Yesterday Delta suggested that a US News survey named SkyMiles the best frequent flyer program. It didn’t.
— Delta (@Delta) August 10, 2017
There are real problems with the US News ranking. This is a survey that has ranked Frontier Early Returns and Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles ahead of United MileagePlus. But that’s not the point. The ranking didn’t even list Delta as having the best program.
Delta uses the weasel word a best travel rewards program in the tweet, and go to the Delta news article and they further clarify with an asterisk, “the top U.S. global airline* loyalty program” — at the end of the piece the asterisk says they’re only comparing themselves against United and American, not against the programs compared in the U.S. News survey!
In fact US News named Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan as best frequent flyer program.
But that’s ok, Delta had an asterisk when it said US News named them best, their fingers were crossed.
This is the airline that made up the story that federal law doesn’t allow them to give frequent flyer program members advance notice of changes (even though other programs do and they used to, despite no change in the laws cited). In other words, they lied to members to explain why they disrespect members.
Delta went in front of the Supreme Court and said they had no duty to deal fairly with frequent flyer members and they had no duty to offer any value in exchange for miles.
So why do people take Delta’s self-serving political arguments at face value? Delta’s 15 minute political commercial for protectionist policies against Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar is full of lies and tortured versions of the truth — ‘alternative facts’ as it were. (They also don’t tell you about the ex-government officials appearing in the video making claims on their behalf who are being paid by Delta or by American Airlines.)
Let’s leave aside Delta’s fake support for ‘US jobs’ (all their planes on order are from Airbus and Bombardier) and that they love being subsidized themselves, owning a piece of China’s most subsidized airline (China Eastern) and benefiting from a revenue sharing joint venture across the Atlantic with Air France (only partially privatized) and Alitalia (which has burned through subsidies from Etihad, one of the very Gulf carriers they criticize).
And let’s ignore the billions in pension liability moved onto the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in bankruptcy. And their oil refinery in Pennsylvania that is subsidized in the nine figures. Oh and that their last CEO – who began this crusade – is now head of Amtrak.
Copyright: tdezenzio / 123RF Stock Photo
Their fingers were crossed even claiming Gulf airlines violate Open Skies treaties. Here’s the US-UAE Open Skies agreement (.pdf).
- It explicitly authorizes Open Skies flying for airlines owned by government.
- There is a section called ‘fair competition’ but it doesn’t say what Delta wants it to say. The section is clear that fair competition means each airline determining the frequency and capacity of the flights it chooses to offer. The section on fair competition does not mention subsidies at all. Instead fair competition in the treaty means,
Consistent with this right, neither Party shall unilaterally limit the volume of traffic, frequency or regularity of service, or the aircraft type or types operated by the designated airlines ofthe other Party, except as may be required for customs, technical, operational, or environmental reasons under uniform conditions consistent with Article 15 of the Convention.
Note that the imposition of a unilateral limit on flights is exactly what Delta, American, and United are asking the US government to impose – a direct abrogation of the Open Skies treaty.
- The only reference to subsidy in the document is in Article 12 which states that each airline can set its own pricing, with intervention limited to “protection of airlines from prices that are artificially low due to direct or indirect governmental subsidy or support.”
This has very specific meaning and Delta, American, and United tellingly have not pursued an Article 12 complaint.
When the US government sought public comment on the request for action by American, Delta, and United (I filed a regulatory comment myself on this issue) one of the questions was which article of the treaty US carriers believed the Gulf carriers were violating and the US airlines did not claim they were violating Article 12.
The US airlines themselves have been accused of ‘dumping’ capacity in the past by domestic rivals, back before many of those airlines went out of business. A new entrant would begin a route in competition with a major US airline, and all of a sudden that airline adds flights and lowers prices — likely operating at a loss — until the new airline can no longer survive operating the flight.
US airlines routinely get away with this because US airlines have argued as long as selling out a plane at 100% capacity at lower prices would cover marginal costs, it’s not dumping. Airlines may be unwise to add so much capacity, but that’s allowable business judgment. They certainly don’t want to formally argue for a different standard of dumping.
- Indeed Delta, United, and American are lobbying politicians instead of making a legal case. They didn’t file a complaint with the Department of Transportation under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act, no lobbying necessary.
Meanwhile in seeking a freeze or elimination of fifth freedom flights (Emirates currently operates 2 flights between the US and Europe), US airlines are seeking to abrogate the Open Skies treaty. They aren’t merely ‘seeking enforcement’ of Open Skies treaties, they want the US to violate those treaties.