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Delta May Upgrade Service, Downgrade Route Network

The WSJ reported yesterday that Delta is considering a major overhaul of their operations, eliminating a chunk of their domestic network in favor of upgrading their international and transcontinental service (United suggested a similar move last month when they announced that their transcon flights will now feature all Economy Plus seating in coach). While, as the article points out, this may sound a bit like what Pan Am tried before it went out of business in the early 1990s, Pan Am had no domestic network to speak of. Instead, this will allow the airline to focus on profitable routes where it can differentiate itself. Though it would never happen, how interesting would it be for Delta to hook up with AirTran, where AirTran provides low cost connector service through Atlanta to Delta’s international route network?

If you were wondering where Song fits into all of this, Delta’s CEO is said to hate Song, to the point where he has said that he’d like to put the word “Swan” in front of Song, so the airline-within-an-airline would just go away.

But if Delta is really going to upgrade service so passengers are, once again, happy with them, they will have to get rid of off-putting and incredibly frustrating rules like the one I just encountered where Delta’s lowest fares (T class) are non-upgradable (you cannot upgrade with miles). Its website is extraordinarily unclear, as, under the category “upgrades,” the fare rules say “freq flyer program.” I, mistakenly, took that to mean that you can upgrade with miles. A further explanation: “DISCOUNTED PUBLISHED FARES VIA WEB PERMIT UPGRADE IF BOOKED IN APPLICABLE CLASS FOR AWARD CODE” doesn’t exactly clear things up.

Everyone and their mother has brought up the broken fare structure, but it is arcane frustrations such as these (and there are a million others in this vein) that make people flock to the JetBlues of the world, where seats cost what they cost and passengers are not made to feel like 5th class citizens for buying discount tickets. If you hate selling cheap seats, Delta, don’t take your anger out on me.

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