Delta Unveils Medallion Program for Partners, Korean Shunted to Silver, Ethnic Stereoptype Analysis, and Quips

Delta turned the screws on its airline partners this week, it is devastating to my Asia-centric travel patterns, while others, such as US domestic travelers and the Rick Steves travelers (Western Europe only) are less affected. Other changes this year have hurt them, though.

“It is basically just a teaser,” I recall a frank gate agent once telling a young woman who had just qualified for Silver Medallion status and was inquiring of the benefits.

The new, 4-tier ‘West and the rest’ model, is exceedingly complex. The carriers with which Delta has the strongest financial partnerships are no worse off than the March 1 devaluation, while carriers in EMEA and Asia are shunted to the lower tiers explicitly to de-incentivize travel on them by Delta flyers, except when buying codeshare tickets, when applicable. My current trip to Shanghai, if I had gone with China Eastern I could have had the codeshare for the low, low price of…$3,000 more. Any Delta traveler seeking to utilize SkyTeam partners now must do complex research to hope to avoid getting hosed. In contrast, Delta also wants a hand in your hotel decisions with the recently launched Crossover Rewards with Starwood, which is innovative and a positive incentive. Nice to have these points rolling in, it has not impacted my hotel decisions, but may for others.

Wandering Aramean and Cranky Flier both have great analyses that I will not repeat, I especially enjoy Cranky’s pyramid graphic with the base “Screw Off” level. See comments on Cranky’s piece for Double Diamond Maarten’s take.

Delta has been dismissive of its NWA Asia inheritance. NWA’s brand was extremely strong in Asia, especially Japan. Hardly a travel agent in the region did not have a NWA sticker in the window, most still do. Toyko-Narita would ring with the familiar PA announcements starting, “North-e West-e koku…” Since the merger, other than the failed courting of JAL from OneWorld, Delta has focused elsewhere. With Korean and the strongest China presence of the alliances, Delta and SkyTeam should be leading East Asia and Central Asia.

My ethnic stereotype simplistic analysis is that you put together arrogant, parochial American executives with proud, stubborn Korean executives and you get a meltdown. Chinese carriers are not going to be dictated to, either.

I rarely turn to FlyerTalk except in situations of farce, here is a gem by steex from the thread where a Delta representative dropped this turd:

I find it funny that Delta feels they’ve successfully “clarified” the benefits in a new chart that includes phrases such as:

“Reduced” – referring to MQM earning in Groups 2-3
“Up to 100%” – referring to base miles earned in Groups 2-4
“Up to 50%” – referring to class bonus in Group 2
“Up to 25%” – referring to class bonus in Group 3

Finally, now I know that if I fly Saudia, I will earn “reduced” MQMs, “up to 100%” base miles, and “up to 50%” class bonus. That definitely cleared up all my questions, thanks Delta!

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  • jack

    star alliance is laughing to death. DL just handed over the TPAC dominance to Star on a silver platter

  • progapanda

    Ha, “the Rick Steves travelers”

  • Robert

    Thanks RTC, got my Friday night laughs in!

  • MarkJ

    I don’t find this announcement to be particularly surprising. The frequent flyer world wants to look at this through the “Skyteam” lens while Delta is clearly more guided by self interest and is probably adopted a business model more like Etihad than any other airline.

    Etihad sees the day of alliances as over. Etihad makes strategic investments in other airlines.

    I remember Ed Bastian from Delta saying to the effect that Virgin Atlantic joining Skyteam wasn’t a huge priority as the joint ventures are more important now.

    Delta has equity investments in Aeromexico, Gol, and soon Virgin Atlantic. Joint ventures with Air France/KLM, Alitalia, and Virgin Australia and an important strategic love/hate partnership with Alaska.

    Those relationships cover Europe, South America, and Australia. What is left is Asia and I think this is front and center in Delta’s focus right now.

    Delta does have a hub in Narita. Given the wild economic policies of Japan right now the Japanese are suffering through a major devaluation of their currency and flying is getting more expensive. I suspect Delta wants its flyers to go through Narita as much as possible.

    Delta has also spoken publicly about a “four corners” strategy…New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle. I suspect you will see more Asian flights announced from Los Angeles and Seattle…especially if Delta feels like they have a good long term relationship with Alaska.

    Delta has been rumored to have had talks with Korean about a joint Asian venture at one time. Who knows…maybe they will come back to the table.

    I suspect we will be hearing more about Delta’s West Coast/Asian strategy in the months ahead. I doubt that Skyteam will have little bearing on any of it.

  • @MarkJ – thanks for the detailed comment, I did see an ad, I think on my JFK-NRT this week about the new Seattle-Shanghai route.

    I sure wish they would want everyone to fly through NRT but my several NYC-Shanghai trips this year the DTW-PVG on the 777 is always priced same or often much less than going through NRT. The plan is not a big deal but I always try avoiding connecting in the US, especially on the return. With some date flexibility I have been able to avoid DTW until this upcoming week. Understandable with that DTW flight to fill that they try to shunt East Coast travelers to it, since there is still little onward international connections from Shanghai.

  • Pamela T

    Right on, RTC. I vividly remember “NorthWest Orient, da da da, Air…Lines”. The jingle still goes through my head.

  • Hahaha. Rick Steeves Travelers. That’s 50% me. 😀

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