Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I Love Delta Airlines - Loyalty Counts

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.

22 comments:

Jamie said...

You are making me thinking my former ways with finding the cheapest price! I know we already talked about this on Twitter but I'm even more so thinking about it. My bf said he can't wait until we have more money so we can fly with Delta and other nicer companies. His reason--more room and comfy seats. lol. As a tall guy, he is sick of being cramped in some of the budget airlines seats! lol

Emy Shin said...

I don't travel internationally much, so tend to look for the cheapest tickets -- but the idea of reciprocal loyalty is a great one. :)

Melissa said...

I travel internationally a lot on service trips...and I'm always looking for deals. The only thing that worries me about Delta is the baggage pricing haha :)

Allie said...

It really does pay to stick with one airline. I am on a frequent flier plan and it was such an amazing help this summer while I was on my book tour! It's worth it, even if sometimes you might be able to get a better deal with another airline from time to time.

Amy said...

This is a good lesson, though I've had a few nightmarish experiences with this airline. maybe if I were as loyal as you, I would have been better compensated.

Also, you are ALWAYS travelling! So jealous!

Lenore said...

Jaime - One of the benefits of Delta Medallion is that you can reserve the exit row seats! Even more room for your bf.

Emy - Even if you don't travel a lot, the miles add up!

Melissa - See, I don't have to worry about the baggage pricing on Delta. And I love that!

Allie - Exactly!

Amy - We've ALL had nightmarish experiences. I think they are just a part of traveling. But it certainly helps matters to have the airline on your side :)

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I just flew Delta to Spain and back and they were AWESOME. I seriously loved flying with them. Of course, it was pure chance that I ended up with Delta because I flew through StudentUniverse (also great!). But I really had such a pleasant experience I would absolutely choose them over another airline, especially after reading this!

Lawral the Librarian said...

The first time I qualified for a complimentary extra luggage allowance was probably the best day of my life! I don't fly a lot anymore (to the point that I've lost all the perks I used to have), but when I was in college I ALWAYS got hit with extra charges for heavy luggage, until the day I all of a sudden didn't. Glorious. :) I'm glad to see that they still allow perks like that when everyone else is charging an arm and a leg for heavy bags!

Chary Johnson said...

I fly at least once per year and never thought of joining something like a sky miles program. Thanks for the tip!

Lenore said...

Lu - I'm glad to hear it!

Lawral - I love not having to pay extra for my bags :)

Chary - You're welcome!

Lale said...

I mainly fly in Europe rather than the US, so me and my family are all cardholders with Lufthansa- any really, really love it. You're right, it's really worth joining the programs, because the benefits are incredible :)

Lenore said...

Lale - The main disadvantage to Lufthansa's program is that your miles expire. On Delta, as long as there is activity on your account, you keep your miles indefinitely.

Beth S. said...

That is so nice to hear. I usually hear nothing but horror stories about Delta these days.

My dad worked for Delta for 37 years and I am so grateful that I was able to experience all of the benefits that went with being the child of an airline employee. This was pre- 9/11, however. The airline industry was a completely different ball game than it is now. I am always saddened to hear how the perks of working for an airline have long since dwindled and you're often left with overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed people who just want to tell those demanding customers to go to hell.

I don't fly on my dad's privileges anymore because he is retired and his priority status on the standby list is so low that it's not even worth the trouble any more (since non-dependent children have to pay a fee to fly non-rev), but I do miss the days when I could just drive to the airport on a moment's notice and hop a flight anywhere I wanted.

I have to say, I was a fairly loyal Northwest flier before the merger since they had a hub in Detroit, and I never received all of the benefits of their frequent flier program that you speak of with Delta. I can only hope now that Delta took them over and my NWA account has transferred over to SkyMiles that Delta's perks will be better.

Lenore said...

Beth - It just seems that people are quick to complain when something goes wrong, but less likely to give praise where it is due! Just wanted to get my positive experiences out there :)

Amy said...

I live in a small city in Canada so my airline of choice (I mean, only option!) is Air Canada. This means my flights are all Air Canada, US Airways, or United. And I love them. Just like you I have status, I check in faster, I get perks, I get the lounge, I don't wait in lines and yes yes yes it is heavenly. Can't imagine doing without!

Amused said...

I belong to a couple of loyalty programs too and I agree that is totally the way to go. When you find an airline you like you stick with it.

Zibilee said...

I need to remember this advice when I start looking to travel. It sounds like it's the perfect arrangement for you!

Alyce said...

We love Delta's program too! My husband is a silver medallion member and it definitely makes flying more pleasant. Although one time he got upgraded to first class and I didn't (because he's the one with status). :)

Michelle said...

I don't fly but man if I did you'd have me sold on monogomy and Delta :)

Meghan said...

My dad flies for work all the time, at least once a month, and he's on Continental's reward program because my parents live right by Newark, which is their hub. We often fly on his frequent flier miles, which is awesome because we then get his platinum status. It just speeds everything up and we can have 3 suitcases of 70 lbs each! It sounds pretty similar to Delta's actually, but we don't get the actual upgrades (he always does though). My parents never use their miles, which is why we get to use them rather than paying for our own flights, but when we do I'm definitely going to join up as well.

I'm not sure I've ever flown on Delta since I almost always go from the same few airports, but your experience is heartening! I've also heard nightmare stories.

Brittany said...

I like how you explained why you choose Delta, however, I disagree with their customer service. I don't think they know what that concept is. Maybe if I were as loyal as you, I would have been compensated. As a result to their mess up my husband lost his job, I had to miss a day of work, and I went through a terrifying experience. The right engine blew up in an MD-44 (I think that's what it was) while we were halfway to Kansas City. We had to turn around and go back to Memphis, where everyone else (behind and in front of me in line) were going to KC on a direct flight, where my husband and I had to wait 3 hours, then go to Atlanta, Georgia, then back to Kansas City. Needless to say, I live 3 hours west of Kansas City in Kansas, and we were totally screwed. Sure they threw a hundred dollars in vouchers at us, but that doesn't negate the fact that you can only use it on their website and all their flights are over $300 for one person. I tried to talk to customer service, and their solution is to throw money! Maybe if I were "loyal" to them, they would think differently, but I don't fly a lot, and I don't go international anymore, that's why I stick to driving. Maybe I should try being loyal to them, and see how that pans out.

Lenore said...

Hi Brittany,

Sounds like you had a bad experience, and I'm sorry about that. I know it's frustrating! Even as a loyal medallion member, I still have travel hassle. And something like a engine blowing (scary!) can happen on any airline. I know Delta's not perfect, but by consolidating my business with one airline, I do get the best service and perks. If you have the opportunity, you should do the same, even if you choose another airline.