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United/Delta debate - what do the airlines consider a high value customer?

United/Delta debate - what do the airlines consider a high value customer?

Old Mar 17, 14, 9:34 am
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United/Delta debate - what do the airlines consider a high value customer?

Hi all! New to the forum and what prompted me to join is I'm contemplating leaving United for Delta. The reason I'm considering changing plans is I'm a lowly silver status for UA and no longer get the benefits of booking economy seating for long haul flights... ironically though, I spent more on airfare last year than in years when I've been a gold and platinum traveler. I'm about to book a flight to Brazil for $2,500 (this is about double the normal rate for some reason) and was shocked to see UA wants an additional $150-200 per leg for the privilege of sitting in economy - so I'd be looking at roughly $3K all in. So I guess United considers me to be on par with a customer who travels once or twice a year?

So what is a high value customer that they want to retain?
Here's a rough guideline of my annual travel - I usually do 2-3 trips overseas per year to Lat Am, Europe and Hong Kong plus a fair amount of domestic travel. The domestic travel isn't necessarily high mileage where it's a coast to coast trip shorter 1-2 hour flights to NYC & Boston, but since I'm traveling at peak times during the week these tickets run about $800-1200. I estimate I spend $15-20K per year on airfare....most of it for business. I'm on the road once or twice a month on avg.

I never looked into the specifics of UA's premier program b/c I never really paid attention since I was gold status. As a silver flyer the shortcomings are much more glaring where paying extra for economy and their new policy of free baggage checks going from 2 to 1 bags has sure got my attention. The strategy Smisek has chosen to undertake where they try to nickel and dime their customers for $100 here and $100 will be a turkey in the long run.

Anyone else have this same experience with UA? Is the Delta program any better?
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Old Mar 17, 14, 3:51 pm
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Originally Posted by jackdaniels72 View Post
Hi all! New to the forum and what prompted me to join is I'm contemplating leaving United for Delta. The reason I'm considering changing plans is I'm a lowly silver status for UA and no longer get the benefits of booking economy seating for long haul flights... ironically though, I spent more on airfare last year than in years when I've been a gold and platinum traveler. I'm about to book a flight to Brazil for $2,500 (this is about double the normal rate for some reason) and was shocked to see UA wants an additional $150-200 per leg for the privilege of sitting in economy - so I'd be looking at roughly $3K all in. So I guess United considers me to be on par with a customer who travels once or twice a year?

So what is a high value customer that they want to retain?
Here's a rough guideline of my annual travel - I usually do 2-3 trips overseas per year to Lat Am, Europe and Hong Kong plus a fair amount of domestic travel. The domestic travel isn't necessarily high mileage where it's a coast to coast trip shorter 1-2 hour flights to NYC & Boston, but since I'm traveling at peak times during the week these tickets run about $800-1200. I estimate I spend $15-20K per year on airfare....most of it for business. I'm on the road once or twice a month on avg.

I never looked into the specifics of UA's premier program b/c I never really paid attention since I was gold status. As a silver flyer the shortcomings are much more glaring where paying extra for economy and their new policy of free baggage checks going from 2 to 1 bags has sure got my attention. The strategy Smisek has chosen to undertake where they try to nickel and dime their customers for $100 here and $100 will be a turkey in the long run.

Anyone else have this same experience with UA? Is the Delta program any better?
I think you mean choose Economy Plus seating. United doesn't (AFAIK) restrict seat choices in Economy for anyone, elite or nonelite.

Note that as a Silver member, you can still select from any remaining Economy Plus seats at check-in (up to 24 hours before your flight departs). Unless you really want to grab a good (bulkhead or exit row) E+ seat now, I certainly wouldn't pay for E+ seating now--you can get it for free later.

As for what UA considers a customer worth rewarding with elite status, it's pretty simple:

Silver: $2,500 and 25,000 miles
Gold: $5,000 and 50,000 miles
Platinum: $7,500 and 75,000 miles
1K: $10,000 and 100,000 miles

You can waive the spending requirements up to Platinum (but not for 1K) if you spend $25,000 in one year on the co-branded UA credit cards, but that sounds like it doesn't apply to you as you'll spend far more than the minimum requirements on airfares. (Thanks for subsidizing my cheap leisure travel!)

Note that the minimum spend (PQD, or Premier Qualifying Dollars) requirements above are exclusive of government-assessed taxes and fees. I think the folks in the UA forum have found that estimating something like 85-90% of what you actually spend will count towards PQDs, unless you fly out of LHR, which has some very high taxes. Also, spend on foreign carriers doesn't count unless you booked it on a United ticket.

Delta's program pretty much mirror's UA's (although actually, Delta's came out first and UA [mostly] copied DL's implementation about six months later). The main difference is that since there's no 100,000-mile tier, the tier above Platinum is Diamond, which requires $12,500 and 125,000 miles. Also, while this isn't a concern for you, Delta allows people who don't spend $12,500 to still attain Diamond if they spend $25,000 on a Delta co-branded Amex (UA doesn't allow you to get to 1K this way).

With the flying and spend requirements out of the way, that leaves the question of UA vs. DL in terms of the product and program. Basically, most FTers would distill it down to this:

Delta:
-Better service and a slightly better product (although UA's BusinessFirst is among the better business products on the market)
-Worse value for redemptions on Delta (very little low-end award space available, and they are moving to a new five-tier award redemption plan, which has yet to be determined how it will affect the utility of redemptions on DL)
-A weaker partner network, although some of these partners have decent award availability, and these saver awards are a comparatively good value these days

United:
-You already know about UA's ground and in-flight service
-Better award options and routing rules
-Much stronger partner network (Star Alliance)
-Partner awards, especially international premium cabin awards on partner carriers, have recently seen a massive devaluation, making some of them very poor values compared to other programs
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Old Mar 17, 14, 4:53 pm
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If considering changing FFP's also look at Alaska. Has a wide range of partners including Delta. http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mil...-overview.aspx

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/infor...help-here.html
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Old Mar 17, 14, 4:53 pm
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Thanks for the info Jackal, very helpful! I wrote them an email last week to see what they can do for me but that's a 7-10 day turnaround so no word yet. I did speak to their customer service team today and they offered me gold status for 10K miles. I don't know if this is a good deal or not, I'm going to wait and hear when they officially respond to my letter. Maybe 10K is a good deal b/c lately all of their miles redemption options are awful with lousy flight times & high mileage requirements. I'm used to seeing 10-12K miles for each leg but lately 50K is the norm. It looks like in the long run there will be no more loyalty, why bother if we are going to get squeezed into a pulp just to get some silly status card that is becoming more and more worthless.
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Old Mar 17, 14, 4:55 pm
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...and yes, I do mean economy PLUS
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Old Mar 17, 14, 5:35 pm
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Originally Posted by jackdaniels72 View Post
Thanks for the info Jackal, very helpful! I wrote them an email last week to see what they can do for me but that's a 7-10 day turnaround so no word yet. I did speak to their customer service team today and they offered me gold status for 10K miles. I don't know if this is a good deal or not, I'm going to wait and hear when they officially respond to my letter. Maybe 10K is a good deal b/c lately all of their miles redemption options are awful with lousy flight times & high mileage requirements. I'm used to seeing 10-12K miles for each leg but lately 50K is the norm. It looks like in the long run there will be no more loyalty, why bother if we are going to get squeezed into a pulp just to get some silly status card that is becoming more and more worthless.
That's 10k flown miles they are talking about not award or RDM's. You have to fly 10k paid miles or equivalent if you buy expensive fares to maintain the trial Gold status after the challenge period is over. If you are going to fly that much than it's a no brainer.
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Old Mar 17, 14, 5:47 pm
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If you're flying 25-50k BIS miles but spending $15-20k in airfare, I think you'll come out much farther ahead with Delta when they switch to revenue-based accrual for

I also find the experience of flying on Delta to be worlds apart from United. Just today, I was flying DCA-ATL-VPS, and my DCA-ATL flight was cancelled due to the snow. Delta did a bunch of little things right that just made me feel like they care.

Whether it was a red coat coming out from behind the check in counter when he saw me sprinting down the terminal hallway (At 4:00am, the drive from Arlington, VA to BWI took ~2 hours due to snow), or the flight attendant walking down the aisle asking if anyone needed connection information (she wasn't doing anything than using her phone/wifi to look it up on DL.com) on their tight connection, they just really seem to get it right now.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 12:18 am
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Delta had similar spend requirements for elite status - 10 cents per mile - in addition to the necessary miles/segments. But when they gutted the SkyMiles program for 2015 and began tying miles earned to $$$ spent, one had to be more towards the mid-20 cents per mile range to earn the same amount of miles for your travel as before. So as far as what DL considers a "HVC", it's probably north of that number.

Keep in mind, however, that elite status on Delta is still not exclusively determined by spend... you still need to fly the miles. So if you're Silver on UA, chances are you'd still be Silver on Delta. I wouldn't expect the benefits to be all that different. You still wouldn't get free Economy Comfort on domestic flights until check-in, just like on UA now. You'd only be eligible for a 25% discount on Economy Comfort for international flights. Delta also dropped their bag allowance for Silvers - only one free for domestic travel. If you can get to Gold on either carrier, life improves somewhat.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 9:19 am
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If you are a high value customer of United you have global services
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Old Mar 18, 14, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by CDKing View Post
If you are a high value customer of United you have global services
True...the cut-offs mentioned above are really what UA considers a "minimum-value customer."
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Old Mar 18, 14, 5:30 pm
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Originally Posted by CDKing View Post
If you are a high value customer of United you have global services
I think you have to spend north of $30k / year to get United's attention. Below that threshold they seem not to know you exist, no matter how many miles you fly. DL has a purer status-by-revenue model rolling out and the miles are worth much less, but DL service culture is more genuine and egalitarian; I think they try to treat everyone well, especially HVFs.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 10:12 pm
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
I think you have to spend north of $30k / year to get United's attention. Below that threshold they seem not to know you exist, no matter how many miles you fly. DL has a purer status-by-revenue model rolling out and the miles are worth much less, but DL service culture is more genuine and egalitarian; I think they try to treat everyone well, especially HVFs.
The 2015 DL program is redeemable miles by revenue, status still by miles or segments flown but with a minimum spend required. You can not buy your way to higher status on DL. They may get there down the roads, but the program in its current and known future form is not a status-by-revenue model.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 10:15 pm
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
I think you have to spend north of $30k / year to get United's attention. Below that threshold they seem not to know you exist, no matter how many miles you fly. DL has a purer status-by-revenue model rolling out and the miles are worth much less, but DL service culture is more genuine and egalitarian; I think they try to treat everyone well, especially HVFs.
MY colleague flies business twice a month to South America from houston. He spends over 150k per yr on travel and his global services. After the pre boards get on, they call him by last name to board.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 1:02 am
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Originally Posted by jackdaniels72 View Post
.... I'm a lowly silver status for UA
...
I usually do 2-3 trips overseas per year to Lat Am, Europe and Hong Kong plus a fair amount of domestic travel. The domestic travel isn't necessarily high mileage where it's a coast to coast trip shorter 1-2 hour flights to NYC & Boston, but since I'm traveling at peak times during the week these tickets run about $800-1200. I estimate I spend $15-20K per year on airfare....most of it for business. I'm on the road once or twice a month on avg. ....
How are you Silver given that much travel???
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Old Mar 21, 14, 8:44 am
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
How are you Silver given that much travel???
My guess is OP is a Silver in the 40k range. One TATL and one TPAC and one trip to LATAM is probably in the 30k range, perhaps a little more depending on routing and exact cities. Add a few short domestic trips and there's still plenty of room to be below 50k.
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