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Delta Halfing Their $100 Fee For Ticket Changing

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Old December 18th, 2004, 01:55 AM
Robert Cohen
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Default Delta Halfing Their $100 Fee For Ticket Changing

Here's some consumer-friendly news that you may have not yet heard. Meanwhile,
I have heard that Southwest has no fee for ticket changing.

copyrighted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution 2004

(free registration)

Delta: Frequent fliers' gripes heard

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/16/04
Delta Air Lines, trying to win points with passengers as part of its recovery
plan, is lowering some service fees and making it easier for frequent fliers to
reach elite status.

The SkyMiles changes are effective Jan. 1 and roll back moves Delta made two
years ago that angered some loyal customers. Their main gripe was that the
program penalized those flying on cheaper fares.

Speaking in New York, Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein said the airline must focus on
cutting costs and offering customers a cheaper, simpler product.

Now, Delta is increasing the value of miles flown on deeply discounted fares.
Mileage awards will be based on a 500-mile minimum or actual mileage flown,
whichever is greatest. Delta said the previous system, which more generously
awarded fliers on higher-priced fares, was "too complex."

The new rules — likely the first in a series of changes to the SkyMiles
program — "tell me there were a lot of customer and focus groups that spoke
their minds," said Randy Petersen, editor of Inside Flyer and an expert on
frequent flier programs.

"This will pacify a certain group of frequent fliers and at the same time send
a signal that will bring people back to Delta who might have been in the
lower-fare category," Petersen said.

Another change: To reach Platinum status — the highest of the "Medallion"
elite levels — you now have to earn only 75,000 qualifying miles per year,
down from 100,000. The change brings SkyMiles in line with its domestic
marketing partners, Continental and Northwest, and probably was inevitable as
the airlines strive for consistency in their frequent flier programs, Petersen

Starting Wednesday, Delta also lowered fees for all customers for certain
travel services.

Now, a $50 fee is standard for most services, including making changes to
purchased nonrefundable fares. Ticket change fees had been $100.

Fees for unaccompanied minors or for traveling with pets in the cabin also will
be $50 each way, up from $40 on nonstop flights but down from $75 for
connecting flights.

Petersen said Delta's moves are smart because "most people are pretty fed up
with all the fees being imposed on them by everyone from the banks to the

The airline also is lengthening the complimentary first-class upgrade window
for Medallion members from hours to days, and will give upgrades at the time of
booking for such fliers using certain discount fares. Delta also said it will
ease restrictions on use of unused travel credits.

Delta Chief Executive Gerald Grinstein, speaking Wednesday in New York, said
the airline must focus on cutting costs and offering customers a cheaper,
simpler product, much as Costco has done with warehouse discount stores.

He said Delta's recent test of "Simplifares" in Cincinnati, which lowered fares
and cut change fees, has helped increase local bookings by one-third.

Grinstein, after a speech to the Wings Club, was asked if Delta might sell its
regional subsidiaries to shore up its finances. He didn't rule it out, calling
the units "extremely valuable assets" that feed Delta hubs and serve less-dense

Still, "you do not have to own them to get all the benefits," he said.

Grinstein also said Delta has joined other carriers in lobbying Congress to
pass legislation next year that would allow ailing carriers to slow down
catch-up payments required to shore up underfunded pension plans.

Delta's are underfunded by about $5 billion. Airlines were allowed to
temporarily reduce the deficit-reduction payments under a previous industry
relief package.

"We are not going to have any choice but to go to Congress to stretch out
payments," Grinstein told about 300 executives and other employees of aircraft
makers, consulting firms and suppliers.

Delta froze its pilots' pension plan as part of a new contract deal that helped
the airline avoid a Chapter 11 filing this fall. But it still has to pay
hundreds of millions into that and other frozen employee pensions that are

Grinstein predicted industry consolidation will accelerate over the next two
years. United, US Airways and other carriers accounting for 20 percent of the
industry are in bankruptcy, he noted. Delta skirted Chapter 11 by cutting a
pilot pay-cut deal and getting financing deals from General Electric and
American Express.

"We still have a tremendous amount of work to do," he said.

Old December 18th, 2004, 09:33 PM
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