Delta Voucher Restriction Policy Clarifications

A source from Delta Air Lines with whom I have just concluded a telephone call imparted to me some clarifications about the policy pertaining to the new restrictions imposed on travel credit vouchers, as first reported here on December 14, 2011 by The Gate.

There has been criticism by FlyerTalk members — as well as criticism by respected authors of weblogs such as Brian Kelly, also known as The Points Guy — as to why there was no formal announcement by Delta Air Lines regarding this policy change. According to my source, the problem is that there is no target audience to make that announcement without causing undue worry, with a “lack of definition” of to whom does the airline tell this information. Simply posting the new policy on FlyerTalk does not fully and effectively communicate it, as FlyerTalk is but only one channel of communication used by Delta Air Lines. I asked about posting to the official weblog of Delta Air Lines, but I was told it opens this issue up to those irrelevant to the change.

Let us use an analogy where the cost of nuts has doubled in price. I do not like to eat nuts. Should the supermarket which I patronize formalize an announcement that the price of nuts has doubled? Do I really care — and would it cause me to worry unduly — if the price increase does not directly affect me?

Some might argue that I should care, because what if the price of pretzels — a snack I enjoy immensely — doubles: should there now be a formal announcement by the supermarket that the price of pretzels has indeed doubled because it directly affects me? Others may say I should care because the increase in the price of nuts could have an indirect increase on comparable items which I do enjoy — a simple and basic tenet of economics.

Come to think of it, supermarkets never formally announce the increase in price on any of their items — instead, they do it quietly. However, they usually announce through sales circulars and advertisements that prices have indeed lowered on items it sells, especially during a weekly sale.

Should airlines be different from supermarkets regarding this analogy? Some would say yes, as frequent flier loyalty program members work to achieve elite status for the next year and would like to know of program changes in advance — especially if it directly affects them. However, some supermarkets do have frequent shopper loyalty programs — but there are those who would argue that those programs are simply not the same in terms of structure and redemption.

There is also the issue of fraudulent activity of the travel credit vouchers as claimed by Delta Air Lines. My source from Delta Air Lines was concerned about the persistent impression of members of the FlyerTalk community who believe that their past usage of travel credit vouchers would be considered fraudulent by Delta Air Lines — which is erroneous. Rather, the thrust of the policy change was due to fraudulent activity — primarily the sale of Delta Air Lines travel credit vouchers on such Internet web sites as eBay and craigslist, which violates the validity of those vouchers.

The new travel credit voucher policy probably will not affect me, but I do wonder why an electronic solution could not be implemented which prevents one from selling these vouchers in violation of the terms and conditions of the voucher but still allows the customer to combine multiple vouchers on a single flight. That, in my opinion, would be a reasonable and fair compromise while protecting the interests of both Delta Air Lines and its customers.

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