Is there no end to the airlines' incessant bundling, unbundling, crossbundling, and rebundling?
The latest, from Delta, is a limited-time bundling. Or is it a temporary rebundling?
Whatever it is, Delta calls it the Smart Travel Pack. The Pack features the following five perks, available on all Delta flights through January 5, 2014, for $199:
- First bag free
- Priority boarding
- Preferred seats (choice of bulkhead or exit rows with more legroom, for instance)
- Economy Comfort seats (upgrade within 24 hours for free, or receive a 50 percent discount on domestic paid upgrades, a 25 percent discount for international)
- 20 percent mileage bonus
With the exception of the bonus miles, all the perks apply to the Pack purchaser and up to eight traveling companions.
Is it a good deal? It depends on your flight frequency, flight length, and whether you fly solo or with a posse.
If the benefits were only used for a single trip, by a single flyer, they'd be worth less than half the Pack's price, assuming you opted for preferred seating over Economy Comfort.
Two roundtrips would get you close to breakeven.
And with more trips, or more travel companions, you'd be ahead of the game.
Your mileage, in other words, may vary.
Aside from the value question, the good and the bad news, depending on which side of the fence you're on, is that the package is a slightly watered-down version of the perks that come with elite status. Which raises two issues. First, if elite status can be purchased, it's no longer elite, at least in the traditional sense in which status equated to outsized loyalty. The second issue is scarce resources. Elite SkyMiles members—who qualified the old-fashioned way, by flying—will now be competing for preferred seats with travelers who purchased their rights.
With the proliferation of such elite-like benefits packages, the airlines are gradually undermining travelers' rationale for earning status by flying. Flyers are increasingly asking, Why fly when I can buy? If the trend continues, airlines shouldn't be surprised to find that loyalty has become a quaint relic of the past.
Reader Reality Check
Buy, or not buy?
If you're already a Delta elite, do you feel the Smart Pack dilutes your benefits?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)