As a Platinum Medallion Elite Plus with an Amex Reserve Skymiles card (which is most valuable for its lounge access), I've made my opinions about Delta's 2015 FF changes clear before now. But they keep adding insult to injury with some announced and more unannounced devaluations. My recent FF flight to and from Athens made this clear. When I went into the Skyteam lounge in Terminal E at Logan run by Air France, I was told despite status AND flying business class, that I could not enter without an invitation from Alitalia (which I was flying on a Delta ticket). Since I printed my booking pass at home and re-printed it at the airport at a kiosk and only had carry-on luggage, I had no reason to check in with the desk. The lounge attendant argued with me that I had to go out through security again, go to the Alitalia desk, and re-enter with an invitation, even while admitting that flying Business Class I had access to the lounge. Ya think? This led to 15 minutes of bickering until she finally copied down my information and let me in.
Returning home I went to the Skyteam Lounge in Athens, run by Swisshotel but with Delta and Skyteam plastered all over it inside and out. I was told in no uncertain terms I was not welcome. I showed all the appropriate PM and Reserve cards, and the attendant pulled out a May 1 notice from Delta stating that international flyers (unless they are flying business class) with the above credentials or less are not allowed admission to Skyteam clubs run by 'third parties' (this apparently includes AF and KLM). I eventually paid 30 euros for the 'privilege'.
Then, on the flight from JFK to BOS (which actually took off the same day for a change), I was upgraded to first class along with another man. We were both sitting there enjoying our drinks when the gate agent came on board and said we'd have to move back to our original seats because two passengers with first class seats had finally checked in. OK, I get that, but not what came next. She then said we'd have to either gulp our drinks or give them back! Fortunately the flight attendant intervened at that time.
With the other changes Delta has made, I will still make Platinum next year and fly Delta when it is worth my money (and burn my 500,000 miles), but otherwise not. I wrote to both Richard Anderson (CEO of Delta) and Ken Chenault (CEO of the Reserve Card section) snailmail to express my feelings in no uncertain terms.
All of you know what I did when Marriott changed its loyalty program a few years ago. I have been loyal to Delta for 30 years, and they are throwing that away. The lack of access to international lounges makes the Amex $450 reserve card useless to me (as I made clear to Mr. Chenault, I will be canceling it) since the places where I fly in Europe and the Middle East do not have Delta operated Skyclubs (they're usually AF or KLM, but also other airlines). This was the final straw.
Thanks, IAHFLYR! I'll report back when/if I get a response from the respective CEOs. I figured an email just wouldn't do in this case. Half the time (from Delta) emails are not answered, and when they are it is usually by someone half a world away who does not even fully read what you've written based on the responses.
What a ridiculous manner to have a magnificent trip tarnished. I have followed closely the changes at both Delta and United and we have been led to believe that the "new enhancement" would benefit the high value customers (like yourself). It does not appear to be the case. I wonder if the airlines will eventually kill the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.
wow, that is quite a sad story….
I have no doubt that all Legacy airlines will be following this new normal. With fewer airlines (with fewer seats), those getting upgraded will be full fare passengers or a select few super premium FF members. Lounge access is another sticking point. The New American Airlines is starting to wield it's newfound strength and I do not expect it to be pretty.
profchiara, You are absolutely right in feeling the way you do. Business and especially airlines just don't get it sometimes. I understand the business is complex but treating high repeat elite fliers poorly is just bad business and is very short sided. Unfortunately I think a lot of UA fliers felt the same over the past 4 years with all the garbage they have had to deal with. The merger, the union issues, the lousy service, and those announcements from Jeffie boy on every flight saying "we are going to take the best parts of each airline" yeah the best parts and throw them out the window. UA has become an airline with disgruntled elites just like Delta seems to be. I hear that UA Global Service members have had many bad experiences. Yeah let's take a person who hands in some cases tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in our pockets and **** them off. It just doesn't make sense. Upper management always SAYS they want to empower their employees but everyone knows that is a lie. If GAs and FAs had the abliity to make common sense judgement calls rather than following rigid procedures for every little thing the skies (and terminals) would be much friendlier.
I want to gag each time I have to watch their preflight video that says how many more opportunities will come with the new Skymiles in 2015. Who do they think they're kidding? As I think I mentioned a few months ago, I filled every international flight I'd taken for the past two years (about 18 total at about $1000-$1800 each), and for each one I would get 1/3 to less than half the points I now get for miles. In no case did I even come close to breaking even.
That's why I felt snailmails to the CEOs (even though I know they won't personally read the letter) might make them reconsider at least some aspects of the program. I WILL cancel Amex Reserve unless they change the foreign lounge policy back (BTW, the Swisshotel lounge I had to pay for was almost empty) since it will be absolutely useless without that perk. And for $450 a year, I expect something serious in return.
This is just stupid, as was the gate agent telling me and the guy who got upgraded to gulp our drinks or give them back. I have also noticed that for the past few years I was greeted by name by gate agents and flight attendants because of high status, but that has happened on only one of four flights to Europe this year.
It IS bad business when carried to this level of stupidity.
jerryl I think you hit the nail on the head. Dollars yesterday today and tomorrow will always be viewed higher than the accumulation of large sums over the past.
The thing is, I have been spending approximately $15,000-$20,000 a year consistently on flights booked on Delta. I know that's not first or business class spending, but it's not mileage runs either, and I think they should recognize that. BTW, when I wrote to the two CEOS I put both their names on the same letter so that Amex may get more attuned to what could happen.
Not knowing much about the SkyMiles (and SkyTeam) programs, I didn't know what to make of it, but after reading about the program (which more and more is requiring a special degree to understand all of the ins and outs, and not just with Delta) I am offended and appalled on your behalf.
From what I read, you should have had lounge access both at Logan and Athens, hands down (you flew business both directions, yes?) Very disappointing. Expectations can be everything.
As for the part about being kicked out of your upgraded first class seat with a refreshment in your hand? Wo-ooooow. Do airlines really do that? (I only fly f/c on rare occasions, but after reading this, I will NEVER be late for a first class flight, just so as not to embarrass or disappoint the passenger who got upgraded as a result of my tardiness!)
Just out of curiosity, is the SkyTeam lounge run by AF at Logan Terminal E worth it? Some airport lounges just aren't that great (overrated) in my experience.
To piggyback on one part of your story, it just reminded me about how passengers inconsiderately help themselves to another passenger's seat assignment (not you of course or at all, just your story reminded me of it). Permit me to express my disdain for passengers who board a plane, then incorrectly assume prior to all passengers boarding, that the empty seat next to them is up for grabs. So annoying! I do not yet have priority boarding on AS, and so am in no hurry to get in line for general boarding (the jockeying for line position thing is not how I roll, and besides, someone has to be last in line), so as a passenger boarding towards the end of the line (with probably a good 15-20 people behind me still), it irritates me to no end to arrive at my excellent seat assignment (cleverly acquired as a result of my own tenacious online work) and have some guy sitting in it all comfy/cozy look up at me in obvious irritation (which I find to be quite rude and even a little insulting) over the fact that I had the audacity (like him apparently) to show up for my flight, and then after he slides over, I have to suffer sitting next to that bubblehead for x amount of hours. People should at least have the patience and decency to wait until the cabin door is shut before claiming someone else's seat. Again, this has nothing to do with your situation, I'm just saying about mine.
Excellent comments, Pluto, and I agree completely about the people both finding the best seat they can regardless of assignment and also putting their luggage in the front overheads even when they're sitting in the back of the plane. Fortunately I am boarded nearly first, so I don't usually have a problem.
As to the Logan Terminal E lounge operated by AF, it's better than most Delta Skyclubs in the US, but that isn't saying much. The Terminal A Skyclub run by Delta has truly nice people staffing the desks, and I have come to know many, but has nothing in terms of food/drink selection compared to other lounges. Still, that is preferable to being treated like I was by the Air France people in Terminal E and their idiotic reasoning. I will see if this what I get as a response either to my initial email or from Anderson/Chenault, but my guess (as a result of what the AF women said at Logan) is that perhaps my Platinum status abroad IF I CHECK IN AT THE DESK (without having any reason to have to do so) might get me the desired invitations. I'll try it at the end of August in Rome.
Oh, I forgot something else. In Athens I reprinted my tickets at a kiosk so that my passport would show I really was there, and for some reason it did not print SkyPriority on it, even though the one my hotel in Imerovigli printed did. When I started to board, the Delta representation said: "You are not Sky Priority." I pointed to the top of my ticket then said "I am Platinum Medallion Elite Plus, which it did say, and showed her my Platinum card. I had to eventually dig out the hotel-printed ticket to prove I was SkyPriority.
Delta is going to hell in a handbasket...
On a happier flying note, Alitalia Business class was as fabulous as when I flew it back in March. I should not even say this for fear Delta will change it, but for some reason Alitalia always costs less miles to book free business class flights. And secondly, Aegean Air is great. I've now flown it 3 R/Ts in the past two years, always assuming that with my connections from the US and going out through security and back in that I'd miss flights or there'd be strikes, etc. Instead I have found Aegean to be extraordinarily punctual, really friendly, and they even feed you something no matter what time of day you're flying. Even on the short flight from Santorini in economy they offered us all croissants. I wasn't surprised to learn it has won the best regional airline award in Europe.
I used a SkyTeam lounge at ATL (I can't remember which terminal, it was not international) and I expected it to be good, since ATL is Delta's main hub, but it was just okay: a little bit too warm (in November), crowded, no better view than at the gate, cheap wine (or good wine for $10), celery, olives, pretzels/tiny crackers, marginal wifi. Huh. Not what I was expecting. Now that outdoor lounge terrace in ATL that jerrycoin posted in his Air France to Paris! thread admittedly looked pretty exciting, but I think it was an AF lounge.
The AS lounges at Seatac and PDX - AS's two main hubs no less - are just plain silly. I'd rather spend money in a restaurant with a runway view, eating delicious PNW fresh catch and drinking PNW wines over sitting in the AS Board Room [more like 'bored' room] staring at celery, little pretzel sticks, Goldfish crackers, watery soup and cheap wine and with no view).
Of course if I flew B or F more often and enjoyed a nice complimentary in-flight meal (domestic flights), I probably wouldn't care about lounge snack offerings, good or bad. (Okay, but honestly? Some of the snack offerings in lounges are just plain pathetic, especially in consideration of what people have to spend to earn access. I would not serve guests in my own home that stuff. No way.)
I don't understand the need for nazi lounge bouncers when many of the lounges are just not that great.
One World lounge at LAX Bradley Terminal. Now we're talkin.'
Back to the issue at hand, it's unconscionable that elites would be treated this way. Are there that many people out there trying to scam their way into the lounge that an elite flyer would have to dig up a ticket and pull out airline and credit cards and/or go back through the front desk and security? And then later be told to give your drink back? I'm only laughing because it's outrageous to the point of hysteria (in the worst way), and only because otherwise I would cry! You're platinum and you're flying business. I guess that is no longer enough. What is, then?
Maybe you should consider throwing in exclusively with Air France or Alitalia...
I'm going to 'enjoy' my so-called Platinum Medallion Elite privileges through parts of next year (though will not go out of my way to fly Delta unlike the past since I won't make it for the following year or gain enough points to make it worthwhile to try).
You nailed the SkyClubs -- the choices of 'eats' are olives, prepackaged small cheese, pretzels, nuts and a couple of other unappetizing things. DTW is an exception -- they have more food, and you get to pour your own drinks, probably a leftover from Northwest. In Delta Skyclubs you have to ask for your generic drink of choice or pay for a better quality one, and you have to go back each time for another (with an expected tip). The only good thing I have to say about SkyClubs besides DTW (which I'm flying through from Portland-DTW-AMS-FCO in August) is that the Boston staff is fabulous and fun and almost make up for the lack of facilities. Most remember me by name and profession, and I've given out more of my increasingly limited 'recognize a Delta person' to them than anyone else.
I'm laughing now, too, with you Pluto, because the drinks business was the last straw. As I said, the flight attendant set the gate agent at JFK (what does one expect, after all, at JFK from gate agents?) straight and let me and the guy finish our drinks in our seats, both of which were one seat back from First class. Admittedly I only flew business going to Greece; I chose economy coming back since I can deal with staying up all day -- but not not sleeping through the night.
I am going to experiment a lot next year -- Alitalia will get me most places I need to go these days (Italy and Greece and parts of North Africa); I'll consider AF but not KLM because I cannot deal with the stress of running through Schiphol after being repeatedly detained by customs because of checking my passport for every single stamp I have. (I reached my limit the last time after I realized since I fly on Delta tickets there is no reason outgoing and incoming flights should match AMS -- and indeed they had not -- I flew in on AF and out on KLM.)
I can laugh now about the drinks part. When she said that, I should have taken the mostly full glass of wine, thrown it back into my throat like college students and handed her the glass before moving with extreme truculence. Except unfortunately I'm a nice person.
I forgot to mention that in Athens at Swisshotel/Skyteam Lounge, they asked if I had Priority Pass because they would accept that. So after I cancel my Amex card in November after reaping what few benefits I can, I'm switching to PP.
I wrote a week or so ago about my letter to Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta and Ken Chenault, CEO of Amex Skymiles cards about my horrible experiences being either hassled or denied access to Skyclubs. I have not gotten a print reply, nor did I hear anything at all about my earlier case number when I had emailed my complaint to Delta (despite saying I wanted a reply). However, today, I got a new email case number email from Delta, with an attachment of my letter to Anderson marked "EXECUTIVE PRIORITY" in bold at the top. I'll keep you posted..
Last week the Wall Street Journal had an article about airlines and their responses to complaints.
http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-art-of-the-airline-apology-1404947542?mod=_newsreel_3 (sorry they won't allow sharing w/non-subscribers)
Highlights from the article as it relates to you;
According to the Journal, airlines face fines from the DOT if they do not provide "substantive" answers to complaints.
Delta employs 150 people in Atlanta and Minneapolis to email answers to customers. Many are experienced airport agents who are used to dealing directly with customers and receive additional training in letter writing and no longer use form letters.
Airlines attempt to make responses conversational and personal, aiming to apologize and acknowledge the problem and offering some compensation as a goodwill gesture. Top tiered frequent fliers and big spenders get top priority. Although letters are signed by employees, they often use pseudonyms.
Delta gives its agents freedom to be chatty and personal (although they admit that sometimes backfires).
Complaints do get forwarded to executives.
It certainly appears that you should get a worthwhile and direct response from an least an experienced employee, if not an executive, since results have demonstrated that apologies do influence customer behavior.
I am pulling for the best possible outcome for you and as a marketing guy, I'm very interested in the follow up. Best of luck and thanks for keeping us updated (at the very least, perhaps you can persuade them to hire you as a consultant and take your compensation in upgrades ).
Thanks, erc! It's clear that had I not written the snailmail, I would have never gotten a response from my online email complaint to Delta since the new email had a different case number (and the attachment) than the original 'do-not-reply-to-this-email' one I got. I'm hoping my strategy of putting Anderson's and Chenault's name on the same letter (since what happened to be has both to do with my Platinum Medallion Elite Plus status and my supposed benefits as a reserve cardholder could shake things up a little. If it is now Delta policy to deny international flyers some of the benefits Amex Reserve cardholders are paying a hefty fee to get, then maybe they will tweak things. Maybe.
profchiara, I am very interested to hear what they come back with. United has always responded to me with the usual form letter but I have in the past complained about delays and they issued me travel vouchers. I distinctly remember in 2011 I had three round trip flights EWR-ORD and out of the 6 flights 5 arrived late.
In this case I am deadly serious -- probably more so from the vantage point of American Express because international Skyclub access is one of the main things you get for the Reserve card, and there's absolutely no reason to keep that card (I'd use my Sapphire instead and buy a Priority Pass instead) if they're not going to do something about it.
I've fairly often gotten bunches of miles added for things. Oddly enough in the past two years, I got two such -- of 5000 and 10,000 miles respectively -- for helping, of all things in medical emergencies. I responded when they asked if any doctors were on board in both cases, though I hastened to explain I was a Ph.D. but that I had worked at Mass General Hospital for 18 years during college, grad school and my first years of teaching.
I was actually pretty pleased with myself once. It seemed to be a serious case, and we landed in Bangor instead of Boston (wouldn't you know, my car was parked in Portland, 3 hours away!). But I was the only 'doctor' of any sort, though there was a nurse. She simply freaked out (she was very young) and when this woman was on the floor of the galley didn't know what to do, though the woman's daughter helped. I told them that before anything else they had to get a pillow under the woman's head for breathing and so she wouldn't choke on her own saliva or anything. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to her, except a flight attendant commiserated with me that they had left the Englishwoman in Bangor and I had to go to Boston.
I still haven't had a word from American Express, but I got the third email from Delta. The second was simply a repeat of the first, since I had written snailmail and email complaining about the lounge access problems I had. Using the same case number, I got another yesterday from a different person. It was essentially the same letter, but there were a couple of intriguing paragraphs. While it is very far from an apology, there are a few interesting words or phrases, which I have highlighted. Still, Delta backtracked on one issue this year based on feedback: the lack of complimentary upgrades coast-to-coast for high elites, so maybe there is .005% chance that further reversions will occur.
"Occasionally, changes are made based on customer feedback, competitive information, financial considerations, and other factors. Please know these changes were made to maintain the exclusive atmosphere you enjoy at the Club, therefore we are adjusting our membership options, including rates and guest policies.
Be assured, our goal is still to provide a superior experience for our members who wish to visit our lounges and owe have forwarded your feedback on this recent change to the appropriate leaders with our Sky Club Planning team."
pluto77, I have to agree with your take on the Alaska Board Room at SEA. I was there once and was not overly impressed. Very crowded, marginal food, and the view was just lots of gates but no runway views for takeoffs or landings.
Despite repeated efforts to follow up my original email that included Kenneth Chenault, CEO of Amex Skymiles Credit Card Division, all I have gotten are bounced emails -- nearly a month after I wrote my original letter.
To Delta and Richard Anderson's credit, they responded, first by sending a copy of my letter to their automated center (that part didn't particularly please me except his office had marked it EXECUTIVE PRIORITY).
Today I finally had a long email from one of his office assistants. It did not make me happy, and it almost assures I will cancel my Amex Delta Skymile Rewards card when it comes up for renewal in November (I will have gotten all of the perks I can use by then anyway). Most of the important benefits (including frequently lounges abroad) I get through my Platinum Medallion Elite status without it -- they don't usually even know what the Reserve card is when I show it in Europe. Anyway, here are clips from her response, which did not make me happy. And I want to reiterate I booked and was ticketed on Delta (006 ticket number start) even though I flew on Alitalia. She also ignores the way I was treated as Business Class passenger on Alitalia in Boston, when I was told to go back through security and get an invitation.
"As I read your letter and email your frustration was clear. Considering that you fly 8 - 12 international flights a year, I see why you need clarification on what lounges you can expect to be granted access. It appears that your first encounter was one in which you were ticketed on Alitalia in first class. With this in mind, you were subjected to the admittance guidelines determined by your carrier and Air France. The technicality you described -resulting in the front desk representative making several calls to obtain needed information- would've otherwise been unnecessary with Alitalia's invitation. And as a Reserve Card holder, one does not have access to codeshare and other alliance partner lounges.
Your second encounter is with respect to our 3rd Party lounge in Athens. Effective May 1, 2014, 3rd party lounges became Third-Party Business lounges. This change meant that Delta’s Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion passengers no longer had access to those lounges.
A 3rd party lounge is defined as a lounge that Delta contracts out and that is owned/operated by a non-partner, airport facility or outside vendor. This change only affects stations with 3rd party lounges. The following stations utilize a 3rd party lounge: ACC, AGP, ARN, ATH, BCN, BKK, BOG, BOM, BRU, CCS, CPH, DKR, DUB, DUS, DXB, FRA, ***, GUM, HND, KIX, LIM, LOS, MAD, MAN, MUC, MXP, NCE, NGO, PEK, PSA, PVG, ROB, SIN, SNN, SPN, SVO, SYD, TLV, UIO, ZRH.
Respectfully, based on your return flight from Athens, these changes had a direct impact on you. I'm so sorry that this wasn't clearer sooner. The Sky Club admittance guidelines on our website also offer helpful information on Delta / KLM / Air France/ amenities and lounge rules. I do hope that this information is useful to you.
Thanks again for reaching out to Richard. Your Platinum Medallion membership is appreciated."
ME AGAIN: Can you tell how much my PM membership is appreciated?
Sorry you had to encounter this situation!
That is sad that your "Loyalty" and business would not be better appreciated. 8-12 International flights per year is quite a few, and I sure wonder why they would not be more prone to keep your business!
Think you are entitled to more than this after a month!
profchiara, That is a detailed response but horrendous at the same time. It answers your question but basically they admit they did not inform you of the changes, and certainly didn't in a timely manner. It was obviously handled poorly on their end. If they did truly appreciate your platinum membership they SHOULD have supplied you with some kind of compensation with their response. Lounge passes, miles, or something. To give you that response which basically gives you a nice devaluation, only to finish with the cheezy we appreciate your business is in poor taste. If you really apprecaited my business you would do something to make it right.
That's exactly how I felt, ks. Delta has been (to put it nicely, which I don't really intend) easing all these new changes in for 2014/2015, many of which they aren't telling us about until they've happened. While the Amex reserve card may still be useful for some, it will have lost its value for me without most lounge accesses since my only travel is international. Without Athens, Rome and Venice, forget it. It was almost easier for me to accept the Swisshotel part in Athens, though Delta kept that very close to the vest and I certainly didn't get a notice about "third party lounges that Delta is a part of." But the fact that she didn't address how I was treated as a business class passenger in Boston Logan's AF Lounge (told to go back through security to get my invitation even though she said I had the right to be there) and seems mistakenly to have thought I booked through Alitalia (despite the 006 of my ticket number) is beyond my comprehension.
As I said I will make sure to earn my Platinum status again (I should be at 100,000 miles by the end of this year) for next year, but then all bets are off for Delta unless they give me the best deal.
PS -- What I think she really should have added to her letter about the Boston AF Lounge experience was something like this:
"Even though you can print your boarding pass at home or at a kiosk or have it on your phone and it says TSA pre-check and you have only carry-on luggage, which means you can go straight to that line, you shouldn't. Whether you are whatever level elite, business or coach, if you want in to the AF Skyteam lounge you must wait in the line to get the invitation." (Sarcasm mine)
you'd be delighted to receive that!
I've had similar experiences over the past few years and all I can say is - they simply don't care. You can write until you are blue in the face but chances are you'll 1) not get a response or 2) you will get a response in the form of a prepared letter which ultimately will have the words imprinted on it "you'r business is important to us".
My advice is to suck it up, remember the good old days and move on.
That's pretty much what I'm doing. I'll still have Platinum status next year, so will fly Delta when it is the best deal and use miles for free business class tickets. But I've already started the decoupling (which may come in handy anyway after what happened in the lounges) by using most of my Marriott points to get a Standard Plus Priority Pass.
profchiara Thought you might be interested in learning that the Sky Club is going to have a new menu effective 8/14.
I received an email from them since I am flying Business Elite to LAX next month so they want to make sure I am aware they are serving new grub.
I got their notice too, expecting more bad news. At least this is some improvement (though pretty much anything would be an improvement over Delta-run Skyclubs, except those that were formerly operated by NW, which are pretty good). Normally the offerings were only packaged bits of cheese, olives, crackers and pretzels. This puts them a little more in line with KLM and AF Skyclubs. I'll be able to report back since this takes effect Aug. 15 and I leave from Boston for Sorrento on August 26.
Getting ready for my next trip tomorrow, I took a break and scanned the Insiders Community and saw this post.
Prof, I can so relate to your frustrations! I have AMX Platinum and am silver on Delta (also have their AMX). Lately, I've had to fly on American for a few trips and can only say it's worse...way worse. Each trip, no matter what location, American Airlines staff were rude beyond words. They also charged me $100 for a suitcase 2 lbs overweight (had no room in carry-ons to take anything out) for a supposedly free checked luggage....Delta employees have never done this to me. And now, losing access to American lounges from the AMX has really made flying with them unbearable.
I, too, am disheartened by the changes in Delta's FF program. But where do you go? No other airline besides American and Delta (or their affiliates) are really available to me for where I travel from South Florida. I could just forgo the perks of status and take Jet Blue or Virgin to some destinations, but I've not had great experiences with them either. And forget Spirit and AirTran! It's really become a frustrating situation for someone who travels a lot and generally enjoys it.
I'm also not sure about the Platinum AMX anymore either. They say they are opening lounges in Miami and SF, airports I frequent...when those lounges will actually open is another story...have been waiting a while now. I was recently seatmates with an executive at AMX platinum and I took the opportunity to have a lengthy chat about what was good and not good about the card. Hope they actually listened!