Well done, Delta/Northwest!

Today’s a big day. Delta and Northwest have officially become one, at least in terms of their frequent flyer programs. I am now a Delta Platinum Medallion, as opposed to Northwest Platinum. And you know something, I think Delta deserves a big pat on the back for how they handled the merger.

Yeah, there were quite a few “enhancements.” Yeah, Delta Diamond status was a bit of a disappointment. Yeah, “best in class” is just a marketing term. Yeah, there’s still massive inconsistency when it comes to aircraft hard products, from the ghetto Northwest planes without any form of entertainment to the pimped out Delta cabins that have more forms of entertainment than Best Buy.

But, they’ve accomplished an incredible task with ease, at least from the customer’s perspective. The transition has been virtually seamless, given what a massive project they undertook. I remember first hearing about the merger and thinking there’s no way in hell two massive airlines could merge without some major hiccups. But there haven’t been any — for months I’ve been able to get upgrades on Delta (as a Northwest Platinum), Delta/Northwest are now leaving from the same terminals at most airports, SkyClub’s have been “born,” and ultimately the frequent flyers have been merged without too much anger (yeah, that’s a relative term).

So yeah, well done, Delta! In the meantime I’ll continue to sit on the sidelines of the Delta forum on FlyerTalk with popcorn and a big smile on my face.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I see that you are enjoying the intra-airline squabbling at the moment in the DL forum… hoping that it’ll calm down soon.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Brilliant job by Delta! Their management team may actually deserve their bonuses. You’ll never hear the end of this from Hunter.

  3. The INTEGRATION has been smooth. The ‘enhancements’ less so. It’s no secret who this program is, what they are they do well.

    Northwest Plat by comp since about a year ago, when they announced the new Diamond tier I decided to stop the quest twoards requalifying rather than doubling down towards the new higher level.

    No reason to be Plat IMHO, it’s top tier or it’s nowhere, and the top tier just isn’t rewarding enough to push for. I’ll take my double EQMs offered by better programs thank you very much 🙂

  4. @ Chris — Hey, it’s entertaining. Short of me ranting on this blog, I’ve never seen so many people get so obsessed about such minor things. 😀

    @ Gene — Nah, I believe Hunter just said that Delta has the second worst management team in the industry, so it looks like we’ll disagree yet again. Heh.

    @ Oliver — Good question. I don’t believe they usually do, but let’s wait and see. Wouldn’t surprise me due to the changed circumstances.

    @ MatthewLAX — A week I would have said no way. It’s just too easy to earn Delta redeemable miles, and they really have devalued their program like no other. Looking at business class awards to Europe in fall/winter, it’s amazing, I hardly see any at the “saver” level. They all seem to be at the “medium” level. Seriously? It’s just awful, especially since their product isn’t that great on the non-reconfigured planes.

    That being said, I just found out that TPA-SFO fares can be routed via JFK. That makes for a comfortable ride and quite a few extra RDM’s. Even with that, my answer is no. Much like Gary, it’s top tier or nothing for me, and while I might have considered going for Delta Diamond if it was truly spectacular, they made my choice easy.

    @ Gary — Spot on.

  5. I disagree. So, they actually can give reciprocal UGs without screwing them up. WHOPPEE!

    Plat companion UGs- gone, award tickets- appear much harder to get, several other decent items like OW award, pay the cheap half and get the miles- gone. Software integration is bowing to the lowest system (Delta’s), and all the things that made NW stand out in my mind will be gone by the end of the year, with Plat companion @ 5 days out being biggest. UGing the A330 MSP-HNL on a $550 dollar RT K fare (which I’ve been lucky enough to do several times, both with my wife and by myself- gone. Blame it all on Delta’s lame but large computer system. If I wasn’t a hub captive, I’d never fly Delta again.

  6. The only decent thing, rollover EQMs. Will stay Gold and have a 20-24K jump for next year, rather than a quick MR to Plat, which is useless for me, as I almost always travel with someone else.

  7. Well, I’d say almost well-done.

    On 2 October I checked in online for my flight the next day, using nwa.com and my WorldPerks number. I was silver elite at the time, and got to specify that I wanted to check 2 bags for free. No problem.

    On 3 October I arrive at the airport and go to the bag drop, my reservation is nowhere to be found. They finally find it, and they want to charge me for the bags. Fortunately I wave my silver elite plastic card, and they get a more senior agent to waive the bag fee for me.

    Later at my connecting airport (ATL) I try to get a complimentary upgrade, and again no luck. By this point I already know what the problem is – my account had been migrated overnight from NW to DL, but my status hadn’t. They had to get a red coat to sort things out (I did get the upgrade).

    Overall the agents were friendly and all were doing their best to help, and they knew full well that their computer systems were not fully cooperative. What was somewhat disappointing was that a number of agents were not fully familiar with the rules, and gave me information that I knew was incorrect. I guess that standard training involves a lot of trusting the computer, which doesn’t quite work at this time.

    Now all my miles have been transferred to Delta (including EQM/MQM), but my status has been upgraded to gold on Northwest only, whereas I’m just an ordinary member on Delta. Which means I need to call them soon if I want to get in on the 3-day upgrade sweep for my return flight. Which I will do, since I believe upgrades will be limited. This is going to be fun.

  8. I guess I’d better finish the story. I spent 27 minutes with Northwest on the phone on the morning of 6 October, moving seats around (so my wife gets to sit with the kids in case I get upgraded) and trying to make sure my gold status is in the system. The agent was incredibly helpful, and kept me on the line as she was playing phone relay with a Delta agent since she wasn’t able to fully access the Delta system. (Systems integration isn’t quite complete, I guess — I had the same problem in reverse at the airport on 3 October, where Delta agents couldn’t see my status on the Northwest system; good thing I carried my card with me.)

    Of course it didn’t work. When I arrived at the airport on 11 October I was still listed in the Delta system as a general member. I missed the 3-day upgrade window, and of course on the day of the flight, business elite (JFK–LAX) was already full. So no upgrade for me. The next day my miles posted, but without the elite bonus. I filled out a mileage credit request, they promise a response in 30 days. We shall see what happens.

    Here’s one thought I have about the integration process: It takes Delta weeks to fully migrate the accounts, simply because there’s so much data to move. Wouldn’t it make sense to schedule account migration based on existing reservations? It totally doesn’t matter if my NW and DL accounts are out of sync for a while if I’m not flying at the time, but it causes headaches if I do. The mess was caused by switching the account on my reservation in the 24 hours between check-in and boarding, then migrating the accounts 3 days later, immediately after I attained gold status. It would have made much more sense to schedule my account for migration after my trip had completed.

  9. I commented too soon. This afternoon I received my mail from last week (which was held at the post office while I was away), and in it were 2 envelopes from Delta with plastic SkyMiles cards — one regular and one silver medallion. The envelopes were neither dated nor postmarked so I don’t know which arrived first. The silver says it reflects my WorldPerks status as of September 1, and the regular welcomes me as SkyMiles’ newest member.

    Here’s my guess as to what happened: On September 1 they collected data about all the NW elites in order to prepare cards to send in early October. I was included. But when my account was actually migrated, the status somehow failed to migrate (though the miles did migrate properly). At the same time I took my first flight with the new SkyMiles account (with no status), hence I was welcomed as a new member.

    Well done, Delta/Northwest!

  10. I’m sure nobody is reading this, but for posterity it’s time to tell how the saga ended.

    On October 13 I filled out a mileage credit request on the Delta web site, with my flight and ticket details and the following note (some details omitted for privacy):

    Base miles and MQMs have posted for all flights in the itinerary, but medallion bonus miles have only posted for the outbound segments (XXX-ATL, ATL-XXX on 03 October 2009). I should receive gold medallion bonus miles for the inbound (JFK-LAX on 11 October 2009). My gold medallion status is reflected in my WorldPerks account XXXXXXXXX, effective 06 October 2009; however, my SkyMiles account still shows me as a general member (though it does show over 50,000 MQM posted).

    Perhaps I should have phrased it better, but it seems that the request is clear — I want my gold bonus miles for the return segment, and to change my status to gold. Can it be understood otherwise?

    On October 23 I received a response from Delta, saying “We have posted your mileage as requested.” I checked my account online, and it turned out what they did was repost my outbound segments! Gold bonus and status still missing. I know why they did that: the outbound was credited to my Northwest account before the miles transfered, but the Delta agent wasn’t able to see that because the account histories hadn’t yet been merged, so he just posted my outbound to the Delta account (makes you wonder if he even read my note).

    The next day I replied to Delta, asking them simply to update my status on the SkyMiles account to Gold (I didn’t bother mentioning the mileage discrepancy, both in order to keep things simple and because now the balance was slightly in my favor). Again, no response for a couple of weeks, though I kept getting ads and newsletters with my status alternating between general member and silver (love those merged IT systems).

    I kept checking my account every 2-3 days, and a few days ago the Northwest history appeared on my Delta account, and with it my status changed to gold. Last night I finally received a reply from Delta, stating dryly that “Our record indicates that your status has been enhanced to Gold Medallion effective October 6, 2009.” Very nice of them to give me a retroactive effective date — if it had actually been in place on October 6, I could have received an upgrade to business elite. I wonder if they merged the account manually because of my letter, or waited until the accounts merged naturally to issue the reply, or if they just happened to take so long to answer that the accounts merged before that. Oh well, who cares. Now I just have to wait for my plastic gold card to arrive in the mail.

    My account history now shows double postings for my outbound segments (including silver bonus and MQM), but no gold bonus for the return. This means I’m 644 RDM and 2495 MQM ahead of where I should be. The extra MQM won’t bring me to platinum this year, but they will roll over — I consider this to be compensation for making me miss my upgrade window last month 🙂

  11. Final post on the matter (?). Got my gold card in the mail. It’s already the 2010 card (valid till 02/2011), though it came with the 2009 program materials, complete with 4 drink coupons that expire on the final day of 2009 (wait a minute, I thought the 2009 program ran till February 2010 … oh, never mind these little details). Makes me wonder if I’ll also get a 2010 kit.

    I should celebrate by booking a ticket to Hong Kong, alas I just found out today I won’t be making that trip.

  12. No planes with 1st class from smaller airports anymore.
    Smaller planes with no 1st class on may more routes.
    Platinum flyers can’t book the 1st row on small planes like CRJ’s in advance anymore. (only good seat on plane) We now need to stand in line at the gate to hopefully get one of those seats which takes time away from work.
    On large planes, same amount of 1st class seats, double the platinum flyers also means less upgrades.
    New “higher-level” of FF class is smoke and mirrors marketing that makes it seem like a benefit, the end result is still less seats for platinum flyers.
    Accumulated result… last year, work in comfort while traveling, this year, no work, no comfort, cramped seats, stressful check in.
    FF tickets harder to get.
    No 1st class upgrades when flying on a FF ticket
    I am having the experience that I used to have when I first started flying as a non-frequent traveler.. I now dread traveling on Delta.

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