During the same week that US Airways rescinded policies that adversely affected its elite frequent flyers, Delta is reversing course on a recent move that has similarly disgruntled its best customers.
In Delta's case, the discontinued service is its Coach Choice Seats, introduced less than a month ago as part of integrating the operations of Delta and Northwest. Northwest already sold preferred seats—"select bulkhead, exit row and forward cabin-seating"—for an extra $5 to $25, depending on flight length. Delta began doing the same in late October.
Those choice seats were already earmarked on a space-available basis for elite members of Delta's SkyMiles program, and for those paying a premium for unrestricted coach tickets. So putting the seats up for sale reduced the number of preferred seats available to elite members. Those elite flyers are Delta's most profitable customers. And they apparently made their dissatisfaction heard, loud and clear.
Here's an excerpt from the email Delta sent to its elite members on November 17:
We heard you loud and clear.
Since we launched our Coach Choice Seats program that impacted Medallion access to Preferred Seats, we've received substantial feedback from Medallion members like you, and your dissatisfaction was crystal clear.
Retaining your long-term loyalty is of paramount importance to us, and we're not afraid to change course when we need to. Therefore, effective November 18th, we will revert back to the original Preferred Seat program offering Medallions unrestricted access to Preferred Seats.
Simply put: Medallion members will be able to book any of the seats you used to enjoy at the time of booking and without a charge.
Two high-profile policy reversals in a single week. Could this signal a bottom, a turning point back in the direction of valuing customer loyalty and structuring airline services and policies accordingly?
That's wishful thinking. But it is a reminder that the damage airlines do to their relationships with flyers can be undone.