The Source of Delta’s Woes?

A piece in the Cincinnati Post wonders whether Delta would be in such huge financial trouble if they hadn’t done so much to alienate their best customers.

    The movement led by the airline’s Platinum Medallion-level frequent fliers has included ads in USA Today, a roving billboard outside a stockholders’ meeting and a negotiating session with Delta executives. They say they were trying to save Atlanta-based Delta from itself and potential bankruptcy. If Delta had listened to them, some say, the airline might not be struggling for its survival.

    Delta for years attracted customers with its SkyMiles program, and many of its most loyal passengers — those flying at least 25,000 miles a year — enjoyed benefits such as upgraded seats and free flights.

    But in 2002, Delta reworked SkyMiles. It cut in half the frequent flier miles awarded toward Medallion status on economy flights but gave twice as many miles for flying first class. Delta also stopped counting some short flights toward the program’s elite tier.

    That angered many regular fliers who were accustomed to year-round travel — and the program’s elite status in return.

    “These were people who loved Delta so much, they were willing to complain about it,” said Roger Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer Magazine and a frequent-flier discussion Web site called FlyerTalk Web. “This wasn’t a renegade bunch. This was simply a group who said … ‘We want to give you advice so we don’t leave and others don’t leave.’ ”

I still say that Delta’s problem is their labor costs. They might have been marginally better off without dissing their best customers, but they wouldn’t be avoiding bankruptcy talk. For that they’ll need to pay their pilots less.

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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