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February update

We still get excited at the sight of a big ole Delta B747, especially now that they all have new lie flat seats! (Photo: Redlegsfan21 / Flickr)

We still get excited at the sight of a big ole Delta B747, especially now that they all have new lie flat seats! (Photo: Redlegsfan21 / Flickr)

Check out our new look! And help us celebrate! We’ve been busy working on a new look for The TICKET that we hope will be easier on your eyes, and easier to navigate. Please bear with us as we polish up the new look and let us know if there’s anything that does not make sense, or seems out of place. Also, this month marks an important milestone in the life of The TICKET– it’s TWENTY YEARS OLD! Yep, the TICKET cranked up as a paper newsletter ($37/yr) mailed via the USPS way back in February of 1993. How many of you have been reading that long? 

Remember when The TICKET looked like this?

Remember when The TICKET looked like this?

IMPACT OF SKYMILES CHANGES. Our informal poll of TICKET readers gauged the response on the recent addition of dollars spent to miles flow to achieve SkyMiles medallion status. 42%of the poll respondents said they will easily be able to make both the spending and mileage requirements to maintain status. About 18% said it would be tough, but they would be able to make the cut. The other 40% said they will be up a creek. See the survey responses and read interesting comments regarding that post here.

MILLION MILERS CAN CHILLAX. If you earned Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status based on being a One, Two, or Three+ Million Miler, you are exempt from the new revenue requirement. If you want to continue rolling over MQMs, however, then you must meet the requirement of the level from which you want to rollover. Still have questions or concerns? Delta has posted a helpful FAQ about the new program here.

DELTA + STARWOOD = NICE. Delta and Starwood have launched a unique new program called Crossover Rewards, which offers reciprocal benefits in both programs. This means that starting March 1, Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallions (who are not already elite with Starwood) will get elite level benefits in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, including 4 pm checkout, free internet, and one SkyMile per dollar spent on room rate in addition to Starpoints. That’s great. But it also means that elite level SPG members will have access to already crowded priority check in and boarding lines. They will also get one free check bag. What do you think? Is this a good thing, or not? If you are a Delta Diamond or Platinum beholden to another hotel brand, will this make you consider a switch to swanky Starwoood? Please leave your comments below! Details and registration here: delta.com/crossoverrewards or spg.com/crossoverrewards. Insiders tell The TICKET that a Starwood brand will team up with Delta later this spring with some trendy inflight amenities or other promotions.

HILTON HHONORS DEVALUED: Effective March 28, Hilton HHonors will play under a new set of rules. (Sound familiar?) Instead of the current seven award tiers, there will be 10. The highest tier will now require a whopping 95,000 points per night, up from just 50,000. You’ll pay more during high season, and less during low season. This is indicative of a travel industry trend I’ve been following—when paying with cash or with points, peak season prices are rising through the roof due to rising demand from travelers. The only way to get the best deals at rates that feel reasonable, is to fly or stay during low or so-called “shoulder” seasons. How do you feel about this? Angry enough to dump Hilton and move to a competitor? Well, not so fast…Today Starwood rolled out its adjusted list of hotel award categories, with more hotels moving up than down—not as severe as Hilton’s, but still. Thoughts?

GLASS-BOTTOM JET. Hey iPad users… have you tried out Delta’s cool new Glass Bottom Jet feature, which shows what’s going on beneath the plane as you are flying across the country? To use it, you must first download the Fly Delta for the iPad app. Give it a go, and let us know what you think. And if you have no idea what we are talking about, watch the video above! 

AMERICAN + US AIRWAYS. The proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways will have a minimal impact on the Atlanta market. Neither carrier has a large presence here. US Airways flights to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix will likely be folded into American’s operations out of the T-gates at ATL—that’s an improvement for US Airways customers who’ve had to trudge out to Concourse D. Plus, they will have access to American’s nice Admirals Club near the T-gate spine. Another plus: If you have some stray AAdvantange or Dividend miles lying around, you’ll be able to combine them in the new program. What do you think? Will the merger have an impact on you?   

DELTA TO TOKYO. Delta has received the go-ahead from the DOT to shift its Detroit-Tokyo Haneda flight to Seattle-Haneda.The new flight will be an excellent option for Atlantans who prefer close-in Haneda– avoiding the long transfer (1-2 hours) from Narita into town. While it does involve flying to Seattle first, the Seattle-Haneda flight will be flown with Boeing 747-400 aircraft (like the Atlanta-Narita flight) with new lie-flat seats in BusinessElite and individual entertainment screens in Economy Comfort and Economy.

TICKET editor Chris McGinnis's Business Trip column on BBC.com

TICKET editor Chris McGinnis’s Business Trip column on BBC.com

SPEAKING OF TOKYO. Your TICKET editor is fresh back from a business trip to Tokyo—the result of which is his latest BBC.com column. Check it out to learn about Tokyo’s recovery from the earthquake, its luxury hotel boom (one brand new hotel is inside Tokyo Station!), and where to find a decent meal.

AIRTRAN-SOUTHWEST CODESHARING BEGINS. The two carriers, which have begun the merger process, have started placing their codes on a handful of each other’s flights. While this may seem like a non-event for the average traveler, AirTran still charges bag fees ($25 for the first, $35 for the second). If you purchase your ticket via Southwest’s website under a Southwest code (even if it is operated by Air Tran), you will be spared the bag fee. Agents are certainly going to be hell bent on charging the fee, but the official policy is that your source of purchase should dominate. Note that not all AirTran flights appear on Southwest.com– only the current handful of code share flights.

ONLY 25% OF MILES FLOWN? SAY WHAT? Delta has cracked down on the SkyMiles it awards customers who book tickets as part of a package. Those hotel, car rental, and flight bundles found on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and other travel sites can offer excellent value, but will now come at a cost. They are known as unpublished fares and fall into the same category as student airfares and consolidator bookings. While these tickets may appear to book into standard L, U, and T fare categories, if they are booked on third-party sites, only 25% of flown mileage will be awarded. Also included in this new restriction is airfare purchased through a cruise line as part of a package. This does not affect flight-only purchases on third-party sites, which continue to earn the full mileage flown. (Hat tip to TICKET reader SG for bringing this to our attention.)

Delta's new Tumi inflight amenity kit.

Delta’s new Tumi inflight amenity kit.

NEW AMENITY KITS. Delta’s Business Elite amenity kits have seen many incarnations including the collector’s tins from the late 1990s, the zippered triangles in the early 2000’s and the more recent red cylindrical tubes. Customers will have a new one for their collection beginning this month. The new kit comes from luggage provider Tumi and features a smart, stylish design. It is packed with Malin+Goetz toiletries like neroli hand lotion, lip balm, and the standard accoutrements of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, and eye shades. New to the kit is an antibacterial wipe. These kits are being introduced throughout the month on all long-haul international flights. The older red kits will continue to be used on domestic transcon flights between JFK and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle until the stock is depleted. Do you use the amenities airlines provide in these kits? Leave your comments below!

GOOOAAALLL! A new partnership with Gol Airlines of Brazil (an airline in which Delta recently acquired an equity stake) now offers more benefits like reciprocal lounge access and priority check-in for Delta passengers. Already in place was the ability to earn and redeem mileage with Gol, which has an immense network throughout Brazil and South America. New complimentary lounge access at Gol’s lounges in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are open to Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members when traveling with Gol or Delta.

NEW DELTA ROUTES. Although it was expected to be eclipsed by Beijing this year, ATL held on to its title as the world’s busiest airport yet again in 2012. Delta is helping its biggest hub hold onto that title by adding nonstop flights to three U.S. destinations: Anchorage AK, Burlington VT and Green Bay, WI. The first two cities will be served with Delta mainline aircraft while the Green Bay route will be flown with a CRJ-700 featuring 9 first class seats. Delta is also starting new service between LAX and Seattle and San Jose, California and adding an extra flight between JFK and Dublin three days a week this coming summer.

All passengers at Singapore's Changi Airport have access to this outdoor patio, pool and bar for a $14 fee. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

All passengers at Singapore’s Changi Airport have access to this outdoor patio, pool and bar for a $14 fee. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

AHHH. FRESH AIR. Flight delays may just be a good thing on warm spring and summer days now that Delta has announced plans to open terraces or “SkyDecks” at the concourse F Sky Club in Atlanta and the new JFK club later this year. Fresh air, patio-style seating, fabric umbrellas, and large glass walls ringing the space will be a welcome change to the often over-crowded clubs these days. Plane spotters will have excellent views of the tarmac (unless the glass is not cleaned regularly!). The outdoor areas are a collaboration between Delta, Architectural Digest, and fashion designer Thom Felicia. Your TICKET editor recently enjoyed an afternoon at the enormous public sky deck at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport…have you ever been to an airport that offered access to the great outdoors? If so, where? Please leave your comments below.

SKY CLUB RATES BUMP UP. Better renew your Sky Club membership now because in March annual rates will get a boost in price of about $50 (depending upon your elite status). Rates have not increased in the past three years, and Delta’s heads-up to customers to renew in advance is certainly appreciated.

NEW DELTA WEB SITE GLITCHES. Delta agents now freely admit the new website is problematic…several have acknowledged that phone calls are coming in “by the truckload” about buggy features. Whether it freezes halfway through a transaction or simply refuses to load on Safari or Internet Explorer, Delta flyers continue to put up with a disappointing raft of missteps. Some TICKET readers who don’t have the time or inclination to learn how to work the new site have reported that they are resorting booking travel on third-party sites or even other airlines to get away from the frustration of delta.com. Have you experienced the same website freezes or disruptions that stop you from booking a revenue or frequent flyer ticket? Keep us informed so we can investigate and let the Delta team know what’s frustrating TICKET readers.

LAX SKY CLUB CHANGES. In a reversal of what many clubs seemed to be offering, the Sky Club at Los Angeles is being redesigned again (surely you have noticed the dreadful construction over the past few months) and re-installing its staffed bar. Delta removed the bar in the last renovation in favor of a stylish, kitchen ambiance with refrigerators stocked with drinks of all types and a self-service bar. Presumably, the return to bartender service is intended to sell more drinks from the Luxury Bar. Customers wanting juice or soda must now wait in line. A similar removal of the self-service bar took place at one of Minneapolis/St. Paul’s SkyClubs and has been met with mixed reaction. What do you think? Do you prefer to make your own drink or would you rather leave that up to a bartender? Please leave your comments below.

NEW FEES AT SOUTHWEST. Southwest Airlines passengers who are used to not showing up for a flight and then requesting full credit for that flight for future use later are in for a surprise. Southwest says it will soon impose a no-show fee on cheaper restricted tickets if you don’t contact the airline and cancel your plans within 24 hours of flight time. Southwest’s “Early bird” check in fees have increased to $12.50 from $10. In addition, if you want to nab an open position in the first boarding group, Southwest now charges a $40 fee (based on availability) for that. In addition, the fee for oversized or overweight bags, or a third checked have increased from $50 to $75 each. Southwest still does not charge for the first or second checked bag…but industry scuttlebutt is that Southwest will likely join other carriers in charging bag fees starting next year.

  • Mike McLarty

    Delta.com is awful. I can’t find anything I want. It is very difficult to find you account activity without a lot of clicks. The site does lock up, and I’ve been bounced off more than one time. I used to access the website on a very regular basis. Now, I avoid it at all costs.

  • Susan

    Dislike the new Delta.com! At least 4 different clicks to look for Award Travel, very complicated and that stupid Log in Log out pop up at the bottom is for what reason?? Just streamline and keep simple. Far too many boxes and highlighted areas to look for. Looking for account information is hidden, again…why? Go back to the drawing board please! One plus is I never have a problem with site freezing or locking up.

  • Jennifer Baron

    Has anyone been able to successfully receive an e-boarding pass at check-in? I have tried numerous times to no avail and end up using the printed pass because there is no other choice.

  • http://melissalibbypr.com Melissa Libby

    I’m an original reader of The Ticket! Congrats on 20 years!

  • Jon Kiger

    Chris – Pretty sure I was a subscriber back in 1993. Certainly remember the printed newsletter that arrived via snail mail. How ’bout a recap of the state of Atlanta business travel back then? Eastern’s shutdown, TWA’s mini-hub – I used that a lot to go to Florida, and then I think we also had our fair share of Continental Lite fights from Atlanta, too. And wasn’t Kiwi a fairly goodsize player in the leisure market? When exactly did ValuJet come onto the scene? In whatever form I’ve enjoyed your updates specifically tailored to the Atlanta community. Here’s to another twenty years of The Ticket in whatever form it will be delivered in the future! -Jon

  • Gale Tedhams

    I have made email complaints many times due to lock ups, missing data, not able to see flights that I know are available, etc…. This is the standard response on every complaint:

    “Thank you also for taking the time to share your experience when using delta.com. We continuously strive to make our customer experience and site navigation easier and apologize for any frustration you have experienced. Many customers share their feedback with us, and these observations often form the basis for improvements in our website. We will be sharing your e-mail with the responsible delta.com Leadership team. If they require additional information, we will be in touch with you. In the meantime, if the problem persists, please contact the Online Customer Support Desk at 888 750 3284 for real-time assistance.”

    If you have ever called the support desk you know it is a frustrating and annoying exercise with, usually, little help and lots of waiting. I have even given up complaining.

    Honestly, I cannot figure out why they changed the site.

  • http://www.michaeljdaugherty.com Mike Daugherty

    Website? What website? Oh, you mean that crazy making banner that Delta put up a few months ago and then called it a website? These guys are masters of deception. I just moved on. I hate that I hold Delta in such contempt, but they won’t stop giving me so many reasons. Next!

  • Steve

    The viewing page for available seating is crazy awkward.

  • Stephen G

    Delta.com is just a prime example of companies making changes for the sake of change when it is not needed. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

  • Lindoc

    In the past 4-6 weeks there is a new glitch on the website. When I receive my upgrades I can no longer go in and change to my preferred seat. I learned this the hard way when I found that it allows you to think that you have changed your seat but it won’t save the changes made. You must call the Diamond line and have them make the change for you. They readily admit that it is “another software glitch,” and they keep hoping that it gets fixed. So do I!

  • Robert Thornton

    Delta.com is by far the worst website I have occasion to use, too many frustrations and too few drinks handy to list.
    Outdoor airport decks…I’m probably one of few who remember when there was one at ATL. The planes then were Viscounts (first commercial jet in ATL), DC-7s and Martin 404s.

  • Jackie

    Is delta EVER going to fix the award calendar? Besides the fact that I haven’t been able to book a low level award ticket in years, the award calendar will show that my dates qualify as a low level seat but then I put in my information, the lowest mile award ticket is 32,500 if not 40,000. Thankfully, I only try to book an award ticket twice a year but it is beyond frustrating. It’s not like delta hasn’t known for years that this is a problem. . .

  • Bob Grossman

    The new point and tier structure that Hilton Hotels has introduced amounts to a drastic dilution of value of one’s hard earned points and certainly has me reconsidering whether I am going to remain loyal to their HHonors program. To move from 50,000 points per night to between 80-95,000 points for many properties (particularly high demand properties in locations such as New York) is tantamount to robbery! It’s difficult enough to amass enough points for free stays as it is currently, let alone to take what amounts to as much as an 80% increase in the required number of points in one shot. How about a kinder, gentler slope for these surprise escalations so that your loyal customers have a chance to truly enjoy the benefits of membership without being GOUGED? Very disappointed to learn of this new tactic. Unfortunately, while this is not new (consider Delta’s 3-tier awards program), at some point there is a cost for what appears to be continuing corporate greed. What other items in the economy are able to take such dramatic increases? Have the costs of an average hotel room risen 50-80% this year? I don’t think so…

  • Stephen G

    Chris, thank you for “ONLY 25% OF MILES FLOWN?” To date, Jeff Robertson has not responded to my letter (snail mail) of January 30th. I emailed Delta’s Chief Marketing Officer last week as well and he did not respond either.

    I’m not particularly feeling like a valued Delta customer right now. So much for being a valued Medallion member.

  • http://www.astriker.com Douglas Oesterreich

    — New Delta.com is just way too much going on, though the glitch allowing me to see my G24 profile was slightly amusing. To change a seat, it takes more clicks then a clock makes. Sadly, it is now MUCH quicker to open my iPhone, make the seat change and save it. Too many pages with too much going on, I hear it will go widget based at some point but not near that yet.

    – Never saw the Delta iPad App that shows what’s beneath, thanks for sharing.

    – New Amenity Kits — I didn’t think they still used the red ones? Mine for sometime have all been the tan zipper ones, though I do have the red ones, and the old canvas square ones at home. Another to add to the collection. I fly to Hong Kong next month, hope it is aboard, or will have to wait to Shanghai in April or Dubai in May.

    – Hilton — Since Blackstone and trying to turn around the balance sheet to prepare it to be sold / public again, I am not surprised. I remember working in Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Village from 2004-2006, that was back when it was 40,000 points a night, which had a slight bump up to 50,000 points. I cannot imagine the complaints they get now, and 10 levels? Are you kidding me? Do they list them on the back of your membership card for ease of reference then (or to remind you of disgust?).

    – DL + Starwood – disappointed yet more gate lice now preventing people to board. It already is insane if flying BE, let alone Sky Priority with 50% of the plane in the group based on the routing. #fail on this one.

  • Chris

    Thanks, Douglas… good comments as always! — chris

  • Laing Heidt

    Wow….from reading all the comments above the “Speak Your Mind” that hammer Delta, I suppose my decision to divorce them years ago was correct. While AirTran may not be biggest they certainly have been very reliable for me for the past 10+ years. And, I find their website pretty easy to use.
    With Elite status I am often able to upgrade at no charge to Business Class. On my occasional “situations” where I have sent an e-mail, my queries have always been answered in a timely fashion and are not a “cut and paste” reply but a reply that directly answers my concern, question or complaint.
    On one occasion I sent a comment while in-flight at 35,000 and before dropping below 10,000 and losing GoGo, I not only had an answer but they had upgraded me to Business for my return flight. Most recently on a flight back from Columbus, OH in December of 2012 our flight ended up being delayed due to a maintenance issue. The pilot, choosing to err on the side of caution explained to everyone the situation and continued throughout the delay to talk to us and update the progress. The ticket agents worked to get those passengers that needed to meet connections out on other AirTran and Southwest flights. It ended up that the part was flown in from Atlanta and that plane was used to return us to Atlanta. Instead of returning home to Marietta at 6:00 PM….I got home at 1:00 AM. All in all, if you look at things….not the end of the world. I was not greatly inconvenienced and I accept the law of averages will eventually catch up to you evry once in awhile if you fly as often as most of us Ticket readers.
    Well, lo and behold, in a few days my good friends at the United States Postal Service delivered a letter from a Mr. Earl T. Williams, Customer Advocacy Manager at AirTran apologizing for the inconvenience and in a “gesture of goodwil” sent a complimentary round trip travel certificate good for one year.
    That is not the first time I have received customer service in that capacity from AirTran.
    I will miss my usual 11D aisle seat when those 717′s are finally parked in the desert and Southwest completes its takeover of, in my opinion, a solid, dependable, good little airline.

  • http://Delta Marcia

    Delta’s website is a nightmare. Printing itinerary is a challenge. Website was bad, now worse. Change to frequent flyer status is unfair to everyone on a budget. Business travelers don’t suffer. Seems like the airline is for elite business passengers only. Unfortunate, but what can we do. I am not privileged to business travel, and because of my job, have not been able to take time off to to travel as much as I used to do. We will probably never see double MQMs. Guess it’s cattle class from now on at a non-competitve fare.