When I first graduated college I became a frequent flyer. I was flying for work. I was flying home to see my family. I was flying to see my college girlfriend. So I joined the programs of the airlines I’d fly, and they’d send me stuff in mail. I’d flip through it.
A common feature of those mailings, along with various partner offers, was the award chart. I knew that a domestic coach ticket was 25,000 miles. Cash was tight back then, I didn’t make very much, and I used a few of those — like when my grandmother passed away when I just turned 24 and I needed to get on a plane right away.
It had never even occurred to me that I could use my miles to fly to Australia and in business class! I saw that was 90,000 miles and that became my goal.
I started focusing on United, not just for flying but also with partner earnings, and I used to call Mileage Plus (the program name didn’t have a space between the words back then) on the phone to get my mileage balance every week. I didn’t want to wait for mailed statements to ensure miles were posting, and you didn’t have account data at united.com back then.
But it all began with the award chart — learning what was possible, setting a goal, and focusing my engagement with the program.
My belief is that you need a fixed target if you want to drive passionate member engagement.
And it’s the fixed target — the award chart itself — that Delta decided to remove yesterday.
Delta doesn’t think they need this, as they explained on twitter.
As a Delta spokesman explained,
[W]e did remove Award charts today. Delta’s expanded search capabilities and calendar at delta.com offer more flexible and accurate view of Award prices.
Not only doesn’t Delta think they need a chart, there’s reason to think they wouldn’t want one.
- There’s no reason why an award calendar has to replace a chart. American and United have both.
- Published pricing promotes transparency. If you want to raise your prices at will, it’s easier to do that if you never told anyone your prices to begin with.
- Delta’s IT frequently mis-priced awards. It’s easier to take away the price list (that tells people what awards are supposed to cost) than it is to fix the IT. Besides, higher prices can be seen by program executives as a feature rather than a bug.
- They’re tired of explaining themselves to members. If you don’t have an award chart, you don’t have to announce changes (price increases). You just do it.
- If you’re going to get rid of chart-based pricing anyway, you could start by getting rid of the chart.
I shared my own take on Twitter. That’s always dangerous to do while walking and typing on a smartphone, I miss my old Blackberry, but here’s my musings (typos and all):
I asked Delta to tell me that the elimination of the award chart wasn’t the first step of a larger change to how the program works. They wouldn’t say that. All they would say is that “nothing has changed today.”
If Delta cares about integrity, and having an honest relationship with its members, it will bring back the award charts or explain the real motivation behind what it’s doing (because yesterday’s story doesn’t cut it in the slightest).
If Delta cares about engagement with its program, it will bring back the award charts so there’s a clear goal its members can set and work towards. If they expect the value of the program to continue to sustain $2 billion mileage sales to American Express they’re going to need it.