It’s hard to believe that a couple of paragraphs in a memo from the company travel department can have the impact that it did. Late last week I learned that a lot of my contractually obligated air travel is going to be transitioning from Delta to Southwest next year. Given the breadth of service that Delta offers here in Atlanta, I’ll admit that I had not seen this one coming. I truly don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, we are talking about airlines, not my family, but this is not a small deal for me. When you spend so much of your time with an airline, learning their ways, their habits, etc. You kind of get used to doing things a certain way when it comes to going to the airport. Now, that’s all going to change.

Certainly, I do have some flexibility with this. It’s usually not a problem to fly whomever I choose as long as I get an equivalent or lesser fare. That’s an option I will use when it makes sense. But the hard reality of all this is that I’m about to become a more routine Southwest Airlines flyer…..and I don’t much like it. Granted, Southwest should fit many of my business travel needs just fine – short haul flights up and down the east coast. However, I’ve become accustomed to the level of service and care I receive from Delta Air Lines. Not only do I feel cared for when flying Delta, they do an outstanding job of actually operating their published schedule. I haven’t flown Southwest in a few years, but rumors abound that they are not nearly as reliable as they used to be. Most of all, I think I’m dreading the idea of not receiving the benefits of Delta Platinum Medallion status. I’ve acknowledged in the past that Southwest can be quite good at what they do, and that likely hasn’t changed. Of course, I might feel better about this if Southwest had an established history of status matching. A-List would be worth something to me. In the past, I’ve purchased Early Bird Check In when flying Southwest, but that becomes a lot less attractive when you’re flying an airline every other week rather than every other year.

On the other hand, I could look at this as an opportunity. The opportunity could lie in freeing me from the idea that I must have status. Elite status is pretty easy for me to maintain right now, but splitting up my flying is going to make it more challenging. I’ll certainly fly enough to earn A-List with Southwest which will make their interesting boarding concept more tolerable for me. Further, with no change fees, Southwest offers me much of the flexibility from the get-go that I enjoy now thanks to Medallion status. I’ll also view this a couple hundred times.

In the end, I have no idea how this will all turn out. I’m actually a little surprised at myself for letting it get to me the way it has. Whatever happens, I’ll leverage the benefits of status for as long as I can, and explore ways to make Southwest Airlines work for me. Have you faced a similar change in your preferred airline? How did you deal with it?

-MJ, August 13, 2014