Delta Air Lines is a fierce competitor. They play hard ball, whether it’s with politicians, with airlines they’d like to partner with, or with customers. I’ve said before that in a 50-50 deal, Delta takes the hyphen.
There’s been a lot of discussion about a warning letter from Delta to a customer that was first posted to a Facebook group, covered by Rene’s Points, and then commented on by One Mile at a Time and Live and Let’s Fly.
This letter is being issued to express our concerns regarding your ticketing practices in the past months. Your actions have been brought to my attention and I have been asked to contact you on behalf of Delta Air Lines.
Our reports indicate that most recently you were trying to use the San Francisco construction waiver to change the length of your itinerary at no charge. Quite honestly, your SkyMiles account is heavily documented with the many exceptions to our policies that you ask for and fare rules that you try to get around. You repeatedly call our Reservations and High Value Customer desk to get what you want and if you don’t you hang up and repeatedly call until you get what you want.
Your manipulative practices are unacceptable and we are sending you this warning letter to caution you that we will not allow this to continue. If you persist in engaging in this type of business practice, we will be forced to review your current Medallion benefits as well as your current status.
Going forward, we strongly encourage you to conduct yourself in an honest and respectful manner and treat Delta with the respect that we give you.
Delta Air Lines
I’m not going to delve into the authenticity of the letter. A version was posted on letterhead, the particulars of it aren’t what’s important. It actually serves as a good reminder of our position relative to that of the airlines.
Delta’s Revenue Protection Unit Goes After Customers Who Follow the Rules
Back when frequent flyer miles were earned based on how far you flew (distance) and elite status was also based on distance flown rather than dollars spent, mileage runs were common. However Delta would threaten customers who were buying fares the airline offered, following the rules of those fares to the letter.
A fare might allow more connections than necessary to get from A to B, but a customer buying those connections might run head long into Delta’s Revenue Protection Unit which I first learned about in April 2001 when a group of flyers came up with great excuses to offer to the RPU.
My personal favorite reason for adding a connection also became my favorite reason for needing a particular routing when using throwaway ticketing: ““I’m having an affair in this third city, and I just need a 40 minute connection in the lounge there…”
Delta Went to the Supreme Court to Defend Acting Against Customers Who Follow the Rules
Since the merger was already complete by the time the case found its way to the Supreme Court it was actually Delta that argued Northwest v. Ginsberg which held that an airline can’t be held to an obligation of good faith and fair dealing in its frequent flyer program (that state-level contract claims are pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act). Delta’s argument was that consumers have no rights other than those the airline says they have and this view prevailed.
The case of Northwest v. Ginsberg was also known as the case of ‘the Rabbi Who Complained Too Much’ and was fired as a customer – his status benefits taken away – because he was unprofitable to the airline. He’d complain about each trip and get compensation each time. Instead of no longer giving compensation they took away his status.
In the case of Ginsberg, and the new letter in question, the airline is saying that a customer who follows the rules as written but who benefits more than the airline wants them to is engaged in “unacceptable” and “manipulative practices” that could “force[..]” th eairline “to review [the member’s] current Medallion benefits” and status.
The Viral Letter Scolds a Customer For Benefiting Too Much From the Rules
Following the rules as written is considering not “conduct[ing oneself] in an honest and respectful manner” to the extent that it benefits the customer and not Delta.
Would it surprise you to know that many loyalty programs participate together in a ‘fraud working group’ and that many members of this group believe that ‘benefiting too much’ from a program is fraud (yet changing the terms of the program after members pay money and earn miles is.. not)?