I have flown Delta, to the exclusion of almost all other airlines, for a better part of the past five years. That loyalty is starting to get expensive.
Delta keeps climbing above competitors American Airlines and United Continental in net promoter scores, a business metric used to measure how often customers recommend a brand. Their relative fare margins seem to continue climbing, also.
My Delta servitude began when I lived in Cleveland, shortly after United shuttered the former Continental hub there. With the hub closed, Cleveland flyers had a roughly even field of choices, with one connection required to reach most other midsize cities and international destinations. Delta, more often than not, offered the best schedules.
Delta’s hubs in Atlanta and Detroit were banked more tightly than American and United’s alternatives, meaning layovers and travel times were shorter. The airline was also fare competitive. Delta flights were often near the bottom of the fare column and even when they weren’t, the margin was reasonable.
Since moving to New York City in 2016, I’ve remained evermore loyal. Delta operates the most nonstop flights in the metro area and an excellent transatlantic network with three robust joint venture partners, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic.
Living on the east side of New York, with Newark Liberty far over the horizon, it’s downright inconvenient to choose another singular airline. JetBlue is a delightful alternative for domestic flights, but I’d sorely miss access to Delta’s SkyTeam partner perks during fairly frequent international trips.
parody parity appears to be vanishing as Delta continues to outpace its competitors. My domestic travel plans for the remainder of the year include a stint down to Houston, a holiday in New Orleans, a West Coast trip for Thanksgiving, and two transcontinental flights to Portland, Oregon and back.
I’ve written before about the perplexing paradox of remaining loyal to an airline that continues to devalue its loyalty program. Now, that loyalty is starting to hurt my wallet. Price premiums on almost every future trip I’m considering are approaching 50 percent or more.
The one exception in all of the recent searches I’ve done is New York to Houston, a route on which Delta plays second fiddle to United’s energy business dominance.
These comparisons aren’t exactly apples to apples — Delta’s Basic Economy fares include carry-on bags, while American’s and United’s don’t — but I pay out of the basic fares anyway, lest I forfeit most of the benefits associated with my Platinum Medallion elite status.
Will anyone come to the rescue? United has been on a warpath to challenge Delta, besting them in so-called D0 on-time departures over the past quarter.
If only JetBlue would form a stronger international offering. A JetBlue, Alaska Mileage Plan pairing would be a dream.
Until then, I’m going to have to start pinching pennies in other parts of my life to enjoy my loyalty, and its perks, with Delta.
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