The opposite of gold-plating in the airline industry is ‘anaemic programs for customers’.
Last week, I had my first flight this year on the ‘new’ Delta. I was sure that the 1.8M miles that I had accrued on NWA would be appreciated by the new regime in Atlanta. After all, Richard Anderson was responsible for providing the vision that turned NWA into one of the best airlines that a customer could select. What a surprise!
I had been a frequent flyer, primarily Platinum, and a member of the World Club with NWA for around 15 years. I was treated to features in a frequent flyer program that made me feel appreciated and that they valued my business.
The features that meant a lot were upgrades on award tickets (for when I travelled with my family), the ability to have a profile that made online check-in easy (remembering small things like my passport number), upgrades on flights that were based on criteria that made sense, rewards for when I travelled on flights without access to a first class upgrade (the flights to Winnipeg are often on very small CRJs and there is barely room for people, never mind first class) and we received regular communication that didn’t suck all the bandwidth out of my computer (the Delta emails can take about 30 seconds to download – maybe their server is on Mars with Marvin).
Delta came up with a new frequent flyer program that penalizes those of us who earn our frequent flyer status the hard way -our backsides in an uncomfortable seat for hours and waiting in airports for what feels like forever between flights. My average flight is 500 miles. I fly to Minneapolis (500 miles) and then on to cities that are within a very short distance of the hub. Madison earns 500 mile credit, Milwaukee earns 500 mile and so on. To achieve, Diamond (the top end of the program) I must have 140 such legs or 200 flights. If my math is right, at 4 legs per trip, I would have to travel a minimum of 35 flights in this next year. Previously, it was a 100 legs and 25 trip per year. This is taking us back to the old days of flying when only those who travelled coast to coast or internationally were considered worthy of special treatment. By the way, a ticket to Winnipeg (Canada) average $800.00 USD last year. Canadians can’t fly south on NWA / Delta for $250.00 per trip return.
A very nice lady told me on Friday when I was finalizing my Saturday travel that ‘in the summer, award ticket holders with Skymiles Priority status would be eligible for an upgrade.’ Well, that will be good when I fly in the summer but right now, even the gate agents can’t give me a complementary upgrade.
I had to email Delta to find out if my ‘lifetime membership’ to the World Club will be honoured after the merger. There was no correspondence. NWA was really good at keeping their World Club members up to date. After 11 emails, I know that Delta has decided to keep the lifetime membership but didn’t think it was important to let those of us with one what the next steps would be. Theoretically, I will receive the new membership in the mail.
The golden nugget for today is ‘a merger should take the best of both companies rather than the worst of the purchaser.” Delta should have retained the best of NWA rather than creating an airline that was trying to erase all of the good things about NWA from our collective memory banks.” NWA had a vastly superior technology infrastructure, programs for customers and the best customer service people in a North American airline (IMHO). Delta is on a crash course to provide feature poor technology that will cause some of us to consider what happened to Richard Anderson after he went to Delta.
So the opposite of gold-plating, which adding features to a product that no one needs or wants, must be iron-plating. By removing features and functions that people use and want, Delta has created an iron-plated product that will rust and deteriorate over time.
Project managers out there, avoid iron-plating. Our stakeholders must be able to have as a minimum standard what they have today.