Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Delta's got some work to do to keep me as a regular customer

MSP (Northwest, now Delta)has been my home airport for the last 14 years. Prior to that O'Hare (United/American mini hub) and Midway (Southwest, various low-far lines over the years), when I lived in Chicago, and when I was very young, NYC (numerous). So, I've lived in a hub of one sort or another for most of my life. And I've often had access to direct flights.

Like a lot of my fellow MSP travelers, I was not really thrilled with the Delta acquisition of Northwest last year. I've been a regular Northwest customer for most of my adult life. They've been a good option for travel, and we get direct flights on them to almost anywhere. Sure, directs were often 50-100 more than connecting through Chicago on United/American or Atlanta on Delta But after you get stuck at ORD or ATL once or twice waiting out standby lists, the directs become the way - particularly when you can afford them.

I'm going to be close to getting medallion status with Delta this year due to some bonus miles and late year traveling. I probably won't make it, but I don't know that I care that much. Delta kind of sucks compared to NWA for a variety of reasons. There's lots of little differences that are annoying, but their general service level just seems to be lacking in comparison as well. Maybe it's just because I'm primarily dealing with disgruntled legacy NWA employees right now.

I'm a little concerned that we're going to start losing directs out of MSP, but I don't know that it bothers me that much. I may end up flying Southwest more often down the road (though I haven't found their fares out of MSP to be very competitive with DL so far on the ones I've checked, in fact, they're often more expensive), even if it means connecting through Midway, Denver or St Louis. Southwest is adding new destinations from MSP pretty fast, and if Delta decides to reduce service further at MSP, I bet they'll come in with even more.

Simple math and geography dictates that Delta has too many hubs post-NWA merger. All signs point to Cincinnati (actually located in northern Kentucky), a legacy Delta hub, being the first casualty - and with Memphis and Detroit in the fold, that makes perfect sense. Delta was already hinting at downsizing there before the merger even took place. Memphis still seems awfully close to ATL, though there's no sign of downsizing there yet, and there's some overlap between MSP and DTW which leads me to believe that Delta may choose to focus more on one or the other.

Regardless of what happens, I really hope the discounters like SWA look more heavily at MSP. We've got a lot of business travel originating out of here because of all the Fortune 500 companies that are HQ'ed or have large presences here, and it seems like it will continue to be the case.

I'm hoping I can get medallion sooner or later on some airline. I don't travel tons for work, but do a fair amount of leisure travel. Fully half the flight I was on yesterday was medallion, and that left me in the predicament of being able to get in the 3rd row of coach because of my business fare, but not being able to get on the plan in time to avoid the dreaded gate check (all too common these days with people avoiding the bag check fees).

I've never really worked the system as far as credit cards and other special offers go, I think I need to start doing that as well.