Time to Act: Here’s What to Tell Delta and United About Their New Frequent Flyer Programs

Frequent flyer programs do roll back changes — but don’t like to admit they’re wrong when they do it.

American did just that when they introduced a $5 online award booking fee that never went into effect. The idea was dropped, no announcement. Because it was stupid.

Here are five more heroic times when consumers won against frequent flyer program changes.

If you don’t like Delta’s revenue-based frequent flyer program coming in 2015, or United’s copy cat version of the same and the gutting of the United mileage currency, there’s something you should do about it.

  1. Put your money where your mouth is, buy tickets from airlines offering you a better value proposition. Fly American and Alaska Airlines.
  2. Status match. Earn status with American or Alaska.
  3. Let American and Alaska know why you’re buying tickets from them. Let them see the increase in business that the policies of their competitors are earning them, so they don’t follow suit themselves.
  4. Let United and Delta know why you aren’t buying tickets from them.

The premise here is that each airline evaluates what is the best business decision for them.

You should evaluate what’s the best business decision for you.

And you should help airlines see how you’re making decisions, so they can consider and re-consider their own choices.

I’m not saying that either Delta or United will change, but we shouldn’t be fatalistic. Don’t stick with United and Delta because you assume it’s inevitable that other airlines follow suit.

  • Even if AAdvantage and Mileage Plan were to eventually follow suit, you should travel with the program that’s most rewarding now.
  • If you ascent to the changes that Delta and United are making, then you’re at fault (not individually, but collectively) for those changes lasting and other airlines from following their lead.

There are reasons for flying Delta, but make the decision a conscious one — in spite of the new Skymiles program.

If I were a United or Delta elite frequent flyer, I would email or fax copies of every ticket I purchased on American or Alaska to my former airline. I’d tell them every time I made a purchase with another airline and I’d tell them why.

Tweet them, too. Something like,

I’m leaving @Delta because #SkyMiles2015 doesn’t care about my loyalty, just the price of each ticket. Look forward to flying @AmericanAir!

I would also email American or Alaska and tell them why you’re moving your business, likely along with a request for status match. And I’d send a follow up note in six months letting them know how much I’d spent — and, again, why.

At the very least, leave no mistake that you’re somehow a marketing automaton who believes that Delta increasing the revenue requirements for elite status makes you more elite. I am not my fare.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I stopped choosing Delta when they originally devalued. I have not gone back since. My hope is American realizes there needs to be a fair balance and treat loyal customer accordingly.

  2. I’m putting extra spend on my Delta Reserve card to get higher status in 2015 so I can SM to another airline.
    Problem is I’m based in ATL. Who should I SM to?

  3. 2015 is an interesting test. But still wonder given average RASM is so close to the break even on these changes whether the number who benefit is larger than the deal seeking skew of this audience indicates.

    This coming from someone who will earn less under the new programs.

  4. Revenue based frequent flyer programs are the only ones that make sense. They will all morph to that eventually. Casinos have learned that in time. The ones that spend the most get the perks.

  5. My family has already shifted much of our miles earning activity to American. The message that I am getting from Delta is that they don’t care. Since Delta is making oodles of money. But that cannot go on forever, the economy can get worse. The loss of discretionary non-business travelers can effect Delta’s and United’s profits. Especially internationally, where filling the back of the plane can mean the difference between profit or loss on a flight.

  6. I’m based in a United hub city. AA & US just don’t have enough service so I am switching to Southwest. I plan to get the Companion Pass in January and I am currently doing an A list challenge which they offered me based on my UA status. It actually works out quite well since I usually buy the business select fares.

  7. @Nick – The irony is you’re going to a revenue based program with Southwest.

    And if you’re buying Business Select level fares you should be clearing more than 10 cpm on your UA fares. Nothing cheap about Business Select on Southwest. In other words you stand to earn the same or better with United.

  8. My husband and I are United 1K and got stuck with United after the merger with Continental. We fly from LAX to HNL or OGG most of the time and fly on United 777-200 at least 10-12 times/year. I looked to American but their ticket prices are higher than United and also they do not fly large jets between LAX and Honolulu. Hawaiian airlines also fly smaller Airbus planes. So I do not see too many better choice for us. Any suggestions? Aloha and Mahalo!

  9. Unfortunately 4 airlines control 85% of the market. So your options are limited when most carriers are pulling this stunt.

    Better if people got together and pushed DOT to oversee & regulate these junk fees, and the gutting of FF programs.

  10. Revenue based is better for me and I sent a status match request to Delta with a screen shot of my Chairman’s status with US Air. They didn’t get back to me. Next up United. I don’t find matching miles with revenue to be such a bad idea although I can see where it doesn’t help most people

  11. Let’s see typical business flyer will earn more Skymiles and get there more often and on track than other legacy carriers. No brainer still for me as I like getting home. Not that I love all the changes but will be getting more miles. If only MQMs would go that way.

  12. This is too funny. I just don’t believe that Gary is so naive as to think this little pitch will have any effect on the future of FF programs.

    Better to spend your time lobbying for benefit enhancements. Tell them what you value and what you don’t. Tell them what’s working and what’s not. Write to the Congressman that’s reviewing programs and demand transparency.

    But don’t waste your previous time trying to turn back the clock. Mileage placed programs are going into the dustbin of history, along with sticker upgrades. AA/US is just late to the party.

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