Shortly after the disappearance of the SkyMiles award charts a few months ago, I encouraged Delta Air Lines to rip the bandage off SkyMiles already. In that post I said
“I believe all of this has been part of a plan to take SkyMiles to a purely revenue-based program, something more like Rapid Rewards than the traditional airline mileage program. I’m not one who religiously believes that one mile flown = one mile earned is the way to reward, and I think the words I’ve shared here on the topic support me on that. At the same time, I think it is incumbent upon any organization, whether they be an airline or a lawn service, to be upfront with its customers. There are legitimate reasons to change business models, business practices, and yes, even loyalty programs. What I don’t understand is why Delta continues to put off what it must see as the inevitable end state of SkyMiles. Every little cut just re-hashes the same bruised feelings and anger among fliers. I really think yesterday was a major event, and many of us are at a crossroads when it comes to loyalty.”
Nothing that was announced yesterday was all that surprising in the aggregate. The writing has been on the wall for months, if not years. I also wasn’t surprised that Delta implemented its award pricing changes without much in the way of notice. As I said yesterday, June 2016 seems far away, but it really isn’t when you consider that the reservations booking window opens at 330 days out.
Rightly or wrongly (and for the record – I still don’t buy the argument), the lawyers at Delta have convinced themselves that award pricing and dollar pricing are essentially the same thing, and a move to a revenue-based program only solidifies that opinion. I would not look for that stance to change in light of a pretty big data call from the DOJ on pricing. In other words, I think no-notice changes are even more likely when it comes to SkyMiles, and perhaps other programs too.
Mark my words, 2015 will be a year to remember, and the bandage has come off. Now, all eyes turn towards Fort Worth.
-MJ, July 15, 2015