Social media instantly branded the recent changes announced by United for their MileagePlus program as a direct copy of the revenue-based changes Delta SkyMiles announced back in February. As I pointed out in InsideFlyer at the time, “United is not the wild card here. It wasn’t long after SkyMiles began requiring U.S. members of the program to spend a certain amount to earn elite status that United introduced a similar requirement for their elite status program. Point being that if United did not think this was a move in the right direction for the industry, they surely would not have adopted the change so quickly.”
A second point is even more important than the actions initially taken by United – and that is, they have very smartly drafted upon Delta’s announcement. Really, is there anyone who thinks that United was able to put together an in-house Swat Team of loyalty and other analysts and completely develop this new program from just looking at a public blueprint of Delta’s?
Sorry, this has been in the works at United since just prior to the merger of Continental and United. American and US Airways face a similar challenge; and I have mentioned this before, United blinked when trying to decide whether to introduce a new revenue-based program at the time of their merger of two airlines. And in hindsight, that turns out to have been a decision that now proves to be good for them.
Why? Because there is a checkmate as to where members can place their loyalty bishop on the board. A move to Delta SkyMiles would be considered a move ‘en passant’ and I doubt that a move to AAdvantage would be considered castling right now. It just might be, despite what I just said about MileagePlus, that United really did copy the SkyMiles program. And what really is, and has been part of the MileagePlus conversation? Yes, you guessed it, not just United, but Delta SkyMiles. Seems brilliant when you are not the sole focus of the attention.
By the time you read this, this topic will be so ‘yesterday’ except I predict that the ‘tail’ of the social media conversation in which MileagePlus is now part will last a lot longer than the roughly three weeks that the initial SkyMiles changes captured the forum crowd.
Here’s where we as members of MileagePlus (and yes, I sit in coach when flying American since I’m all in with MileagePlus) have excelled over the years – we have an uncanny ability to hold a conversation for an undetermined amount of time. There will be a call to “Save MileagePlus” but as we have found from the recent move by SkyMiles, there will be weariness in the actions of the most vigilant members.
Now, the loyalty board moves back to Dallas where this current trend among the ‘big boys’ began with the all-in move to a revenue-based program by Southwest Rapid Rewards in 2011. Will the ‘new AAdvantage’ mimic the ‘new American’ in which the mission statement announced by Doug Parker was, “We are taking the best of both US Airways and American Airlines to create a formidable competitor …” From what we now know, there is no current revenue-based loyalty program that is part of these two airlines. So could Doug might really have said, “We are taking the best of both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to create a formidable competitor …” and that is the track that those at Amon Carter Boulevard will now pursue? Or, will they stay the path and merge AAdvantage and Dividend Miles as is with truly the best of both and we’ll find out years from now whether there was ever a blink in Dallas?
I wish I had some advice for our readers who feel a need for analysis and action for their loyalty choices in the immediate future. But as I have tried to point out, we’re all part of a movement in the industry that will not allow any prudent moves right now because as we have seen so far, any prior moves have been rewarded with a false summit.
The best advice is likely to read the daily blogs out there on BoardingArea.com, which for the most part skip the signal to noise challenges that online forums specialize in.
See you all next month for another episode of “As the Miles Turn” …