The past year has been brutal. It started with the wildly popular and successful American Express Centurion lounges gutting the value of the clubs by limiting the access to only 3 hours before flight for holders of the Amex Platinum personal (learn more and compare) or business cards (learn more and compare). They also dumped access upon arrival and limited spa access to 1x per visit from unlimited based on availability. The latter two really are the biggest impact and reduction in value for the sizable annual fees the cards charge. Amex really could have made better choices and I feel many have chosen not to renew their cards due to these harsh changes. A mistake IMO because the cards still offer huge value to those who know how to utilize them.
Last week we learned that “The Club” Lounges, that are part of the Priority Pass network, have chosen to copy the horrid Amex Centurion lounge access rules starting 1 September 2019. This is a huge mistake. These third-party lounges are a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the airline gate areas — but nothing like the Amex Centurion experience nor other airline lounges. While I would never seek out spending more than 3 hours at these lounges, I have used the showers on arrival and there have been times I have had long layovers and used them for a quiet place to work. This is yet another cut to the value of the Amex Platinum personal (learn more and compare) or business cards (learn more and compare) via the Priority Pass perk.
Let’s not forget that Amex Platinum personal (learn more and compare) or business cards (learn more and compare) also, unlike other cards, are also cutting from Priority Pass the restaurant credits for up to two people (places like this one in JFK).
One thing constant in the travel industry is the “monkey see monkey do” attitude, that is, when one does it the others tend to follow – even when the ideas are dumb and have negative results. Delta was the first US airline to decimate the SkyMiles program by hiding the award charts and moving to a majority 1 cent per point value baseline. Other than the year after year US NEWS real award winning program Alaska Airlines, all of the other airlines are on the way to clone what Delta has done.
Delta, as of January 1st this year, completely obliterated the value of paying for club membership because, in reality, membership is totally pointless. By simply holding the Amex Platinum personal (learn more and compare) or business cards (learn more and compare) you have every single perk that a real club “member” holds for so much less (plus a ton of perks members don’t get). This change is unsustainable. Something has to give — and my guess is more negative changes will hit us soon (they tend to hit about this time of the year, FYI). So what do I see happening? Take a look.
Delta Sky Clubs, despite so many attempts to reduce overcrowding, are still packed. Limiting access to only those flying Delta or SkyTeam partners even for those with full membership has had little effect (other than upsetting paying club members, that is). I see Delta taking the next step by also implementing the 3-hour rule other lounges have put in place. That is, you can say goodbye to club access upon arrival much like already in place with partners when flying business class.
This change could also work to give a tiny bit of value “back” if you will, to club membership by allowing those members to have access upon arrival to the Sky Clubs. They can even spin this that “we have heard you” and are adding value back (when they really took something away).
So just what else do I possibly see being cut by year-end? My sources tell me that the now two year running 1x lifetime waiver for the ¼ million dollar Delta Amex card spend for MQD Diamond waiver (i.e. you only have to spend 25k to be MQD exempt) will not return for 2020. Delta seems to have ridden out the anger over this crazy spend change and those who tossed in the towel and moved on were not enough of an impact to change course for the airline. Sad.
I promise you that Delta hates Global Upgrade certs. The person who worked so hard to get them added as a program perk faced major push back to get it done. While I know many would like more of these and even the chance for Platinum Medallion to get them, I can see these going away soon. They really are now the single most valuable perk of reaching Diamond medallion status and that simply can not remain in the cut-cut-cut world of Delta 2020.
Up next, SkyMiles changes. Before you yell at me in the comments below, I get that the program has already been reduced to a new 1 cent per point rebate program so how much worse could it get? Just wait – you will see. In August many years ago now Delta implemented the 72-hour rule, that is, you can only cancel and re-deposit an award ticket if it is more than 72 hours from the first flight (free for Platinum and Diamond medallions). I can see this rule expanding to 1 week or more. Beyond that I can see the free re-deposit, that now applies to the account holder not the persons flying, expanding to only those who are on the same reservations as the elite whose account the points come out of. Again, don’t yell at me, I know Delta is already considering these and many other nasty changes you will hate.
Well, all of this is depressing and frustrating… is there anything good on the way for 2020? Yes, Delta is going to offer free “SlowGo” but will still charge you for “real” speed. Delta is slowly replacing all the outdated Delta One seats but on peak travel dates you can drain your total SkyMiles account with just one trip. Bottom line, don’t expect anything to get too excited about beyond what is already in place for the following travel year! – René
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