No Freddie Award for Delta SkyMiles? Not a Problem

“I ’m curious as to what delta execs thoughts were about not being nominated”, wondered a person named Christine in the Comments section of this article written by René de Lambert at Delta Points where he explains why Delta Air Lines did not win any awards at the 2015 Freddie Awards at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. “You posted that you thought it would be fun to see their reactions to not winning anything but to not even be nominated, at some level, had to have hurt. Sounds like they acted as if nothing was wrong and were gracious hosts regardless. Good for them on the graciousness, now let’s see if anything changes.”

The employees from Delta Air Lines were indeed gracious; but I was told by no fewer than two of them prior to the start of the awards ceremony that if Delta Air Lines did win an award that they were not doing their job correctly.

Think about that statement for a moment: if Delta Air Lines did win an award at the 2015 Freddie Awards, then they were not doing their job correctly. One of those times that that was stated to me was after I wished them luck at the Freddie Awards.

Consider also that the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program of United Airlines not only did not win any Freddie Awards or even be mentioned as a runner-up; but I did not even see them represented at the award ceremony in person.

The AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program of American Airlines, on the other hand, won as Program of the Year in the Americas region.

Is there a trend here? Earning miles on both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are now based on revenue; while earning miles on American Airlines is still based on distance…

…but Delta Air Lines has also been posting record profits.

Does this mean that the frequent flier is no longer important to Delta Air Lines?

I would say not necessarily. Rather, it is the frequent business traveler — one who has access to a corporate account — which is of interest to Delta Air Lines. That traveler is not looking to do “mileage runs” or travel on “mistake fares.” A different ticket is $50.00 extra for a more convenient schedule? Not a problem. Need a ticket at the last minute and must pay a walk-up fare? Bring it on — and keep bringing it on.

The primary purpose of the Freddie Awards is to highlight the best of what frequent travel loyalty programs have to offer. It is not necessarily about customer service or product. It is typically about miles and points…

…and Delta Air Lines has its eyes set on other types of awards. If you visit the corporate headquarters of Delta Air Lines, you will see the primary objectives of different departments listed on posters on the walls. One of them is to rank number one in the J.D. Power Airline Satisfaction Ratings, of which the 2015 rankings should be released within the next couple of months. Delta Air Lines ranked number two overall in 2014 — bested only by Alaska Airlines, which was never even mentioned at the Freddie Awards.

This is not just about airlines: for all intents and purposes, the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program did not even exist at the Freddie Awards in 2015; and yet it tied with Delta Privilege for the top ranking in the 2015 Hotel Guest Rewards/Loyalty Program Ratings of J.D. Power and Associates.

Again — is this a trend; or merely a coincidence?

Some people might argue that the Freddie Awards may be becoming more irrelevant in the world of commercial aviation where airlines have shifted their focus from the dependency of using their frequent flier loyalty programs to entice and attract customers — especially when they were bleeding billions of dollars in cash every year — to focusing more on the service and product offered to customers wherever and whenever possible…

…but in order to get away with actions once considered egregious and “blasphemous” — such as charging ancillary fees and dismantling some of the more popular aspects of their frequent flier loyalty programs — the airlines must offer its customers a good product and good service on a consistent basis.

Based on my experiences, I personally cannot remember the last time anyone at Delta Air Lines treated me poorly. Despite me not being one of their best customers, I am always thanked for my business. They usually accommodate my requests; and typically with a smile. Their on-time performance has been impressive enough that Delta Air Lines calls itself an “on-time machine” on billboards in the Atlanta area. Delta Air Lines conveniently serves many destinations multiple times per day.

I can go on pertaining to lauding Delta Air Lines — but I think you get my point.

Employees will be the first to tell you that Delta Air Lines could stand to improve further, as I had been told. There are supposedly some interesting innovations in the works for improving Delta Sky Clubs, for example; and if I have definitive details, I intend to impart them to you…

…but the improvements pertain more to service and product and not so much to the frequent flier — at least, not like ten years ago, for example.

The SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program of Delta Air Lines did not win a single Freddie Award in 2015 — it was never even mentioned as a runner-up in any category — and guess what? Employees are just fine with that. That is not to say that they will not try to win at least one in the future — but let’s face it: what really matters are such financial “awards” as revenue, cash flow and profit…

…and you can take that to the bank. Delta Air Lines certainly is doing so; and as much as I mourn the former iterations of its frequent flier loyalty program, I congratulate Delta Air Lines on its financial success — especially considering that it was only eight years and one day ago that the airline formally emerged from bankruptcy protection.

Well done, Delta Air Lines. Well done.

Karen Zachary — who is the managing director, SkyMiles global program management — welcomes attendees to the 2015 Freddie Awards at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

10 thoughts on “No Freddie Award for Delta SkyMiles? Not a Problem”

  1. Christian says:

    Very gracefully stated. If the Freddie awards were for corporate success, then Delta would have been a resounding winner. What I find to be personally disturbing is the pride in having an awful frequent flier program. “We’re the worst and we love it” or some such slogan for a loyalty program speaks poorly of Delta’s view of its’ most loyal customers. The direct implication is that if there were decent value in Skymiles, it would mean failure on the part of the corporation. Bragging about burning the very people who are loyal to you is at best poor taste. Going back decades, Delta never had the best frequent flier program, but until recently had never shown outright contempt for the people going out of their way to fly them.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Actually, the word I personally heard used by some employees of Delta Air Lines pertaining to the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program is “innovative”, Christian.

      Thank you for posting your thoughts.

  2. Nick says:

    So would you agree at this point that this means Delta has less frequent fliers than the other majors per set mile flown. Certainly given the economy that wouldn’t hurt them at this point.

    But having a strong loyalty program with a higher percentage of frequent travelers is a bit like a hedge bet or investment, yes it may cost the airline a bit more to dish out those extra miles when the economy is strong, but will help you a bit when the economy takes a nosedive again and planes aren’t as full. I guess Delta figures they can just entice back the frequent fliers then. We will see eventually.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am not sure I agree or disagree with the statement that Delta Air Lines has fewer frequent fliers per set mile flown than its direct competitors, Nick; but I have always believed in “saving for a rainy day” and have posted multiple times in the past that it is essentially a mistake in the long term for airlines to unnecessarily disappoint the members of their frequent flier loyalty programs, as that rainy day indeed would be a significantly weak economy.

      Right now, the economy is stronger and times are great for the airlines — many of whom are reporting record quarterly profits. We shall see what happens when there is a significant downturn in the economy…

  3. sam says:

    when will you understand taking part and voting on these things only makes things worse?

    AADVANTAGE is the best elite airline program after taking away the stop over and open jaw benefits and their website still not allowing partner award booking? AADVANTAGE IS ALSO WORST when it comes to finding saver level awards too.

    you are rewarding all these so called winners for their endless devaluations and benefit cut backs and pathetic customer service and useless website.

    No one should be voting for any of these.
    But i know many of you bloggers live and die for referral bonuses and commissions. The airline, hotel and credit card companies want you guys!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I can promise you one thing, sam: I have never accepted or received one single referral bonus or commission in the almost nine years in which I have been writing articles for The Gate.

      As for the voting, I would not be the least bit surprised if many voters voted on the basis of the lesser of evils rather than on the merits themselves of frequent travel loyalty programs…

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