As Seattle Turns: Delta Slashes Elite Benefits for Alaska Fliers

I really just can’t get enough of this slow unraveling of the Delta/Alaska partnership. It beats any actual soap opera out there (if any are left on the air). And each week, there’s another juicy tidbit to keep you tuning in for more. I know I just wrote about this recently, but that’s old news. Now we have more shots fired.

Alaska Delta War in Seattle

Last week, on As Seattle Turns, the Widget (Delta) continued his metamorphosis by adding more and more flights in Seattle, much to the chagrin of his “partner,” the Eskimo (Alaska). As if that wasn’t enough to put the relationship on the rocks, the Widget also pulled back on codesharing on overlapping flights. In response, the Eskimo began looking elsewhere; building up stronger relationships with his other partners and publicly announcing he expected this long-budding relationship with the Widget to become less fruitful over time. Now, on to this week’s exciting episode.

Over the last year, the Widget has spent a lot of money wooing a new companion, a saucy minx from London. After spending all kinds of cash on her, the romance has now produced an offspring (only her name is Virgin) — a brand new route from Seattle to London will enter the world this weekend.

The Eskimo, afraid of being alone, has decided to cuddle up with the old matron of England. They’ve been friends for years, but they decided to bring their kinship into a more public spotlight. So throughout the Spring (until June 24, actually), these two will be handing out party favors to those who join them on their merry way from Seattle to London. You’ll get double Eskimo miles for choosing to fly with the Queen instead of with the Widget.

The Widget, however, has hardly taken notice. He has been crafting plans to isolate himself further from the Eskimo as their lovers’ quarrel escalates. This time, the Eskimo’s inner circle, the elites in his Mileage Plan, are feeling the Widget’s wrath.

As of May 1, the Eskimo’s inner circle will no longer be able to check bags for free and the bags that are checked won’t receive priority treatment. They will not get to use the Widget’s priority security lines and priority boarding will be downgraded from SkyPriority to zone 1. The final dagger? They’ll lose their 50 percent discount off Economy Comfort seats when flying with the Widget.

Where does this leave those in the Eskimo’s inner circle? Well, not all is lost. They can still get priority check-in and they’ll get access to preferred seating when flying with the Widget. They’ll also continue to get 100 percent elite bonus miles, and they’ll have access to free upgrades in the lower 48 states… after all the Widget’s own elites get their upgrades, of course. That becomes less and less useful by the day as the Widget works to woo more people away from the Eskimo.

Undoubtedly, the Widget is doing this to get more people to abandon the Eskimo’s inner circle and join his instead. But will it work? For some yes, but for others, no. There’s clearly plenty of temptation from both sides.

Naturally, the Eskimo can’t just sit here and let the Widget trample all over him. Instead of penning words to express his emotions, he chose action. The Widget’s elites will now have to pay for bags when they fly with the Eskimo. And they’ll lose access to his priority security lines as well. The rest of the increasingly fragile pairing remains intact, for now.

How much longer can this continue? Will the Widget and the Eskimo reconcile or will they split for good? Tune in next week (or, you know, whenever there’s news) for more drama on As Seattle Turns.


44 Responses to As Seattle Turns: Delta Slashes Elite Benefits for Alaska Fliers

  1. Neil S. says:

    Best. Post. Ever.

    • SEAN says:

      Second!

      • Sanjeev M says:

        Next time on As Seattle Turns: An extremely oppressive mother-in-law (AMEX) controls the widget’s every move like a puppet, and emotionally drains her soul (SkyMiles) until even longtime friends (KE) cannot bear (eskimo?) to be with the widget any longer.

  2. Jim M says:

    Meanwhile has the Phoenix (AA) able to pick itself up and invite the Eskimo over for a scotch and some candlelight music? Maybe a few dramatic looks into the camera?

    • SEAN says:

      Now to add a little twist, what kind of relationship are the phoenix & the eskimo in currently? It semes to me it’s either love hate or codependency. Either way – time to bring in Doctor Phil.

  3. ChuckMO says:

    Every good soap should have a theme song so I suggest this Gladys Knight and The Pips classic:

    It’s sad to think we’re not gonna make it
    And it’s gotten to the point where we just can’t fake it
    For some ungodly reason we just won’t let it die
    I guess neither one of us wants to be the first to say goodbye

    I keep wondering, what I’m gonna do without you
    And I guess you must be wondering that same thing too
    So we go on, go on together living a lie
    Because neither one of us wants to be the first to say goodbye

    Everytime I find the nerve
    Everytime I find the nerve to say I’m leaving
    Memories, those old memories get in my way
    Lord knows, it’s only me

    Oh, he knows it’s me that I’m deceiving
    When it comes to saying goodbye
    That’s a simple word that I just cannot say

    There can be no way, there can be no way
    This can have a happy ending, no, no
    So we just go on hurting and pretending
    And convincing ourselves to give it just one more try

    Because neither one of us wants to be the first to say
    Neither one of us wants to be the first to say
    Neither one of us wants to be the first to say
    Farewell my love, goodbye

    Goodbye

    Songwriters
    James Weatherly

    Published by
    UNIVERSAL-POLYGRAM INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING, INC.

  4. David SF eastbay says:

    Being on the west coast, I could care less.

    Unless DL removes a big chunk of flying from somewhere else in the country and moves it west, it can’t just pop up in the northwest and trump the entire AS system. So breaking up a partnership is what will happen and then DL and AS will just compete like other airlines do in other places. People who travel will just pick which airline works for them for every flight just like people do everywhere in the world now.

  5. David says:

    Perhaps a new mysterious lover will win the Eskimo’s affections so that they may be united happily together ?

    • Shane says:

      So that they may be United? When did United get into this love triangle? Maybe a love square now?

    • ptahcha says:

      Alas, the mysterious new lover needs to keep her house in order before it makes any Friendly moves.

      On the other hand, perhaps a Blue knight should join the quest?

  6. Southeasterner says:

    I still think this all started when the Eskimo started exploring the Mormon faith (SLC) and courting the widget loyalists. It was after this move that the widget started challenging native American fishing rights in the Pac NW.

    • CF says:

      Southeasterner – Not true. The Eskimo didn’t visit the great salt lake until after the Widget began growing in Seattle.

  7. BobLep says:

    The widget is just aggravated because the Eskimo wants to dance with all the pretty planes around the world. Just wants to share it’s code with everyone.

  8. sjc user says:

    It would be so much more fun to watch if it didn’t actually have a negative impact on me. As a DL elite who uses AS a couple times a year, this slow break up is starting to actually have a negative affect on wallet (baggage fees) and I see it only getting worse.

  9. Carl says:

    Why don’t they just put a fork in it and declare it done?

    I wonder if there is enough synergy to develop a partnership between AS & UA and Star Alliance. LH NH OZ & BR provide international services at SEA which could benefit from AS flow traffic, and UA doesn’t compete any more with AS than did DL before the buildup. With UA now withdrawing SEA-ANC, AS could give some flow to UA’s traffic at SEA, and UA can finally give up the CR2 farce on SEA-LAX

    • I could see a UA AS partnership I don’t see why they arnt talking now heck they are both in the North Concourse or at least PM UA was its been a while since I have been to SEA

      • Carl says:

        UA is now in the A gates at SEA. However all of SEA is connected post security, and at various times AS itself has used S gates and B gates, and DL is at S and sometimes A and B. Connections at SEA are viable between UA & AS, even if not optimized. It would be nice if a United Club card also provided access to the Alaska Boardroom!

  10. Eric says:

    I do wonder if the Eskimo has been slipping off to Chicago for a tawdry affair in the Sears (Willis) tower. Only problem with such a clandestine romance is it will enrage her partner in Dallas an I doubt she can put both on her dance card. Perhaps she will back-fill the loss of her long time Widget partner by reaching out to international carriers from exotic places, regardless of global alliance (KE & BA for example).

    Good Lord I feel like I’m writing a passage from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey (metal)’

  11. Rose says:

    So as someone in ANC looking to fly to ICN this fall and wanting to earn AS elite qualifying miles for the cheapest flight I can find – should I be avoiding DL and just looking at Korean Air? I’ve been burned by DL cancelling international flights on me in the past (3 times!) but I keep going back to them because of the cost. Any advice?

  12. Ryan Lile says:

    Great post. As an AS elite I’d be perfectly fine seeing the back of Delta forever. While I actually do enjoy their international economy products, their continued putting the screws to their own SkyMiles members leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Like the SkyPesos program wasn’t bad enough before!

    These changes are the shape of things to come between these two “partners”. Only someone who didn’t understand frequent flyer programs at all would even consider switching from the Eskimo to the Widget.

    Let’s hope the AS/AA partnership deepens as a result.

  13. EAG says:

    Any post about the airline industry that includes the words “saucy minx” deserves some sort of award. Excellent piece.

  14. Matt says:

    Am I correct in assuming that flights booked before April 30th will still get free checked bags for MVP members even if flight takes place after that date? As a loyal MVP member now living in the heart of Delta country (Michigan), I have a few upcoming flights already booked and I really am not in the mood to pay for my luggage. AA (and the true headache that is O’Hare), here I come!

  15. What I really want to know who the Widget has been cavorting with in the production department to get his picture in the middle of the Eskimo’s initials in the logo of this soap opera? Has the Widget been feeding information to the misanthropic flier who chronicles this drama about Eskimo’s short future? Will the Eskimo succumb to a marriage with the Widget? Or will the Phoenix swoop in first? Perhaps the Tulip will finally consummate its marriage with the Globe and make some moves on the Eskimo?

    Stay tuned.

  16. PF says:

    Delta is being rather aggressive lately. Are they burning their bridges behind them?

  17. Alex says:

    The Widget just crapped the bed by trashing a VERY lucrative relationship with the Eskimo. The Eskimo is the dominant carrier along the west coast, and provided a flood of feeder traffic to the Widget.

    Too late to turn back now…they stabbed a good partner in the back, and the Eskimo will most certainly cozy up to another lover (AA).

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  19. phllax says:

    Cranky,

    When do the next episodes of One LAX to Live and LUVing come out?

  20. john says:

    LOL – second best Cranky Image..ever!

  21. Xtina says:

    As one of the Eskimo’s inner circle, I was upset to see the email from Widget this week. The Eskimo’s inner circle has been one of the most lucrative loyalty programs! Beside the great customer service (really!), I get miles from the Phoenix and Widget without having to pick a side. Plus I still get super miles and free flights from the Queen, Monsieur and Wooden Shoes (which fly no where near the US West coast)! Widget is really making a bad choice. Eskimo’s inner circle has it pretty good and I’m not likely to give that up. Phoenix will just step in and take over the domestic traffic Widget would have sold. Oh drama!

  22. kaimi says:

    How about a marriage between Hawaiian and the Eskimo? The eskimo and polynesian beauty make a great couple.

  23. Roscoe says:

    you do realize that Delta Airlines is building a very strong partnership with Virgin. In some stations delta employees are working Virgin’s flights.

  24. HS says:

    Maybe I am naive. Why didn’t the Alaska Airlines apply for Seattle-based transpacific flights (the most profitable routes, especially between China and US) from DoT a few years ago? Or how were they not able to envision (Delta did) that Seattle has potential to be the best hub for such flights.

    First, that would be a good timing for Alaska if they did have such a plan. UA/AA/Delta were in trouble or busy with megamergers and couldn’t take actions at Seattle. However, Delta already noticed the value of Seattle six years ago. See this article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/tedreed/2014/07/04/note-to-alaska-airlines-its-time-to-make-a-deal-with-delta/): “Six years ago, I was on an airplane with Glen Hauenstein, Delta executive president and resident genius, who built what is now United’s hub in Newark and then helped remake bankrupt Delta into what has become the most successful U.S. airline. Hauenstein pointed to the map in the inflight magazine and said Seattle is the best place in the U.S. for an Asian hub.”

    Second, Alaska’s already strong network of domestic flights in northwest could best support such international flights, which in turn would boost the needs of and benefit domestic flights.

    Maybe Alaska’s strategy is to be a giant of super-regional services. However, if you are upon a gold mine and don’t want to do anything, soon or later, a war would be at the gate (like what Delta is doing now).

    Suppose today, along with the better reward plan, better services than Delta, if Alaska would already have a number of transpacific flights, what can happen?

    • Well, I’m not 100% sure about why Alaska didn’t start Asian routes, but they’re very much about keeping things simple and taking risks smartly. Adding a whole new type to fly to Asia, without a brand or network to support them on the other side. Whereas DL already has the brand and the planes. If SEA doesn’t work for them, they can move the planes elsewhere, or retire some of the older planes and shrink the long haul fleet.

      • Carl says:

        AS doesn’t have the fleet for long flights to Asia, and it has far less domestic reach. It would have been a huge gamble for AS to launch long haul international service. Anyway that ship has sailed.

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