Could someone please tell me how an Alaska Airlines flight between Salt Lake City and San Jose, Ca. is going to make money? Because I can’t see it. In fact, if you believe in that flight, don’t read this column, where the assumption is that the flight is ridiculous.

Forbes contributor Ted Reed outlines why he thinks Alaska needs to make nice with Delta in order to avoid an “unwinnable battle” and to benefit from the future revenue that Delta’s international flying while bring to its Seattle partners.

Here’s a snippet of the article, check out the full text here. What are your thoughts?

Of course Alaska wants to fight back against Delta, the arrogant intruder from the South.  And who can resist backing the relatively small airline with deep community ties that it built up over 66 years? The problem is that the battle has pushed Alaska to act like an angry kid, telling Delta that if it doesn’t stop, Alaska will hold its breath until it turns blue. The fact is that Delta has no choice but to build a Seattle hub. Delta is one of three global U.S. carriers and it needs to offer Asia service – particularly China service — from a West Coast hub, where it can gather passengers from the states to the east, all 45 of them. The best U.S. West Coast hub is San Francisco, where United is long established.  For years, that has left Delta and American, as well as United, fighting it out at LAX, a place where nobody can win.

It is easy to forget that Alaska and Delta are partners in a code share agreements.  I don’t know all the details of why they enabled their relationship to break down. My sources say that the accountants who run Alaska understandably insisted on squeezing every last penny out of the relationship, rather than backing down a little bit on price and rather than giving Delta passengers preference over passengers from other partners.

Related - 

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Last October I sadly posted about American Airlines canceling their long running JFK-Barbados flight - American Axes One of my Favorite JFK Routes – Caribbean Left with Just a Few Flights. I lamented that this was one of my favorite JFK-Caribbean flights on AA for a bunch of reasons:

  1. Barbados always seemed to be less touristy than the other Caribbean locals with direct NYC based flights (less US tourists anyway…very big with the UK). Friendly locals,beautiful uncrowded beaches, and a great Hilton as well.
  2. Award availability was fantastic. My family of four flew Dec 24th returning December 30th two years ago, all on MileSAAver awards at35K. We’ve done that to several other Caribbean location each and every year on AA for 11 years now!
  3. Since award availability was so fantastic, there was always Avios availability as well. I was able to avoid a NYC blizzard last year and escape to Barbados last minute using an AAdvantage MileSAAver award booked via British Airways Avios. The total cost was $47.50 in taxes and only 12,500 Avios points (instead of 17,500 AA miles) each way!

That left AA with non-stop Caribbean service from JFK to only Antigua (ANU), St. Kitts (SKB) once per week, Port-au-Prince (PAP), San Juan (SJU), St. Maarten (SXM), and St. Thomas (STT). A far cry from the days when we’d sit down at the table and look at AA’s “Where We Fly” map to pick our next Caribbean winter vacation spot, always a new destination.

In any case, Delta yesterday announced the launch of their flights from ATL and JFK, though they will only be operated twice per week. Here’s that press release:

Barbados and Delta Air Lines (DAL) today announce a collaboration on new nonstop service this winter to the Caribbean island. Travelers from the Eastern and Central regions of the U.S. now have a new reason to head to the sun-drenched island, with nonstop flights beginning on December 4, 2014, twice weekly between Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown and both New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where connections to cities across the United States are available.

Flights will operate Thursdays and Saturdays, and two flights will start simultaneously, one from New York into Barbados and then onto Atlanta; and then a second one originating in Atlanta, traveling to Barbados and on to New York.

Available for purchase now, round-trip flight times from JFK and ATL to Bridgetown, Barbados are as follows:

Delta Barbaods Schedule

The two spacious Boeing 737 aircrafts have a seating capacity of 160, consisting of 16 business class seats, 18 economy comfort seats and 126 economy seats on each flight. The 737 offers travelers amenities including complimentary personal television programming with 18 free channels from DISH Network, comfortable leather seats and up to 4 more inches of legroom with Economy Comfort.

Not unsurprisingly award availability is a bit different than AA’s. There is absolutely no Saver award availability for the entire schedule loaded in economy or first.

DL JFK-BGI Dec 2014 Award Availability

Well, at least a direct NYC flight to Barbados that is redeemable with points has returned. The majority of my SkyMiles were obtained on the cheap, so I could consider a standard award for 55K miles depending on how bad I want to escape winter. Note that JetBlue currently operates JFK-BGI as well and flights can be redeemed using TrueBlue points…though I don’t have many.

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Following the US 2-1 World Cup win over Ghana yesterday, Delta tweeted out congratulations to Team USA which they represented with a picture of the Statue of Liberty. The losing team, Ghana, was represented by a giraffe…except there are no giraffes in Ghana.

Delta World Cup Tweet

There was a huge immediate backlash on social media to the stereotyping and Delta apologized quickly (twice actually). Here’s the latest apology, the first was deleted after Delta noted that they were sorry for the choice of photo in their “precious” tweet instead of previous tweet.

Delta World Cup Tweet 2

Related - Special World Cup Airline Liveries

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Delta announced yesterday that they are looking to buy up to 50 wide-body jets and currently studying replacements for both their Boeing 747-400 and 767-300ER planes, each with an average of about 20+ years.  However, CEO Richard Anderson said no deal would come any time soon and that Delta will continue its “watch and wait” strategy  to reduce potential technical risks and allow the jets to prove themselves before looking at any new or altered models including the 787 and a potential A330neo. Delta currently operates 16 747-400s and 74 767-300s as per Flightglobal.

Reuters reports that:

The prospect for an order for dozens of wide-body jets from Delta, widely seen as one of the most conservative buyers of new capacity, would trigger fierce competition between Boeing and European rival Airbus. Delta is seen as a prime customer for a potential revamp of the Airbus A330, which the European manufacturer is considering updating with new engines to help airlines reduce fuel bills. Delta bought 10 current-generation A330s last year. Airbus has not said whether it plans to go ahead with the “A330neo” but is expected to take a decision later this year and interest from Delta could be decisive, industry sources say. However, Delta could expand its fleet of existing models of the Boeing 777. Delta has 18 next-generation Boeing 787s on order and has not ruled out expanding the airline’s order for Boeing 787s, inherited from its 2008 takeover of Northwest Airlines, but called on Boeing to reduce prices to compete against the A330, which Delta had helped to launch in the United States.

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Delta today introduced new sleep kits and several updated amenities for passengers seated in the Economy cabin on long-haul international flights. From the press release:

Sleep kits will be offered to each customer by flight attendants and will include individual eyeshades plus earplugs to help customers get better rest when travelling between continents

In addition, on all trans-Atlantic flights of 3,850 miles or less from the U.S. to Europe, customers in the Economy cabin will receive a full-size bottle of water following meal service and updated snack offerings for morning and afternoon/evening arrivals. A mid-flight ice cream service will also be offered on these flights returning from Europe to the U.S.  These service improvements will expand to longer-haul international flights in early summer.

This summer, customers flying in domestic First Class as well as the Economy cabin on domestic and international flights will be offered newly upgraded earbuds that will be theirs to keep for use with Delta’s seatback entertainment systems.

Sleep Kits Economy Delta

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Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled today against a Minnesota flier who was stripped of his elite status and miles by Northwest after they said he complained too much. The flier said Northwest did not act in good faith and was trying to cut costs because of its merger with Delta. Delta confirmed the NWA argument that he was cut off because of his constant complaints.

From Yahoo! News / AP (thanks Mark for sharing with PMTTP readers):

The court said in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that the federal deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 prohibits most lawsuits like the one filed by Ginsberg. The frequent flier program is clearly connected to the airline’s prices, routes or services, which are covered under the Airline Deregulation Act, Alito said.

The flier and his wife flew almost exclusively on Northwest, logging roughly 75 flights a year to travel across the U.S. and abroad to give lectures and take part in conferences on education and administration. He said he flew on Northwest even when other airlines offered comparable or better flights and in 2005, reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program. Northwest cut him off in 2008, shortly after Northwest and Delta agreed to merge. Ginsberg said Northwest was looking to get rid of the high-mileage customers.

Northwest says he complained 24 times in a seven-month period, including nine instances of luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels. Northwest said that before it took action, it awarded Ginsberg $1,925 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, a voucher for his son and $491 in cash reimbursements. The airline pointed to a provision of the mileage program’s terms that gives Northwest the right to cancel members’ accounts for abuse.

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This is the final segment of an eight part trip report from my travels to Rome and Siracusa, Sicily and includes my Delta BusinessElite flight from Paris – Newark aboard a 767-300:

BP AF CDG EWR

Thank you card upon boarding…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris05

Standard Tumi amenity kit and headphones…

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Table and seat controls, USB charger and outlet…

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Lie-flat seat…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris12

Dinner and Lunch menu from CDG – EWR:

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris01 Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris02 Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris03 Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris04

The updated Delta BusinessElite meal service carts – sparkling and still water holders and wine carrousel….

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Treated myself to the grilled beef and mac and cheese…after eating without care in Italy, why not one more meal…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris21

Delta has finally got the steak cooked medium…impressive. I really always enjoy Delta’s meal options and think they have the best food and service of any US carrier (Related – Trip Report – SWISS Business JFK-Zurich(ZRH) A330 – Best Fillet In-Flight?)

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris22

Updated bathrooms with new lighting and handless sink and toilet…

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Dessert time

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Delta’s standard Westin Heavenly duvet and full size pillow.

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Snacks mid-flight…

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Lunch prior to landing in Newark…

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A big improvement…notification that “all entertainment will conclude once we land”…keep watching until you are on the ground. Overall, it was the typical DL B767 service and product which I find much nicer than Air France’s non fully lie-flat business product.

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris32 Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris33

Looking for more detailed Delta trip reports? Check out:

Want to fly Alitalia home from Italy instead using SkyMiles instead? Check out:

Working backwards, I’ll have the trip reports for the Air France Lounge Charles De Gaulle Terminal E Boarding Gate M and the Rome-Paris Air France flight next week.  Have a great weekend!

Need help planning a trip with your miles? Consider Juicy Miles assistance for the best possible award pricing and routes!

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The Fidelity promos for AA, DL, and UA have been around for some time and offer an easy way to earn up to 50,000 bonus miles for depositing $100,000 in a new or existing account each year. Back in 2010/2011, the promos were extremely lucrative as you could double-dip by signing up for more than one partner promo per year and you were even able to cycle your money into and out of your account to reach the “100,000″ requirement. However, in recent years Fidelity has placed more scrutiny on both the rolling 12 month limitation and the cycling of funds to reach the 100k threshold (some still report this working but others have been warned). One positive change is that all three offers are now open to existing account holders and no longer limited to new customers (though there were ways around this requirement as well).  I followed the rules on this promo and signed up for the AA promotion in December 2011 and received 50,000 miles after maintaining 100k in the account for six months. I then pulled the funds and redeposited them in December 2012 to take advantage of the UA promotion. While the miles took almost eight weeks to post in 2012, in 2013 they posted to my United account after only 5 1/2 weeks. Back in December, I repeated the process again but went back to the AA offer (it had been well over the 12 month mark since my last December 2011 AA offer).  Though it’s rare for Fidelity to try to pull the miles back, I’m maintaining the funds in the account until the nine month mark as I want to be able to take advantage of the promo again next year. Yes, for 2014 Fidelity has changed the T&Cs to require that you keep the funds in your account for 9 months instead of the former 6 month requirement. They may clawback the miles if you do not meet the new terms. Note that there is still no requirement to actually engage in the purchase or trading of any stocks.

Remember, the bonus limitations are based on your social security number, so you can withdraw the funds, sign your spouse or significant other up for the promo, and then redeposit those same funds to qualify them for the bonus. An Apple $500 gift card offer is also available.

AA Offer 
DL Offer
UA Offer
Apple Gift Card

Questions? Check out this flyertalk thread for further details.

Posted by Adam | 7 Comments

I have a friend’s bachelor party in New Orleans at the beginning of May which happens to correspond with Jazz Fest.  You might consider that great planning, but with the outrageous prices of all the flights and hotels…it might be more appropriate to call it poor planning. Anyway, pricing for the last six months has been averaging $400 – $500 each way from LGA/JFK/EWR with little to no price movement. About three weeks ago, Delta dropped one outbound flight down to the $250 range and one return flight (the 7am in the morning) down to $144. Let me also mention that with a $800-$1000 average r/t price across all the airlines, I would have gladly spent 25,000 Delta SkyMiles. Unsurprisingly, Delta had only 60K awards available.

Delta 1

I immediately pulled the trigger (the flights were already back up to the former prices later that afternoon) and booked the flight, but was not very happy with a Sunday morning 7am flight after what’s sure to be a long Saturday night. I hoped Delta would alter the flight time as they tend to do quite often.  The official rule states that “if a Delta schedule or routing change has delayed your departure or arrival by more than one hour, you may be eligible to select an alternate flight at no additional charge.” Now, as anyone who strategically books Delta awards knows, depending on your agent, Delta can actually be quite flexible with this rule and it should be considered your best DL award booking friend. I wasn’t extremely hopeful for a change on this domestic Delta metal operated flight less than 1 1/2 months out…but it happened this morning. Delta moved the flight from 7:00am to 6:15am, a  full 45 minutes.  Not the 60 minute requirement, but close enough to play some phone roulette. 

Delta 2

The first agent was very un-Delta like and was quite cold from the get-go. She told me that complimentary changes are only allowed for flight changes of 90 minutes or more (nope that’s refunds). I wasn’t looking to fight, I simply hung up and called back. The second agent was happy to help immediately and within less than two minutes she was already on the phone trying to get the ticket reissued on to a 6:15pm LGA flight. Five minutes later it was all done..and for the same $144!

Delta 3

I love me some Delta schedule changes!

Related - Delta Allows Award Flight Change for 5 Minute Schedule Change – Never Hurts to Ask!

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Delta today launched international wifi service on flights 283 and 295 on B747-400 aircraft departing LAX and ATL to Narita International Airport (NRT) in Tokyo. Delta has three of 16 747-400 aircraft complete which also operate between Detroit and Seoul-Incheon; Detroit and Nagoya, Japan; Detroit and Tokyo-Narita; New York-JFK and Tel Aviv as well as New York-JFK and Tokyo-Narita. From the press release:

Customers can access Wi-Fi service with introductory pricing options that begin with one hour passes for laptop users as low as $14.00 and $8.00 for mobile users or a flight pass option, which will keep customers connected throughout their flight, starting at $24.95 for laptop users and $14.95 for mobile users. All of Delta’s 747-400 aircraft will have Wi-Fi installed by mid-2014. “Our customers want to remain productive in-flight and that does not stop as they fly over U.S. borders,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president – Marketing. “Expanding Delta’s Wi-Fi services internationally is another benefit of the investments we are making to improve the travel experience, and give our customers exactly what they want.” Delta will complete the installation of Wi-Fi service on its entire international fleet by the end of 2015 including its Boeing 777, 767, 747, Airbus A330 and transoceanic Boeing 757 aircraft operating on international, long-haul routes. Delta and Gogo are in the final testing phase for Wi-Fi on the Airbus A330 fleet. The addition of in-flight Internet for more than 150 aircraft will expand the number of worldwide aircraft equipped with Wi-Fi to approximately 1,000 jets including all two-class regional, domestic and international aircraft. The new international service uses satellites for global connectivity to offer coverage internationally and will compliment Delta’s existing air-to-ground service already provided by Gogo for aircraft flying within the domestic U.S.

Delta Wi-Fi

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Just as bad if not worse than we thought! Coupled together with the major negative changes, including a 5 tier award structure, are the announcements of one-way awards, better low level award availability, and finally fixing the website. Great, it took SkyMiles transitioning to a fully revenue based program to get these essentials. Delta of course spins all of this as positive change “in its ongoing commitment to improve the travel experience”.  Here’s Delta’s press release (titled increased redemption options ) with the full details, analysis post later today:

The 2015 SkyMiles program will introduce a shift from today’s current model in which customers earn redeemable mileage based on distance traveled to one based on ticket price. The program updates will be effective Jan. 1, 2015 and will also include a new mileage redemption structure that will improve Award seat availability at the lowest mileage requirement levels, offer One-Way Awards at half the price of round-trip, provide additional Miles + Cash Award options, as well as make significant improvements to delta.com and Delta reservations Award shopping tools.

Today’s method of earning redeemable miles based on the distance a customer flies will change to a model of earning redeemable miles based on the price of the ticket purchased. Delta is providing 10 months advance notice of the upcoming program changes so that customers have ample time to make travel plans. Customers will be able to earn between five and 11 miles per dollar* spent based on their SkyMiles status, and continue to earn up to an additional two miles per dollar* when using their Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, for a total of up to 13 miles per dollar. The updated program will better reward the customers who spend more with Delta and give them improved mileage-earning opportunities. “The introduction of a new model for earning miles will increase rewards for those who spend more as well as differentiate the SkyMiles frequent flyer program for our premium travelers,” said Jeff Robertson, Delta’s vice president – SkyMiles.

The updated mileage-earning plan, for travel beginning Jan. 1, 2015, will better recognize frequent business travelers and those less frequent leisure customers who purchase premium fares. The move is consistent with a trend in the travel industry of rewarding customer behavior based on price. Customers will continue to earn additional miles for purchases with a Delta SkyMiles Credit Card+.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 6.17.55 AM

For travel marketed and ticketed by Delta’s partner airlines, members will earn a percentage of miles flown as determined by the fare class purchased and will also earn Medallion mileage bonuses on eligible fares.

“The travel industry, including nearly all hotel and credit card programs, has already moved to a spend-based model,” said Robertson. “Delta will become the first U.S. global carrier to make this transition to better reward our most loyal customers.

New Redemption Options

SkyMiles members will gain even more redemption options with the introduction of up to a five-tier structure to give them a wider variety of Awards and improve overall availability at the lowest price points. The lowest level for SkyMiles Saver Awards will remain at 25,000 miles for an Economy Class Award ticket for travel within the U.S. and Canada excluding Hawaii. All of Delta’s worldwide redemption charts will be updated to reflect the new options in the last quarter of 2014 and will be effective for new Award bookings beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

In addition to offering multiple new redemption levels, the SkyMiles program will also introduce One-Way Award tickets starting as low as 12,500 miles within the U.S. and Canada excluding Hawaii and will offer customers the ability to redeem Miles + Cash to provide more Award booking options for tickets purchased at delta.com or through Delta reservations.

…and why all the change…because “we asked for it” …

“We’ve had thousands of direct conversations with SkyMiles members over the past three years and they’ve told us that Award redemption is the most important attribute to any successful rewards program,” Robertson said. “With improvements to delta.com, even more Awards seats at the lower price levels, One-Way Awards and Miles + Cash options, Delta will deliver an improved award redemption experience for all customers.”

I will be posting my thoughts later, but geez if you do the math on a JFK-LAX economy flight that currently earns 2,745 miles each way prior to any bonuses and averages around $410 roundtrip, everyone (no matter what status level) is getting screwed!   …unless of course you’re buying a last minute or pricey business ticket…which is exactly the point of the revenue based program. I also hate the positive spin and the fact that Delta is essentially admitting that their award booking site is broken, but they’ll finally now fix it.

Posted by Adam | 8 Comments

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