Delta launched its Frequent Flyer program in 1981. It wasn’t re-named SkyMiles until 1995.
The 1995 change to SkyMiles brought with it expiring miles after 3 years of account inactivity — despite a promise in a Super Bowl ad that their miles would never expire.
In 2007 expiration was shorted to the end of the calendar year following two years of inactivity. In 2009 this was changed to 24 months. Delta led the other major airlines in shortening the life of airline miles.
In 2011 Delta eliminated expiration of miles again. The SkyMiles chief at the time Jeff Robertson described it as ‘the right thing to do’ (he also described it as a business decision) although of course Delta had already recognized plenty of revenue from shifting unredeemed mileage liability off of its books. And though expiring miles were suddenly ‘wrong’ not a single member whose miles had been expired by Delta were given back those miles as a result of this change. (And of course Delta miles do expire… when you do.)
Delta’s frequent flyer inferiority has been an issue for many years. It only feels like a new issue, because of how badly Delta program members have been kicked in the gut lately.
If you were designing a fictional airline that treated its customers with the most contempt possible, a caricature that couldn’t possibly be real, you would sketch out the past several months of the SkyMiles program.
- They put new award charts in place for January 1
- They were charging more miles for many itineraries than the award charts promised
- They eliminated award charts, and said it was because you would always know how much awards cost based on the website’s pricing
- Even though the website pricing was frequently wrong
- And you couldn’t price out many of their partners online, even though they tout you could search more partners than before
- And they made upgrades more expensive than award tickets even
- Except that now award tickets could cost 800,000 miles
- They communicated this big increase, in effect immediately, ‘to give you the most notice possible’
- Only they didn’t even tell you there was a big increase. Or the price of upgrades (which can’t be found on the website).
This is a program which argued in front of the Supreme Court that they must not “superimpose a duty of good faith and fair dealing” on SkyMiles.
Delta’s frequent flyer program is less rewarding, but the biggest problem is they’re dishonest about it.
Just three years ago Delta ran this ad:
It’s hard to believe it’s been a dozen years since members paid for this one: