It’s difficult making both parties happy during a merger, especially when the old dogs in one way of life have to learn all of the new tricks in another. Where this appears to be particularly scathing is in the frequent flyer programs, where loyal passengers to both Worldperks (Northwest) and Skymiles (Delta) are starting to get mashed together.
To appease some of the most frequent Skyteam travelers, the new Delta has revealed a new elite status above the traditional Silver (25k miles,) Gold (50k,) and Platinum (75k.) No, it’s not Berkelium, it’s Diamond, and one has to travel a whopping 125k miles to reach this holiest of statuses.
Benefits to Diamond status include free access to the Delta Sky Clubs (airport lounges,) better flexibiliy when using award tickets and a wider selection of “Choice Benefits” including upgrades and gift cards.
The problem for many current elites is that the benefits are too sparse for the time invested. Flexibility with award ticket redeposits, for example, is a feature that many Northwest passengers had before the airlines started to merge. Similarly, the mileage bonus on flights for a Diamond versus a Platinum (125% vs 100%) is just a throwback to the former NW Platinum level.
Upgrades are another great example. The upgrades currently earned by Platnium and Diamond members are only useable on the most expensive group of economy tickets (thumbnail: you’ll have to spend $1500 on a coach ticket to Europe to be able to upgrade.) Other programs sponsored by United and American Airlines let passengers upgrade some of the least expensive fares (say, around $700.)
As a result of the tepid benefits, more loyal passengers are straying away from the new merged airline. Or as one passenger at Flyertalk puts it:: “Delta: Driving Every Loyal Traveler Away.”