Letters – January, 22 2003

Letters – January, 22 2003

Changes to Delta Medallion Program
Below is a letter sent to Patrice G. Miles, Vice President of Consumer Marketing at Delta, concerning the changes to Medallion program from a longtime Platinum Medallion member. I would like to share these thoughts with you and other Platinum Medallion flyers. Thanks.

Dear Ms. Miles:
Since the Platinum Medallion program began in 1995, it has been the best top-level elite program in the industry and my primary reason for choosing to fly with Delta. Although several changes have occurred over the years, it has still remained the best. With the proposed changes recently announced, I can no longer say that. Platinum Medallion will go from the best program to one of the worst faster than you can say bankruptcy.

I understand the need for changes, but some of the proposed changes are unacceptable. First, Delta said that the same number of people will still qualify, but slightly more people will move up in status. This will not be the case for me or several others that qualify by flying 100 segments a year. Qualifying by segments recognizes those who spend the most time in airports getting to their destination. I fly out of Greensboro, and unless I am going to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Orlando, or New York, I have no choice but to connect. I also fly mostly to east coast cities, so the majority of my flight segments are less than two hours. I’m also able to plan my trips a few weeks in advance, plus competition has lowered fares for many markets. Delta says that the new program will reward customers based on the fare they choose. In today’s economy, no one will choose to pay two or three times the lowest available fare just to obtain more qualifying miles. It simply isn’t worth the difference. The fares customers choose to purchase are based on company policies, client expectations, and market factors. Now, I will be punished for being organized and living in a city where a connection is the norm and competition dictates airfares. Based on my estimates from the past few years, I would have to fly about 40 percent more just to requalify for Platinum Medallion. Delta needs to keep a means of qualifying by flying segments.

Although there will be no changes for upgrade procedures for 2003, the changes for complimentary segment upgrades for Platinum Medallion in 2004 are a complete joke. Going from unlimited segment upgrades to four for every 10,000 qualifying miles is completely unacceptable. US Airways recently changed from 800 mile upgrades to 500 mile upgrades, but their Chairman’s Preferred members still have unlimited complimentary upgrades. Even their Gold Preferred members receive 16 upgrades for every 10,000 miles. One of the main reasons I fly with Delta as a Platinum Medallion is the ability to upgrade. I can understand and agree with the changes on imposing the 100-hour time limit for discounted fares, but the fact that I will not have any upgrades to use makes that change obsolete. In addition, I have always bought K-class fares or higher even though lower fares were available. Since I will have a limited number of upgrades, I will be purchasing more deeply discounted tickets resulting in a loss of revenue for Delta. Finally, 25,000 miles for four segment upgrades…come on! I might as well use 40,000 miles for a first-class round trip ticket to the west coast and leave Delta with $0 revenue and few extra miles in my account.

Some of the other changes, such as upgrading deeply discounted fares on the day of departure and the addition of Gold and Platinum Medallion lifetime status for long-term recognition are overdue. But the changes to qualifying and segment upgrades will not be tolerated. The difference in benefits received for being Platinum Medallion made it much more lucrative than the other levels of Medallion membership. Now, those differences are minuscule and will not be incentive enough to continue qualifying at the Platinum Medallion level. For years, I have bragged about how Platinum Medallion is the best program out there. Unless these changes are revoked or revised in an acceptable manner, I will be taking my business and loyalty to other airlines. For the past 13 years, I have flown nearly 1,800,000 miles and have been extremely pleased with my overall experience with Delta. I have accepted and understood the changes in the past, but no more!

I’m sure my feelings agree with the majority of Platinum Medallion members. We are the ones flying every week and providing Delta with a continual source of revenue. That will no longer be the case with these proposed changes. I’m sure your competition is anxiously waiting to lure us away, and for the first time, many of us will actually listen to what they say and take them up on their offer. Delta needs to do the right thing and keep their Platinum Medallion members satisfied and their loyalty intact.

Jay Zollicoffer

Headlights on Hilton
(Editor’s note: the following letter was sent to Hilton)

Dear Mr. Diskin,
I am a Diamond Member and stayed in your hotels 54 times last year (84 nights), so I believe I must be one of your better customers. Overall, you received the vast majority of my business, which was about 70 stays and 110 nights. Your change in the program takes probably one of the best programs to a run-of-the-mill one. I just compared hotels on two trips I want to take next fall and across the board every hotel went up. Your statement that two-thirds (of properties) remained the same or less is just plain false.

Maybe your statement is true if you stay only one night, but from category 1 to category 6 if you stay more than one night, it costs you more points, because there is no discount for extra nights. I assume that some hotels went down in status, but since the bottom has gone up as has the top, there is no way your statement could be true. In addition, your going Global takes far more points. As for Diamond level, the main reason is to get the VIP awards, and they have gone up by 75 percent. I have bragged to many of my friends that also travel about your program, but now it has no real advantages. The double-dip is nice, but not a reason to go out of my way to stay at one of your properties, especially since you also appear to have gone away from doubling points as opposed to points and miles.

Bottom line is that both Marriott and Holiday Inn have as good if not a better program now, and the Holiday Inn has a property near our Corporate Offices which I have to stay in between 12 and 15 nights a year. I am in the process of planning trips for next year, and I hope you reconsider your program or I assume others such as myself will do a little more shopping.
Charlie Pfitzer

More Delta
(Editor’s note: the following letter was sent to Delta Air Lines)

Dear Mr. Mullin,
We received an email today outlining changes in the Delta SkyMiles program. In a nutshell, only those who pay full-fare will be able to qualify for Medallion level in the future. If this is your intent, then this will be the effective end of SkyMiles for most of us current members. This move will also accelerate the trend of having many flyers just flying on (lowest) price only, rather than on a favorite airline. This is not the way to maintain customer loyalty.

We are very much aware of the problems facing Delta and other full-service carriers. However, this move is “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” I switched my flying to Delta in 1995 due to my need for international travel. I have been Gold Medallion since then and stayed with Delta, as I have been well-treated. My wife joined SkyMiles in 1998 and is also a Gold Medallion. We also have continued to fly as usual since September 11th and have shown our loyalty to Delta! Where is your loyalty to us?!

I believe that Delta needs to re-think this matter. The days of penalizing your best customers with the highest fares are over – just read The Wall Street Journal.

However, if the future for Delta will be to focus only on maximizing revenue and effectively eliminating customer loyalty, then just be honest with us. We (and most Gold Medallions) certainly have other options for travel. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Stephen J. Van Cleave, MD
Maria D. A. Van Cleave, PA-C

Continental Concern
This is a copy of a recent email I sent to Continental Airlines. I did tell them I would be sharing this email with you:

This last year I’ve seen how the airline industry has used the unfortunate incidents of September 11 as the excuse for bad financial data and justification for decrease in customer service. A few years back, the public called for a Passenger’s Bill of Rights, and the lobbyists in Washington managed to get Congress not to pass one.

This year, we see how many airlines have decided to cut back costs by hurting and nickel-and-dimeing those passengers that over the years have been the most loyal. As you would have noticed (maybe not), I failed to make Silver Elite this year, even though for the last three years I have been flying Continental as a preferred airline. I have done this to show my dissatisfaction with your program. Because I could see the writing on the wall months ago, and your recent changes to the way we redeem award miles are indicative of things to come, and I will not show loyalty to a program that ever since I’ve moved to the UK has made it more difficult for me to use my miles and when trying to get anything answered in terms of questions regarding upgrades, I am normally met with a “Nothing we can do” or “We can change this program at any time; it says so on the fine print.”

I am writing this email to show my dissatisfaction with this program and to let you know that as you say when we land, “We know you have a choice on air carrier.” I am exercising that right. The past year I have remained an AAdvantage Gold Member with American Airlines, and have met this year’s 25,000 miles qualifying quota. I find their program more straightforward, and also find their Economy seats more spacious. That’s enough to make me a loyal customer.

The last year I spent over $5,000 of personal travel money to fly Continental, some of it for myself (the only miles I accrued) and most of it for both my mother and cousin to visit me from Panama to London. I had to change their itineraries a few times to be able to upgrade them with more than 80,000 miles that I had accrued. Then I find out that Continental changed their return flight to one that wouldn’t allow them to make a connection in Newark in time, without anyone from Continental even bothering to tell me (my number and email were on their itineraries), and I had to pay over $125 to have them change so that they wouldn’t miss their flights or upgrades. Your answer to my complaint was “Those are the rules, and there is nothing we can do.”

Well, fortunately, there is something I can do, and that is to be loyal to someone who cares.
Ruben Ruiloba

South By Northwest?
I understand Sprint pulled out of Northwest last spring. However, current PCS users were assured that Sprint would still offer 5X miles through March 2003. I wish. Sprint stopped awarding me any NW miles in April 2002. I contacted both NW and Sprint numerous times (as long as my patience could remain on hold) and have been told it should take 8-12 weeks to reinstate (and that hasn’t happened). Can you please help me on this matter?

Have a great new year.
Ken Glass

[Editor’s note: Knowing the Sprint folks fairly well, we’ll be happy to intercede on your behalf, Ken. And for those reading — yes, the miles relationship with Sprint lasts into March of this year. With MCI having exited other frequent flyer programs as a partner, we’re still unsure if MCI will continue with Northwest (the ink on the deal is still relatively fresh) or if we will see an announcement that Sprint will continue as a partner. Then there’s always AT&T. In our March issue, we hope to have the answer for you all, especially Ken and his missing miles.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *