Much like the paint job on this now (thankfully) gone Delta Connection CRJ-200 jet, the disastrous SkyMiles 2025 launch continues to generate buzz in the frequent flyer community (something Delta does not want to see) despite the airline’s CEO promise to shortly roll some things back (the key point is the rest is still coming just slowed down).
Delta clearly did not expect this kind of massive reaction as every other horrid change to either loyalty or the points program was met by a shrug of the shoulders by most participating in the program so why not this change as well? We know the reason because it really was going way too far.
So, now the airline is in damage control mode until they can come up with something less nasty to hopefully end the passionate response from so many of its long-time, loyal customers. What they are doing is telling us what they fear most and do not want to see as a developing trend.
We all should know by now that Delta is not really an airline – it is a points program that markets credit cards and happens to fly a bunch of jets as well. That is the impact of the widely publicized $7 billion they take in from the Amex partnership. But that is now very much at risk.
A Reddit user the other day mentioned even the Sky Club agents were trying to up-sell him on cards — and we posted here on the blog that it seems more flight attendants are pushing cards, as well. I myself got a push from Amex to upgrade to the Reserve card (I would not do this as I would rather apply for a new card with larger bonus than upgrade). The point of all of this is that there must be a drop off in new card acquisitions and that has Delta scared. They want MORE folks applying for cards – not less.
Another fear is Delta Amex cancellations. Here on the blog, we agree that under Delta 2025 there is little reason for most to hold more than one Delta card if you are staying loyal to Delta. For just about anyone else who still plans to fly Delta now and then, holding one of the cheapest yearly fee cards for free bags and discounted award tickets is the way to go. But we also are seeing by all reports that many are just done and dumping cards.
The next fear is folks stop spending on their cards. It is shocking to me how many people use their Delta Amex card (or cards) for everyday spending. With Delta SkyMiles holding so little value, almost any other card (even a 2% cash back card) is so much more valuable. But maybe the SkyMiles 2025 dump is the trigger to at last get folks to stop spending on Delta cards unless they need to for a new card bonus.
Then we have the fear that folks are booking other airlines’ first class products. The overwhelming comments I see from Delta loyalists are they simply always booked Delta because they want all Delta can offer them — including status and so on. We also know that first class seats offer a massively higher profit margin to the airline than coach seats. If blindly loyal Delta flyers find other airlines are not just cheaper in first class but offer a similar experience, they may never again return to being a 100% Delta-centered flyer. Lifetime shifts are hard to ever win back and Delta may have done that this time.
The last big thing is a permanent breakup. They do NOT want you status matching to American (who seems to be waiving match fees, BTW) or United or especially Alaska or Jet Blue who both are trying to poach you. If you go all-in with another airline you are likely to dump everything Delta and move on. I think there has been a wave of this — and more is on the way.
Bottom line: Delta is in damage control but I think they have so overplayed their hand that the horse has bolted so it’s too late to shut the door and the arrogant move to SkyMiles 2025 will finally hurt them like no other changes for the past 10 years! – René
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