When Your Airline Sucks — Do You Need to Tell Them?


Do you complain when your favorite airline comes up with yet another way to screw you? Does it ever make sense?

A lot of people say no. The are gonna do what they are gonna do. If they decide to go with their devaluation, they will anyway. Just move on with your life. Along those lines.

Sun Country uFly “Enhancements”

I was reminded about the issue when a small Minneapolis-based airline Sun Country has taken a huge dump on its frequent flyers, by cutting the uFly program award benefits roughly in half.

Sun Country is not a bad airline. It doesn’t have a lot of play with most of us because it’s relatively small, and everything is a connecting flight if you don’t live in or close to Minneapolis. I’ve written about Sun Country before and featured its credit card with a 40,000-mile sign up bonus in my Free Flights section. I’m going to take it off as soon as I’m done with this post, because I can’t recommend it any longer.

Devaluing the program is only one part of the offence in my book, and hardly the worst part. The worst part is when a devaluation comes without a warning, effective immediately.

Which is a totally legal, yet utterly douchebaggy thing to do. Cutting award benefits without giving your members a chance to redeem flights at the old rates is right in the top drawer of a douchebaggery file cabinet.

With that in mind I sent them a cheerful, lighthearted tweet:

Here is why you need to tell airlines when they suck, IMHO.

Because otherwise they won’t know

FFPs (Frequent Flyer Programs) don’t just raise levels and cut benefits without notice to piss people off (well, except for Delta). It’s a cost-cutting measure. If they don’t get pushback from us, it’s a validation of sorts. It means they’ve done everything right. It means attaboy. You don’t want them to feel attaboy. You want them to feel like crap when they do something crappy.

Because their customers won’t know

Last fall, when AA decided to strangle AAdvantage with a vacuum cleaner cord, they couldn’t be more excited about it.AA TWEET

Well, what really lied ahead were ruins, barren landscape, lost road warriors, and intentional destruction of the world-best frequent flyer program, but that’s not the point. Look at the pic above. You see 143 idiots who “liked” it, and 73 who re-twitted that “fantastic” news for all their followers to see.

Who wants to bet that:

  • About 95% of these knuckleheads didn’t even click on the AA link;
  • About 5% of those who did, stopped reading after the first few lines?

Since we know a tiny little bit more about the industry and loyalty programs than an average pax, I believe it’s our sacred duty to educate the public by telling them when their favorite airline sucks. Not even mentioning it’s in our own best interest.

Because it is in our own best interest

While FFPs rarely roll back unpopular changes, there is plenty of evidence that getting pushback from the public has often made them thread lightly down the road. When Delta revamped Skymiles in January 2015, they kept giving away stopovers for at least a couple of months due to incessant complaints that followed.

When AA pulled a disappearing act on the Explorer Award in April 2015, the outcry that followed forced them to pledge they would never do anything like that again. And as bad as the latest devaluation was, we did have ample time to redeem our miles at the old levels.

When Alaska jacked up the Emirates award levels back in March without any notice at all, the resulting criticism forced them (after having blamed brokers, hackers, werewolves and Attila the Hun) to pledge the same thing — that they would never change their rules without at least a 30-day notice.

I’d say, we have enough hard evidence to believe that they do care about what we think, but only if or when there is a critical mass. Spending a few seconds of your life to send an email or a tweet is a low price to pay for a shot at a less crappy devaluation down the road.

Because corporations are people

No, I’m not out of my mind, or a Supreme Court nominee. Corporations are people in the way that people work for them. Bad people, good people, smart people and silly people — behind that massive corporate facade a lot of activity, arguments, hastily-made presentations, coffee burns, and late night meetings must take place before the corporation comes up to decisions that affect us all. I’m quite sure, American Airlines didn’t get to axe the Explorer Award the way it did without at least some internal opposition.

So let’s speak out and help this opposition. Send an email, send a tweet, give good corporate people some ammunition to work on our behalf. Maybe next time when they are debating whether or not we deserve a prior notice, they’ll print your tweet or email and bring it to the meeting. Try it just for the sport of it instead of tweeting what you’re about to eat for supper. See how many seconds it takes. Even if you never fly Sun Country, do it anyway, because, guess what, airline people also talk to each other.

And because it’s true.


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Just wanted to say congrats on making it to TBB’s blogroll! Don’t forget us little commenters when you start making the big affiliate bucks coz of his…. uh, wait, nvm!


A very sensible perspective. Good to remind us, since we all forget.

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