The World Is Really Paying Attention to Delta’s Revenue-Based Changes (And Read On to See My ‘Outrage Face’)

I appeared on ABC’s World News Tonight talking Delta’s planned shift on January 1 to a revenue-based frequent flyer program.

A major evening newscast, time is short, I explained the changes early in the segment and then came back at the end and explained that they’re risky — that other airlines will wait and watch, and how consumers respond will offer some direction to Delta’s competitors.

Now, I get pretty darned impassioned when anyone puts my miles in jeopardy…

I had a little more time to talk ‘winners and losers’ on WTOP Radio tonight in my home market of Washington, DC. I spoke to a print journalist today, and put together a piece for Conde’ Nast as well.

I’m not sure I remember the last frequent flyer program change (as opposed to ‘air travel issue’) that had so much intense mainstream media interest. The rest of the world, it seems, cares about their miles too.

Clearly the narrative that’s the starting point with journalists is that “Delta is rewarding business travelers and taking away from leisure travelers” and to some extent that’s true. High fare passengers earn more miles.

It does forget that business travelers are also leisure travelers when they go somewhere with family and not for work.

And as I showed this morning, it’s more complicated than that. You can pay the highest coach fares on long haul flights and still earn fewer points than before. And we don’t yet know what the changes on the redemption side will really look like, other than that the program is getting more complex.

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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  1. Thanks for posting this, as I missed it as I flipped back-and-forth with NBC.

    The only bothersome thing was the ABC reporter who failed to account for the current bonuses for F. He posited that both Y and F currently receive the same mileage credit, given the same flight. (Unless I misheard)

  2. Unleash the minions. I have an upcoming Delta flight, hopefully my last ever who do you recommend I credit it to, now that HA is no longer an option.

  3. It may be short but was hoping for advocacy on your part…

    Basically rubber stamped the change. As did Randy.

    Which makes us wonder…something else is going on here.

  4. Nice job. Seems like Delta figured they would slip this change in like SW did a few years ago and nobody would notice. I think it could be a turning point in the industry. United pricing themselves out of business, Delta hurting it’s customers, SW running out of discount fuel added to the AA / US merger.

  5. You da’ man, Gary!

    Now someone needs to do a little comedic photoshopping on that second pic… you made it too easy.

  6. @Jeff – I gave a long interview and they pretty much just used a clip of me explaining miles vs revenue for earning.

  7. It seems like a perfect solution when one would get many fewer miles under this is just to credit Delta flying to Alaska since an MVP gets unlimited upgrades, economy comfort, etc. If Delta and Alaska get divorced, are there any other options? The Flying Blue site does not mention free upgrades on Delta with status, but maybe I missed something.

  8. Alaska elites get free upgrades after everyone other than Starwood Platinums. So don’t bank on upgrades. If you fly Delta and earn status and care about upgrades you’ll still stick with Delta. If you fly Delta and care more about mileage accrual you will credit to Alaska unless/until they change the ability to do that at one mile = one mile.

  9. @Jim – I doubt it. Unfortunately, all this attention probably won’t be able to reverse the changes.

    And Gary, I got a chuckle out of your outrage face. 😀

  10. I agree with your comments. There should be blowback to Delta on this. We all know Delta miles are tough to use anyway. I just spent half of my huge hoard of miles for business class to South Africa. Hopefully I get my picture with Gary at the meetup in Seattle now he is a star :-)As always earn em and burn em. Your favorite program this year may be your least favorite next year.

  11. It is their company and if they choose to update their frequent flyer program, so be it. Travelers are free to choose competitors. More notice would be nice, but even a casual member of the program could have seen this coming. Life goes on.

  12. And ABC correctly? reports that today a FC and coach ticket earn the same number of miles 4,900 from NYC to LAX? No fare class bonus? Who the hell vetted a national news story and look how wrong they get it straight out of the gate?

  13. Nice PR, Gary, but sadly Delta doesn’t really care what we think…at least until they need us. When GR II hits, they will be at our doorsteps begging for our business.

  14. Wow, all this hooplah. Take a guess WHY the airlines are cutting back??? It because of bloggers like this and pointsguy who put out info to ‘game’ the system. People do it and go nuts with it. It’s like those extreme couponers. Went to one of the MP FFU and all they did was pitch churning CC’s – wow how innovative and acted like a bunch of arrogant shmucks. Do the research yourself as these wannbe reality bloggers who what their 15 seconds of fame don’t tell you what any traveler can figure out on their own

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