Blood In The Water At Delta: JetBlue Starts Poaching SkyMiles Elites

In Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder intentionally produce a flop on Broadway. They oversold shares in the production many times, and planned to run away with investors’ money. In the 1967 film “Springtime For Hitler and Germany” was an ironic, surprise smash hit. In 2023, Delta’s changes to the SkyMiles program are producing equal and opposite amounts of outrage.

Alaska Airlines took a poke at Delta by offering SkyMiles elite members a lifeline: Mileage Plan status that’s even one level above what SkyMiles members have earned for 2024, if they also take an Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska’s head of loyalty said,

We’ve always believed that loyalty is about more than just revenue and that earning elite status shouldn’t require a second mortgage. We’ve designed Mileage Plan to reward loyalty in its many forms which is why we offer guests the fastest track to elite status with no spend requirements.

Alaska has a competing hub with Delta in Seattle, and also competes directly in Los Angeles. But Alaska isn’t alone in smelling opportunity. JetBlue now has a dedicated status offer for disaffected Delta customers.

JetBlue competes significantly against Delta in New York and Boston and is offering their ‘Mosaic’ status to disaffected Delta elites, even even calling it ‘Mosaic on the DL’.

The first 30,000 Delta elites who take advantage of the match by October 31 and will receive elite status and even one of JetBlue’s choice benefits pre-determined for each matched level.

SkyMiles Medallion Tier 

  TrueBlue          Mosaic Level 

  Tiles Required to Maintain Status in              2024 

  Pre-Selected Perks You Pick

  Silver    Mosaic 1    6    Mint Suite Priority 
  Gold    Mosaic 2    12    Pet Fee Waiver  
  Platinum    Mosaic 3    24    FoundersCard Blue          Membership 
  Diamond    Mosaic 4    30    15,000 bonus points

Credit: JetBlue

JetBlue only just launched a meaningful status program four months ago, completely revamped as part of aligning its offerings with historically more loyalty-focused American Airlines.

They lost their American partnership after the Biden administration went to court to stop it, putting Delta in the clear pole position in New York and Boston. But Delta is hurting their brand with many of their best customers, and JetBlue now finds itself in a position ready to offer richer benefits to entice those Delta status passengers.

JetBlue’s challenge gives temporary status right away and an expedited path to keep that status. You can accomplish that either by flying or by being approved for a co-brand credit card.

Still, a Delta Diamond moving to JetBlue will receive Mint upgrade certificates and 4 one-way Blade Airport helicopter transfers between Manhattan & New York JFK or Newark, plus 15,000 bonus miles. That’s a ton of value right away and should be attractive to flyers in the Northeast (and potentially Florida). Delta Gold members and above will get free JetBlue extra legroom seats at booking.

It’s been over a decade since a U.S. airline has seen such a strong targeted opportunity against another major domestic carrier. Alaska and JetBlue both so far – maybe soon others! – smell blood in the water after Delta decided to fire many of its best customers, taking away unlimited visits to lounges for those paying for its $550 annual fee credit card and substantially upping the requirements to earn elite status way beyond the reach of many.

The biggest limitation here, though, is that while Delta’s advantage over competitors which have allowed it to consistently demand more from customers while giving less over the years are eroding they aren’t really eroding against JetBlue at least in terms of operational reliability.

Delta cancels flights far more often than they used to. Customers making a move to JetBlue will retain free wifi and a good onboard experience, but still less reliability than Delta and much of the rest of the industry. Delta is running SkyMiles like they’re intentionally trying to tank it like Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, though, so for some of their best customers this may not even matter.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. hah its a feeding frenzy of blood sucking alligators on delta greed and arrogance
    Even some of those I know who aren’t in the FF game are talking about it!

  2. @ Alex — AMEN! Let’s hope that happens. They would make a great combination. I’m actually surprised that hasn’t happened already.

  3. As a retired antitrust attorney FTC, corporate, NY firm), I don’t see sufficient overlaps in a B6/AS merger to tank it. Makes sense.

    In the meantime, I’ve already applied for my B6 match.

  4. AlaskaBlue just might work.

    “You’re more than just a (revenue) number” would be a great marketing campaign.

    Or “Arriving Soon: RT Business Class redemptions for less than 1 million miles” lol

  5. It’s sad that AS management is a shell of it once was “homegrown/hometown” never to return. Moving on I could see that merger however the Biden WH is not going to allow a merger like their attempts to break up companies is running full tilt.

    Don’t forget the equipment issue as well. As dumped the AB’s with Virgin now more?

  6. JetBlue is indeed comping status through end of 2024 if you have the Plus or Business card by 12/30, no flying required.

  7. All of the screeching about Delta’s moves and competitive reactions doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change.

    DL has the advantages in AS and B6 strength markets because of product and network advantages that neither can duplicate.
    DL is a global airline that not only has hubs in BOS, NYC and SEA competitive w/ AS and B6 but goes far beyond what those two carriers do.
    B6 doesn’t offer premium cabins outside of Mint (a small percentage of its network) or lounges. As does have those things but knows full well that Delta is strongest in most of its markets outside of the west coast – and even in major markets like LAX, AS is a distant #5 behind DL.

    other airlines will do stuff to try to win over people that are trying to chase status but it doesn’t make any more sense to do it on AS or B6 than between AA, DL or UA.
    If one is truly loyal to AS and is willing to meet their requirements for elite status, enjoy it but don’t think that whatever they do is going to convert many people who are loyal to DL outside of the sole routes that AS and B6 fly directly competitive with DL.

    You can’t argue one thing in one article and then go back and argue something in another one.

  8. DL versus AS in Seattle: Through my corporate travel booking tool, DL airfares are consistently 30-40% high than AS for routes I travel domestically, and I see a typical 30% DL premium when comparing personal, app bookings. That never used to be the case.

  9. @Tim Dunn what exactly about DL’s product is that much better than its competitors? Is it decent? Sure. But it’s not like we’re comparing a Bentley to a Mitsubishi here. And, everything in product that you suggest B6 and/or AS are lacking can be built out with enough time and investment. Domestic F (which no elite on DL will ever see without buying it), clubs, all of it.

    At for network, if an AS-B6 merger were to occur and the new airline remained in OW it would neutralize DL’s advantage there.

    You seem to think DL can do what ever it wants to and still thrive. You seem to forget that the past is littered with the carcasses of other companies that thought they were untouchable. PanAm, Kodak, Sears, Blackberry. All gone, or nearly gone after being at the top of their respective industries. There comes a time when something better will come along or an innovation will revolutionize consumer behavior. Deny it all you want, but past is generally a good prologue.

    And, out of curiosity, how much does DL pay you to espouse their propaganda?

  10. All of the screeching about Delta’s moves and competitive reactions doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change.

    …but don’t think that whatever [“poachers”] do is going to convert many people who are loyal to DL.

    –Tim Dunn

    Speaking of nothing likely to change despite the “‘screeching” bout DL, or of “people who are loyal to DL” going along with the program as they always have, how much spend do you personally put on DL AMEX cards, and, for consistency, will you increase or decrease your spending on the cards as a results of the latest changes, assuming you even put any spend on the cards?

  11. Delta will eventually go bankrupt and JetBlue will pick up Delta’s carcass. Like American did with TWA.

  12. ER DOC
    when the best you can do is wish for a merger between two companies that tried to outbid each other for Virgin America (with AS “winning”), you really have no counter to the fact that DL is in the driver’s seat strategically.
    AS and B6 are not going to merge w/ each other.

    DL isn’t of the size it is in key corporate travel markets because of dumb luck but because it has executed its strategies virtually flawlessly.

    You and others can’t get over the reality that airline loyalty programs were the most generous loyalty programs in the world but they are simply not needed any longer as they were before.

    Delta just happens to be the most capable of bringing them back to earth but, just like the travel agent commission cuts, other carriers will follow and the changes will become the industry standard.

    The screeching is from those that can’t and won’t quality under the more strict requirements and who hope that chasing other airline programs will deliver for them when it should be perfectly obvious that the rug will get pulled out once again.

    It’s not a matter of if but when

  13. @ Tim Dunn — “It’s not a matter of if but when” Delta files for bankruptcy, again. At least they are already there ethically.

  14. @ Tim Dunn — Where do you get the idea that “AS and B6 are not going to merge w/ each other”? I am certainly not sayng that thet ARE going to merge, but I’m not sure why it isn’t feasible. The same was said about for AA and US for several years, and well…

  15. @Tim Dunn — Here’s more “screeching.”

    For a change, please put your money where your cyber-mouth is. You’ve blanketed the airways the last couple of weeks with your usual claims. How about taking the “credibility test” by telling us how much spend you personally put on DL AMEX cards, and, for consistency, whether you plan to increase or decrease your spending on the cards as a result of the latest changes that you have vehemently defended, mostly by looking backwards (“DL is the greatest”) rather than at what is clearly an unforced errors by DL?

    Inquiring minds wanna know!

  16. @Tim Dunn Do you have inside knowledge that informs your certainty that AS and B6 would never merge or are you just trying to sound smart?

    You also suggest the likelihood that DL’s moves will become the “industry standard.” I see another scenario, one where DL’s competitors take a wait-and-see approach to DL’s changes. Outside of DL’s captive hub cities a lot of folks I have spoken with are planning to move their business to other carriers. No one is really going to know how this plays out for another 12 – 18 months.

    I always love how folks like you say things will “never” happen and how companies like DL are “in the driver’s seat.” Yet, as I pointed out in my earlier post and you ignored, history abounds with companies formed from the combination of companies others said would “never” merge and companies “in the driver’s seat” that no longer exist.

    You have your opinion. I have data. You’ll excuse me if I trust data over opinion.

  17. We all owe Delta a big thank you!

    With these status matches (and more to come)! Flying in 24 and beyond is going to be exciting!! Can’t wait to fly many of the Star alliance and One World European / Asian airlines!

    For Delta, they won’t budge now, but comes Q3 next year when they see the drop in spending and flying (it’s mind boggling that an airline doesn’t care about how often you fly them) and they start reducing capacity and reintroducing benefits…

  18. Reading Tim Dunn and DCS go at it is like getting a root canal and colonoscopy at the same time,

    Two delusional and blind individuals who can’t see the warts on the brands they tout.

  19. @Go away – with such a perfectly fitting moniker, I will not yet again bother with why it’s utterly stupid to suggest that my invariably factual — often mathematical — debunking of self-anointed “travel gurus”‘ bogus claims is anything like Sir Dunn’s impassioned but misguided defense of anything DL.

    If you insist, I will dig up the comment which is barely a week old, but the short of it is that you are stupid.


    …can’t see the warts on the brands they tout…

    perfectly applies to most in these forums, but especially to self-anointed “travel gurus.”

    Now, Go away because with your clear gray matter deficit, it is doubtful that you are capable coherent thinking.

  20. feel free to post whatever macro data you have about the impact of DL’s SM changes. The simple fact is that all of the big 4 serve 100 million plus customers/year and a substantial number are elite, including a portion that quality and then don’t every year.
    The whole point is that DL has too many elites and DL intends to cull the herd.
    The notion that there will be a wholesale switch to other airlines is naive.

    I don’t post my financial data of any kind and am not about to start now. I have Amex cards, have had them for decades, and have or am elite on one or more airlines. I fly multiple airlines per year and am not and never have been wedded to any one airline.

    Gary is right that DL might realize they cut too too far but will never admit it; they may make changes to incentivize behavior they want – and people will come rushing back in.

    and other airlines will cut further. You need only look at the history of all kinds of cuts in oligopolistic industries and see that what DL started, others will jump in on.

  21. This is a great opportunity that could provide great rewards if handled correctly.
    By the way, any chance of a B6 lounge in BOS and/or JFK??
    That would be the icing on the cake!!

  22. @ Tim — Delta doesn’t care one iota about “culling the herd”. They never have. How many times have they handed out status matches late in the year to add more elites? Delta would be thrilled if every single customer spent $350,000 on their Reserve card and reached Diamond, all while standing in line for an hour to enter their Golden Corral SkyClub. All they care about is GREED.

  23. I don’t post my financial data of any kind and am not about to start now. I have Amex cards, have had them for decades, and have or am elite on one or more airlines. I fly multiple airlines per year and am not and never have been wedded to any one airline.
    –Tim Dunn

    Well, you post DL’s financial data all the time, and your sole basis for touting DL’s “supremacy” and arguing that it will withstand any fallout from its latest changes is the airline’s past financial performance.

    Given that DL is banking its continued “supremacy” on members spending considerably more on their co-branded CCs, it is only fair to ask whether you believe it makes sense to stick with DL/SM under these new terms because the only way your impassioned defense of the changes would be credible would be if you were prepared to spend the huge sums of money that patronizing DL/SM henceforth will require.

    That is, put you money where your mouth is…like I did…

    Despite being a UA 1MM and a lifetime *G, as well as a 1K continuously for more than 15 years, I decided last year to hop off the UA elite status hamster wheel after the requirement to make 1K was raised from $15k to the equivalent of $24K/year. That was a bridge too far for me because for that kind of spend 1K would no longer be necessary, as I could use the money to purchase mostly business- or first-class tickets, which would get me pretty much the same benefits as the 1K status. Thus, my solution to the increased spend for 1K, which I’d enunciated more than a year ago and is similar to the one proposed by @Gary Leff just yesterday, was to hop off the UA elite status hamster wheel, make use of my lifetime UA Gold status to get *G benefits like lounge access and priority boarding, and purchase business- or first-class tickets outright with any *A airline that gives me best value. I never spent any money on UA’s co-branded CCs, so the end result is that UA will no longer get the lion’s share of my business as they did for some 20 years. By the same token, if my primary airline were DL and I were a SM top elite, my response to the latest gutting of the program would have been exactly the same as my response to UA’s much “milder” raising of the requirement to retain top elite status: become a free agent, and I suspect that it’s what many DL/SM patrons will do as well.

    This time is different. To tout DL’s past “superiority” as evidence of the airline’s invulnerability is to fail to realize how truly seismic the latest changes are.

  24. @ DCS — Maybe I should stay at HIlton more often after all. (That means I am agreeing with you more and more about things… 🙂 )

  25. DCS, as someone who has often disagreed with you, just want to tip my hat to you RE your comment above conveying your thinking about getting off the UA status wheel.

    A useful contribution that might help others as they consider where their own “bridge to far” might lie.

  26. Is our vice president of travel for our firm, Which we have over 270 people who travel on consistent basis, reviewied DL Site where to book for hotels and cars. In just one example, And she did hundreds of these, The Hilton at Chicago hair airport on a business day with $359 plus taxes through Delta and $229 plus taxes VR corporate rate. Our CEO send out a letter to all of us saying if we use Delta site to book hotels you have to reimburse the company and we will lose our rights to book our own travel. Our vice president of travel is part of a group of 25 other companies similar size and their CEO sent out the letter very similar to ours. I recently got the Hilton American Express and off the Delta airlines Diamond wheel. I do qualify for diamond in 2024 then after that goodbye. I will fly Delta only when it’s convenient but I’ve already booked 4 flights on American and the month of October, if you want to give us the middle finger, we can do the same.

  27. @Gene and David Hanson — Given that I remain the same guy (i.e., the “Hilton Fanboy”) and I presume that you too are the same folks who’ve often disagreed with me, there is a clear cautionary tale in the fact that my arguments here have resonated with you, especially because they pertains to another “irrational” fanboy that some, @Gene included, have compared me with… 😉

  28. @Tim Dunn – I exactly the customer that Delta has decided that they don’t want to keep. I have been medallion level (starting at NWA) since 1991, mostly Silver / Gold with a few elevations to Platinum, and am a recent MillionMiler. I get status by flying, not buying, and I have to respect corp rules (or bend them to select Delta) for the majority of my flights. Currently i will go BOS – LHR / other Europe 8 – 10 times this year and next year, with an excursion or 2 to Asia, non in Delta One due to policy. I likely wont bust $12k spend, since real MQD on a $2,000 RT ticket BOS-LHR are $800 or less. Even charging college tuition to one of the2 chosen AMEX cards won’t offer meaningful MQD’s and offset the annual fee for either of those 2 cards.

    So if I wont achieve Gold, and am Silver for life, why bother to favor to Delta? I just flew B6 BOS to DTW, on a brand new A220-300 and there was no gap between this flight and Delta, other than the joy of seeing I am #10 or higher in line for 1 upgrade.

    I am really better served getting status on One World (hello Alaska Status match) to use the more convenient set of flights offered by BA to Europe, and use B6 for my jaunts in the USA.

    If Delta won’t reward my effort to be loyal to them, why should I bother? This is the effect that will catch up to Delta, the loss of those folks that ‘only’ fly 25 times or so a year for business in coach. Empty seats, as you know, don’t contribute to the bottom line.

  29. Tyrone,
    your story is one of many
    The Wall Street Journal today has a story noting that there are people that welcome the changes and can easily meet DL’s new requirements.

    If DL cut too deeply and too many people walk away, they will change their policies even if they don’t ever admit it.

    Given that DL is so much larger in top corporate travel rich markets, I suspect there will be far more people that suck up the loss and stick w/ Delta rather than take other alternatives which will be more inconvenient.

  30. @Tim Dunn apparently the data is speaking, loudly, as Ed Bastian just admitted they went too far. Good to see that they are actually reading the feedback. I frequently refer to Silver level travelers as the most hated in the industry, especially those that dare to travel dozens of short routes. You gotta have them to fill the plane, but their not the big dollar players. But who is more important to the airline, someone flying 26 – 49 flights a year, or the swell that flies 2 times year, but in business class? That would be great data to see

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