Delta Airlines, Hotel, and Casino


Delta Airlines never fails to inspire. See one of my previous takes on their bad habits:


It seems that every blogger by now has already stated their opinion about the latest Delta Team Assault (hey, massacre and bloodbath are already taken). But in case you’ve just gotten back from your latest business trip to the moon, I will recap briefly.

  • In 2015, Delta SkyMiles will become a revenue-based program.

Yep, that’s it.

“But that can’t be it, right?” you ask. “How about some details?” you ask. “And what about that hotel and casino nonsense?” you ask. OK, OK…

In a clumsy attempt to hide the stick behind  the carrot, they promised “improved low award availability” (whatever that means) and five new redemption tiers instead of existing three. Really? Why only five? Why not six or twelve to keep more of your bean counters busy? Like the suggestion, Delta? I thought you would!

We’ll get to the casino part, I promise. But if you want the details, I’ll give you the details.

Miles for Delta flights¹ will be earned based on ticket price instead of distance flown. So when you pay a higher price, you’ll be rewarded with more miles—up to 75,000 per ticket.

No!!! You don’t say!

More details? Here goes.

Delta Miles 1

But what about the redemption part? What if you want to know what your SkyPesos are going to be worth next year? That makes two of us; unfortunately, this it where Delta gets extremely shy. They will only let us know by the end of the year, perhaps to spare us all that premature stress.

See for yourself if you don’t believe me, but I gotta tell you: it hurts!

Reaction from bloggers and mainstream journalists has varied from disbelief to outrage, to praise, to indifference. Not really surprising. But why hotel and casino, you’re asking again? Patience, my friend, we’re getting there.

Regarding the praise, there were a few folks who have gone above and beyond. Enters legendary Randy Peterson. The highlights are mine, of course. Sorry folks, couldn’t risk you missing these pearls.

We believe that Delta has chosen a very conservative and responsible approach to their 33-year old frequent flyer program, respecting their current members, while transforming the industry to be relevant for the next 33 years.

And he goes on. And on. And on. Is he running for a Joe Biden?

One of the truly ironic things about this change is that it could easily be seen as being motivated by money [it’s not?]. But Delta just recently reported $506 million in earned profit sharing for its employees—the highest in company history [and your point is?]. So it doesn’t appear to be related just to money [uhm… no, really?]. Good management and understanding the future seems to be why Delta earned Airline of the Year accolades.

Yey! Aleluja! Bravo! Give a big hand! Where are the flowers? Give me some flowers I tell you! Or firecrackers. Or, I don’t know, Molotov cocktail?

Wow, Randy! You have really come the long way!

But not as long as this guy who insists that Delta move was brilliant. Wait, let me put it in quotation marks. Yes, “brilliant”!  Just like that.

The plan is brilliant. The execution a work of art.

I don’t know, perhaps if my important source of income was called Delta Points, I too would feel as if I have no choice but to suck up no matter what. But this… I just don’t know. That was too much tongue. You know, too much tongue can and should be avoided. I’m sure, a simple kiss on cheek would suffice. Seriously, left cheek or right cheek–your choice, but please skip the dark matter in the middle. That’s too unsightly!

And I’m surely not the only one who appreciates this provocative title promoting the illusion of objectivity.


Great job! It’s your execution that’s indeed “the work of art”. I was really tempted to pretend I had no idea and ask the author what his answer was. Wow!

Then there was Wandering Aramean. I love his blog. I love his travel reports, his apps, and his analyses. He’s very different, somewhat of a white crow and he’s not scared  to speak up his mind. So I was reading his piece, nodding in agreement at some points like this:

Delta and American Express have a nice, cozy relationship and AmEx provides a lot of revenue to Delta. And they still will continue to do so. With CC-based points earning being such a large component of the “game” these days it seems quite unlikely that much of anything is changing for the most aggressive arbitrage players. They likely weren’t earning the bulk of their points via flying anyways so the game stays very close to the same as it was before.

Felt like it was written about me. In all honesty, I really couldn’t care less about Delta. They are lost cause. However, unlike Seth I am concerned that a revenue-based redemption program–if it is going to be revenue-based, which I’m sure it will be–is going to set the wrong example to other legacies. And yes, by other I mean the remaining two!

Revenue-based redemption programs are bad for us, mile addicts. It’s that easy. If you think I’m wrong, tell me why. I don’t mind to learn a thing or two.

Moving on.

I enjoyed the article, but didn’t see the comments at the time. Then I read this Seth’s quote on TBB.

The whole point of loyalty is that you do it because you want to do it, not because you get something out of it. In many cases the true test of loyalty is maintaining it in the face of a challenge, not when you are profiting/benefiting from it.


I went back to WA and lo and behold, the quote was there, right in the comments section.

I took my eyes away from the screen for a moment and punched myself in the face. Ouch! That hurt so I knew I wasn’t dreaming. Did Seth really, and I mean, really mean that?

Let me get this straight. So if you’re loyal, you’re supposed to stay loyal no matter what! No matter how much or how often they screw you (and not in a good way), you shouldn’t make a squeak. Whether slapped in the face or stabbed in the back (and as you know, Delta has done both) you shouldn’t complain. Because loyalty means… well, what exactly? Everlasting endurance?

Staying loyal in the face of challenge is right when your loved one gets sick. Staying loyal to a company that takes advantage of your loyalty at every turn is wrong, and, I’m afraid, nothing short of stupid!

Seriously, are we talking about the same airline? Delta? The same conniving, arrogant, patronizing airline that devalued their program twice within the course of three months? The same airline that has maintained their intentionally broken award chart? The same airline that–like no one-else-ever–has gone above and beyond to alienate their loyal members?

You know, even if Delta hasn’t done any other transgressions against SkyMiles members, their broken award chart alone is already enough of an insult. “Broken” is not the right word, of course. This calendar was designed this way from the beginning, and I will bet it cost Delta a lot of money to make it to their liking. And it has cost them a lot of nerve to keep it that way for years, ignoring thousands and thousands of complaints.

Delta has proven time and again that they can move things around very quickly when they put their mind to it. They can reorganize their fleet, buy a freaking refinery, strategize and execute two major devaluations in less than three months. But for some unbeknownst reason (unbeknownst, my ass!), they can’t, just can’t ensure that green squares display actual low award availability, and that yellow squares display actual standard availability. And they can’t figure—for the life of them—why you often get an error even when you sometimes (due to some divine intervention, perhaps) have found your award after a few hours of agony. And they have no idea why their agents can’t see the same redemption you see. That’s too complicated, I guess. So 23rd century!

Still want to know why Hotel and Casino are in the title? Wait just a tiny little longer, and I’ll explain.

Twitter has responded to the news with two hashtags: #boycottdelta and #skymiles2015. I don’t know, but history has taught me to question the resolve of popular outrage. I remember #unitedunfriendly that died a quick and painless death not that long ago. Here is my favorite tweet on the topic from a guy who obviously knows his stuff:

Not ONE Delta exec I’ve talked to since Wed wants to own decision not to release award charts. Conclusion: They’re worse than we can imagine

I tend to agree. In the last few years, they have never tweaked anything in SkyMiles without screwing their members. To all Delta apologists, if I’m wrong, tell me what exactly I am missing. If I’m not, shut up and stop speculating what a great redemption program Delta might give us in 2015.

Because you and I know, they will screw us again. Wishful thinking has never helped anyone.

So why Hotel and Casino? OK, thank you for your patience.

Using several award tiers is how hotel loyalty programs operate. Not airlines. Right now, they have three award redemption tiers: Normal, Outrageous, and Out-of-their-mind. I have no idea why they want to add two more tiers to this scheme that’s been working so well for them (in a sense that normal redemptions are never available anyway, at least to places where you want to go). Perhaps, they want to nuance them a little better? Why not add a Very outrageous tier between the Outrageous, and Out-of-their-mind? Or Elevated tier between Normal and Outrageous? Or maybe they just want to add even more complexity to their program just for the kinks; to make freeloaders AKA SkyMile members sweat some more, you know.  

As to the casino reference, that’s easy enough. Just like casino bosses are salivating over high rollers, Delta is salivating over high fliers. Their message is very clear indeed: you want more miles–ditch low fares. Do what you have to do, but if you want your free flights, your upgrades, your desired recline, and your pre-flight beverage, stop looking for an easy way out and pay more. Much more, in fact. For the rest of you, cheap bastards, turn right, go all way down, and get squashed in your main cabin’s middle seat with the rest of the “unwashed masses”.

See this: Delta Brings Class War into the Air. Love the title.

Here is the quote from my most favorite review on the topic, and it, non-surprisingly, belongs to Gary Leff.

Pushback matters, whether or not Delta will rollback any of their changes.

You know, all these praises and reverence to Delta’s smartness, brilliance, and boldness make me a little dizzy. Brilliant? A bully doesn’t have to and doesn’t need to be brilliant. A bully has always and will always beat the smartest geek in the class with a brute physical force. Their modus of operandi is push and keep pushing until the victim is broken or until she starts pushing back. They always gouge the limits of how far they can go without retribution. I think this is exactly what Delta has been trying to achieve.

They devalued SkyMiles back in August, and no one squeaked. Check!

They devalued it again in November to more outrage, but even that outrage lasted about 7 seconds.

Then there was a SkyClub hike. Again, the only ones outraged? Bloggers and hobbyists. Seriously, I don’t know what spell Delta has cast on its members, but I would love to get my hands on that formula!

However, now that  they have given birth to this Frankenstein, there might be a hope that they’ve finally gone too far. Just like a school bully, they might be trying to gouge people’s reaction before revealing the second and the most important part of the deal–redemptions! Depending on the pushback, they might remain flexible on that.

However, the pushback shouldn’t come from bloggers or hobbyists. Bloggers and hobbyists don’t matter to Delta. They would probably send us flowers if we decided to quit.

No, the pushback must come from their real business revenue-flying base, and it  can’t be emails, letters or threats.

Because when you scream at them–they don’t hear. When you threaten to leave–they only laugh.

What do they hear? The money rustle. You know, that sound that money makes when it flows away to another airline. The only way to be heard is to actually stop flying with Delta for a while and tell them the reason why. And believe me, you won’t have to scream because they will still listen!

Let me say something that might sound really disturbing to every Delta fanboy out there.

Delta is not that much better than others domestic airlines. I’m a free agent, and I just know.

Yes, they do have a slightly better hard product (on some routes) than other legacies, and they often have friendlier service. But the keyword here is slightly! You won’t miss much.

Of course, none of this helps the captives. My condolences to every single one of you!

For everyone else who is not a captive, or a high flyer, do yourself a favor and switch to other airlines, even if for a while and don’t forget to tell them why you left Delta. If that happens over and over again, Delta might reconsider. And if they don’t reconsider, their competitors will sure as hell take a notice, and Delta with all their “innovations” won’t matter so much.

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As others have already noted, although Randy has done great services for the community of flyers in creating FT and MP, his primary line of business now is consulting for travel companies. As a result, don’t expect him to excoriate any airlines or hotel chains soon.

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