In view of both the horrific changes Delta has made for 2015 and the ones Marriott made last year, I am questioning all loyalty programs. (And there have been a lot of sinkholes that swallowed up houses and cars lately which gave me the title.) I'm starting to see loyalty programs -- most of them -- as sinkholes. I have been a Delta cheerleader, Platinum Medallion Elite Plus member for many years, Skymiles member for about 40, and my travel is not cheap since it's all international. Even with my Amex Skymiles Reserve card (which will also go by the wayside if Delta does reconsider and I've used up all my miles and am no longer PMEP), I pay a hefty $450 a year, though the lounge access free is the key ingredient. It's currently now cheaper -- or will be -- to have a SkyClub membership through the Amex card (if you're alone) than it is to buy access. But somehow I am pretty sure that will change.
I don't think the grass is greener with other loyalty programs, airline or hotel. That is why if I'm at an airport or in a new country for the first time, I'm still likely to stay at a Marriott. But I am not going to be staying there for the points, and may even book it on one of the travel sites.
I think all most of us assumed because of the length of the FF and Hotel Loyalty programs that they'd always be there. I think most of the hotel chains were the canary in the coal mine that gave us an early indication that wasn't so when they started changing things a few years ago. Airlines had started making changes but they were more incremental and less obvious (at least if you were a high elite).
I think I only have 68 Marriott points left. I still have 200,000 FF miles after booking over 400,000 for my five business class trips to Europe this year. (They are cancellable without fee -- at least this year -- within a three-day window, so if things look like they could possibly change, I can always cancel and book a coach ticket and continue to get miles.)
I know from a revenue standpoint this is smart business for the airlines (maybe it was for hotels too, though now I am so happy with independent hotels I won't go back), but smart business has many components. And when you start really attacking your Platinum and Diamond members (or their equivalent) who pay about $15,000-$20,000 a year and have an Amex card (which let's face it, subsidizes most airlines) in favor of the short haul last minute business travel who pays top dollar (or rather their company does), there will be backlash. I could not have imagined even thinking I'd ever leave Delta. But it could happen as soon as next year. I might try going straight to KLM or Alitalia or FlyingBlue and see if they match for a period (EU rules may prevent such enormous changes), but otherwise I may let tripadvisor, trivago, or kayak plan my trips.
I feel your pain, prof. I started with Continental shortly before the Gold (then Platinum) for Life expired; 7 straight years at the highest tier (75K or above) and you were in permanently—naturally they discontinued it after my fifth year. Club membership for $2500, LIFETIME (woulda/coulda/shoulda). Since the merger with United, I have to travel no less than 100K to maintain top status (no hopes of GS realistically), PLUS $10K annual spend (all of the majors have gone that route). The club is $300/year at my level, but at least I can exchange miles for my membership each year.
I guess I'm lucky though; in a "short" year I'll still get ~130,000 miles/$15,000 spend. No worries there. As a Million Miler, I'm Gold for life, Platinum once the odometer rolls over that second million in the next year or so. On the hotel front, I've managed Lifetime Platinum with Marriott and an easy pickup of Diamond with Hilton annually.
Knowing how the programs will all be devalued a little at a time, I decided to quit fretting as there's nothing I can do about it, and just enjoy it while it lasts. I'm not worried about my post-working travel, I figure I'll be wheeled off the plane or a hotel room feet first before I retire.
You can still get reasonably good (for Delta) reward redemptions if you're flexible and especially the further out you book, at least for business class international. I'm planning to use my remaining 200K miles before the end of next January if I can -- since I am using all these miles on trips I won't be adding many new ones this year!
But then, if they don't rescind this, they will have lost me, whom they still refer to on the phone as a High Value Customer. From what I've figured out on FlyerTalk this hits international travelers the hardest, with greatest and least benefit.
So I will do what I did with hotels as I said in my original post, even though this is far more grievous in my view. I'll just find the best package on one of the many -- and increasingly rewarding -- travel sites.
ProfChiara: always a thoughtful post. I deserted Delta 20 years ago, having been the highest level in the program for 10+ years, then given poor treatment for paid flights, and redemptions, and the like, so I deserted Delta for United (pre CO merger) in 1993 and was at the top tier for 15 years, until they too did a number on me, at which point I went back to American, where I have been for the last 5 or 6 years, always in the top tier, and have, at least to date, been fairly well treated. I used up all of my Delta miles long ago, and used up the last of my UA miles for me and my family to fly "business first" to Europe this past Christmas.I have been loyal to Marriott for over 10 years, but have started to diversify my hotel stays, using Hyatt much more, having been a diamond with them about 15 years ago, till my Company decreed, no Hyatt's, due to a business matter (recent changes mean I can stay at Hyatt's again). Marriott has made some deep and long term impact changes to the Rewards program, so I am now staying on paid stays less and drawing down my point balance. I am hoping and praying that AA in the merger with US Air doesnt create a problem for its most loyal flyers, but that seems to be the game these days. Given my travel needs, and where I live, I can take any one of the major US airlines almost anywhere, and international is about the same, so if the deterioration becomes too severe, I will join one of the international FF programs and leave the US ones behind. I just want to have enough points to take my family (me, wife and 2 children) on a nice trip 1X per year, but that seems to be harder and harder with the devaluation occurring. With the loss of clubs due to the Am Ex Paltinum and AA split, I have a hard decison to make, so I think it will be sayonara to Am Ex and get a AA card with lounge access (I have been an Am Ex cardholder since 1978). The change of the rules is relly disheartening and the lack of two way loyaty is now upon us. So, as al, fo the travel comaponies say, We know you have a choice, and I for one, are making mine.
I agree, Stelzer! For me, Delta has always been obvious, because it goes from and to most of the places I fly, and until this (contrary to your experience) was always treated very well. The first thing I will do if this goes through as seems likely is try Flying Blue or maybe Alitalia (I don't want Schiphol to be my base airport in Europe) and see how that works, since both could get me to most places. And if that doesn't work, it's up to expedia, orbitz, and the others.
We do have a choice, and too many companies have forgotten about that.
Nothing is forever and when we assume that the status quo is quo, then they change the game, always to the advantage of the game maker and never the player. Alas, we are slaves to some of these programs (30 years a slave in my case and NO Oscar nods) and we find that we're left to wander and wonder about why.