Why hold out on the least controversial change?
Last week Delta rolled out SkyMiles 2015 to intense media coverage and customer attention, much of it negative. The most drastic changes are moving from distance flown to dollars spent as the earning basis for miles, with a ‘break-even average of 20 cents per mile. In the past 2 years Delta has made significant changes some positive like SPG Crossover Rewards, many negative, leading me to argue that Delta Strives to the Worst Airline for Business Travelers.
On the redemption side SkyMiles 2015 held out hope for positive changes such as one-way awards and an improved delta.com award calendar. Award pricing and availability is where Delta has the least credibility with its fliers. Many argue for Delta as the best US airline operationally; only people on Delta’s payroll attempt to defend its award prices. So it was particularly galling that from the first reports on 2015, Delta indicated that it would not deign to release the new award chart until Q4. Many commentators and customers cried foul on this, which today extracted the award chart for travel from US & Canada.
The big news is that there isn’t. Delta is going from 3 tiers to 5 tiers, subdividing the existing range. A number of awards went down compared to the increases effective June 1, 2014. See the breakdown at Points, Miles & Martinis. Nothing innovative or competitive, say, to match discount awards like American Airlines off-season awards. Nothing mentioned of any change to partner awards, which is what had me most worried. View from the Wing reports Delta sources as confirming nothing will happen to partner awards as part of this particular change, and a reduced likelihood that they would sneak in a new change in the short-term given what has transpired over hiding this one. We have no idea, and can have no idea until 2015, of what will happen with availability and pricing.
So why hold back? Some possibilities:
- Arrogance. Delta has a habit of trying to tell customers what should be important to them, and not even publicly announcing big changes. The recent removal of 3rd-party lounge access for SkyTeam Elites when traveling on economy tickets was only found by a traveler noticing Delta’s website had been quietly updated. Delta may have thought they could get away with not disclosing the award chart or even deluded themselves into thinking customers would not demand it just because Delta said, “trust us.”
- Oversight. Doubtful since from the first announcement and media quotes, this was asked and the answer was always that it would come out late 2014.
- It Wasn’t Ready. Various reports suggest the chart was ready to go but I have not seen an on the record quote from Delta that is was, and was it the only chart…
- Testing the Reaction. This is the cynical option, that Delta may have had something much worse in store so wanted to test the reaction to the overall changes. Seeing it was so negative, and so much public pressure focused on the missing award chart, they rush out a less negative chart and only have US & Canada ready.
I have no insight into Delta’s decision making except what I have seen as a customer since the merger. #1 seems most likely to me. There is no limit to the arrogance of Delta as it is riding high. #2 & #3 I doubt. #4 seems possible.
It would be interesting to know the inside story.
This is a good wake-up call to use miles where they deliver the most. Delta’s SkyTeam partners reach some otherwise very expensive and exciting destinations poorly served by competitor alliances. See my Where and How to Reedem SkyMiles Now. Go for it!