Another Reminder of Why Delta Air Lines Does Not Have to Give Notice of SkyMiles Redemption Increases
“W e should keep in mind this is following on the heels of the recent price jump from 50,000 to 62,500 to 70,000 and now to 85,000 for a one-way trip to Europe in business class just over the past few years”, according to this article pertaining to the latest increase in SkyMiles redemptions for partner airline awards as written by René de Lambert of Renés Points. “The really frustrating part is what Delta SkyMiles team is best at — no advanced notice. They tell no one! Now as some point out they can do this at will because it is in the T&C but that does not make it any less reprehensible or shameful. The other major problem with this disgusting change is finding Level 1 Delta awards is VERY hard. Finding partner awards has been reasonably easy.”
That is because during those years in the past, Delta Air Lines was not doing as well financially, to understate the obvious; so the airline did what it could to attract more business — but given that the redemption of SkyMiles for a round-trip itinerary between the United States and Australia increased by 30,000 SkyMiles last year and that SkyMiles award redemption rates have increased multiple times in recent years, is anyone really surprised about the latest stealth devaluation?
Unfortunately, the time has come for…
Another Reminder of Why Delta Air Lines Does Not Have to Give Notice of SkyMiles Redemption Increases
Let us say that you operated a business — and you probably already do. Your company is experiencing consecutive financial quarters of record revenues and profits. Would you voluntarily offer ways to discount your product or service — whether it is in the form of a straight decrease in price or via a loyalty program — when business is doing so well, with the possibility of the savings you are giving your customers cutting into your profits?
In most cases, of course you would not do that. Discounts — or, in this case, offering miles for discounted or almost free flights — are meant as an incentive to increase business, which is especially necessary when the financial aspects of your business are not at their best and could be doing better.
If Delta Air Lines wanted to raise the redemption rate of SkyMiles to 95,000 each way — or, for that matter, raise the cost in terms of money — for a seat in the premium class cabin without negatively impacting its bottom line, then it will. That is the simple economic principle of business known as supply and demand. What are you going to do about it — say to yourself, “well, I will just switch airlines and save up enough miles to redeem for a similar ticket on that airline”? Are you going to redeem your SkyMiles for something else? Should they just sit there and collect dust — only to further be devalued at some point in the future without notice?
If you have not already noticed in recent years, United Airlines and American Airlines have basically followed Delta Air Lines in terms of a number of “enhancements” to their respective airlines and frequent flier loyalty programs — which is a reason why I found the extensive coverage of Scott Kirby switching jobs as president of American Airlines to immediately becoming president of United Airlines almost to the level of ludicrous. As talented and experienced as Scott Kirby may be — I have never met him and do not intend to take anything away from him — it does not take much to copy the “innovations” of a competitor. Other than Scott Kirby himself — who apparently will be handsomely rewarded by both airlines as the result of his change of positions — and to those who will benefit from this move, does this news really matter to anyone?
Why Award Redemption Increases Should Not Be Done Without Advance Notice
When you shop at a grocery store, you typically use a form of currency issued by the government called money — whether you use a credit card, check or cash. If the grocery store raised the price too high for your taste, you can shop around at competitors in an attempt to find a better deal and use the same currency there if you are successful.
That scenario is not true with the use of frequent flier loyalty program miles or points, as you are at the mercy of the whims of the airline. In the case of Delta Air Lines, they can raise the redemption rate of SkyMiles on any award ticket they want — any time they want — and you have no recourse. You cannot take your SkyMiles and shop around to redeem them for a flight operated by any other airline directly, hoping to get a better deal by bypassing Delta Air Lines. You are obligated to follow the rules set forth by Delta Air Lines if you want to redeem your SkyMiles for any award. That is the main reason why I eschew affiliate credit cards which earn frequent travel loyalty program miles and points: because as generous as some of those offers might be, the company which issues the “currency” — I use that term loosely — can change the rules at any time as to how you can use it.
Never Play With the Trust of Someone Else
More importantly, my trust in doing business with many of the frequent travel loyalty programs has been eroding significantly over the years — especially with several scenarios which I have experienced. Two of them involved frequent travel loyalty program miles and points not being credited properly or at all to my respective accounts; and I have had to go through a lot of time and effort. Both the experiences with American Airlines and with Avis — which consumed approximately 17 months since I first earned the number of Hyatt Gold Passport frequent guest loyalty program points which should have been properly credited to my account — have finally been resolved to my satisfaction.
Delta Air Lines recently suffered yet another significant embarrassment with the chaos to its operations caused by significant inclement weather — and those operations have still not completely returned to normal. Systemwide outages — such as this massive one from last August — have not helped to bolster confidence and trust amongst customers. Despite the number of proactive moves to allay concerns amongst its customers, trust has basically eroded — at least, amongst some customers…
…and while trust of the operations of an airline is certainly substantially more important than that of a frequent flier loyalty program, toying with the trust of the members of your frequent flier loyalty program is still a dangerous game, as that lack of trust by customers could seep into other areas of the business — and once any modicum of trust is lost, it is incredibly difficult to regain.
Honesty and Integrity
As I stated in this article, I have written many articles over the years based on trust, leadership, and maintaining perspective and adjusting expectations and regarding honesty and integrity — or lack thereof — pertaining to frequent travel loyalty programs.
For example, award redemption increases should not be implemented without notice.
I offer this example of what an honest marketing message might actually sound like after the recent announcement of a merger between two lodging companies.
Stephen M. R. Covey of FranklinCovey agreed with me about how the airlines should value the trust their customers have in them — especially for the day that they might really depend on it when the economy falters.
I can go on and on; but at least there is one bright spot: one former executive in the commercial aviation in particular industry exhibits a candor and honesty which earned the trust of customers — including frequent fliers.
What You Can Do
There is not much that you can actually do; but hopefully the following information will help:
- There is a loophole of which you can take advantage where “by adding on a Delta segment to any of these itineraries, the price drops to the ‘old’ level”, according to this article written by Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly — but do not expect this loophole to last.
- This article written by Adam of Point Me to the Plane — who also uses the word shame to describe the actions of the SkyMiles department of Delta Air Lines — gives comparisons between “older” redemption levels of SkyMiles and the sudden current increased ones to give you the opportunity to enact a more educated decision pertaining to best using your miles.
- Follow this discussion on FlyerTalk to exchange strategies, information and updates pertaining to this latest perceived devaluation.
- Wait until Delta Air Lines has one of its monthly SkyMiles award sales. Just last month, I redeemed only 50,000 SkyMiles during the March SkyMiles award sale for a round trip between the United States and Europe later this year. That redemption turned out to be a better value than I initially thought; and the possibility of a similar monthly SkyMiles award sale occurring some time in the future is not out of the question. I intend to continue to keep you apprised of the monthly SkyMiles award sales — as well as any others which may be beneficial and advantageous to you.
Delta Air Lines has every right to charge whatever it wants for its products and services — whether in terms of SkyMiles or cash or both — but to hide an important reference such as award charts to then be able to implement dynamic pricing and increased base levels of award travel more easily is an example of playing around with the trust of its customers…
…and as long as financials continue to be good — combined with fewer competitors in commercial aviation in the United States — do not expect this playing around with the redemption of SkyMiles and the omission of award charts to stop anytime soon.
Obfuscation of important details and information instead of transparency and having that information readily available rarely ever improves relationships between companies and its customers.
When things get bad — and they usually do, as the economy always consists of cycles — only then will we see if there will be any positive changes from the point of view of customers with regards to the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program; but the return of any trust by some customers will continue to be much more difficult to restore…
Photograph ©2011 by Brian Cohen.