That Can’t Be Her Real Name, Right?

Patrice Miles, Vice President of Consumer Marketing for Delta Air Lines, defends changes to the Delta Skymiles program in USA Today. Her piece is pretty weak.

    Elliott’s commentary [criticizing Delta’s frequent flyer program changes], in our view, fails to recognize the fundamental nature of recent Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program changes. They do not severely cut back customer benefits but rather reallocate them to passengers based on miles flown and revenue spent.

Delta’s changes have two parts. First, they change who qualifies for elite status (in a crude way realigning status with revenue). Second, the benefits of status have changed. Patrice Miles says part one has changed but not part two. That is patently false. Delta’s top spenders under the new plan lose their unlimited upgrade benefit and ability to confirm upgrades at booking on several fares. That’s a severe cutback.

    However, dynamics within our industry led us to change the model from one based on frequency to one based on revenue

A very crude attempt to base things on revenue. Actually, they use the fare class of tickets purchased to modify mileage earning. Some markets have inexpensive fully refundable tickets. Others have expensive tickets in a low fare class. And length of flights are still significant. It’s a Rube Goldberg construct, and a marketing disaster since few flyers know the fare basis code of their ticket and Delta makes it difficult to specify particular fare basis codes when booking.

    The article asserts that the modifications to the SkyMiles program were designed to make it harder to achieve Medallion status. However, we anticipate that we will end the year with more Medallion members than originally planned.

That’s a purely self-referential statement, and is completely unverifiable. Had they planned for an increase or a decrease?

Elsewhere Delta has said that the number of elites would rise next year, but that’s a no brainer. As part of the changes, elites will lose a maximum of one level next year. A platinum medallion who didn’t fly at all in 2003 will still be a gold medallion in 2004 instead of dropping off the elite roles. No surprise that elite ranks would temporarily bump up.

    Members still earn as many miles as they always have toward award travel. In fact, members may redeem miles to more than 400 destinations worldwide through our expanded SkyTeam partnership.

Delta just increased mileage requirements for award tickets across the board.

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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