow bloggers queried US Airways executives last week about the Delta rumors and any similar plans for its program, the answer was eerily similar: “No Comment.”
DELTA’S TERMS. When faced with rumors like this, its important to remember the terms you agree to when you sign up for SkyMiles: “Delta and its program partners reserve the right to change program rules, benefits, regulations, Travel Awards, fees, mileage Award levels, and special offers at any time without notice. This means that Delta may initiate changes, for instance, impacting partner affiliations, rules for earning mileage credit, continued availability of Awards, or blackout dates…Such changes to Delta’s frequent flyer program may include modifications that (i) govern mileage credits or other benefits earned on or after the date of change, (ii) change the value of already accumulated mileage credits or other benefits or (iii) govern mileage credits or other benefits earned on or after the date of change and change the value of already accumulated mileage credits.”
STAY TUNED. Any change of this magnitude will require coordination from SkyTeam airline partners as well as American Express, so if it does indeed occur, we’ll be writing all about it here on The TICKET.
So what do YOU think? How would a change to a revenue-based SkyMiles program influence your choice of carriers or your flying habits? How do you think this will all play out? Is it just a rumor or reality? LET US KNOW what you are thinking—leave your comments below.
DELTA SNUBS ELITES. Delta has introduced a new “E fare” bucket (known as the Basic Economy fare) in certain markets (not at ATL…yet) to compete with ultra-low-fare, no-frills carriers like Spirit Airlines. The new fares allow no changes (not even for a fee—use it or lose it) or advance seat assignments until check in (even for elite members). Luckily, the fares are still eligible for first class upgrades and mileage despite the rumblings about Delta’s purported transition to a new revenue-based loyalty program. The new E fares are typically about $10 less than the cheapest LUT fare– essentially meaning that Delta is charging the slightly higher fare for a seat assignment. The markets where Basic Economy fares are in place include between Detroit and Florida (Spirit Airlines’ stronghold) indicating this could be an experiment to expand it further.
AUTOMATED GATES. Thought gate agents seemed busy when your last flight was boarding? Well, on your next flight from Atlanta, wander over to gate T-3 to see the automated boarding gates Delta is testing that operate much like a subway machine entrance gate. You simply scan your boarding pass, and the door opens to allow you to enter the jetway. This is similar to what Continental tried recently in Houston (although it chose not to expand to other airports at the time) and what Lufthansa currently does at some gates in Frankfurt and Munich. It seems efficient and hassle-free giving gate agents more time to handle passenger requests. What do you think about the idea? Please leave your comments below.
TERMINAL F GUINEA PIGS? ATL authorities are searching for 1,500 volunteers interested in testing out the new terminal F on May 2 in a simulated day of operations. This will test the baggage, security, gate operation, and even facility (think bathrooms and electricity) functions of the building before it opens officially on May 16. Participants must complete a questionnaire, and the airport will choose those who meet appropriate criteria by April 15. Packing a bag or two and taking the MARTA or using a rental car shuttle to reach the terminal may also be requirements for the simulation. More details on how to participate.
NEW LOOK FOR SKY PRIORITY. Remember when The TICKET reported that Delta’s version of Sky Priority would be rolling out across the SkyTeam network? Well, part of that involves rebranding the Sky Priority logo so that it maintains a worldly look that is airline-neutral across the alliance. The benefits remain the same, but the look is a bit different—just look for the big red box.
SHOP FOR FREE. Amazon is now available for free on Delta and Delta Connection flights with Gogo wi-fi. There is no need to purchase a wi-fi session as the shopping website can be reached directly through the Gogo portal page. In addition to Amazon, content from The Wall Street Journal and People magazine can also be accessed free of charge through the portal page.
DELTA.COM CHANGES FRUSTRATE. To help make it easier for flyers to compare apples to apples when searching for fares, the DOT now requires airlines to include all taxes and fees when displaying fares on their websites. The resulting changes to Delta.com take some getting used to. We’ve heard from readers who are saying that Delta has changed things were working rather than fixing things that were broken—such as the clunky award calendar or the buggy upgrade list on the mobile app. Another frustrating change is that the new fare display is difficult to read because it omits the connection city and layover times forcing you to click on a drop down menu for that crucial information. What do you think about the changes to flight search on Delta.com? For better or for worse? Please leave your comments below.