05 Aug2015

Finally. Like a bad old habit I am done with Delta Airlines. When I first start flying to U.S., it was Pan Am that was the carrier of choice. That went bankrupt. Then the direct routes of Northwest Orient from Manila to New York were the most convenient, and frankly, often the cheapest, so I flew that airline several dozen times. They also had great upgrades to business class which also probably partially led to their eventual demise. Enter Delta, who bought Northwest Orient’s routes and were now the default airline of choice, as we as a family had so many “frequent flier points invested” and we had our credit cards churning out more points into the program. They were fine for a while, until recent (past two years) changes in their frequent flier programs, huge increases in fares and other changes made them frankly, rather obnoxious.

So we have started flying other airlines, the daughter has a great direct flight to her university town through Korean Airlines which she says has newer planes, cleaner bathrooms and better bibimbap. We have flown Philippine Airlines on discount tickets and it wasn’t any worse than Delta, and since I have their highest level of frequent flier card, we get lots of perks like tons of extra baggage. Emirates has been pretty fabulous, and all those mideast oil subsidies don’t hurt either. Singapore Airlines is back on our list, but it’s often quite pricey. And Cathay Pacific is likely to be the biggest recipient of our transferred travel. As we try to use up the remnants of our points with Delta, we have been met with bizarrely inconsistent rules, and their website changes offers dynamically. Going to their offices and speaking with humans is even more infuriating, so well, it’s time to say “good riddance”! Goodbye Delta, you have succeeded in driving away three customers who have flown you and your predecessor to Asia, Northwest, for decades. Time to do what all smart travel advisors are counseling these days and forget loyalty, just book flights on a trip to trip basis based on cost, as points no longer anchor the relationship between regular fliers and their chosen airline. But we still have to figure out how to use those last few hundred thousand miles, before Delta ends up in the same place as Pan American and Northwest Orient Airlines, in our distant memories.

Here’s an interesting factoid, however. When I first flew to New York in 1975, a round-trip economy ticket was roughly USD1,300-1,400 or roughly PHP10,000. Today, the same type of ticket can be had for roughly USD1,100-1,400 or roughly PHP50,000-70,000 depending on carrier. Isn’t it fascinating that the price of a ticket to New York hasn’t really changed much in dollar terms in 40+ years?!?

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Leah says:

    I use to be a loyal American Airlines customer but have since given up since nothing annoys me more than them constantly changing their frequent flier program all the time. I have lots of mileage on Delta as well. I find the Asian Airlines better in service, quality of food and comfort. I have since given up collecting mileage but if i do find myself with significant amount of miles i normally use it for hotels. I totally understand your frustration. I like Korean Air Lines very much and I actually like ANA for transpacific flights. Allow me to vent some more, i was trying to avail of AA mileage from Seattle to London. The only available seat they were offering took 40 hours airport to airport. It was a 2 stop itinerary and countless hours in the airport. You can actually fly Seattle to LHR on a straight flight via British Airways for 9 hours. Go figure.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 11:39 am

     
  2. Zerho says:

    Didn’t know the USD price for tickets hasn’t changed for 40 years, speaks volumes of how bad our economy has gone down. Imagine from 10K-60K php.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 12:07 pm

     
  3. ros says:

    Just saw an infographic where Delta took the top spot…

    https://www.getairhelp.com/en/blog/how-to-avoid-being-bumped-from-a-flight-600

    …the airline with the MOST overboookings.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 3:06 pm

     
  4. Marketman says:

    ros, great link, thanks for that… It’s clear their strategy is a numbers driven one, to improve revenues and profits, at the expense of customer service. That may yield decent returns in the short run, but they will lose valuable long time customers in the long run. It’s night and day between airlines at the bottom of the overbooking list, and those at the dubious top posts…

    Aug 5, 2015 | 3:57 pm

     
  5. Lee says:

    A lot of my American co-workers have shifted to flying Emirates from Dubai to the US. Free booze and bigger seats won them over.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 5:09 pm

     
  6. Footloose says:

    Same as our parents’ generation looked back at the period before WWII with fondness and longing, I am already feeling a vague pining for what was air travel before 9/11. Airline food had always been notoriously bad. I remember flying to Vegas and declining the scheduled meal about which, once served, the German tourist seated beside me turned aside and complimented me on my wise choice, it looked like rice-o-roni. You also have to go farther back in time for when travellers dressed in business attire and not as if for a sleep-over. But airline food aside, travellers were simply not subjected to as much indignities before and after boarding than all the intrusions they perpetrate on your person now.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 5:33 pm

     
  7. Malou says:

    A lot of friends and family swear by Korean Air too. They have consistently been impressed with the service and courtesy of the in-flight crew. A particular friend travelled with their child on economy from LA to MNL and upon boarding saw that the crew already placed on the child’s seat coloring books and knick-knacks for the long-haul flight. Pretty cool, right?

    As for local flights within the US, I like Southwest a lot. The flights leave almost always on time and the free checked bags (two) don’t hurt either. I realize that Southwest does not serve all the big cities out here but the one that does (United) has failed me so many times before that I avoid it like the plague. Our worst experience was sitting like ducks in the plane at the gate for three hours and the crew wouldn’t even give my crying children a glass of water; we had finished our ‘baon’ of milk and water for what was supposed to just be a two-hour flight to Newark from O’Hare. The crew just kept telling us that they can’t open their frickin’ fridges because the plane will taxi soon. After three hours, we did taxi. Only to wait another hour and a half at the tarmac. WTF! And this was in the middle of summer with perfectly clear blue skies at that.

    I don’t know how else to explain that bullsh!t.

    Aug 5, 2015 | 8:11 pm

     
  8. ricky gonzalez says:

    mr marketman, swerte ka you can make the choice, pero for some of us, who have to fly to secondary cities in the United States, it is still Delta or United. Flying Korean or Asiana, might be cheaper and better, but the length of connection time in major airport hubs and the transferring from terminals is a big concern. The same problems is true, riding other Asian or ME carriers. So, good luck on your future travels, clear skies and favorable winds.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 8:03 am

     
  9. Zena says:

    I used to be a Delta frequent flyer until recently. Bought two tickets using miles. They charged me 300 USD for cancelling the flight a week before schedule. If I just no-showed, I would’ve lost my miles but no fee which I preferred. So they returned my miles, charged me money and sold my seats again for sure. I used up my miles and I was done. Jet blue for me since we don’t have Southwest Airlines.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 8:04 am

     
  10. ami says:

    More changes are coming to Delta miles next year. Doesn’t look good to me. http://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/deltas-skymiles-program-altered-again-raising-new-chorus-howls-n395211

    MM, by Emirates do you mean Manila-Dubai-US East Coast? How long does that take?

    My sister used to take Delta for her business trips to the US East Coast. These past 2 years though, she’s taken Cathay Pacific instead since they are cheaper. Her Delta miles are expiring this year so she bought 2 business class tickets to Tokyo and the two of us are going on a food trip later this month. You should consider going to Japan too MM.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 9:21 am

     
  11. Isa says:

    Use cards that convert the points to different airlines of your choice na lang, like Amex or Starwood. Instead of being trapped with one carrier.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 10:08 am

     
  12. Marketman says:

    ami, yes, we were considering Osaka, but Delta no longer flies there. For Emirates, mostly flights to Europe. The layover for U.S. east coast cities is too long and makes the whole trip too long… Isa, yes, that’s right.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 11:43 am

     
  13. jjjjjjjj says:

    Same old same old with these airlines. We give them our loyalty, but we do not receive a whit of it in turn. Northwest was the worst prior to its merger with Delta. Now, Delta is the worst of the lot. Way to go Marketman, I agree that the trick is to buy on a cost-need basis. Sometimes the aggravation attending miles redemption, the restrictive schedules, coupled with unpleasant frontline staff are not worth the “savings.” I’d rather shell out the extra $$ or PP and save myself the time and trouble. So, together, Sayonara, Delta!

    Aug 6, 2015 | 12:14 pm

     
  14. ami says:

    MM, Osaka is a quick 2.5 hours away on the Nozomi Shinkansen. It’s the bullet train with the least stops between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka stations. You can leave Tokyo early in the morning and be in Osaka for brunch. Though I would recommend that you visit Kyoto instead. It’s a little more than 2 hours away from Tokyo via the same train that would bring you to Osaka. Osaka and Tokyo are similar where they’re both modern and efficient cities. But Kyoto is the old Japan where shrines, temples, gardens, and nature reign supreme.

    Aug 6, 2015 | 2:27 pm

     
  15. Ron says:

    Just FYI! starting March 16, 2016 – Cebu to Los Angeles v.v. Direct Flight by Philippine Airlines :)

    Aug 6, 2015 | 2:59 pm

     
  16. Marketman says:

    See this Travel + Leisure ranking of hotel and airline loyalty programs… no wonder Delta is evil… :)

    Aug 6, 2015 | 9:48 pm

     
  17. hiddendragon says:

    In general, Asian airlines are waaaaay better than American airlines. And American Airlines is appropriately the flag bearer of this reputation. I once spilt a whole can of tomato juice on the seat next to me, thankfully, empty. Mea culpa. I asked for the FA’s assistance, and if not actually wiping it off, to hand me a rag. She gave me two sheets of tissue and promptly walked away. So I did what I could with those two pcs and promptly let those anti-oxidants soak into the cancerous fabric and foam. Never again, American! Oh, did I mention the salad was two pithy lettuce leaves and half a ballpoint pen of a carrot slice? American coffee? A contradiction in terms, if there ever was one 10,000 meters up in the skies!

    Aug 7, 2015 | 9:09 am

     
  18. Kasseopeia says:

    I super love love Korean Air and Emirates.
    Happy to say I have never flown with Delta (friends have but the horror stories give me the creeps).

    In their push for a higher share in what is already a slim profit margin, these carriers often alienate the very source of money: their passengers (actual and potential).
    On the flipside, with more competition, carriers are forced to shape-up lest they lose their market share completely.

    Aug 7, 2015 | 1:43 pm

     
  19. Klaus says:

    I gave up on Delta long and refer to it as Delta, a four letter word. I live six miles from a major midwestern airport that Delta services. Yet when I fly i drive anywhere from 50 to over 100 miles to avoid flying Delta, and the cost of flying is usually several 100 dollars less.

    Aug 8, 2015 | 12:51 am

     
  20. Natie says:

    I’ts been Korean Airlines for many years now. I love KAL. Singapore Airlines has a gorgeous airport. Always great service with in-flight crew. Ground crew in NAIA could use a lot of training in courtesy though…

    Aug 8, 2015 | 3:21 am

     
  21. Mike says:

    Totally agree that many US airlines have hideous service and inscrutable mileage rules. On the other hand, I’m still ambivalent about unilaterally ditching them, since I read somewhere that their pilots and maintenance crew are still topnotch in terms of pilot and mechanic on- going training, maintenance, education, etc. That’s probably why there haven’t been horrendous accidents/crashes from pilot error or maintenance/mechanical problems in the recent past in that regard as opposed to some Asian airlines like Malaysia, Asiana, China. I still remember that US Airways that crashed on the Hudson river some years back and how competent the pilot was. Think about it.

    Aug 9, 2015 | 5:48 am

     
  22. friedneurons says:

    I’m of the same mindset as you now. I used to fly United Airlines almost exclusively, and managed to gain elite status solely with pleasure flights. Then I got a job that involved lots of travel, and I gained elite status on United, American, AND Delta. After I changed job roles and didn’t have to travel anymore, I lost elite status on American and Delta. I actually let my Delta miles evaporate into thin air. Managed to use up my American miles on free flights and hotel stays, then United pissed me off so much when I last flew to Manila (ANA is a Star Alliance airline and some SFO-NRT flights are codeshare between the two airlines) that I blew through a few hundred thousand miles of my Mileage Plus balance shopping for stuff like electronics, wrist watches watches, and magazine subscriptions. Now I have no miles of any significance, and if I want to travel like a Mr. Fancy Pants I’ll just pay for it. Totally done with airline loyalty programs.

    Aug 9, 2015 | 7:24 am

     
  23. snowflake says:

    Hello MM. I rarely write in, but I could not resist. My answer – do not fly domestically in the USA anymore. Stick to destinations that international carriers like CX, SQ, KA, EX, and others fly into.

    Domestic service is horrible, flight crew make you feel they are doing you a favor when they provide any level of service. I called American airlines the other day and they charge USD 35 to make a booking over the phone. Imagine this?!?! You are booking directly with the airline and they are charging you to speak to a person. Further, they are quite provincial. Why would it be such a surprise when a person is calling from Hong Kong and has a US mailing address?

    Food and the pitch of the seat are important, but service is not negotiable. With all of the airlines that your readers have mentioned, service matters. These airlines may not always succeed; but they try.

    I will say, personally, it is hard to give up on the loyalty programs, not because of the redemption awards; but because of the guaranteed flights, upgrades, lounge access, expedited fast track lanes at immigration, and many other benefits. When you spend lots of time in airports, it’s does make a difference.

    Aug 9, 2015 | 6:35 pm

     
  24. Lannie says:

    I hear you MM. Been a loyal KLM Flying Blue flyer myself… until about 2 years ago. First, no more direct flights to Manila from NL but that was because the Phil govt refused to budge on aviation taxes but still we flew with them because we had TONS of frequent flier miles. But after a few months they increased the number of award miles required to THREE TIMES the norm!!! WTF, right? Anyhoo, moved to Cathay Pacific :)

    Aug 10, 2015 | 7:42 pm

     
  25. Jody says:

    I stopped using frequent flyer loyalty programs. I do use the points associated with my particular business CC, for staying in Radisson hotels in Europe and here in the US. Tony Ryan started the revolution, and executives from the old GPA and Ryanair have started dozens of cheap budget airlines (from Singapore to Mexico and from Nigeria to Norway) within the last decade.If you check the ownership and management structures of most budget airlines, you will many senior execs. with ownership stakes,who started in the business with Ryanair.

    It is now possible to fly from Providence, RI to Frankfurt, Germany for 700 bucks; compared to 1750 dollars, using Delta on a flight from Boston to Frankfurt. What a laugh! You could probably UBER down to Providence from Boston in a nice car with a civilized driver for under a hundred bucks

    To show my age, I remember flying with British Caledonia from London to Hong Kong for 99 pounds sterling. I also remember quite vividly being able to buy a bus ticket from London to Mumbai for 140 pounds using the fabled Magic Bus company. This was all long before the Shah toppled in Iran. Really good times! Engineers, missionaries and hippies were all very fond of Magic Bus.

    Aug 14, 2015 | 8:26 am

     
  26. j. says:

    In re-reading this post, I remembered this article from nyt:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/01/your-money/in-deltas-frequent-flier-magic-trick-not-just-rabbits-disappear.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fyour-money&contentCollection=your-money&action=click&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article

    Flying internationally I use JAL, ANA, and even Cathay Pacific. I seem to have major issues with service and quality when I’ve used PAL and any major American airlines. I don’t mind being in the way back yonder, but at least give me some sort of positive service (not even asking for a smile or genuine hospitality here, many of them are overworked underpaid and stuck with many a rude flyer-I admit to seeing them and sometimes wanting to act likeone)…Within US, I use SouthWest…I still get two free baggage checked in.

    Aug 16, 2015 | 1:16 am

     
 

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