If 2013 and the start of 2014 wasn’t a clear enough sign of what consolidation of the airline industry does to frequent flyer program then I can’t think of how to lay it out any clearer. Across the industry, Delta, United, American, Alaska, and Southwest have all devalued their frequent flyer programs over the last 36 months, making it harder to earn miles and requiring more miles for award redemption. Delta even had the audacity to turn Skymiles into a revenue based program in 2015, making miles extremely difficult to earn. Frequent flyer benefits are being reduced and airlines are making more money than ever before. Even airlines like Virgin America are turning a profit off the first time in years!
As industry consolidation has swallowed up three major airlines (NWA, US Airways, Continental), the US has been left with a super pack, three major airlines with dominating domestic coverage and unsurpassed international networks to compete against Southwest (now merged with AirTran)– a leading domestic airline—and smaller niche airlines with more regional focuses such as JetBlue (East Coast and Caribbean), Alaska (Alaska, West Coast Hawaii), Virgin America (Major business markets from SFO and LAX), Frontier (Denver with a midwest focus) and Hawaiian (Hawaii) with a couple of leisure ultra-low cost carriers Spirit and Allegiant mixed in. If things continue down this path, Alaska will be gobbled up by one of the Super Pack airlines and again another airline will bite the dust.
Delta is expanding rapidly in Seattle and taking on Alaska on a number of domestic routes. Alaska is currently Seattle’s largest airline with 279 peak-day departures nonstop to 73 destinations, yet that is not keeping Delta from trying to invade. With already nine transoceanic routes to Asia and Europe planned for this summer, Delta is growing rapidly trying to squeeze Alaska Airlines out as Delta tries to build a true west coast hub to feed their international routes.
“We are making Seattle our West Coast hub to serve the Pacific,” says Delta’s vice president for Seattle, Mike Medeiros. “Our focus is on the transpacific. We are looking at the top business markets with a focus on Asia.”
Delta will operate 79 daily flights to 25 destinations from Seattle this summer and aims to ramp up the network over the next three years, says Medeiros. “The summer 2015 plan is 110 daily flights, 125 from 2016 and 150 plus from 2017.”
Medeiros says that “a good bit” of the planned expansion will be on new US domestic routes alongside new international destinations. Key US markets being targeted are Alaska, Hawaii and points down the West Coast. This will be to generate domestic feed for the international flights.”
If Delta is successful in their growth strategy, Alaska Airlines is not only a direct target and will lose market share, Alaska is extremely likely to be a takeover target! Delta is currently serving most domestic markets from Seattle using regional jets, but as they grow, they could easily upgauge these flights to larger aircrafts. Alaska Airlines does not have the wiggle room in their fleet to upguage and downguage flights, as they are constricted by only flying 737s and regional Q400s.
Alaska Airlines already has a superior frequent flyer program to Delta that allows unlimited complimentary upgrades, companion upgrades and allow members to earn miles on airlines from multiple alliances and elite miles on all partners—Delta’s program does not even come close.
I understand the appeal of Delta’s international network from Seattle, but fliers beware: Stepping foot on Delta’s metal in Seattle is pushing Seattle’s hometown airline out! The long term result will be Alaska Airline folding and further demise to frequent flier programs. After all, how many more devaluations can we have before programs are defunct and being rewarded for loyalty is completely lost?
Don’t believe this will happen? Take a look at some of the negative changes since the major mergers have taken place:
As you can clearly see 2013 and the start of 2014 have not been frequent flyer friendly years. As major mergers continue and frequent fliers are left with fewer options the airlines can do whatever they want without facing a mass exodus from their customer base. Like my crass tweet said yesterday, we’re screwed –especailly if this continues!
Seattleites and Seattle bound fliers can help save Alaska, fend off Delta, and keep great regional competition by remaining loyal to Seattle’s hometown airline. Delta may have deep pockets and money to spend, but they don’t have Alaska’s hometown feel or award winning frequent flyer program and customer service! If Seattle fliers are smart, they will avoid Delta in order to keep friendly competition alive and help remind airlines that frequent flier programs is the reason we remain loyal!
Seattle, Just say NO to Delta!
Like what you read? You should see my tweets!