Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta Goes Straight Cash Homie, Mexico Comes in First, More

Cranky Weekly Review

Show Me the Money: Delta’s New Medallion Program

Delta Air Lines announced the details of its “simplified” new Medallion program this week and despite the shift to a completely revenue-based program that will gut most travelers and eliminate all chances to game the system, Delta customers seem to be taking the changes very rationally.

The nuts and bolts are that MQMs and MQSs are going away — the only way to qualify for status is Medallion Qualifcation Dollars (MQDs). This all goes into effect for qualifying on January 1, 2024 for the 2025 Medallion year — it’ll take $6,000 for Silver, $12,000 for Gold, $18,000 for Platinum and a whopping $35,000 for Diamond. Medallion members can currently exempt themselves from the MQD limits if they spend $25k on a DL-branded AMEX for Silver through Platinum or $250k for Diamond. That’s gone in the new program.

The carrier also is gutting SkyClub access via credit card, limiting customers to six visits per year (AMEX Platinum) or ten visits per year (AMEX DL Reserve). That can be overcome with $75k of spend on the card granting unlimited access for the remainder of the year and the entire next year. What hasn’t been announced is how Delta will let you know how many visits you have left — here’s hoping when you enter the SkyClub, a large digital board announces to everyone in the club how many visits you have left for the year and if you have none, you’ll get a big Family Feud-style “x” with sound effects. Delta passengers flying in Delta One to most international destinations will still receive club access, although it’s unclear how one will be able to use the club in that instance and not have it count against their remaining tally.

The idea that there are too many Delta elites and too many people in SkyClubs is generally accepted by most customers. Most want the herds culled exactly up to the point at which they qualify for Medallion status and club access — anything less is too generous and anything more is ruining the program. When asked to comment on the changes, Delta CEO Ed Bastian referred media to Delta’s newest executive, saying “Don’t ask me, this is why we hired Tom. It was all his idea.”

Mexico: We’re (Category) Number 1!

The FAA restored Mexico’s Category 1 safety rating this week, giving Mexican airlines the opportunity to begin new service to the United States and sign new codeshare agreements with U.S. carriers, neither of which had been possible over the past two years as Mexico languished with a Category 2 rating. This is in contrast with other nations, such as Pakistan which currently has a Category 18 rating, which prevents PIA or other Pakistani carriers from carrying maps on board that depict the United States or from even booking personal vacation on other airlines to any airport but Newark.

The original downgrade came after the FAA discovered several areas of non-complinace with international safety standards during a reveiw of the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC). The federal government says it provided expertise and technical assistance to the AFAC to resolve the issues.

Increased safety measures the FAA pressed upon AFAC include an increased focus on stopping passengers with 4-6 ounces of sunscreen in carry-on luggage as that’s considered the sweet spot for malfeasance, encouraging Mexican airlines to create as many boarding groups as possible to maximize confusion and upsell opportunities, and always being as vague as possible when giving information about flight delays.

JetBlue Makes Spirited Offer to Allegiant

JetBlue Airways announced an agreement with Allegiant to divest itself of Spirit’s operation both in Boston and Newark if its acquisition of Spirit is victorious over the DOJ in the current lawsuit over the merger.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hates said the announcement “is aimed at removing any doubt of our commitment to promoting competition.” Later on, Hayes was caught on hot mic adding “to be honest, merger or no merger, they can take the Newark operation. If I never have to go there again, it’ll be too soon.” In the agreement, Allegiant would take over Spirit’s two gates in Boston, plus in Newark Spirit would give up two gates, its runway timings to operate at the airport, and a shoebox filled with about $70 worth of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit claims the nearly $4 billion transaction will raise prices and eliminate competition by eliminating Spirit. The DOJ also said it finds Spirit’s yellow airplanes to be visually stimulating and would hate to see them go away.

For more on this, see yesterday’s Cranky post.

PIA Receives Last Ditch Bailout

Pakistan International Airlines, the airline that will let anyone — and we mean anyone — fly its airplanes, was on the verge of going out of business Wednesday night before the government saved the day at the last minute by forcing someone else to bail the airline out.

The Pakistani government ordered local banks to offer emergency funding to the airline, with the carrier and government promising to let bank managers fly the plane and route of their choice in exchange for the funds. PIA was forced to cancel some domestic flights this week because it didn’t have enough cash on hand to buy fuel or pay airport fees.

The government rejected the airline’s request of $77 million in funding, instead forcing the banks to pay up, which admittedly makes sense from the government’s perspective as the airline has no chance to actually make money. This band-aid will allow PIA to purchase maps of the US in anticipation of the country’s upgrade to Category 17. It will also keep PIA flying for the next several weeks until it inevitably runs out of money or is merged with JetBlue, whichever comes first.

United Opens its Biggest Lounge Ever

United Airlines opened the second of two new United clubs this week at its Denver hub, a 35,000 sq.-ft. lounge which is the largest in United’s system.

Despite the overwhelming size of the new club, the carrier still plans to limit the amount of annual visits for Delta-branded AMEX card holders to zero. Delta fliers remain incredulous about the decision and plan to appeal to both Tom Brady and the federal government.

United’s new club features beer flight boards which will finally give the carrier a flight board that isn’t full of delays and cancellations. The new club also features a seasonal rotation of premium local and craft beers to help customers forget the fact they just flew in from Newark. The carrier will open a third United Club in Denver in 2025, just in time for it to catch up to Delta’s lounge access policy and keep most customers out.

  • Aeroflot is starting the equivalent of the guy in Central Park who opens his overcoat to reveal dozens of knockoff watches, but doing it with airplane parts instead. The carrier is also beginning 2x weekly flights this December to Mauritius for Russians looking to escape the winter and believe in brakes-optional flying.
  • American adjusted its Q3 financial guidance down to a profit of just $.20 to $.30 per share, down from as high as $.95 per share.
  • Canada Jetlines had a strong August flying passengers all over Canada to both actual destinations and some that it makes up on the way.
  • China Southern is resuming service from Wuhan to the United States. Surely there’s no joke to be made here. Once-weekly service will begin with a feverish intensity on November 4, operated by the carrier’s breathtaking B777-300ER.
  • Delta is adding an oat milk creamer option. Or as it’s otherwise known, “The Brady Effect.”
  • Elite Airways is being bought by an unnamed investor. Presumably the investor has a name, and it’s not being released, but we suppose it is possible the person just doesn’t have a name.
  • Emirates is resuming service to Nigeria.
  • Frontier cut its Q3 capacity forecast.
  • Garuda Indonesia is opening a new base.
  • Georgian Airways is not in debt, just ask Georgian Airways.
  • Lufthansa is doubling the number of cities to which it deploys its A380s next summer.
  • Maldivian now has an interline agreement with Emirates.
  • Mango‘s fate is expected to be decided in the next 30 days. But surely someone will find a reason to drag it out for several more weeks.
  • Mexicana will receive $6.8 million from the Mexican government next year to take a second shot at being an airline.
  • Perimeter Airlines is being surrounded on all sides by complaints the carrier isn’t operating fairly, and taking advantage of a monopoly on service in Manitoba.
  • Qantas took another L in court this week, this time over its decision to outsource ground workers during the pandemic.
  • Singapore will begin 4x weekly service to Brussels beginning in April. This will be the first time SQ’s flying to Brussels in more than two decades.
  • Spirit‘s credit rating has been reduced to BB+. Surely there’s a joke in there somewhere, but it was downgraded too much to be shared.
  • Southwest is very prepared for winter, according to Southwest. Reports indicate the carrier is fully stocked with individual packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate and purchased the all-access pass to be able to stream the entire library of Hallmark Christmas movies.
  • Starlux will begin 3x weekly flights to San Francisco this December, becoming daily in March. The carrier also plans to begin serving Seattle next year.
  • SWISS is adding daily service to Washington/Dulles next summer.
  • TAP‘s newest codeshare partner is SAS.
  • VietJet secured funding for 200 B737 MAX aircraft.
  • WestJet appears to be the latest stop on the Canadian campaign trail.

Most people say t-rexes can’t clap because they have short arms, but I’ve always believed the fact that they’re all dead is a bigger factor.

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8 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta Goes Straight Cash Homie, Mexico Comes in First, More

  1. Now that Mexico is back to Cat 1, maybe the VivaAerobus/Allegiant JV can go forward. Guessing that, if that goes through, Viva/G4 will coordinate at LAX, LAS and CVG to start with. Might make sense for Viva to move ORD-MDW and IAH-HOU for routes they currently have, and start service back in FLL and SFB rather than MCO and MIA. And they’ll definitely come back to AUS, as they were planning on serving MEX and MTY before the Cat 2 demotion. Maybe they’ll do something weird like BJT for arrivals, South Terminal for departures.

    And those are the dots on the map from Viva’s side; I know G4 has their own list of bases they want Viva service to.

  2. “United’s new club features beer flight boards which will finally give the carrier a flight board that isn’t full of delays and cancellations.”

    Haha, let’s see what happens when a tap goes dry! If it’s anything like AA’s JFK Chelsea lounge liquor selection, there will be a lot of cancellations

  3. “ The original downgrade came after the FAA discovered several areas of non-complinace with international safety standards during a reveiw of the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC).”

    Does the FAA review all foreign equivalents of the FAA? And, do those organizations review the FAA (and all other for them foreign FAA-like organizations?

    1. Oliver – The FAA does review the safety of all countries that fly to the US or have US airlines flying to them, as far as I’m aware. I have no idea how many other countries do the same or just rely on audits from respected authorities like FAA or EASA.

  4. Delta should change the name to SkyDollars since it’s now just another frequent spending program. Accruing miles by flying on their planes has nothing to do with it anymore. RIP frequent flyer programs. Pathetic.

    1. It is pathetic. Living in Dallas, I’ve moved my travel to Southwest. At least they reward you for, you know, actually traveling on them. What a novel concept!

    2. The accrual of miles didn’t actually change. This change is all about how elite status is determined (now exclusively by $$$ spent). The revenue-based redeemable miles accrual was already introduced years ago.

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