When US Airways announced its pending domestic alliance with United Airlines, rumors of a domestic alliance between Delta, Continental and Northwest Airlines immediately began swirling. These rumors may very well have merit, especially when considered in relation to the previous rumors of a merger between Delta and Continental.
In fact, we have discovered a number of strange-but-true oddities with regard to a potential alliance that might have escaped the notice of most so-called experts.
For example, Continental calls its upgraded business class BusinessFirst while Delta’s is called BusinessElite. Quite similar don’t you think? In an alliance we would guess they could settle for FirstElite and make us all happy. And have you noticed that Continental, Delta and Northwest all have frequent flyer program names that are “joined words” (OnePass, SkyMiles and WorldPerks)? Also, all three have weak international alliances (Wings(?) and SkyTeam … excuse us while we go answer the phone — we think we hear all three of these airlines calling us right now). And perhaps strangest of all, each of these programs have one partner that does not participate in the American Express Membership Rewards program (United and Northwest) and each has one partner that does not participate in the Hilton HHonors Rewards Exchange (Northwest and US Airways).
In all seriousness, if these rumors prove accurate, the reciprocal arrangement of frequent flyer programs among these three airlines will prove an interesting clash of cultures. Continental and Northwest have long used upgrades to promote and reward member loyalty, while Delta has a number of restrictions that prevent members from equal access to these upgrades — including some of its most valuable members with the L & M fare restrictions.
FINAL NOTE: If completed, this alliance will be done solely for defensive purposes and with an eye toward the revenue impact it may give each of the players — not for the benefits of their frequent flyer programs.