I’m often asked how I get all my review books back to Germany from my US address in Kansas – and the answer is that I pack them in my suitcases.
But aren’t all those books heavy? Doesn’t it cost a fortune to take all those books now that the airlines have made their luggage policies a lot stricter?
Well, yes the books are heavy, but I don’t have to pay a fortune. Want to know my secret?
I’m a member of the Delta Airlines SkyMiles program. And because I travel internationally at least a couple of times a year and always fly Delta, I have achieved Gold Medallion status. Having Medallion status makes traveling about a million times better. First of all, even in economy class, I am allowed to check in two bags of up to 70 lbs each for free. That’s a lot of books, my friends.
But that’s not all. Not by a long shot. I have priority check-in, priority screening, priority boarding, and automatic upgrade requests which often result in my being upgraded (and I don't have to tell you how cool that is!). I also earn double miles which I can redeem for upgrades, free flights, free hotel stays, free car rentals and more.
Now when I tell friends about how much I love traveling with Delta, I often get to hear their Delta horror stories about lost luggage, delays, high luggage fees, etc. And how they’ve never been upgraded. Not once. And I always ask if they are a member of SkyMiles. The answer is usually no. They never fly the same airline, they book their tickets based on who offers the cheapest price, etc.
That used to be me. When I first started flying a lot, price of ticket was the ONLY thing I looked at. As a poor college student, every dollar counted. I knew about frequent flyer programs, but never bothered to apply. Then, once I moved to Europe, I decided to join the frequent flyer programs of both United Airlines and Delta Airlines since those were the two airlines that could get me between Wichita, KS and Frankfurt, Germany the easiest. I would price check between the two and then fly on whichever was cheaper.
But then I stumbled upon something miraculous. One year, I flew Delta exclusively (because that year, they always had the best fares – and to be honest, I was tired of getting stuck in Chicago - United's hub - on my layover due to weather related delays and cancellations) and I received a packet notifying me of my Silver Medallion status and all the accompanying benefits. I was blown away. Suddenly, when I travelled, I was getting upgrades and improved service.
Not that I still didn’t encounter some problems. One holiday season a baggage cart ran over my checked luggage and rendered it useless. It was a hassle, but Delta had a brand new suitcase to me the very next day.
Also, I seem to have a problem making it on time to JFK airport which requires that you check in luggage at least 60 minutes before your flight. Twice it has happened that I’ve arrived two minutes too late. Both times, the check-in agent made the extraordinary effort of contacting a supervisor to override the system so I could get on my scheduled flight.
Now when I book plane tickets, fare is not my biggest concern. Sure, I don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars more, but even if it is more expensive upfront to buy a ticket on Delta or one of its partners, it ends up being worth it in the end because of all the benefits I have from being a loyal customer.
And that’s what I tell my friends, and that’s what I am telling you now. Loyalty counts. If you’re loyal to Delta, they are going to be loyal to you. Realistically, a company can only do so much. If they have the ability to please everyone who flies with them, they will. Good customer service is an essential business practice. But if it comes down to a choice between allocating finite resources to satisfy a loyal customer or to satisfy a customer who just bought the cheapest ticket? Well, naturally they are going to chose the former, and that’s how it should be.
And as long as Delta values my loyalty, I am going to value theirs. Hopefully, that will be a long, long time. Because I don't plan to quit reading or reviewing books anytime soon. And that means I need all the weight allowance I can get.